How does one go on after losing a child? That is a question I asked myself very often the months following my first born daughter, Nevaeh’s death. It didn’t seem right that the world was going on like normal around me. It felt like everything and everyone should just stop and also feel my pain. I remember trying to be so strong because everyone was worried about me. So I would put on a good show during the day, and at night I would just weep into my pillow. I did a lot of praying and a lot of talking to God.
For the longest time I couldn’t look at a picture of Nevaeh. Every time I did, it was like a shooting pain right to my heart. Pictures, memories, and mementos were too much of a reminder that she wasn’t here with me. Many days it seemed like I was walking through a dream. Did all that really happen? Did I really have a precious daughter here on this earth for six weeks? Or did I just dream that?
I don’t know how I got through the first year after her death. I think I just took it one day at a time, and sometimes even one hour at a time. People say that time heals all wounds. This is a wound that will never be healed. However, the pain has lessened over time. I am now able to look at photos of Nevaeh and not cry. I can actually smile at them occasionally, and be happy that she was in my life for such a short time. Of course the hurt will never go away. And all the questions and wondering. I wonder what she would look like today. I wonder what her personality would be like. Would pink be her favorite color?
Five years after Nevaeh’s death, I finally was ready to honor her memory somehow. I finally felt that the grip that grief had on my heart had lessened enough. I was so worried that people would forget her. I knew that I would never forget her, but I wanted other people to remember her. I wanted her memory to live on and I wanted people to know her story. I wanted to erase the stigma and uncomfortableness that comes with telling people you had a child die. I needed to turn a negative situation into something positive.
My goal was to help parents that were in the same situation as I once was. The six weeks that my daughter spent in the NICU, were the loneliest of my life. Having no family close by and a husband that had to still go to work to provide for us, I was often at the NICU all by myself. I am so thankful for the wonderful nurses and volunteers who kept me company. I remember nurses bringing in blankets or stuffed animals that were donated by people. I found comfort in people’s generosity and gifts. It gave me hope in a time that it was so hard to have hope. I vowed I would always pay it forward, and try to comfort a mom in need – like I once was.
By starting Nevaeh’s Rainbow Project with Project Sweet Peas, I hope I provide some amount of comfort to parents who endure the same pain of watching their child struggle for their life and to those that have also had to say goodbye. I would like families to know that regardless of the outcome there is hope in every situation and happiness in every memory.