Since I lost Gianna, I am left searching for moments of her. I don’t have anything to hold onto except memories and the few things she used in the hospital. I believe that although her body was laid to rest her soul lives on, and she can make herself present and intervene in our lives.
Since her death, my life has been a desperate search for her. A desperate grasp in the dark to feel her again. The emptiness I feel in my heavy arms will not be filled in this life, I know: not until we meet again in eternity will my longing be satiated. My journey in this life is learning to live with this gaping emptiness in my heart, soul, and arms.
Honestly, I don’t feel her presence much. I think my pain and trauma from losing her is still too raw right now. Perhaps in the future, when my trauma is somewhat healed and I am more attentive to my soul, I will perceive her more. I know that requires a stillness of heart that I do not have right now. Nevertheless, I know she reveals herself to me in little ways every now and then.
Last night I was sitting on our patio with my husband, just staring up into the sky. Every time I look up into the stars, I get teary-eyed. I feel so close to the other world when I gaze into the night sky, and so close to her. I know she is out there somewhere, I just wish I knew where. As we were gazing towards the sky, I was thinking of how much I miss her and how I wish I felt her more. In that exact moment, Dave and I saw the biggest shooting star I have ever seen. I know that was a message from her to me. This is not the first time I have seen a shooting star while missing her.
I feel deeply connected to her when I am in nature. I feel so fortunate to live in Colorado where the mountains continually lift my soul and make me think of her in Heaven. In the silence of the wilderness, my heart and soul become still, and I feel her in the gentle breeze upon my skin and in the warm ray of sunshine on my face.
I also feel her close when common signs appear that means a deceased loved one is nearby. A butterfly, a bird, or some other creature may catch my eye for some reason. I’ve noticed that hummingbirds appear when I am thinking about Gianna so I have begun to associate them with her presence. On her second anniversary, we went on a hike and at one point, Dave and I found ourselves surrounded by three hummingbirds circling us, in a place where hummingbirds don’t normally dwell. Coincidence? Maybe; but I think not.
I also know she is close when a song meaningful to our relationship comes on in just the right moment – the precise moment that I am thinking about her.
Several times, I’ve asked her for help in certain situations and things just work out. I was especially nervous when I was pregnant with Lucas, especially about the birthing part. Since Gianna’s death was ultimately caused by excessive labor, I was horrified of that happening again. I prayed to her during the entire pregnancy, asking her to help us find a good doctor, keep Lucas safe in my womb, and to help us make it through the birth. Well, with very little trouble, I found a wonderful, experienced doctor, and my therapist (who trains nurses and doctors in bereavement care) was able to prepare my birthing team for our situation. I had the best care I could’ve ever imagined for Lucas’ birth and everything went smoothly. This is just one example of how I know Gianna is watching over our family in so many ways and trying to help her mom and dad as best she can.
Some people have experienced other signs from their deceased loved ones: smelling their scent, dreaming about them, sensing them nearby, favorite numbers pop up, feeling of being touched, etc. I have yet to experience these things but hang onto the hope that I eventually will.
The most palpable way I experience Gianna, though, is through other people. I’ve had numerous people reach out to me saying that they asked Gianna to pray for a particular thing, and it was answered. Some people prayed to her for a safe delivery, or during a troubled delivery, and everything went fine. Others have prayed to her to get pregnant and were able to conceive. Some people just reach out to let me know they are thinking of her and us. Some visit her grave and send us a picture or two. Others light a candle in her honor. Some people still have her memorial card and send me a text to let me know they still think of her. All these little ways flood my heart with presence; presence of her, presence of love, presence of peace. Since I don’t feel Gianna frequently on my own, these are ways I know she reaches out to tell me she never leaves my side.
On the first anniversary of her death, a sweet friend started a social media hashtag (#HeavenslightshinesuponGianna) in Gianna’s honor. She asked our mutual friends to light a candle, write the hashtag, and post the photo to social media. It came at a time when I was filled with desolation, loneliness, and fear that no one would remember her. Well, you can imagine my surprise and joy on her first anniversary when my social media accounts were bombarded with people remembering her and assuring me of her life in Heaven. Such a special gift for a grieving mom! And for me, this was her gift to Dave and me on her one year anniversary.
No detail has gone unnoticed. Even the shortest text sending me a hug means so much more than perhaps the person who sent it ever imagined. To me, and I think I speak for other bereaved mamas, these gestures bring their child closer and console the heart. Thank you to those who have reached out and enabled me to feel Gianna in ways I never could on my own! These gestures are more than just a breath of fresh air; they are the air that enables me to breathe and make it through the next moment. They are the air of her presence.