Laura Sateriale

Turning Loss into Words

By Sarah Hall | Photography by Alexis Emm 

For 630 days, Lily Sateriale brought light and laughter into her family’s lives.

For 630 days, the Sateriales—mom Laura, dad Micah, twins Molly and Mia, then 8, and 5-year-old William—watched her grow and giggle.

“Lily had an incredibly vibrant personality,” Laura said. “She had a great sense of humor, even though she was still so young. She always gave a sideways glance if you said something that she thought was silly, and she loved making faces to make you laugh.”

But on the morning of Day 631, everything changed.

Lily didn’t wake up, and the Sateriales’ lives as they knew them were over.

“There was something so joyous and harmonious about her presence in our family, and sadly, she took it with her when she left us,” Laura said.

At 20 months old, Lily died of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, a relatively rare diagnosis applied to children older than 12 months whose passing is still unexplained after a thorough examination.

Lily was entirely healthy when she died, leaving her parents doubly stricken: not only had they lost their child, but they’d never know why.

“Micah and I are terrified anytime illness strikes our family,” Laura said. “We wake up hourly at night to make sure everyone is breathing. The older kids roll their eyes because I don’t let them shut their bedroom doors. Molly will even look up at me, half-awake, and say, ‘Relax, Mom, I’m alive!’ It’s so ‘normal’ to them, which is a little strange for us.”

In order to cope with her grief, Laura started writing shortly after Lily’s funeral.

“It was cathartic, to say the least,” she said.

After hearing from others that she should turn her musings into a book, Laura started putting it together, using her journal as the basis.

“It gradually became a retrospective look at my grief experience,” she said. “It’s raw and very honest, but it’s also hopeful.”

“Goodnight, Not Goodbye: A Mother’s Search for Hope After Sudden Child Loss” shares Laura’s struggle with her grief and how she managed to come out on the other side. She used Amazon’s self-publishing platform, which offers both a print book and an electronic version for Kindle. So far, she said, the reaction has been positive.

“People have thanked me for writing this book because it offers a perspective that isn’t shared openly very often,” Laura said.

For Laura and her family, the book is another way to help share Lily’s story with the world.

“I have always felt strongly about keeping Lily’s memory alive,” she said. “I drive around with a huge photo magnet of her on the back of my car. I talk about her with anyone who will listen. I think that’s a common thread amongst bereaved parents. We love to share our children with others.”

And she’s not the only one — one of her twin daughters has also taken pen to paper about Lily.

“Mia has been writing her own story about losing her sister, and I think it’s beautiful that she wants to do that,” Laura said.

The book is also meant to help others who have lost a child — and gotten lost themselves. After Lily passed away, Laura was terrified by life, she explained. She wanted someone to tell her the feeling was normal, and that it would get easier.

“That is the message I hope this book will share with others,” Laura said. “The pain and sorrow do not go away, but in time, you learn new ways to live with them. You can enjoy life again, and let go of the guilt that holds you back from happiness.”

Laura and Micah have found happiness in their other children. They’ve even added to their brood: Ember is 4 and River is 2. They bring energy and chaos — the good kind — to the Sateriale household. While the distraction is welcome, sometimes it does bring fresh grief.

“We knew the exact dates when Ember and River turned 630 days old. We were relieved when they surpassed it, but it was also sad knowing that each milestone that followed was one that Lily would never reach,” Laura said. “I like to think that every passing day makes them stronger, and closer to an age when we can breathe easier. We worry, but the happiness that they’ve brought back to our lives outweighs all of our fears.” SWM

“Goodnight, Not Goodbye: A Mother’s Search for Hope After Sudden Child Loss” is available on Amazon Kindle and in paperpack.

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