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Repost: Gratitude and Grieving

Gratitude does not undo grief.  

There, I said it.

Gratitude is important.  It is (in my opinion) a necessary ingredient for a healthy and hope-filled and useful life.  It is the key to any real happiness a heart might find on this broken road.

But it cannot fill up the empty place where Dominic used to be.  

Grief does not preclude gratitude.  

Although some broken hearts swear it does. 

Read the rest here:  Gratitude and Grieving: Appreciating What I Have, Acknowledging What I Miss

 

Child Loss: Adding Up The Missed Milestones

So we went to my niece’s high school graduation this week.  

It was another in a recent long line of events Dominic was not here to celebrate with us.  

Another set of pictures missing his grin, his shoulders, his goofy antics, his presence.

It’s really beginning to add up. 

And it hurts.  

We were plunged headlong into some important celebrations in the first two months after Dominic left us-two graduations and a wedding.  But there was a kind of lingering aura that made it a little more bearable.  Everyone involved KNEW Dominic.  So while he was not there bodily, he was present nonetheless because so many people carried a piece of him in their hearts, had stories to tell and made comments about how he would have done this or that.

My niece obviously knew Dominic.  And that’s a comfort.  But the last time he saw her she was just entering her teen years.  Now she’s leaving high school headed toward adulthood.

Fiona’s new husband never met Dom.  His friends are a world set apart from our pre-loss life.  His family knows Fiona lost a brother and me a son but they have no idea how that fact changes everything.  They can’t.  They don’t have anything to compare it to.

My sweet little grandson will grow up hearing stories but never seeing the man behind them.  He will perceive Uncle Dominic as a tale told sometimes with tears and sometimes with laughter but never be the target of Dominic’s sometimes wicked humor nor feel the comfort of his strong arms.

IMG_1816

In some ways five years might as well be a lifetime.  

So much has changed.  

So much I want to talk over with Dominic.

So much I wish he was here to see.

I know he is perfectly content in Heaven with Jesus.  He’s not missing out on a thing!  But I can’t stop my heart from selfishly wanting him here with me as well.

It’s like playing a piano with a sticky key-somehow the melody is always just a little off. 

Never quite right. 

missing them from your side

Grief is a Family Affair

Child loss is also often sibling loss.  

In addition to their own heartache, bereaved parents carry the heartache of their surviving children.  

The family everyone once knew is now a family no one recognizes.  Hurting hearts huddle together-or run and hide-and it is so, so hard to find a way to talk about that pain. 

There is definitely a time and place for professional counseling.  Many, many families benefit from having a trained individual, outside the immediate grief circle, guide them in exploring feelings, developing coping strategies and learning to live life this side of loss.

But there is also something to be said for arranging casual open-ended activities with surviving siblings, parents and even grandparents where space and a more relaxed atmosphere often leads to honest sharing.

This graphic has lots of excellent suggestions for how to craft such a space.

Not all will be suitable for every family, but every family should be able to find a few that fit.

I’ll add these guidelines that may help your family make the best choice for YOU:

  • Don’t force it.  If you make an offer of an activity and it drops with a thud to the ground, let it go.  You might be able to do it another time.
  • Don’t make it (what my kids like to say!) a “mandatory option”.  There must be no guilt or coercion invading this space.  If one or more of your family members consistently refuse to join in, consider asking a close family friend to take that individual out alone and see what might be going on.
  • If you choose a movie or other story-themed activity, LOOK UP THE PLOT!  I can’t tell you how many times we were sideswiped by a death scene or some other heavy emotional plot twist.  There may be a time when your family is prepared to experience those things together (we can now) but it may not be yet.
  • Mix and match more structured activities with open-ended ones like walks outside, watching the sunset, sitting on the beach, hanging at the pool, playing a game (not too competitive-that will sometimes bring out hidden anger).
  • If you have a family with a broad range of ages you might have to do some things with the littles and some with the older kids.  You can always add one or two activities a month or quarter where everyone (or as many as are available) gets together.
  • If your children, spouse, parent or other close griever begins to talk-let them.  If tears flow-that’s progress!  If ugly feelings are expressed, listen.  Try not to be defensive.  Try to hear the hurt behind the words.  It’s OK to set ground rules like using “I” statements and not blaming.  But don’t shut them out or shut them down.  

These are just ideas.  

Google is your friend and your phone is probably already in your hand or pocket-use it.

Find things that fit YOUR family. 

The only way through is through.  

You have to feel and deal to heal. 

selfcare for families

Repost: How and Why I Keep Writing-A Shepherd’s Heart

I am still utterly amazed that since November 2015 I have managed a blog post every day.

At first, I was writing because I wanted to make public the things I was learning in this Valley and to honor my missing son.  

dominic at tims wedding

He had been in Heaven a year and a half by then and it was clear to this mama’s heart that (1) people (including ME before it WAS me!) had absolutely NO IDEA what life after child loss was like once the funeral was over;  (2) one way to redeem this pain was to share how God had been faithful even as I struggled; and (3) I just didn’t see too many honest portrayals of life after loss for Christ followers (which is not to say they didn’t/don’t exist but I hadn’t found them).

So I wrote.

Read the rest here:  How and Why I Keep Writing: A Shepherd’s Heart

When It’s Hard to Give Yourself Grace

My little congregation is hosting a volunteer team blessing us with a new roof for our leaking sanctuary.

What would have been absolutely impossible if we had to rely totally on our own resources is happening right now!

The week after my daughter’s wedding.

fiona and brandon down the aisle

Which means that I am especially exhausted as well as depleted emotionally, mentally and physically. 

I’m simply unable to participate like I want to and feel I should.

I’ve brought food up to the church each day but I can’t stay to help serve because my family is still doing leftover wedding tasks.  My heart is torn between what I know I have to do and what I would like to do.  And it’s impossible to do both.

It’s so much easier for me to extend grace to others in similar situations.  I am often the first to say, “Don’t worry about it!  We’ve got it covered!”, and mean it.  The last thing I want to do for any struggling heart is add to the burden.

Yet here I am, knowing full well that the smart thing, the right thing and really the only thing I can do is accept the same grace from others I’ve extended in the past and I can’t stand it!

I’m pretty sure it’s pride stopping me from admitting my limitations.  I’m pretty sure it’s selfish ambition that goads me into trying to finagle a way to be in two places at once.  I don’t want to be the one person who didn’t show up all week, meet the volunteers and tell them face-to-face how very much we appreciate them.

How my heart can twist things!

These past six months have been hard ones.  Goodness-the past almost two years have been one crisis after another, more travel away from home than in the decade before, more heart-stopping, mind-blowing moments and challenges than any other season since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

And still I will cling to my pride.

I need to accept the abundant, overwhelming, free-flowing and never-ending grace of Jesus.

I do no one any good by refusing it.

Least of all me. 

god opposes the proud humble hands

 

Grief Journaling Prompts

Journaling has been and continues to be a very important part of my grief journey.

Putting thoughts on paper gets them out of my head.

Writing them down helps me understand them.

i-write-because-i-dont-know

Reading them back is an excellent reflective exercise. It’s a way to track progress, recognize repeating patterns and see where I need to do more grief work.

Sometimes I use Scripture, quotes or other prompts to get me started.  Often I may look up words in the dictionary and jot down the definition or synonyms or examples.  I may draw my way around a concept or cut out pictures from magazines or the newspaper to add to my creation.  There have been days I’ve spent hours and several sheets of paper moving my feelings from my heart to the page.

So if you want to try your hand at journaling, here is a list I find useful.  

Don’t set any parameters or have any expectations.  

Just write, color, draw or whatever flows naturally.

And if the tears fall, let them.

grief journaling exercise

Repost: Barefoot Over Broken Ground

I first shared this in 2014 not quite a month after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

His leaving has made me much more aware that what we read as “stories”where we can turn to the last page and know the ending, others lived in real time, with no ability to fast forward to the ending.

Read the rest here:  Barefoot Over Broken Ground

Repost: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Parents weren’t interested in policing every errant word out of the under 18 crowd’s mouth back in the day.

It was a simple (and effective!) rule:  If what you want to say does not meet the criteria of T.H.I.N. K. (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind) then

Read the rest here:  If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….