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It was moment we had her, the next she was gone. In the midst of tragedy, we have options. It seems like all control is taken out of our hands, and in some regards, that is true. However, options still remain. We can allow tragedy to defeat us or we can use it to find our strength. I will admit, this is easier said than done. And honestly, the easiest thing to do is to give in to the tragedy and accept defeat and misery as the result. This feels right. It feels logical. And it feels as though we are honoring those we have lost. However, defeat is a lie that we should refuse to believe.

Grief is natural, and it is awful. It claims your identity and turns you into someone you no longer recognize. It takes over your consciousness, filling it with questions and doubts, and it invades your dreams with horrific panic and alternate realities. In the months since Ella's death, I have viewed grief as an enemy. In recent weeks, I have come to embrace grief as a friend.

How can grief be a friend? While this idea may seem ridiculous, it is something I have become well acquainted with. If I try to fight grief, I lose every time. When I embrace it, I learn to use it to propel me forward. Instead of fighting against my natural tendencies to suppress thoughts and feelings to avoid an emotion, I allow them to surface. Of course, these are private times. I don't display my meltdowns for the general public to witness. But, anger and denial are worse when pent-up. I have found that when I deal with them in the moment, I am ready to move on to the next moment. When I suppress them, they are still there in the moments ahead.

Death is the absence of life. Ella will forever be a HUGE part of who I am. So, a very big part of who I am died on October 7, 2016. I will never be the same person I was before that day. The comfort I find is that I don't have to be. I don't have to be the person who had not yet learned to live with tragedy. I don't have to be the dad who took for granted that his children would always be here. There is still LIFE in me, and it is meant to be lived.

If we face hardships and remain unchanged, we gain nothing from our loses. But, if we must dance with defeat, choose to take the lead and let the spotlight shine as you find the beauty in the aftermath. There is a reason Earth is not called Heaven. Tragedy is the very soil we walk on in this life. While we may stumble over heartache and trial, healing and strength lay waiting to embrace us.

Let me take you back to the beginning of this blog entry: one moment we had her, the next she was gone. We never know what the next moment is going to hold for us. But, we cannot walk through life in fear. Instead, we must choose to embrace the tragedy, finding our new identity within it, or live in defeat, refusing to honor our loss. We will never be the same people we were before we lost Ella. Accepting this, we choose to be people who will live our lives to honor her by loving those around us.