How My Grief Has Turned Me into a Diamond

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The Legacy
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How My Grief Has Turned Me into a Diamond

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Words by:

Molly Alsobrook

Illustration by:

Words by:

Molly Alsobrook

Illustrator:

Contents

Diamonds have caught my attention since I’ve been little. Not only are they my birthstone, but they also were just so fascinating. These beautiful and shiny objects are dug up from underground--blew my mind. 

What really sank in with me, was the symbolism of a diamond. The word diamond, comes from the Greek word “adamas,” which means invincible, unbreakable. Diamonds are only diamonds because of heat and pressure that the world puts the dust, or carbon, through. Without the immense heat and pressure we would just have, essentially, dirt. You are making something beautiful and indestructible because of this process. I find that this is a beautiful metaphor for the heart wrenching feeling of grief. 

I have experienced a lot of grief in my life. I don’t say that to be pitied, or to sound experienced. I say it because, of all of the deaths and tragedies I have experienced in life not once have I grieved the same.


Something I Never Had

I have experienced a lot of grief in my life. I don’t say that to be pitied, or to sound experienced. I say it because, of all of the deaths and tragedies I have experienced in life not once have I grieved the same. I lost all my grandparents before the age of 16. I grieve over the fact that I never got to know them. I get told constantly that I am a dangerous combination of Marie and Gerry (My maternal Nana and Great Aunt who were identical twins), and Josephine (My  paternal Grandmother). I have the looks, sincerity and kindness of Nana and Aunt Gerry, and I’ve got the sass, attitude and wit of Josephine. I hear stories all the time of these three amazing women, and I experience grief knowing that I will never get to get to know them myself. And this grief is ever present. It doesn’t match the “5 stages of grief” timeline. I feel like this grief is sometimes the hardest to comprehend, because I am grieving something I never really felt I had. 

The phenomenal three: Grandma Josephine, Great Aunt Gerry, Nana Marie and Baby Me! Aunt Gerry had a wickedly clever sense of humor, while Nana was the most kind, caring and generous person. Put them together, and you always had trouble!
Grandma Josephine was known for her colorful story telling, and amazing sense of style! She always had everyone cracking up at her quick wit and smart ass jokes. This is why I am commonly called Josephine in my family!


Gone Too Soon

Then, there’s the grief of the two people I did have--Erinn and Amanda. Erinn was one of those people that was in and out of my life since birth. We grew up with the similar circles of people, and ended up being in high school together. What really brought us together was that we were the two “sick” kids--me with diabetes, and Erinn with cancer. While my illness was not nearly as difficult, or life threatening, as hers, she heard me out. She understood the frustration and the annoyances. She had taught me that it’s OK to laugh and cry about it. Erinn was not afraid to show that she was sick, she was not afraid to talk about being sick. But, when the doctors finally told her there was nothing more that could be done, she decided to keep that to herself. She didn’t want any of us to go through grief twice--once knowing we were losing her, and once after we actually lost her. With this concept, Erinn was so wise beyond her years. 


She didn’t want any of us to go through grief twice--once knowing we were losing her, and once after we actually lost her.


The morning Erinn passed away, we were pulled into our gym and our administration made the announcement. Erinn was buried on St. Patrick's Day, it was cold and had just snowed. As she was carried out of the church, and we lined up outside to say our final goodbyes, snow started falling off the tents, in MOUNDS, and it got all of us wet. All 74 of us young women in my class started cracking up. Erinn was doing it again, she was making us all laugh. She is my jokester angel, I feel the most grief when I am waiting to hear her amazing laugh. 

This photo was taken on one of the last days I saw Erinn. She got to go on a Make a Wish trip to Jamaica shortly after. Her laughter and smile was always so infectious. She taught me so much about humility and strength. 


Amanda is my rock. Amanda was my closest friend in middle school, and we were the only two people going to our small high school together. She was always there for me. She was a beautiful dancer, who was surprisingly clumsy in normal circumstances. But, when Amanda got on that stage, it was breathtaking. She was the person I turned to when life got too hard for me to handle. She was the friend that matched my sass, and encouraged me to “screw them all, Molly”--as in, forget the haters. She was the one person who I always felt truly saw the shining star that I felt was so buried deep inside me. She never diminished my flames, and was always there to tell me when I was “being an idiot.” So much of my strength comes from this friendship. Sadly, after high school we never really spoke much. But I always knew that if I needed her she would pick up the phone, no matter what. 


My grief for Amanda is the most heartbreaking of all. The guilt I feel for not keeping in touch with her, the pain my heart felt from my rock being gone


In the summer of 2013, Amanda got a professional dancing career in the musical “Texas.” I was so thrilled to hear she was showing the world her talent. I got a call from a friend of mine, telling me that Amanda passed away in a car crash, with 5 other cast members. I couldn’t stop the guttural sob that started coming up my throat. I was a wreck, and there we were, a class of 73 women and 2 angels, back at a funeral of a woman who went too soon. My grief for Amanda is the most heartbreaking of all. The guilt I feel for not keeping in touch with her, the pain my heart felt from my rock being gone. I lost my shining star, I lost my best friend. 

Amanda and I were at school together for 7 years. We understood each other, and she was always by my side. Despite losing touch after high school, losing her forever was the most difficult feeling I have ever experienced. 


Grief of a Life You Once Knew

I also believe grief can take place even when no death has occurred. This grief, of a life you once knew, of the person you used to be, is soul crushing. This is the grief that made me a diamond. This is the story of how the pressure and heat of the world turned my dust of a life into a diamond of strength.  It was 2016, I had moved out of my parents house, got my first “big girl job,” I was finally starting on the whole adulting journey. You know, a lot of people can’t say that there is one pivotal moment that changed their entire life. 


There is nothing in life that prepares you for this moment. You never expect to hear the words your mother will never walk again.


On April 16, 2016, my world got rocked. My mom had fallen down an entire flight of stairs. My mom, who was simply going to get a glass of water changed our entire families’ life forever. She couldn’t move her legs. Sixteen hours of surgery in her neck and back, countless specialists. She awakens to no feeling in her legs, and no movement in her hands. There is nothing in life that prepares you for this moment. You never expect to hear the words your mother will never walk again. You never think you will be the family that has the freak accident that you know could happen to anyone. You can never plan for this.


Anytime someone said that to me I wanted to scream. What thoughts and prayers and wishes could you possibly have that would give us back the life we set out for ourselves?


We quickly became that family. The one people talked about in worry. The family that is the example of why kids can’t run around in socks on hardwood floors. We were in everyone’s thoughts and prayers and wishes...but for what? Anytime someone said that to me I wanted to scream. What thoughts and prayers and wishes could you possibly have that would give us back the life we set out for ourselves? Yes, my mom was alive, but couldn’t feed herself. She couldn’t stand up, she couldn’t hold a book or a phone. The future of my family's eyes was flashing in front of me, and it was bleak. The 4 months that my mother was in the hospital and rehab took a toll on all of us. But, her unimaginable strength started to push through. We started hearing that she was kicking her PT--literally! And she was tying shoelaces, and threading pasta on a shoestring. These moments were so monumental, and frankly miraculous, for her injury were also the moments that I felt so alone. Not many people understood why these small tasks were such major steps. They never really knew what to say when I called with excitement that Mom ate with a fork today! It was so hard to celebrate those small wins, because they were wins you never imagined having to celebrate. 


The moment that you have to start caring for your parents, is a moment that what you know to be true in the world is challenged.


On the day my mom came home from rehab, with our townhouse as prepared as possible for her arrival, my dad was admitted into the hospital. He had an infection that spread to most of his organs. The doctor told us that he was lucky to be alive, and that we had to wait for surgery. What ended up being another 6 months of being in and out of surgery, my brother and I worked hard to keep both Mom and Dad healthy. The moment that you have to start caring for your parents, is a moment that what you know to be true in the world is challenged. It’s only natural, getting to the point where you take care of your parents. The rug was ripped out from my brother and my feet--we were not prepared to deal with both at the same time. This experience was my pressure. This was the pressure and heat and fire that the world was inflicting on my life. 


They are the fundamental pieces of what make me who I am today. I live their legacies and I remember the stories I know, and always beg for more


Four years later, and I look back on all these stories and reflect. They made me a diamond. My grandparents, they are the carbon, the dirt. They are the fundamental pieces of what make me who I am today. I live their legacies and I remember the stories I know, and always beg for more. My parents illnesses and injuries, that was my heat and pressure. That time was completely unknown waters, and we had no preparation for any of it. But, we had to get through it, and we did get through it. Now, we are a stronger and closer family for it. Amanda and Erinn, they are the sparkle and shine. They are the beauty, the smiles, the laughter, and the light. My grief stories have made my beautiful diamond that is my life. While I wish I still had what was lost, I wouldn’t be the human I am today without them. 



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