A recent trip to Walt Disney World left a powerful, lasting impression on one grieving mother and is now bringing thousands around the world to tears, as well.
In an open letter posted to Facebook on March 21, Janice Maureen Murphy wrote to Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (or, rather, the cast member who brings her to life at Walt Disney World) to thank her for their recent meeting. In the post, she wrote:
To the Fairy Godmother I didn’t know I needed,
You had no idea the young woman that was holding a purple teddy bear was me. I was just another stranger, waiting in line to meet a character at the most magical place on Earth. I was smiling but you didn’t know I spent 10 minutes in tears over the things my daughter will never experience. You had no idea what that purple teddy bear represents to me.
Despite your utter lack of knowledge, you included the bear in our interaction. And when you found out that my daughter died, and that her ashes are within the bear, you treated her the same way you treat every child that comes to see you every single day: with love, compassion and kindness. When you hugged her, and kissed her cheek, you made me feel like Analiese mattered to you.
You may not ever see this, and even if you do, you may not remember us. But I will always remember you, and how you hugged and loved on my daughter as if she was like any other child. You helped me feel her spirit in a place she was never able to visit while alive.
Thank you thank you thank you.
Analiese Claire Murphy was born to Janice and Stefan Murphy on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 10:29 PM and tragically passed away just an hour and 25 minutes after her birth. According to Murphy’s blog, “[Analiese] spent every minute of those 85 minutes in arms that love and adore her.”
After the devastating loss of her daughter (and at the suggestion of a counselor who specializes in perinatal loss), Janice had Analiese’s ashes incased within the bear.
While planning for Analiese’s final arrangements during the last weeks of her pregnancy, Janice and Stefan decided to take a memorial trip to Walt Disney World afterwards. “I spent four days in the parks on my own holding her teddy bear,” Janice tells Babble. “There were so many moments [when] I was overcome emotionally, wishing she was able to experience everything with me.”
And then she met Fairy Godmother, which according to Janice, wound up being the most meaningful part of her trip. “She made me KNOW that my story mattered to her,” says Janice. “When she hugged the bear, and then signed her autograph just like she would for any child, I was at a loss for words because it meant so much to me.”
“Disney is an important part of my life,” Janice continues. “My husband and I took our very first vacation together in May of 2015. We found out we were pregnant a few weeks after our trip and we were ecstatic. We never thought we would get pregnant so quickly, and I said that it was Disney Magic that made it happen.”
The couple was thrilled by the news and even decided on a Disney theme for their nursery — until, as Janice describes, “everything fell apart.”
As time moves on, Janice says she is coping as best she can with the loss of her daughter. “Some days are okay, and some days I struggle to get out of bed. Grief is real and overwhelming and it lives within me every moment of every day.”
Thankfully, Janice is surrounded by an “amazing support system” and attends monthly meetings with other parents who have lost children. “I’m also lucky to have amazing family and friends,” Janice continues, “who are helping to support me every minute of every day. Despite the utter devastation that has entered my life, I know how blessed I am to have these people.”
But while Analiese was cheated out of a long life filled with all the magical moments she deserved, her mom has made sure to honor her short life at every opportunity. To start, Janice has been pumping and donating her breastmilk to a children’s hospital and speaking openly about her experience. “I hope that by striving to raise awareness of families that have gone through a perinatal loss, that I am making a difference,” she tells Babble.
She also hopes to volunteer her time to help other families experiencing loss. “I’m in this position, but something positive needs to come out of it. The death of my daughter cannot be for nothing.”
Janice says she is “shocked” at how viral her post has gone in just a few short days (it has nearly 30,000 shares in just three days), but she is grateful that her story has helped raise awareness of perinatal loss.
“I feel like families like mine get lost in the cracks because no one wants to talk about the death of children,” says Janice. “But speaking for myself, I need to talk about her. I need to share her story. That is helping me heal and move forward.”