Loving Well: Understanding the Grieving Heart

In my last post I shared the difference between mourning and grief. While the outward ceremonies have long passed, the inward struggle to embrace and understand the pain and sorrow of losing my son continues.

If you love someone who has lost a child, perhaps these thoughts might help you understand a bit of their pain and how completely it changes the way bereaved parents encounter the world.

Please be patient.  Please don’t try to “fix” us.  Please be present and compassionate. And if you don’t know what to say, feel free to say nothing–a hug, a smile, an understanding look–they mean so very much.

A bereaved parent’s grief doesn’t fit an easy-to-understand narrative. And it flies in the face of the American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.

You can’t beat it–it’s not a football game-there is no winning team.

You can’t lose it–it’s not the extra 10 pounds you’ve been carrying since last Christmas.

You can’t get over it–it’s not a teenage love affair that will pale in comparison when the real thing comes along.

You can only survive it.  You can heal from it, but it will take a lifetime and require very special care.

I have a young friend whose first child was born with a life-threatening heart defect.  At just a few months of age, her little girl received a heart transplant.  Without it, she would have died.  With her new heart, this sweet baby will live-but her parents must observe careful protocols to protect that heart and she will never outgrow the scar from the surgery that saved her life.

Burying Dominic wounded my heart so deeply that while I know it will heal–it is beginning to, I think–it will bear the scars and require special handling as long as I walk this earth.

So when I thank you for an invitation, but choose not to go…I’m not rejecting you, I’m protecting my heart.  Please ask again–tomorrow might be a better day, and going somewhere or being with someone could be just what I need.

If you call and I don’t pick up…I might be crying, or about to, and I choose not to burden you with my grief.  Call in a day or two or next week–keep trying.

A text or email or card is so helpful.  I can read these when I’m ready and respond when it’s easier for me to think.

And please, please, please don’t look for the moment or day or year when I will be “back to my old self”.  My old self was buried with my son.  I am still “me”–but a different me than I would have chosen.

I know it makes you uncomfortable–it makes me uncomfortable too.

But because I trust in the finished work of Christ, I know that one day my heart will be completely healed.

I hurt but I have hope. This pain will be redeemed and my scars will be beautiful.

“For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must]”  2 Corinthians 1:5.


Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

9 thoughts on “Loving Well: Understanding the Grieving Heart”

  1. I just lost my 30 year old son a month ago ,I am struggling with the grief .My son and I were very close ,and he had custody of his 9 year old daughter . She is now with her mom in NY . My son was like my best friend and I feel so lost because we spent alot of time together and I helped with his daughter . Can’t stand to go shopping ,that’s something we always did together . Right now I can t even do the memories or pictures ,because it breaks me ,all the memories. And then remembering we won’t do anything again ever ,talking shopping texting ,it’s all done forever . I am so broken and don’t know how to deal with this

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel the same Jan. Just lost my darling son four months ago ..got a message the other day..are you feeling better? They just don’t get it! Grief is not an illness! Another person..the pain will get less each day..really ..when I’ve lost my beautiful darling son!! Or the new..let’s not talk about him ..she’ll get upset! I’m upset if you DONT talk about him!
    They think I’m going back to the old me..how can I EVER..I’m a NEW me!! I am literally broken hearted., my family has been shattered.
    I send my prayers and love to every single person reading this and thank Melanie once again for bringing us all together. You have no idea how much you help us all Melanie, writing down what we feel about precious Dominic . I read your blog first thing every day, I look for the comments..nodding yes, yes that’s right
    Blessings to you all xxx you are not alone we walk this path with the Lord and together in love for our children xxx


  3. I am struggling with my sister who lives in her own world. She thinks I should be who I used to be but my heart is shattered when my son died. She just doesn’t get it. I wish I could make her understand that the old me died with my son and this new me is still too raw and tender to be a part of the life we used to share.


    1. I love this. Yes. The old me was buried with my son!!!! Yes!!! There’s no going back in this lifetime. Everything changed that day: Me. My heart. My husband. My pets. Food, music, priorities, perspective, values, family, my relationship with the Lord, prayer, humor, beauty, noise (it seemed the world got so much louder)…. Everything changed. And none of that is going back to “the way things used to be”. My world, my reality has made a huge shift. And it will never be erased or forgotten. Learning to live a “Different Normal.” One adjusted by great loss. And great grief.

      The fact that they don’t understand is such a blessing to them. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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