I knew that my daughter’s days in this world were numbered. I felt her slipping away from us, and there was nothing that I could do to keep her here. For years, I put every ounce of my energy into keeping my daughter alive, into obstructing her eating disorder and accompanying depression, and preventing them from taking her life. But intuitively, in recent months, I knew that I was fighting a losing battle, and part of me felt like it was cruel of me to try and keep her here with us anymore. She was in such obvious pain. Watching her suffer was torturing my soul.
Don’t get me wrong, I never gave up on my daughter. I held hope in her recovery until the moment her life ended; I never stopped fighting for her, not for a second. But I knew in my heart that this enormous loss that we are feeling right now was imminent. And no matter how much we loved our daughter, no matter how much eating disorder treatment we offered her, no matter how much we were willing to sacrifice for her, losing her was inevitable.
And so, I began to appreciate every second that my daughter was alive. I would savor the little moments with Gavriella and etch them into my memory, to be pulled out later, when Gavriella was no longer here. Every time she laughed while playing with one of her nieces, every time I kissed her goodbye on the top of her head as she got out of the car, every time she smiled at a joke that her brother made, every time she made a snarky, sarcastic comment during a family dinner that was so characteristic of her personality, every time she smiled at me in the mirror as she was putting on her makeup, every time she gave me a hug, I closed my eyes for a split second and savored her presence. Every time I saw all of my children together, I took a snapshot in my head and relished the wholeness of our family, because I knew that the time would come when Gavriella would no longer be here with us, that our family would never again be entirely whole, and all that I would have left to hold onto would be those memories. I took the time to appreciate what I had, the blessing of having my daughter alive with us in this world, to sustain me when she was gone. In doing so, I thought that I could prepare myself for losing her.
I am here to tell you that nothing — and I mean nothing — can prepare you for the loss of a child. It doesn’t matter that it was expected to a degree, it doesn’t matter that we felt the rumbling before the explosion, it doesn’t matter that I am a strong person, it doesn’t matter that I thought that I was ready to see my child’s pain end. I wasn’t anywhere near ready, I never could have been, and I never will be.
The last thing that I said to Gavriella was, “I love you” and the last thing she said to me was, “I love you too,” and I know that I should be grateful for that, but there was so much left unsaid. Does she know that I felt such privilege in being her mother, despite the enormous challenges that her eating disorder presented? Does she know how much she enriched my life, how much I treasured her, how deeply I loved her? One thing that I have learned is not to leave anything unsaid, especially to my children, and to always end each conversation with “I love you.”
I wake up each morning asking myself, “Now what?” I don’t have an answer for that yet. My priority is to take care of my family right now. I know that I want to continue on the path of eating disorder advocacy and parent support, because I don’t want what happened to our family to happen to anyone else, and I have knowledge and experience that can help others. People have commented that Gavriella must have gotten her giving nature from me; but actually, it was absolutely the other way around. Gavriella was the consummate giver, and so giving to others is the most fitting way that I can honor her memory.
I am respecting my need to mourn and giving it due space. I know that as a family, we will move forward to a better place while still holding Gavriella in our hearts and in our minds, but we still need more time to process our grief and to come to terms with our overwhelming and devastating loss.
To those of you reading this who have reached out with messages and gestures of caring and support, especially to those of you who don’t know me personally, you have overwhelmed me with your kind spirit and helped sustain me through this immensely difficult time. I am truly moved by the outpouring of love that I have received over the past two weeks. It helps dull the pain, if only a little bit, and that’s a huge blessing.