When news that Dominic left us spread, our yard was filled with friends and family here to help bear the burden of grief and loss.
Our house was bursting with people and food and phone calls-more coming and going than our gravel lane had seen in a lifetime of living up in the woods.
It was beautiful and terrible all at the same time. Beautiful because we were not alone in our sorrow and terrible because it was due to that sorrow they were here.
In those days between the accident and the funeral I was boundary-less.
People hugged me, fed me, cleaned my house, cut my grass, tended the animals, asked me questions, told me stories and I just accepted it-whatever “it” was-because I was utterly unable to do anything else.
But in the weeks that followed, as the pain made itself more at home in my heart-as it expanded to fill every nook and crevice-I realized that I had to put up some fences.
My oldest son was getting married just a couple months after the accident.
There’s a lot of stuff to do for a wedding as most folks know. So I got a phone call one week after Dominic’s funeral and the person on the other end launched into a long saga regarding a minor detail and expected me to 1) listen attentively; 2) care as deeply as they did about something that absolutely didn’t matter; and 3) join with them in light-hearted, laughter-filled banter.
I just. couldn’t. do. it.
So I didn’t.
I politely but firmly explained that I was unable to continue the conversation and that in future they needed to contact me through my son. I promised I was 100% committed to making the wedding happen, to doing my part and to being as happy as possible on the day.
But until then, unless it was a true emergency, please leave me alone.
Drawing a boundary created space for me to DO what needed to be done without the added burden of extra emotional baggage.
Before Dominic left us I was a “yes” person.
Need help with an event? Why, sure I’m available.
Need someone to take your Sunday School class? Absolutely.
Keep your toddler? Just drop him off-we’ll play with the critters all day.
Phone call counselor and Homeschool Help Hotline-that was me.
I’ve learned that if I am to have the energy needed to do necessary things, I have to protect my heart. I am too weak to carry everyone else’s burdens. If I am going to survive this journey I’ve got to prioritize.
I still listen.
I still help.
But I do it in a more healthy way-with respect for myself as well as others.
It is OK to say, “No.” And I don’t have to offer a reason. It’s a complete sentence all on its own.
All of my children had urged me over the years to draw boundaries. But I had grown from a parent-pleasing first born into a people pleasing adult and I just couldn’t do it.
Dominic even crafted a wire sign that hung on my kitchen curtains in the shape of a cursive “no”.
He made me repeat the mantra: Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.
He’d be proud of me for finally taking his advice.
6 thoughts on “No. It’s a Complete Sentence.”
I am still like this now 28 months on but I find people don’t always “get”it. Church seems to be one of the places where because I’ve always made time to do all sorts of things, the expectation is – that will continue. Sometimes it’s just too much after I have kept my “mask” on at work during the day. I’m tired, tired of my brave face, tired of making everyone comfortable around me when I just want to curl up and cry and never stop.
I got multiple “emergency” phone calls like this, too, during the week following our son’s crash. The calls were mainly for my input on truly minor things you really don’t want to trouble the mother of the deceased with, ever. Thankfully, the grief fog I was engulfed in kept me from getting too angry, but it was, nevertheless, very hard to comprehend the oblivion some folks were operating from. I wish someone had put some “fences” up for us. We were just too stunned to do anything but go with the flow.
I guess we were all hurting and I can only chalk this behavior up to people wanting everything to be the same when it most certainly was not, nor would it ever be. The grieving parent is the first one to understand this. Others may never. Hopefully my response to them was merciful and grace-filled. I’m not sure I remember.
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I’m sure you did the best you could and that it was enough. I think there are many reasons people are clueless-sometimes it’s a function of lack of life experience and sometimes it’s a function of them never having been challenged by someone before. I try to extend grace, but I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes it just has to be a firm, “no”.
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