Lisa Herrington emerged from the most unfathomable experience a parent can have by choosing connection over confinement, ultimately helping others do the same.
“I was pretty quiet for like those first six or seven months because I didn’t know if I was going to survive it,” she says. “You suddenly feel like you’re completely alone and nobody understands what you’re going through, and I was so scared of the emotions that I was feeling.”
The life that Lisa and her husband had envisioned before they went to the hospital to deliver twins looked tragically different as they cradled one of their babies for the last time and left the other in the care of the NICU for six weeks.
“I couldn’t really separate the grief and the postpartum,” she says. “I had a child that was also living through this with me and I think that’s what changed it for me; this moment of ‘this is his story too’ and this story cannot end sad. It’s going to take a lot to fight out of this, but he’s worth it. My family’s worth it.”
Walking into a room filled with parents and a vivacious moderator who had been through similar experiences gave Lisa the courage to step out of her solitude.
“I remember thinking that things happen to good people—we’re all good people in here,” she realized in that moment. “I saw this person who had climbed out of a place where I was. I was like, I’m going to get there.”
And get there she did. Lisa went on to moderate the group and comfort parents in the NICU.
“You probably want to punch me in the face right now and that’s okay,” she would tell them. “You can be mad. I understand there might be a time months or years down the road where you’ll appreciate knowing that you’re not alone in this.”
Lisa was also determined to strengthen her marriage in therapy after reading that 80 percent of couples who lose a child don’t make it.
“Grief can sometimes be selfish where it’s all about you, it’s all about your feelings, all about your emotions and how sad you are and how life is so unfair,” she says.
With the combination of exercise, therapy and anti-depressants, she was able to “stop this wheel turning in my head of the guilt” and continue her “self exploration of what worked in terms of surviving grief as hard as I was grieving.”
Lisa finally reached a point where she was able to reconnect with people outside of her circle of grieving parents, and close friends and family.
“I think the hardest part in the beginning is the loneliness and that’s sort of a catch-22 because you also need that space,” she says. “I am a huge extrovert. I was just too nervous about what I was feeling to have a lot of people in our life.”
She also returned to her fitness studio, FIT House Davis even though she would “leave sobbing” at first, overwhelmed with memories of being pregnant.
“You have to just know that the first time you do things after a loss—any type of loss—they’re going to feel a lot different than they did before the loss,” she says. “You’re going to feel very vulnerable and that’s where you have to make this decision of ‘I’m going to sit in those feelings and I’m going to work through those feelings,’ because it’s worth it to me that this stays in my life.”
Over the course of the last 8 years, Lisa’s family grew by two more boys and a girl, all of which help keep the memory of Brady alive.
“A lot of people said to me, ‘I’m so surprised you got pregnant again so fast. Weren’t you scared?’ Yeah, of course, I was so scared,” she says. “If you live in the negativity of ‘bad things are going to happen,’ that is not living.”
“Finding the joy in every single day knowing that we’re not necessarily guaranteed tomorrow, or really appreciating the good when it’s happening instead of fearing what may happen, that’s where I found this balance in between the joy and the grief, being present and focusing on the good, and knowing that the sad will always be a part of our lives.”
She started to share her experience in social media, before it became more commonplace on Instagram, or more recently by Chrissy Teigen on Medium and Meghan Markle in the New York Times.
“When tough situations happen in life, it’s okay to be mad, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be sad,” she says. “But you also have to find the joy in the situation and the appreciation of there’s a future ahead of us, always. No matter how bad it feels, there’s guaranteed good in the future as long as you choose to move forward.”
This fall, Lisa published her first book, Your Amazing Itty Bitty® Grief Book: 15 Chapters on How to Support Family and Friends on Their Journey, inspired by the conversations she’s had with her kids or those looking for guidance.
“I never thought I’d feel comfortable in the chapter that included losing a child but I do,” says Lisa. “Sometimes you have to go through some really tough stuff to find some of the beautiful things in your life that you may not have had, including a perspective that’s completely different.”
“I feel like I had an open wound and it’s always going to be a wound, but it’s much softer now,” she says.
“And I know we survived it. And now we share our story in hopes it will help others realize life still holds so much beauty after loss.”