There are certain situations in life when the phrase ‘It could be worse’ seems absolutely absurd. For parents, losing a child is most definitely one of those moments. In the days, years, even decades after losing a child, this sentence might make most of my fellow angel moms cringe. Cry. Scream. I would be neither surprised nor offended if it quite literally made them want to hit someone, to hit me for saying it. Because I get it.

Our daughter was born critically ill, diagnosed with congenital Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She passed away 78 days after her birth, while cuddled in our arms on a small couch in the NICU.

Hear me loud, and hear me clear: losing our daughter is without a doubt the worst thing that I have experienced.

But in my own moments of grief, I force my mind to dissect the nuances of this thought. I try to distinguish between the worst thing that I have experienced, and the even worse things that could have happened, but didn’t. To overcome my own grief, I tell myself it could be worse.

This is admittedly a strategy of self-preservation. One first encountered while reading a transcript of Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech at the University of California at Berkeley. As I sat on the couch in my daughter’s NICU room – the same couch on which she would later take her last breaths – one paragraph in particular stopped me in my tracks. Sheryl says:

“One day my friend Adam Grant, a psychologist, suggested that I think about how much worse things could be. This was completely counterintuitive; it seemed like the way to recover was to try to find positive thoughts. “Worse?” I said. “Are you kidding me? How could things be worse?” His answer cut straight through me: “Dave could have had that same cardiac arrhythmia while he was driving your children.” Wow. The moment he said it, I was overwhelmingly grateful that the rest of my family was alive and healthy. That gratitude overtook some of the grief.”

From that day forward I’ve held on to the idea that at any given moment genuine gratitude can be stronger than grief – even very real, very deep, very dark grief. Acknowledging what I have to be grateful for instantly and almost unconsciously softens the sadness. And even if the sadness is lifted for only a fleeting moment, when strung together over time these moments are what help me move forward after loss.

So I say it to myself. I say it to myself when a dark day begins to creep up on me. I say it to myself when I’m sitting in the depths of my sadness, struggling to find the strength to stand again. I will say it to myself over, and over, and over again. I will hold on to these words as one of my many mantras that help me maintain a sliver of sanity at a time when it would be so easy to feel otherwise.

At first it was difficult for me to think of scenarios worse than my own, but the ideas slowly surfaced.

It could be worse. I could have been seriously hurt, or died during labor. Like Sheryl’s moment of clarity, I was immediately grateful that my husband and I were both alive and well and able to support one another during this nightmare. It could be worse. My daughter could have been born into another family. My husband and I drenched our daughter with love every single second of her short life. I was honored and grateful that I got to be her mama. That I was able to show her love and happiness despite being born into a perfectly imperfect body. The idea that she could have been born into a broken or absent or heartless family sent searing pains through my body. It could have been worse. We could have struggled with infertility and never had our daughter. I stared at my beautiful daughter, and felt immensely grateful that she was here. I cherished the fact that we were able to get to know her, laugh at her wild hair and sassy personality… that we were given the opportunity to meet and love her. I was grateful for her, no matter what her life’s plan looked like. I was simply grateful for that moment.

And now even as our daughter’s nursery sits silently at the end of our hall, as the medical bills pile up, and I realize despite one’s best efforts the world does not stop when you want it to… I remind myself it could be worse and I force myself to count the ways.

Because I know that I have so much to be grateful for – my daughter’s life, love, and legacy sits high on that list – and I’ve experienced myself how genuine gratitude really can be stronger than grief – even very real, very deep, very dark grief.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Whitney Guerrero

Whitney is a product manager who works at the intersection of social media and software. When their daughter Olivia Grace was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Whitney and her husband began sharing stories online of their family's journey through life and loss. She continues to write now as an angel mom, and hopes to be a voice for grieving parents. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter where she documents her delight in good quotes, great food, the ocean, and home decor.

My Baby Was Stillborn, But Still Born

In: Child Loss, Grief
My Baby Was Stillborn, But Still Born www.herviewfromhome.com

My baby was stillborn, but still born. In a cool white hospital room where so many had been born before. My body trembled and shook as his body worked its way out of my womb and into the hands of a doctor. He was void of breath, of sound, of movement, but he was still born. My baby was stillborn, but still lived. In the darkness of my womb. The outline of his body was visible against the darkness of the screen, his presence undeniable. The sound of his heartbeat drowned out the sound of mine as I watched his...

Keep Reading

I Am Not My Child’s Death

In: Cancer, Child Loss, Faith, Grief
I Am Not My Child's Death www.herviewfromhome.com

We are NOT what has happened to us or what this world says we are. That is not what defines us. While we are grieving parents, that is not what our whole story has to be about. Although, at times, we feel that our story is over. We ask, how do we go on and live full lives without our sweet Sophie with us? I’m still not 100 percent sure I know the answer to that. BUT the Lord says I am beloved. I am redeemed and accepted. I am holy and chosen. I am righteous and complete. I am...

Keep Reading

The Hardest Moments After Losing a Child

In: Child Loss, Grief, Motherhood
The Hardest Moments After Losing a Child www.herviewfromhome.com

Within the first three months following the death of my newborn daughter, I participated in one baby shower, attended two first birthday parties, had multiple infants in and around my home, and watched not one, not two, but five of my closest friends take happy, healthy babies home from the hospital. And in the midst of my own life-altering experience, I purchased, wrapped, and mailed a gift to every one of those new babies, because they deserved one. In the days and months after my daughter died, I didn’t run away or hide from babies at all. And this seemed...

Keep Reading

6 Commitments I Made to Myself After Child Loss

In: Child Loss, Grief, Kids, Motherhood
6 Commitments I Made to Myself After Child Loss www.herviewfromhome.com

Following the death of our infant daughter, I found myself facing an opportunity to activate the immense power of personal choice. Time and time again. Hour after hour, day after day. It felt as if every moment that passed provided me with a choice: to let the grief consume me, or not. In the midst of the most emotionally complex experience of my life, my ability to survive felt as simple as that. Will grief consume me, or not? Once I began believing that Olivia had lived out her life’s plan completely—that she had come, she had loved, she had...

Keep Reading

To the Moms and Dads Who Suffer Loss: You Are Not Alone

In: Child Loss, Grief, Infertility, Motherhood
To the Moms and Dads Who Suffer Loss: You Are Not Alone www.herviewfromhome.com

You are walking the hardest path anyone will ever walk—living this life without your children. Your losses have come in many shapes and sizes. You’ve lost tiny heartbeats early in the womb. You’ve screamed and sobbed through labor to deliver a silent but perfect little bundle. You’ve held a fragile infant for hours, days, weeks, or months, only to give him back to Heaven. You’ve watched your little one grow into a curious toddler and then held her a final time as disease or an accident took her away. You’ve lived a full childhood with your baby and even watched...

Keep Reading

A Letter to My Mama, From Your Baby in Heaven

In: Child Loss, Faith, Grief, Miscarriage
A Letter to My Mama, From Your Baby in Heaven www.herviewfromhome.com

Dear Mama, I know you miss me and wish you could watch me grow up. But instead, you sit in that rocking chair, tears streaming down your face, arms wrapped around the blanket that was supposed to be mine. I see you crying, Mama, wishing you could hold me. Wishing you could look into my eyes. Wishing you could hear me cry or call you “Mama”. I want you to know Jesus rocks me to sleep every night and while He does it, He tells me all about you. I know tulips are your favorite flower and that every spring...

Keep Reading

God Actually Does Give Us More Than We Can Handle

In: Child Loss, Faith, Grief
God Actually Does Give Us More Than We Can Handle www.herviewfromhome.com

I used to be someone who said, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” That was before I had faced any hardships in my life. I didn’t know who God truly is. When people are going through something hard and decide to share it, it makes people uncomfortable. It’s hard to watch others who are hurting, and it’s hard not knowing how to help when it’s someone you love. “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” is a very well-meaning encouragement that I know is meant in love. I’ve said it before! But it’s not really...

Keep Reading

Why I Got a Tattoo With My Teenage Daughters

In: Child Loss, Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Why I Got a Tattoo With My Teenage Daughters www.herviewfromhome.com

“We should get a tattoo, Mom.” I laughed. I knew it was just my younger daughter, Sarah’s way of getting herself a tattoo—to go along with her nose ring, and six ear piercings. She didn’t really want me to get one. Did she? “Truth!” My oldest, more conservative daughter, Elle, chimed in. “We should all go.” What? Home from college just five minutes, maybe she was bored. I heard tattoos really hurt and she hates pain, like I do. I glared at my two daughters, now 17 and 19. They can read my mind. I knew it! There was something...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Sure How Long I’ll Need an Antidepressant to Feel Normal…and That’s OK

In: Cancer, Child Loss, Grief, Mental Health
I'm Not Sure How Long I'll Need an Antidepressant to Feel Normal...and That's OK www.herviewfromhome.com

I tried to wean off of Zoloft and couldn’t. And that’s OK. I had never really been aware of the world of antidepressants. My life has been relatively uneventful—with the normal ups and downs that most of us go through. I knew people on medication for depression but never understood. How can you be THAT sad that you can’t just be positive and make the best of your circumstances? How can someone be THAT unhappy ALL the time to need medication? I didn’t get it. I felt bad for people going through it. Then my 2-year-old was diagnosed with Stage...

Keep Reading

To the Young Warriors Fighting Cancer, You Are Superheroes

In: Cancer, Child, Child Loss, Health
To the Young Warriors Fighting Cancer, You Are Superheroes www.herviewfromhome.com

Most people never get to meet their heroes. I have, in fact—I have met many heroes. These heroes didn’t set out for greatness; they fell victim to a terrible disease and faced it with courage, might and bravery like I have never seen before. And when we talk about this type of battle, there is no such thing as losing. whether the battle ended in death, life, or debility, each of these heroes defeated. My heroes are the innocent children who battle cancer. I high-fived, hugged, wept over, laughed and played with my heroes for 10 years as a nurse. And you better believe I...

Keep Reading