17 Dec Finding New Purpose After Major Loss
Lisa Alecci, Insider Member, Almost 62
Writing this article is difficult for me. I am a private person, but in the midst of today’s shock, fear, and uncertainty, it’s time to tell my story. I’m hopeful it will offer some sort of light while we fight through our fears, whatever they may be.
I am almost (next month!) 62 years old. I married my husband Steve at the age of 23, when getting married young was not unusual. At the time, I wasn’t a woman who craved being a mom; honestly, it was just the next step in life’s process as I saw it. We purposely waited seven years to start a family and, to my dismay, when I became pregnant, we found out we were having twins (no twins anywhere in either family, no fertility, just a spontaneous set of twins!). Jill and Lauren, our daughters, became the loves of our lives. And even as they wore us out, we adored them.
It seemed our life was “perfect.” We had jobs we loved, and two delightful, mischievous daughters. I was in an artificial bubble of invincibility that often comes with youth: bad things happen to other people, not to us.
Then, on September 28, 1992, the bubble quickly and unalterably burst. Jill was diagnosed with leukemia at 3 years old.
At first, we were told her type of leukemia was 80% curable. She went through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, two bone marrow transplants, and a horrendous onslaught of side effects. It was a hideous roller-coaster ride.
On April 14th, 1995, Jill died in my arms at age six, with our family around us.
To say we were devastated is a gross understatement. We were dead inside. Lauren, Jill’s surviving twin, vacillated between seemingly normal behavior, tears, and absolute silence. I did all I could to make sure she knew how loved she was, but I couldn’t ease her pain. We sought therapy for Lauren, individually, as a couple, and as a family. We took leaves of absence from our jobs. We looked at pictures, laughed, cried, raged: we grieved. I wanted to park my car on railroad tracks, waiting to be “accidentally” killed. But I couldn’t. Steve couldn’t. We had Lauren to care for and thank God we did.
Then, we came to a thoughtful, pivotal decision. We would not remain in grief. Instead, we would live every day in ways that would honor Jill’s memory. We would move forward (not move on, because to us, that signified leaving Jill behind) and carry Jill in our hearts always. And we have done just that.
Nine months after Jill’s death, I was at a routine doctor’s appointment and I found out, to my total surprise, I was pregnant again! I was in disbelief and denial. But along with those feelings came a ray of sunlight. Another child to welcome into our lives and love to pieces! For the first time in what felt like forever, we became hopeful once more.
“BUT WAIT!,” said the Universe. “This family needs yet another challenge.”
I was pregnant, indeed: with twins again! Identical girls. Unbelievable, and extremely delicious. To this day, we feel Jill had a hand in this. She always had a wry sense of humor.
Natalie and Caroline arrived on September 27, 1996. Although we chose their names, we let Lauren decide who would be whom. From that point forward, our lives were chaotic, fun, still grief-filled at times, and became what we would come to know as…good. Even very good. And we were happy, a place we thought we’d left behind forever.
Our girls are now 31 and 24 years old, we are (usually!) empty-nesters, and we are grateful for our lives, our family, and our years with Jill. Our experiences have taught us to hold on tightly – to even a very thin strand of life, to each other, to our daughters, and to hope. While kicking and screaming, we’ve allowed ourselves to listen to each other, learn from each other, and grow stronger when life demands it.
And this is what I think life is demanding of all of us today. Even in our vulnerability — especially in our vulnerability — we can listen, learn, and grow stronger. Ultimately, we can make ourselves comfortable in the new selves we’re becoming as a result of all that is happening around and to us.
We can attend to our hearts and souls and bodies and we can make brave and bold decisions.
We can choose what to do with our circumstances, and it is in that choice that our strength rises.
We can and will survive, in fact, we can thrive in whatever world lies ahead of us.
I know this is true. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. And so, can you.
An experienced corporate healthcare professional, Lisa Alecci is the founder of ADHD Freedom and a certified ADHD coach. Through her coaching practice, she helps people with ADHD find their own unique methods to manage their symptoms and maximize their potential. She brings about the changes they’ve always hoped for so they can be clear, confident, productive, and happy.