There are said to be five stages of grief – denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.

Over the past six years I have found myself in and out of the first four stages – often times overlapping a few at once. The first two – denial and bargaining – played a huge role in the first year or so after loosing Hayden; but after time, the shock of not waking up next to him faded. And with that progression, bargaining to get him back also declined.

However, anger and depression have found their way back to the surface intermittently over the past few years. At times I could see them coming from a mile away and almost prepare myself, other days it would come out of nowhere, like an unexpected punch to the gut and when it came it would (and still does) hurt like hell.

Acceptance though, that always seemed to be the stage that I thought I would NEVER reach. How would I ever be able to say that I accept his death? Accept that a doctor made an irreversible error that ultimately took his brain – and life – from us??

It wasn’t until recently while in deep conversation with a fellow bereaved mama that I realized that accepting his death didn’t mean I was saying that what happened to him was OK, or that I was moving on – but rather I have accepted that this is where God wants my life to be right now. And while I do still wish that it weren’t, that he were still here, that I never had to learn what it meant to accept Hayden’s death, I DO accept my life for what it is, and not only do I accept my life – I truly LOVE IT!!

I can say without hesitation that I truly have a beautiful life. It’s not perfect, and it has pain, but whose doesn’t? I have a husband who works so hard for this family – he works to keep us fed, keep us healthy, and keep me home to raise our family. He would do anything in the world to make me happy, and his love for me is larger than life. And yes Hayden died, but I have THREE living boys who make my heart burst – and make my head ache, if I’m being truly honest – but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I get to spend each day with these beautiful gifts – and I realize that’s exactly what they are. Thanks to Hayden and the lessons he taught me while he was here, I fully engulf myself in them – and they make me laugh and love harder (and maybe drink a little more wine) than I ever knew possible. Beyond my sweet little family, I am surrounded with a plethora of stellar people – both from my past and my present. Again, I know that all of them are gifts – and I truly take none of my blessings for granted.

I am approaching my six-year mark since the last time I held him in my arms. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t acknowledge that it will most likely be just as painful as every other year reliving that awful day – but there is such a feeling of peace that comes with my pain this year. The peace of knowing that although great tragedy has touched my life, so have great blessings.

I feel confident at this point in my journey that I have overcome the stages marked Denial and Bargaining. I know that I will no doubt still have days where I will experience Anger and Depression, especially around his birthday and the sadness of not having him here to celebrate, as well as his day of passing which creates the deepest feelings of anger and depression of all. The reality is my child died. A part of me died. That’s real. But knowing those feelings will pass and knowing acceptance in my heart has not only begun, but is burning stronger every day leaves me with peace – even amidst my pain – and gives me hope that with each passing day the peace and acceptance will become stronger and I will continue to live a life full of gratitude right alongside my grief.

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