Back Then

1/23/2014

I recently received an e-mail asking me to write a post about, “What I wish I would have known just following Preslee’s death.” I was surprised at how difficult of a question this was for me to answer. It’s been on my mind for over a month, and it’s urged me to rethink over our journey with grief. I’ve dug deep, and I guess you could say I’ve been busy doing a little soul searching. I realized I can’t share all that I have to say in one post, so many more posts will probably follow this one, but for now, here are my thoughts.

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My daughter died. It took me a long time to be able to say or type the word, “died.” I used to say passed away, that term didn’t seem so blunt. But I’ve now come to terms that my only daughter is gone, and one of the things I’m grateful for is a thick 3 - inch binder I put together, where I place anything dealing with the accident or Preslee’s death. Inside the binder are letters, poems, slideshows, newspaper articles and much more. I began looking through this binder while trying to answer the question, and while doing so, decided there are two things I wish I could go back and tell myself just following Preslee’s death.

1. You are not alone. Though it will seem like you are all alone, especially when every one else returns to their daily lives, and when you and your husband grieve so differently that you don’t understand one another, remember, you are NEVER alone. Jesus Christ understands. During those moments when it hits you, your child is gone, and the panic attack sets in, fall to your knees and pray. When your marriage or relationship becomes a struggle due to the fact you both don’t understand each other’s grief, turn to the Savior and ask for guidance, because He understands your spouse better than anyone else. Pray, for guidance, read what the Lord wants us to know through scriptures, do everything you can to keep the Savior by your side, and with His help, you will be able to function. Just remember, He’s there, you have to be the one to seek Him out. While grieving, that can be hard to remember.

2. Write, Write, Write. After stating #1, I would hand over a journal, with a quote from Richard G. Scott inside the front cover that says:

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It took me a good while to learn this one, but once I began writing on a regular basis, I too, was given instructions that pointed me in the direction I needed to go. I was able to pull out of the deep dark hole of depression, and was no longer lost within my grief. I did much of my writing here on the blog, and at the time, had no idea how much it would save me. And now, on those hard days, there are times I go back and read the blessings, reinstating that I never was alone.

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(Once we realized Preslee wasn’t going to live much longer, my SIL came and took photos of Preslee’s little face, hands, feet, etc. She wanted us to remember everything we could, and I’m so grateful she was thinking for us.)

So, if I was given the opportunity to walk back into that same hospital room just after my young 22 year old self handed over her daughter’s lifeless body to the nurse, I would look her straight in the eyes, and explain these two things will give you a purpose in life. Since your role of motherhood was just stripped away with the death of your only child, you will be lost, you won’t know how to function, and that’s okay. Let others help, lean on our Savior, and remember you can do hard things, and though you won’t believe it right now, you will, in fact, make it through this - all the while becoming a better person.

Free Printable: After someone experiences losing a loved, I actually give a journal with the quote that I shared up above, pasted on the inside of the front cover. If you want to assemble your own, click here for a free printable of Richard G. Scott’s quote.

15 comments:

  1. SOOOO amazing...and SO completely what I needed to hear today! I love you Ashley Sullenger!!!

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  2. Your words of wisdome are very profound...and oh so true. I'm a journal writer by nature. I have over 15 books that represent my life, my mistakes, my adventures, just so much about who I am. When my husband died, it took me a few weeks but I wrote about everything that happened (I'm so glad I did that!!) . But then 5 months later my dad passed away. I tried to keep writing but it was just after Christmas and it was so hard. Then 7 weeks later my beloved mother had two strokes, one of which was catastrophic and she also passed away. Oh my stars....I could not write anymore about losing someone I loved so dearly. I started up again and glad I didn't stop completely. I'm glad writing helped you. I know my losses are nothing compared to losing your precious daughter. Your wise words and amazing uplifting blog has helped a grandmother like me to see how good and wonderful and precious life is. Thanks also for sharing your testimony of the Savior. He was and still is my constant companion...I know he knows how much it hurts to lose a loved one, especially a little baby but he also knows there is light and joy and peace and comfort that can eventually come to those who rely and call upon his name to help them. You are in my thoughts today. Thanks again for sharing your blog thoughts with us. Beautiful words

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    1. I love your comments. I've learned from you different perspective, and have sincerely appreciated your support over the years. We're so lucky to have people who were once strangers reach out to us become people we love. :) Sending love to you!

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    2. Thank you...love sent to you too!!

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  3. I love this! Thanks so much for sharing. You're amazing. (Are you headed to Build Your Blog in February? I hope so! I would LOVE to meet you!) :)

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    1. I am! I didn't think I was going to be able to get away, but my mom came to the rescue! Looking forward to meeting you!

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  4. Hi Ashley,

    You don't know who I am, but I have been following your blog for quite some time now. For some reason I felt drawn to your blog time and time again. I have not had a child die, but my little life story seems so much like yours. We are the same age, like a lot of the same things, I have a son just a couple months younger than Ledger, and I have a first born daughter as well. She is only 2 months younger than Preslee. I think I came across your blog when she had only been gone a couple months. I bawled reading it because that easily could have been my daughter. Through your hardship, it made me realize what a blessing it is to be a mother (and I don't mean that as an insult). Your testimony has influenced mine so so much. I just want to thank you for being you and not being afraid to show the real you, the sad you, the hurt you, and the happy you. I'm so proud of you even though I have never met you. I have wanted to comment time and time again on different posts of yours, but for some reason I never did (I was too shy I suppose). But today I felt the strong prompting to write you. With reading your blog over the past little while, I can tell that you have become stronger. Stronger in your testimony, stronger as a wife, mother, and friend. But like you say the Lord knows how to refine us and make us stronger in all things (hard trials included). Thank you for being a huge influence in my life.

    Oh and PS.. your family is so adorable, and I'm glad to see that your life with twins is getting a little easier. Yay for you!

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  5. This post gave me chills, you are amazing with your words and know how to express your feelings so well. I just hope you know how much your posts have helped me deal with different things in my life. Thank you.. I am so thankful for our saviors atonement so that you can once again be with your beautiful Preslee. It is a huge comfort to know these things.

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  6. Ashley your amazing! Your words, journey, sharing about your baby you have given me such great inspiration. I look up to you. Reading your blog has helped me cope a little better with the loss of my son. He was 15 months. So thank you for being such a great inspiration to me. Your truly a blessing!

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  7. That's a good question. After Preslee passed I wondered if you had known it was her last snow cone would you have allowed her to get the syrup. I know that's a random and very insignificant thought compared to your loss. On a complete rabbit trail... I was reminded yesterday of all the insignificant things we worry about. When I lost my twins I had a friend sending me text messages about work, school, or being single I don't remember, but I do remember thinking, "My babies have died and you want to talk about what???" Anyway, the snow cone. We didn't let our daughter have sweets until she was two. When I noticed Preslee was eating plain ice I kept pondering if I had known the end was near, what would I have done differently.

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  8. After my mom died, I wish someone would've told me that I wasn't always going to feel this way. That month by month, my little broken heart would start to heal a little. For me, grief felt so overwhelming and I thought I would always feel the way I did the day she died. It will be 22 years tomorrow since my mom died and I still have hard days, but it's getting easier and easier to be thankful for the blessings and to see the Savior's hand in my life. I know there is a greater purpose for all of this and that our trials aren't intended to be against us, they're intended to be FOR us. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us....you are truly an instrument in strengthening testimonies.

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  9. As another Mother that has walked this path I concur with it all. I have NEVER felt so alone in my life then after my son died. All of our friends and family walked away but because of that God was all I had. We wrestled for a while...a long while but now our relationship is so solid. And the writing advice...ahhh...I didn't start writing (my blog) until over a year after but I healed so much once I did. It's amazing how therapeutic and healing a blog can be.

    Hugs sweet mama :)
    Trisha

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  10. I started following your blog a few months after Preslee passed away. I've just been kind of stalking your blog lol I read up and see how you're doing, but have never commented. I am blown away, just amazed at how strong you are! I have not experienced a loss close to me, and when I think about something happening to my little ones I get a knot in my throat. I just cannot imagine what I would do or how I could go on. You are an amazing, strong person. I am sorry for the loss of your beautiful baby girl, I know she's smiling down on you, proud of her awesome mama.

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  11. I've had those exact impressions Ashley. I was writing a bit before Shane died, and it was hand in hand with my scripture studies. I was instantly able to go back to the words that were given to me in the weeks before he died and see, very clearly, that the Lord was preparing me to lose my perfect and beautiful child. I have since, written religiously and been able to go back and see the same love and direction from my Father. It is amazing, and to this day, I strongly encourage my children to keep some kind of written record of the things they deem important so that they can reflect upon God's power and love in their deepest struggles. Your words brought tears, as always. It always reminds me of the grief I am asked to carry through life. I had wondered when Preslee has died if you thought it was crazy to be hearing words of sorrow from a mother who lost her child 3 years ago...and now, as Preslee has passed that 3 year mark, and we are into 7, I'm pretty certain there is a deep understanding--it never goes away. Though there are deep blessings of peace to be had in the peace that Jesus Christ brings, it is still so very clear...that valley of death is meant to last until it can be fully restored through life once again. Love you.

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