Wendy's Blog

Amelia Louise Zhorne Wendy KellerToday would have been my late daughter’s 26th birthday.  Amelia died at 18 months old in the same car accident that killed her big brother Jeremy at age 4 and left me severely injured.

In the long years since her death, I learned that some days are worse than others.  I usually feel a more intense level of grief (in contrast with the daily baseline) on either of their birthdays or on March 15, the date they died.  Some years, these dates sneak up on me.  Other years, I feel storm clouds gathering for days. Like this time.

I went to bed weeping last night.  How could I have survived all this time without her?  I never got to wave goodbye on her first day of first grade…I never got to watch her graduate from college.  Would she have a serious boyfriend now? A fiance’? A husband?  Would I be a grandma?  I miss every moment of the history we didn’t have.  Every laugh.  Every time we didn’t go shoe shopping or share an ice cream. Every secret she didn’t share with me.  Every hug.

Of course I woke up thinking about her. I lay there quietly, a few tears trickling onto my pillow.  I learned from a grief counselor that one way to handle this pain is to write a letter to the deceased, so I wrote to Amelia about how much I grieve her death and all the things I’ve missed in these years.  I usually get pretty emotional when I write these.  Were it not for the birth of my next daughter Sophia, now 23,  I would strongly prefer to have died with Amelia and Jeremy.

But as I’m about to write those last words, this year it hit me for the first time.

She’s been dead 24.5 years.  In that time, I’ve successfully raised another daughter whom I love immeasurably.  I bought a house in a town I loved, all on my own after divorcing my children’s father when Sophia was 2.  I have run a successful business all these years. I provided jobs for some wonderful, smart people. I mentored some of them. I’ve personally written and had published 31 books under 9 different names.  I’ve helped +1,200 people get their own book deals and live their own dreams.  I have been a guest on many television shows – from Dr. Phil to Dateline;  hundreds of radio shows; and I’ve been featured in or written many articles in newspapers or magazines.  I even blog for the Huffington Post! I learned to speak an extra language since the children died. I resolved my issues with their father and now consider him my friend. I’ve been to Europe many times. I’ve admired great works of art and architecture. I’ve helped tens of thousands of people through blogs like this one and my website WendyKeller.com.   I’ve hiked in beautiful forests, loved deeply, made friends, built a rich, interesting, creative life for myself.

Sure, it’s been hard. Yes, I wish it had been different, but it wasn’t.  So I did the best with what I had left.

I remember the day I realized, “I’m still alive. I may as well make the best of it.”

The things I think of as enriching, satisfying and meaningful in my life may not be the same things that you value in your life.  Yet as those moments of joy and accomplishment flooded into my mind, I realized that I have not spent these years in vain. I chose to continue living. To get back up one more day, despite the permanent hole in my heart, and do something.  What other choice did I have?

The letter to Amelia took a surprising positive upturn.  I looked at how much I’ve learned, given, and grown since she died.  I began to feel the pain clearing.  If I died today, I could be at peace knowing that despite the dreadful, heart-wrenching event of the car accident, I have made something of my life, something that means something to me.  Even though she hasn’t been here with me for so very long.

In the end, it really isn’t about what happens to us.  It’s whether we allow ourselves to process the pain and move on.  That decision makes all the difference.

Here’s my wish for you: that whatever has happened to you so far, you find a way to live in the now.

Please, please, please…comment below to share how you are handling the great anguishes and losses in your life – and what you have allowed to delight you since those events occurred.

 

 

 

 

 
  1. Wendy, I send you constant love and continuing healing light. You are a beacon in this world. Whenever I feel down or throw a pity party… I try to think of you and all you endured.. And how you were able to move on. Never forgotten but always grateful. Thank you, my friend, for,your shining compassion, sharing and love.

    • Thank for your very kind response, Doreen. I observe that all humans confront huge obstacles during the course of their lives, and they all hurt the people who are experiencing them.

      Sending you love and thanks.
      Wendy

  2. Timmie Pollock says:

    Hi Wendy. . .I don’t usually respond to posts but yours struck me as particularly timely. Im sitting in a condo in Kauai watching a rain storm. I came here with the intent of “finishing my healing” from a really nasty accident on 1/2/14.. I am very fortunate to be alive. My injuries were “catastrophic”. I was never to be the same again. . .only I have healed about 90% and am not done yet.
    I too have lost multiple family members at a young age, including a sister and a younger brother, and both parents when I was in my 20’s.
    Fortunately, I haven’t lost a child. .I couldn’t have one. . But im ok with that now.
    The point is. . Life can be damn hard. For some harder than others. The only choice we have is in how we respond. Following my recent accident I became morose and cynical for awhile. . Partly because of the traumatic brain injury part. I began to refer to my time left on earth as my “bonus round”. I would laugh and say. . “Nothing matters. . this is just my bonus round. . I can do anything I want. . it doesn’t matter”.
    Then one night in a dream sort of thing I had this overwhelming realization. I get the pain others experience. I understand. We all need a little extra love and compassion now and then. . and I get that. I can give that little bit of extra to others… my “bonus round” has some meaning.
    So I sit here in this unbelievably beautiful place knowing it’s not over. And while it can be really difficult at times. . I think I am figuring out that all of our lessons just might be about something as simple as learning to love. . each other. . and appreciate the beauty . . in spite of the other more difficult stuff .
    Thanks for reading♡

    • Hi Timmie,

      Thank you SO much for writing. I’m honored that you’d respond since usually you do not. I’m glad your healing is already at 90%. Having been heinously injured in that accident of my own, I know it takes an enormous amount of grit to keep doing the PT and keep trying and keep pushing our bodies. Bravo to you!

      You know, I still think of this as my “bonus round” and I am doing anything I want. This blog and my website are my attempt to do just what you’re doing – learning to love myself and others; try to show compassion; appreciate beauty; and take more risks. In some ways – many ways – I like the person I am SINCE they died way more than the person I was before they died. I have a sense you’ll get that, right?

      I wish you a complete return to physical, mental and emotional vibrance.

      Love,
      Wendy

  3. Valerie dieling says:

    After the loss of my 27yr old son in a car crash 4 yrs ago, I found you and have been following you ever since and reading all you have to share. You have helped me more than I can express in words. And today is just another example of how you help. Reading this made me feel better about my own feelings and a new way to express them, in a letter to my son. So I thank you from my heart in all you share and help us get better and handle our grief

    • Valerie dear,

      I am so terribly sorry for the loss of your son. It is an anguish that only bereaved mothers know, I think, to lose a child. For years, and sometimes even now, I get the feeling I am falling, falling, falling into a bottomless pit. Will it ever end? In the beginning, will this feeling of abject, incomprehensible pain ever subside?

      All I can tell you is this – it gets better. I don’t believe “time heals” – I believe time gives you the space to pick up some new coping strategies, if you look for them and test them in your own life. I try to share what’s worked for me. As you’re falling, now and then, there’s a little respite. A smile. Coffee and laughs with a girlfriend. A few snatched moments where your brain and heart forget for a few seconds.

      I know this for sure: we are not alone. One thing that I know you’ll understand – and any other bereaved parents reading this will too – is that for a while, I became obsessed with reading about carnage – the bubonic plague, infant mortality rates in the Industrial age, how many young men died in wars…throughout history. I kept weeping for those other mothers, my heart breaking for their pain and my own. But somehow, realizing that women have been burying their children since the beginning made me feel less alone.

      I also realized this: if every woman who lost a child died or took her own life immediately thereafter because she could not bear the inevitable pain, not one of us would be alive today. I did some digging – I have distant relatives who buried their children, too – people I never even met.

      Sending you love and comfort. It is a horrible journey we’re on, but we are all strong enough to make the best of it. If I can, anyone can.

      Wendy

  4. I honestly don’t know how you have done it. I lost my 5 months ago,I did get to do a lot of the things you didn’t get to do. Ashley was 32, coming up on her first birthday in October,without her…..I just want to to lay down and die,my heart is broken into a million pieces….I don’t know how to go on

    • Hi Jan,

      Five months after they died, I still wasn’t walking. Instead, I was lying in a hospital bed trying to figure out how to commit suicide with objects within my reach. So you’re already doing better because you’re out here on the internet, looking for solutions and help. My sincere compliments to you for your strength.

      I’ve known mothers who lost children anywhere from stillborn to middle age. We all experience that unfathomable, bottomless abyss of anguish. Some of us inch our way through it. OK, millimeter our way through it, more like. You’re on the right path, dear Jan. Believe it or not, the first few years are the hardest and then, suddenly, you start finding the occasional thing to smile about it. It gets better from there.

      Sending you love and my best wishes. You can endure this, believe it or not. Millions of mothers have throughout history. We have unwillingly joined their ranks.

      Wendy

      • April Hickman says:

        So true that the first year is the hardest. The first six months were literal hell for me. Luckily I had six other children, several grandchildren and my husband. My husband was my rock. I also have a deep belief in God and that the spirit lives on which helped me. I lost my son when he was 33 yrs old in a motorcycle crash. My aunt lost her son when he was 33 yrs old due to liver failure from spraying too much bug spray in an enclosed area. My grandmother lost two of her children. Losing my son gave me so much more appreciation of the pain my aunt and grandmother carried.
        ” As you’re falling, now and then, there’s a little respite. A smile. Coffee and laughs with a girlfriend. A few snatched moments where your brain and heart forget for a few seconds.” Those words ring so true.
        I watched two movies several times a day for almost two weeks straight when my son died. I still cry and think of him on the rare occasion that I watch them now. It’s been over ten years. Time does not heal the wounds, but it does give us time to learn to live our lives and to not cry as much.

        • So beautifully said, April. Thank you for sharing. Terribly sorry for your loss – and yet, we all trudge on. Thank you for inspiring all who will read this.

          Wendy

  5. Peggy L Warnet says:

    Hi Wendy. I took have lost many family members starting with a 5 yr old brother when I was 6 yrs old. I lost a nephew when he was just 14 in 2001. My Mom died on Mother’s day 2004 from diabetes. I also lost another brother in 2004 just 2 days after Thanksgiving from injuries he sustained from a head injury from a car accident at the age of 48. But the loss that hurts the most is I lost my oldest son at the age of 24 in 2008. He died from the same genetic disorder that my nephew died from. Even though we knew he wouldn’t be around forever it was still very difficult to lose him. Due to all the stress of all these loses over the years I also lost my matting of 32 years ago when my ex husband left me. I am still trying to pick up the pieces and move on with my life. I try to take it one day at a time but some days are very hard. Thank you for sharing your story. Losing a child is so very hard emotional. I can only hope my future will improve and I live for my 3 other children.
    Peggy.

    • Hi Peggy,

      Thanks for writing. My goodness, what a lot of losses you have endured! And I sure can relate that your son’s death was the hardest. I would say for myself that I definitely am ALIVE because of Sophia. In the darkest hours, I did not choose to take my own life because she is alive. (Luckily, it’s been many years since I’ve felt that bleak!) And I experience the bittersweet joys of motherhood because of her. She was conceived after they died, not as a replacement but as a symbol of hope. I DO hope with you that your future improves! I’ve found that for me, that improvement comes when I dare to ask myself, “What would I like to experience? What would I like to see? Who would I like to help?” Do you have any strategies you’ve developed since 2008 that you’d like to share here?

      Wishing you peace and health,
      Wendy

  6. Wendy, I remember when I had a coaching session and, you brought this part of your life up. It had to do with my blog. Your story is amazing. I admire what you have accomplished, as well as; how you handled your grief. Your courage is inspirational.

  7. October 18th 1999 Amber Leann died in a car accident. I have grieved so hard all these years that I can hardly motivate. This year I am going to do something different. I am going to celebrate Amber’s life and not dwell on her death. I will go put flowers on her grave but then I am going to do something Amber would want me to do. I am going to go to church and worship our Lord. I realize he gave me 17 years with her and let me tell you we had some good times in those 17 years. I am going to remember those times not the day she died because she didn’t dies he received eternal life.

  8. Wendy, your wise words and positivity have helped me on so many occasions that I’m ashamed to say I sometimes nearly forget just how much pain YOU have endured in your life…. so I wanted to say thank you with all my heart and just let you know how grateful I am for your willingness to SHARE YOUR strength and love to help others. I can only hope that in doing so, that love always comes back to you even more abundantly and beautiful than when you sent it out. Peace and love, always, Michelle

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