Pressure Proof

Strategies and stories for busy, complicated lives.

4 Months & 22 Days: One Mother's Story of Resilience

What would you do in 4 months and 22 days?

The Club No Parent Wants to Join

What would you do if you had only 4 months and 22 days to spend with your newborn? No parent ever wants to think about their baby's life cut short, but that is the painful club that Christine joined in 1995. Christine was working in a traditional corporate career when her daughter was born. As is true of many parents, Christine's world revolved around her young bundle of joy. As is also true, Christine and her husband, like many parents who work, wrestled with what type of day care arrangements would be best for their daughter.

Christine will tell you that "something just didn't feel right" when she dropped her daughter off at day care that first day. The place she chose came highly recommended and was run out of a woman's home. What was there to second guess? Weeks went by, and on May 5th, Christine received a call from a police officer telling her to go to the hospital, but not to panic. When she arrived at the hospital, she was told that her daughter had died of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). She went numb. It wasn't until a few weeks later, however, that she found out the truth. Her daughter, strapped in her car carrier at day care, was placed on a waterbed and left unattended. It was determined that she suffocated when her car carrier was overturned, face-down with her still strapped in. A criminal investigation went nowhere, and a civil suit followed. According to Christine, it was later discovered that the day care provider was not licensed or insured.

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The Healing Process and Lessons Learned

Christine's darkest moment was the month she spent on the couch, cycling through emotion after emotion. We talked about the fact that when people go through such great trauma, not everyone gets "off the couch." I asked her, "How did you start to move forward?" She said that she made a decision, a conscious choice to do something and to listen to her inner wisdom. She needed to get out of the house, so she went to the bookstore. As she perused the thousands of books on the shelf, one on angels appeared. She read it, and this is what started her process of "spiraling up." Her daughter became her guiding star.

To any parent who might be going through the death of a child, Christine has some very specific advice. First, be kind to yourself because there are so many emotions that take you on a daily rollercoaster ride. Be OK being in and with those emotions; and, if that is all you can do on a given day, that's enough. Second, don't make any quick decisions. And third, allow yourself to "feel" every step of the way. In order to get from point A to point B in the healing process, you have to go through all of the emotions.

Because of Christine's willingness to go through this process, she is still learning lessons today from the experience. Most importantly, she decided to reconnect with who she was as a kid. Not your typical middle schooler, Christine read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People in 8th grade and knew she wanted to spend her life helping people feel great about who they are.

The Power of Purpose

Christine has been living her mission for the past decade, helping many people connect with who they are meant to be. She has also been busy raising her children. She said her true turning point came about six years after the beginning of the ordeal. Knowing that she had run out of legal options to bring this case to justice, she decided to just let go. She was holding on so tightly to her daughter's memory that she was finding herself unable to move forward in her life to the fullest extent possible. Christine and I talked a little about this paradox. We often think that it is by holding on so tightly that we keep our lives moving forward and the memories alive, when it is really just the opposite. Healing and growth can't truly happen until we let go and make room for healing and growth to happen.

Christine sums up resilience in her own words as follows: "Resilience is finding the inner strength and courage to move through darkness to come out better on the other side." Well said.

Paula Davis-Laack, J.D., M.A.P.P., is a stress management and work/life performance expert providing strategies for a healthier, more resilient you.

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