On August 15th 2017, our second child, a little girl, arrived much too early and died during delivery. While we had incredible support from family members, friends, and some very dear clients, the loss was devastating and almost overnight we had to learn how to manage tremendous amounts of sadness and grief while also relearning how to be present parents to our healthy and deserving 2-year-old. How to show up to work every day to keep our businesses alive, answer questions like “How many children do you have?” And the greatest challenge, not allowing our mourning for what might have been to overshadow the joy that comes from what is.
Our society tends to make this kind of loss unspeakable, which can make it feel shameful. We love to celebrate and support resilience in the face of affliction, but rarely allow the necessary time for the recovery that makes the resilience possible.
Someone I admire encouraged me to read about the Bagley Fire of 2012, which savagely burned over 46,000 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. Shockingly, in the desolate aftermath of the fire, flowers began to emerge. Scientists studied the phenomena and others like it – maybe it’s the intense heat or biochemical factors at play – but their findings continued to show that the developing wildflowers thrived in the ash and grew much more vigorously than in soil without ash. These flowers are known as Fire Followers.
I don’t pretend everything is okay; I can’t say that heartache never clouds the days. A wildfire scorched through our joyous lives and it felt unbearable. I’ve learned that my heart is more complex than I ever thought possible and although grief is an integral part of life and we will all experience it, those of us who carry it know how unpredictable it can be. I share our story in part because it helps me to heal, but also because I want the world to know our child existed. Her tiny footprints continue to make imprints in ways we could never have imagined. I held her for every second of her life and I will love her for every second of mine.
I believe that in time, the buds after the fire will begin to appear. And through the ash, they will grow into resilient blossoming flowers; strong and enduring flowers rooted by awareness and compassion. Some will have roots formed from anger, confusion, and false moves, but even more will grow from kindness, patience, forgiveness, connection, upholding beauty, vulnerability, allowance, and adaptation. These will be our fire-following wildflowers.
Kahlil Gibran says, “And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
~ Lisa, Mother to Alani