this is motherhood {too}: the road to healing after losing Florence.

July 10, 2018, Michaela Evanow, 10 Comments

It has been a long time since I’ve let myself be scraped raw and shared some words in this space. It was impossible for me to come back to this place and revisit the grief. I’m moving on, I said, it’s been long enough.

I didn’t know that grief and healing have their own timeline apart from mine. Learning to let go of my control has made me tender and afraid, quite frankly.

I felt very vulnerable during Florence’s life. I was my own counsellor for years; I bled words onto pages to try and heal myself, make sense of it, fix the brokenness. I couldn’t fully understand the enormity of my pain. I wanted to find the light in it. I wanted to make it whole. I wanted the hard part of my story to be over. Florence wouldn’t have had Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She wouldn’t lose her strength. I wouldn’t have fear about her health or the health of my future children. Perhaps I was pretending it wasn’t happening to me.

After the years of heartache and trauma that came with a diagnosis for my girl that was life changing and limiting, I discovered that my body and heart could no longer carry on as it had. I had unknowingly stuffed trauma into my physical body, because I could not show fear or weakness in front of my daughter. I did not want to. I always wanted her to feel safe, secure and protected, because she couldn’t fend for herself, in any way, shape or form. I don’t think I ever cried in front of her. She was so fragile. I had to be her person. I needed to. I wanted to. No one could tell me otherwise.

If she was sick, I physically hovered over her, 24/7. If she was admitted to the ER, I would stand by her side, but often slump into slumber because I couldn’t cope with the emergent situation. The day she was intubated, I fell to my knees by her bed in the electric white trauma room and fell asleep. I was in shock and it was traumatizing, so my body shut down and absorbed it so I could carry on. If she was admitted to the ICU, I stayed by her side, only nipping out to grab a coffee or go to the washroom and then feeling flooded with weird guilt even though it was claustrophobic in the basement pediatric intensive care. It was hell. I didn’t realize that at the time.

I didn’t carry on because I had super human strength. I did it because I had to do it. I did it because she had to do it. How do you explain to a two or three year old that has lost her ability to use her words that she is weak and sick and mama can’t fix it and she is dying? I could not bear it. So I protected her.

And I survived on fight or flight fumes.

I thought I valued self care all those years. I would get a massage here and there, but I didn’t really understand deep emotional, mental and spiritual self care.

It all came back to haunt me when I felt that I was moving forward. My heart had begun healing. But my mind and body had not. Immediately after I gave birth to our third child last year, the physical exhaustion and tension that I had carried for years came flooding out of me like the amniotic fluid. I could not stop the gushing.

The scariest thing for me to admit is the truth: I am not done healing. I am not done yet. This journey isn’t over, but it has has deeply changed me. And it has scarred me. It gave me Florence, but it also gave me trauma. I hate that. I hated it so much that I refused to believe it. I just wanted her.

But now I know what’s real. My first child died. The complications we encountered because of her diagnosis, changed my identity as a mother. What I expected was a lifetime with my daughter. What I received were too many traumatic moments when we almost lost her, when she was in pain, when the only thing I could do to help her was to hold her hand. It still rips my heart out when I think about her suffering. I have let the shade drop over those memories to dull their sharp edges. And so, that pain goes somewhere. I’m learning how to release it, even though I’m not even sure what that means. I just know that it’s there now. I have lifted the shade, ever so slightly, to let some light pour in.

Over three years have passed since her death, and six years since her birth and diagnosis, and I’m in the moody gray now, where the dust motes float by. Each speck is a memory, a moment, harrowing or joyful. I get to choose how much light to leak in, or when to shut the blinds. It is a slow process.

It is slower than I expected. I can see my brokenness, and sometimes it roars, but I let it. I stayed busy for a long time, as a way to cope, and now I know that I cannot outrun it.

I wish there wasn’t a sisterhood of wounded, tired, bereaved, anxious and trying-to-stay-strong-for-others mothers. But this is motherhood, too. Whether it be death or medical issues or special needs, we exist within it all, and our children’s stories carve into us every day. At some point, we may disappear as we solider on.

I don’t like admitting that I disappeared, but I think I did. Underneath the waves for a little while. Barely breathing.

Letting go of what I envisioned my healing to look like has allowed me to bloom again. I didn’t know I had a shell to protect myself, but it grew like skin on scalded milk. Peeling away that layer and allowing the buried grief to bleed out has been painful. I would never want to do it again and I now know I cannot do it on my own.

This kind of pain can cleanse us if we sit with it. I’m glad that I sat with it, even though it was terrifying. I think the timing was just right.

And now I can see, my experiences in the last few years have allowed me to move forward into a spell of light that I thought was lost forever.

I am grateful. I am breathing, now.

Photos by Katie Cross Photography. Clothing provided by June Isle Clothier.


  • Reply Belinda July 13, 2018 at 6:45 PM

    Your writing paints a beautiful picture and I have shared it many times with a very close friend who lost her daughter . I admire your honesty and your strength . Thank you for sharing your gift ❤️

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 19, 2018 at 8:08 PM

      Thanks so much for your kindness.

  • Reply Sue July 12, 2018 at 8:42 AM

    Hi Michaela,
    I’ve really missed you. Your writing is so beautiful and always inspires me. I love anyone who is in touch with their feelings. You are certainly one of them.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 19, 2018 at 8:08 PM

      Sue, thank you very much for the encouragement!

  • Reply Jaclyn July 11, 2018 at 9:01 PM

    this post carries such beauty with its real ness. While only you know what you carry, I’m with you in heart ❤️. So much love to mama xxo

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 19, 2018 at 8:09 PM

      thank you, Jaclyn! xx

  • Reply Meg July 11, 2018 at 7:27 PM

    Michaela you are a truly inspiring woman. Keep writing , your words touch so many.
    Thank you.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 19, 2018 at 8:10 PM

      That’s so sweet of you and nice to hear. Thank you.

  • Reply Diana Trautwein July 11, 2018 at 4:20 PM

    Oh, this is hard! And beautiful. And so, so true. Thank you for writing it out. And also? Welcome back to this writing space. Your voice is remarkable and I have missed it.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow July 19, 2018 at 8:09 PM

      THANK YOU for the welcome back. I really appreciate that, Diana. xx

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