The mother of three young girls who died when a fast-moving fire engulfed their old Victorian home in Stamford, Conn., on Christmas morning last year says she sees her daughters in her sleep.
Madonna Badger also lost her parents in the fire, which authorities said was sparked by a bag of fireplace ashes her then-boyfriend, Michael Borcina, placed in the mudroom without realizing the embers hadn't been fully extinguished. Badger and Borcina escaped the flames.
Nearly a year after the loss of her 7-year-old twins, Grace and Sara, and 9-year-old Lily, Badger appeared on the "Today" show Thursday. She told Matt Lauer that her daughters visit her in her dreams and she's learned to embrace those visions as symbols of joy and love, not just grief.
Badger also said on "Today" that she no longer feels guilty when she smiles or laughs.
"When I do feel happy, it's when I can feel the presence of my children and my mom and dad the most," she said.
On a previous "Today" appearance, Badger had tearfully described the decision she made to try to save her children rather than her parents. The house was under renovation and she scrambled up some scaffolding to the window of Grace's room and opened it. Thick black smoke billowed out, blinding her. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't even see Grace -- or save her. She couldn't save any of her girls.
The grief over losing her entire family nearly killed Badger. She attempted suicide at least once and had to be hospitalized, but has since sought professional help and says she is improving through therapy and the support of her network at home in Connecticut and in Arkansas, where she was treated at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Little Rock.
"These people have showered me with so much love and given me hope and I never felt judged, I always felt like they were there for me," Badger said. "I was gray, half my hair was falling out and I was a disaster. They made me promise I wouldn't kill myself and they brought me back to life."
Badger says she no longer thinks about killing herself, in part because she fears she would not be reunited with her girls. She will spend this year's holiday praying and meditating in Thailand, a country she describes as a "Santa Claus-free zone."
No criminal charges were filed in the fatal blaze.