Losing a child. When I lost my daughter Julia I lost myself.

When I lost my daughter Julia I lost myself.

As a parent I had never considered my 18-year-old daughter was actually a major part of the center of my identity. My whole life featured her future and how we would be in it together. Suddenly the emptiness, blackness, the disbelief. It was just surreal. I felt as if my mind was living somewhere outside of my body.

There was no comfort, no understanding, no feeling better just blackness.

I remember walking down the Main Street where I had walked for years and people I had known for years would see me and cross the road and hide in doorways not knowing what to say to me. Even to them I was not Jacqueline anymore. I was the woman whose daughter had died from a night out.

Instantly I had no identity and had no will or energy of any kind to even think. I was just in nothingness. Nonexistent, except I had breathing flesh.

I remember the August before in 1997 when I had remained motionless in my lounge watching the TV as the news broke of Princess Diana's death. For days I remained fixed on the breaking news. This horrific event had left the British Nation devastated. As we finally saw Prince William and Prince Harry I could only wonder how Diana's boys were going to survive without their mother.

Little did I know their anguish would become my own a year later.

I could not have anticipated the repercussions in my relationships with others. The unsolicited judgments I received from others was heartless and cruel and I had never know how much pleasure others receive in being so unforgiving.

I remember just going into her room for weeks and laying in her bed so I could just smell her; smell and try to feel a sense of her. I was just powerless.
After the funeral people distance themselves from you. I found there were two kinds of people. Those that disassociated themselves from you and those that kept wanting to talk about Julia and I could cope with neither.

I finally moved away from the UK to the United States just to stay alive as I was so overwhelmed with the grief that I could not be rational, and my life as I knew it was over.

It was a very slow process because the living without her was so hard. It helped me to be in a new environment and slowly, slowly I built a new life. It is never over.

I did have to seek professional help to let go of the eventual feelings of anger that came to me. Each person grieves differently so I learned that I did not have to be like anybody else. I will never stop missing her and I was surprised to even hear myself say the other day, 'I had a daughter once.'

To this day I wonder what my life would have been like if these tragic events had not taken place, but the fact is I will never know. I do know that I have learned how to be centered and how to appreciate each moment as there is nothing as valuable as life itself.

Today I spend my time trying to help other women who do not know which way to turn. Some just cannot make any sense of events, some numb out,and some come to the point of almost giving up. Take a journey of introspection and take the time out you need to see what it will take to rebuild because tragic experiences build in you strength that you may never have known you had. You may just need to be with people who know how to help you find them.

I have a son who is the same age as Prince William. He too had to take this journey with me and today he is happy and whole and always remembers he had a sister once.

If you are really struggling don't do what I did and stay in the dark. Find those that can help move you forward.

Having struggled with the loss of her daughter, Jacqueline Dawes relocated to the United States from the U.K. and subsequently founded Brookhaven Retreat, a unique, voluntary residential treatment facility specially designed to help women overcome emotional trauma or addiction challenges. The fully accredited and certified dual-diagnosis center provides individualized, multidisciplinary treatment to address the root causes of addiction and destructive behaviors.