It’s Complicated

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

I decided from the beginning that I would say, “four” in answer to that query.

But that doesn’t always get me off the hook.  A follow-up of, “Oh, what do they do?” means that I have to make a decision:  do I go down the line, including Dominic in any kind of detail or do I gloss over the fact that one of my children now lives in heaven?

I try to gauge whether or not the person is deeply interested or just being polite. No sense making them feel uncomfortable if they are really only making chitchat.

All of these calculations flash through my mind in an instant but they are distracting and draining.

“Want to go to a movie?”


First I have to look up the plot (something I never did before because I didn’t want to ruin it).  I can’t be stuck in a dark theater in the middle of a row full of people with no way out if larger-than-life there will be anything that sends me back to Dominic’s accident.

Same standards for television shows or books-but it’s easier to turn those off or set them down.

Sitting in church can be excruciating.  

A hymn or chorus, a Bible text, a random statement from the pulpit-any or all of those things can lead my thoughts down a path that takes me to a dark place where sorrow is overwhelming.

No matter how much I long to listen and participate, I find myself literally biting my tongue so that I don’t burst into loud sobs.

It doesn’t happen every Sunday, but I never know when it might.

Social media is an emotional minefield.  

first world problems


I confess that in the first days after Dominic left us, I had to limit the posts that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed.  It was too difficult to see complaints about children growing up or graduating and how hard it was to “let them go”. I could not take whiny status updates that included having to wait in line for the new iPhone.

It’s easier now that my grief isn’t so raw but there are days…

Making a meal, I reach for his favorite ingredient or leave something out because “Dominic doesn’t like it that way” and then I remember he won’t be here to eat it.

waves of grief


Music can transport me to a moment of joy or pain with a single note.

Sometimes I walk in a store and smell coffee-he loved coffee-and I have to turn around and leave.  Other times the fragrance draws my mind to sweet memories of shared Starbucks runs for a caffeine infusion.


If you ask me to do something next week or next month, I might say, “yes” and then find on that day I just. can’t. go.  

I used to be a woman who lived by her calendar and commitments, but now I’m someone who never knows what a day will bring.

Learning to live with this changed me is an ongoing process and exhausting at times.

So much energy is used up negotiating what used to be simple things that there’s not enough left for pursuing new interests or delving deeper into old ones.

I’m trying to reach equilibrium.  

I long for a time when simple things are simple again.

But I don’t think it will be today.

courage doesn't always roar





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.

29 thoughts on “It’s Complicated”

  1. Yes! People don’t know what a struggle those “normal” things are after child loss. It can hit you at any moment most of the time it’s unexpected. Worship songs bring me joy praising God, but also tears. Any song that has a reference to heaven does me in. The song “Even If” by Mercy Me has been a song that points me right to God while I put my faith and trust in Him alone. We just had the first year mark on January 21st of losing Logan and I can say it is harder now than it was last year at this time. His chair is empty and that causes pain. Watching my five daughters grieve and trying to walk this road with them while I’m grieving is extremely difficult. I’m broken. Ann


  2. Yes!! Going to Church is the hardest for me…… a song, a bible passage, … the ‘Our Father’ ….”Thy will be done” part ,,,,, and always during silent prayer……. my tears well up and it is all I can do to not wail outloud… is almost 3 years since my son died … but every Sunday, it all comes back!! The scar on my heart tears open and I am back to the moment Scott left us…… if I stay home, I don’t see the sympathetic looks from friends; the questioning stares from others. And I don’t have to deal with my husband’s admonishments about ‘being joyful in the Lord in all things!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Darlene,
    I lost my two year-old son in 1991 and just recently my 19 year-old son in 2013. My wife divorced me the same year.
    27 years of faithful marriage thrown away like yesterday’s garbage. I honestly can’t tell you how I have the strength to carry on from day to day, but can only attribute my perseverance to God’s grace. He showed up in so many ways during these earth shattering events and somehow carried this tired old dad through the fire of gut-wrenching grief. Without Christ in my life and the knowledge that eternity with both my sons is only a future last breath away, I wouldn’t have the fight in me to carry on.
    My only daughter wasn’t born yet when we lost our first son, but she was only 13 months older than my second son that passed and she and her brother were better described as best friends than siblings. Watching her grieve has been a whole new level of helplessness and pain for this dad. So, you can just imagine the joy that she brought back into my life when she gave birth to my first grandson last week! Celebrating this beautiful new little angel’s life has reminded me that joy is still possible in our lives – if we choose to seek it – and once you have it in your heart through God’s grace, joy will sustain you even in grief’s darkest of times.
    It was one thing going through grief with a wife by my side. We consoled each other and were even able to rally and raise two beautiful kids in a loving, stable environment. But, it’s been a dark and rough ride to have to face life as a grieving dad who is also now all alone. Now, I look forward to my next trip to go visit my amazing new grandson and getting to know him and someday having the opportunity to share stories with him about the two beautiful uncles he’ll never know – until we are all reunited together in Heaven. The anticipated joy of those future grandaddy to grandson talks are what get me up and out of bed today…
    Anyway, I stumbled across your article today and just wanted to tell you thanks for writing this! It perfectly describes so many of the feelings that I’ve experienced as a grieving parent.
    God bless you and continue to keep you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so very sorry for your losses-of your sons and of your marriage. I’m thankful you have a new grandbaby to love. What a precious blessing to give you hope and something to look forward to! Praying that the Lord continues to strengthen you and give you grace, mercy and love for each new day. Blessings, Melanie


    2. Hello Robin❤️️ I have read your words over and over and over again. What an amazing testimony to God you are. Despite your unspeakable and unimaginable pain, you still choose to rejoice in our Father. Your level of loss is just horrific. I know this pain all too well. We lost our 17 year old son Kyle July 2016. We too chose to keep our eyes on Christ and have survived this enormous challenge in our life. Please contact me on Facebook as I have so much I would like to share with you on our journey with Christ so far. The reassurance we have received from God that Kyle is with Him has been astounding and has absorbed a large portion of our grief. Take care special Dad. And YES we will see our precious boys again. Kathy Knoop – South Africa


  4. Melanie, have you read “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn? It has given me a new perspective of heaven that I’ve never known before. Looking forward to the reunion with my son…


    1. No, I haven’t yet. I read “Safely Home” years ago and get his newsletter. I admire his writing and perspective. I’ll have to add that to my reading list. Thanks!


  5. Everything you write is so true. Sunday’s used to be my favourite day of the week, when I immersed myself in family life, but now our family is fragmented and grieving. Attending our church has many grief triggers.
    As for films? My husband and I really enjoy Steve Martin. A few months after Leah died, my husband and I settled down with others to watch a previously enjoyed film – “Father of the Bride”. It was awful, I cried through the whole thing. In the film the father reminisces about his daughter’s life and wonders where the years have gone and how he can possibly ‘let go’ of this girl he loves so much………I was an emotional wreck by the time it was over!
    Sending you hugs ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vicky, I’ve had that happen with quite a few films I has watched before-I saw them through different eyes this time. I’m different. You’re different. Losing a child changes us in some ways we anticipate nad understand and some ways that blindside us and don’t make sense. I think of you almost every day and am thankful you are sharing your journey as well. Hugs to you too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Melanie.
        A few months after Leah died my eldest daughter (then aged 20) chose the Disney movie ‘Big Hero 6’ for us to watch. She assured me that she had checked it out and that it was a lighthearted story with no tragic bits! Have you seen it?????
        It’s actually a touching story about sibling grief and loss, sensitively done, I was really glad we had watched it.


  6. I know you are a person who loves our Lord, Jesus Christ. You have mentioned it several times. I am conflicted about what happens after they pass from this earth. I’m reading the bible more now & am surprised at what I am learning! What is your belief & it’s ok if you don’t want to discuss such a deep subject.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Darlene, I believe that those who put their trust in the finished work of Jesus are ushered into the presence of Christ when they leave this earth. I have been a serious Bible student for over 20 years and have looked closely at scriptures that relate to heaven and what happens to Christ-followers after death. While Jesus assured us that He is preparing a place for us, He isn’t incredibly descriptive about what that will look like. We can get some clues from various scripture passages-we know that there is a river of life, we know that there is a city (maybe not until the Lord establishes His rule on earth-interpretations vary), we know that God is on the throne and Jesus rules beside Him. I do not believe that my son’s disembodied soul is floating around in the clouds. And there is a distinction between angels (created beings who do not die) and humans (created beings with eternal souls whose bodies die but souls yet live) so I don’t think my son is now an “angel”. I’m not sure if I think he can see me or not-the book of Hebrews says we are “surrounded by a cloud of witnesses” but that could be taken to mean that we are figuratively surrounded by the witness of faithful believers who have gone before, not that they can see us now. I know that worship and music and work seem to be a part of the heavenly experience.

      I guess to sum up, I believe that my son is with Jesus and that when my time on earth is through, I will be too-and he will know me and I will know him.
      I hope this is helpful to you.


      Liked by 3 people

    2. Darlene, you do not have to fear for your child’s eternal life. I have had a lifelong close relationship with God when it was not fashionable to do so. I have seen my daughter six times, once (first time) standing by my bed (October 23, 2011 – 23 is an important number in my life), free, beautiful, joyful; the others in visions when she told me things; the final time a very long visit, we hugged a long time, she told me a lot (I think more than I’m supposed to know) and I looked into her blue eyes and asked her, “Are you in hell?” Her answer was almost straight from the words of Jesus. She said “When you are in great pain, grieving, lost, confused, praise Him.” I think that says it all.


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