The Never Ending Journey
Written by Judy Bruner

March 25, 2010

They say that time in Heaven is compared to the "blink of an eye" for us here on this earth. Sometimes it helps me to think of my daughter running ahead of me through a beautiful field of wildflowers and butterflies. So happy and completely caught up in what she is doing, that by the time she turns around to see if I'm behind her.....I will be.

Her name was Ashleigh Nicole Bruner. She was 12 and a half years old and had long golden brown hair and big brown eyes. She had a sweet smile and a high pitched little laugh that made us all laugh with her. She was excited about life and had just begun her sixth grade year. She was brave, she was funny, and she could be exasperatingly stubborn! She also had a true gift of kindness and a special sweetness that touched everyone she met. There was an innocence about her, a gentler spirit, that was not of "this world". She was an incredible child. Although her stay on this earth was too brief, the impact she made on my life and the lives of all those who knew her lives on. I still do not like it that I have to live here without her, but life goes on just the same.

I called it my never-ending journey, because that is what it felt like at the time---I could see no end. And that is in fact what it has become. Even after just over twelve years now, the pain is still here. I carry it within me. My journey began the day she left this earth, and it will continue on until I leave myself. The path of grief is filled with tears of sorrow, anger and regret. Life is forever altered. We're not supposed to outlive our children and I will never understand why things like this have to happen.

I've asked the question, "why" a million times over the years and I still have not found the answer. All I know is that it's not fair, and I don't like it. But when your child dies you don't get a choice. You never in your worst nightmare imagine that it could ever happen to you. You cannot fathom even the idea that your child could ever die. It's something that only happens to other people, not to you or your family.

Ashleigh became ill very suddenly, with mild flu like symptoms. My daughter Sarah, Ashleigh's older sister had a severe viral infection/flu at the time. We all assumed they both had the same thing. Within four short days our Ashleigh was gone. It was an extremely rare bacterial infection within her bloodstream called StrepA/pneumonia/sepsis. It was completely undetectable to the doctors, and she had no real symptoms. We do not know how she contracted her illness, or where it came from. Never knowing is just one more thing I have to live with.

After your child dies, even if the death was to be expected, you're in shock. You can't believe it, your mind simply will not let you. The pain is so intense you wonder why it doesn't kill you, and sometimes you wish it would. You can't imagine anyone living with this kind of agony. Your shock turns to denial, and you think, "This can't possibly be happening, there has been a terrible mistake." You're so desperate to have your child back, living without her is does not seem to be an option. You make deals with God, you ask to trade places with her, you would do anything for this not to be happening, anything for it all to be erased. Then you realize that nothing you can do will bring her back. You are not in control. It's not up to you. You feel so utterly helpless. You cry in anguish until there are no tears left to cry. You scream out in anger and rage to the heavens above, and are left with an emptiness that is as deep as your soul. You dream of your child and you hold her in your arms and then you wake up and remember.

As time goes by, you come to realize that you will never be your old self again. People expect you to be the same as you used to be and will expect you to get over it as quickly as possible, because it's easier for them, but that's just not possible. That self was forever changed when your child died, a part of you died too. Nothing will ever be the same again. The person you will now become, and the way you will learn to live without your child, will take years.

In a book called "The Worst Loss", it says that you never get over a loss like this, anymore than you would get over the loss of a leg. Instead, you find ways to live your life despite it. The sun continues to rise each day, babies are born, children run and play, and somehow the world goes on as before. It doesn't seem as though it should, everything should have just stopped, but it didn't. You desperately continue to try to hold onto your child in your heart and in your mind because that's all you have left. You try to find people who you can talk to about your child, but it isn't easy because most turn away. "It's just too hard" they say. You try staying in touch with your family and the people that you love, but even this is difficult because you are in so much pain. There is nothing else, it is all you can see or feel....your grief consumes you. The pain and the emptiness are all that you know. The hopelessness of life without your child is all that you can see ahead. This journey has become never-ending.

Then one day you realize that in order to survive this "journey" you must put your energy into what's important, and let the rest go. You learn to be gentle with yourself. You let yourself feel whatever you feel and deal with it as it comes, doing the best that you can. You realize that there is no right or wrong way in which to grieve for your child. You get through the bad days because you've learned that they do end. The pain overwhelms you, but then like the tide it recedes. You find that you are stronger than you ever knew, stronger than you ever wanted to be.

Now, after twelve years of this journey I can now feel the other parts of my life. I can laugh and not feel guilty. I can think of other things besides Ashleigh and the fact that she is not here and what I might have been able to do to save her. In fact, now I don't really think about that much anymore, I just miss her. I can do something that's just for fun-and even enjoy it! I can sleep through the night. I can appreciate the beauty of this world; the ocean, the summer sun, a sunset, fall leaves. I find my joy in small pleasures like flowers, new recipes, a nice walk, a great tan, a good movie, a day with my daughter, Sarah, and my grandchildren's love.

If you are a parent who has lost a child and can relate to anything that I have shared concerning the loss of a child, please write to me. I would appreciate hearing from you. There are many of us on this journey, many who are hurting. Through my loss I have found that in helping other grieving mothers, I am helping myself. My name is Judy, and my e-mail address is :

I have a support group of my own through FB for grieving parents.
Click here if you would like to visit
my Child Loss 4 Moms Support Group Webpages

And if you have a website and would like to help others
find our online support group, feel free to save the
banner below to your computer, and just link it back to:

Kisses in Heaven
October 20, 2012

It's been sixteen years since you went away. I look back and I see your sweet face,
who ever thought that you were going to have to leave this place?

The years have passed by and time has continued on, but in my mind you are still
young. I see the toddler who ran almost as soon as she could walk, the curly blond
haired girl that we thought would never talk. I see you making friends, and going to
school. Finding new challenges and learning the rules. The days went quickly, but
time was our friend, the world was our own and I thought it would never end.

You were brave, for one so small. Your time was short, and through it all you kept
your innocence and loved us all. We have our memories, yet not nearly enough. We
wish there were more, but that was not meant to be. God called you home, it wasn't
up to me. The reason is there, that I am certain. An angel was needed to guide other
"children". For 16 years you've sent me their broken hearted Mamas. I've tried to
help them as you have helped me as I become the person I was meant to be.

This life is a journey and God has a plan. Sometimes it's hard to comprehend. I lean
on my faith and continue believing. The answers are higher, there is no deceiving.
We will be together when it is time. Until then my daughter, I will be fine. Knowing
you are safe in God's loving arms above, they are not mine, but you always have my love.

Every day is a gift. You taught me that lesson.
So, for now baby girl, I send you kisses in Heaven. I love you!


You're Listening to: Angels Among Us by Alabama