I’m Only ONE Grieving Mama

I was reminded (again!) that when I share my journey, it may (and does!) look very different from another mama’s journey.

I really appreciate that reminder because I never, ever intend to speak for anyone but myself.

I write because it helps me wrangle my own thoughts, feelings, experiences and questions into some sort of reasonable order not because I think I’m documenting a generally applicable description of grief.

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Sometimes other moms have given me permission to share their thoughts and I try to indicate that by using quotes or a general heading.  And sometimes I have asked a question in our closed group and received permission to share insights gleaned from the answers to write a post  on a specific topic.

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My path through this Valley of the Shadow of Death is unique.

It is as unique as the son I buried, as the life I’ve lived previous to and since my loss, as my personal relationship with Jesus, as the weaknesses and strengths I bring to the task.

I have surviving children.  Not every grieving mother does.

My children are all adults. Many grieving mothers are in the midst of the busy child-rearing years.

I don’t have a career.  Other bereaved mothers must get up, get dressed and go to work every day.

I don’t have any grandchildren to cuddle but some mamas do.

I find silence helpful-solititude healing.  Others find silence frightening and feel abandoned.

I don’t want to be distracted from the work grief requires.  Some work hard to run away from the pain.

Scripture is my bedrock, laid down before Dominic ran ahead to heaven. Not all bereaved parents believe in Jesus nor use the Bible as their guide.

So take what’s helpful, leave what’s not.

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And if you ever want to add to what I’ve written, leave a comment.  [REMEMBER these comments are PUBLIC.]

I have always envisioned these posts as conversation starters, not the final word.

My prayer for each bereaved parent who reads these words is that they will feel the Father’s loving arms around them, that He will flood their broken hearts with His grace and mercy. I ask that He give them strength for each new day and that He guide them toward His truth and give them hope.

Much love, my friends.

~Melanie

Repost: The Cost of Compassion

 

compassion is a choice

I can’t help it.

I think too much.  I wonder too often.  I work too hard to make sense of things.

And the thing that is puzzling me right now is why people pull away from those experiencing deep and lasting pain.

Read the rest here:  the cost of compassion

Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

There are lots of opportunities for offense surrounding the death of a child.

Once your heart is broken open wide with great sorrow, there’s no defense against the bumps and bruises that are a natural product of human relationship and interaction.

  • Friends and family that didn’t show up.
  • Friends and family that showed up but said or did the wrong thing.
  • Friends and family that abandoned me as soon as the casket closed.
  • People that make me feel guilty for grieving or question my sanity or my “progress”.

But I’m learning to let go of offense.

Not only because it is too heavy to carry in addition to my grief, but because the Lord has commanded it.

I grew up reciting what’s commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer” without much thought to the individual phrases or their meaning. It wasn’t until adulthood that I read it in context and continued on to the rest of the chapter.

What I found there was chilling.  

These are some of the hard words of Christ that most lay persons and many theologians prefer to gloss over.

“For if you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive other people, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures.”

~Jesus (Matthew 6:14-15 PHILLIPS)

WOW!  The plain reading of this text tells me that if I refuse to forgive others, I place myself outside the forgiveness of my Father.

It makes sense though-if my sins were borne by Christ on the cross, then so were yours.  

If His grace covers me, it covers you.  

If I want to be seen through the eyes of mercy, then I must be willing to look through those same eyes at my fellow man.

At first this feels like bondage instead of freedom.  

But the truth is, forgiveness is liberating.  

It sets me free to operate in the fullness of who I am in Christ.  It forces me to trust Him with my pain, with my sorrows, with my offenses and with balancing the scales of justice.

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Forgiveness opens the path to relationship and community.  It testifies to the mercy and grace of God.  

It shines like a beacon of light in a dark world.  

It is the power of Christ in me.

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

~Henri Nouwen

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Hanging On

(A psalm by David.)

Listen, Lord, as I pray! You are faithful and honest and will answer my prayer.

~Psalm 143:1 CEV

There are days when I am not interested in a deep dive into Scripture or a lengthy conversation with myself or anyone else about faith.

Days when I’m too tired to try to tease out the meat from the fat or the subtle from the obvious.

On those days I hang on to HOPE by remembering some basic truths:

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In my own power I am lost, but God promises not to abandon me to my own resources.

He made me, He called me and He keeps me.

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He hears my cry for mercy.  He collects my tears.  He turns His face toward my suffering and doesn’t look away.

When my heart is overwhelmed, He is my Rock, my Refuge and my Very Present Help in time of trouble.

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He will not abandon me.

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A New Book-Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child

I was just made aware of an excellent new resource for grieving parents available free today and tomorrow for Kindle.  I wanted others to be able to take advantage of this offer.

I haven’t read it, but trust my friend, Jill Emmelhainz’s review:  

“I’ve read an advance copy of this book. I wish this had been available when our son died 9 years ago. No platitudes, no sugary counselor-speak. Examples and experiences from other bereaved parents in short simple sections. Kindle version is fr*e today and tomorrow. Paperback version releases next week.”

Here’s the link on Amazon:

Shattered:Surviving the Loss of a Child

shattered

What to say? What to do? Loving the Grieving in Public Places

 

Last week I wrote about some strategies I employ when in a social situation: Surviving Social Situations After Child Loss

But if you are the friend, family member or acquaintance milling around who bumps into me or spies me across the room, here are some things you can do and say that will help me as well:

Be aware that the greeting, “How are you?” sometimes feels like a challenge instead of an invitation. I’m scrambling for words to express my true condition without ruining the mood of the gathering.  It would be so much better if you simply said, “Hello” or “I’m happy to see you” without additional comments about how long it’s been.

Don’t pose or push for answers to questions that are primarily designed to satisfy your own curiosity.  If I give a brief reply, take the hint and move on.  If I say I can’t talk about it, drop the subject.  If I turn the conversation back to you, pick it up and carry the ball.  Public spaces are not the place to try to draw me out.  If you are concerned about me or want to REALLY know how I’m doing, take me to lunch or bring me dinner or invite me out for coffee.

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Notice my body language.  If I am fidgeting or hugging myself or backing away or crossing my arms it’s time to let me go.  I may hold my tongue but my body will give you abundant clues that I’m nearly at my limit for social interaction.  Give me permission to end the conversation and preserve my dignity.

Hugs are almost always wonderful.  Physical touch conveys love and compassion without requiring any response.  If you know me well enough to hug me or squeeze my hand, please do.

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Don’t corner me-physically, emotionally or spiritually.  Backing me into a tight space makes me feel trapped.  If I’m on the end of a pew or aisle, don’t ask me to scoot down so you can join me.  I’m there in case I need to make an exit.  Don’t stand too close to me while we’re talking-my need for adequate personal space has greatly increased since Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  Don’t throw Bible verses at me or ask me how Jesus is meeting me in my sorrow.  These are things we can talk about together, in private, in a way that makes space for me to be honest and express emotion without fear of embarresment.

Don’t make comparisons between my missing child and person featured in the wedding, baby shower or engagement party we are attending. Trust me, I’ve already done the math. I already know the distance between Dominic’s homegoing and this day.  I am already mourning one more thing I’ll never get to see him do.

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Please don’t use this time to tell me about another bereaved mother you “just want to introduce to me”.  I am open and willing to walk with others on this journey, but this is not the time nor the place to put me on the spot.  If you know of another mom that needs my help, write me a note, give me a call or text me.

If I leave a room, don’t follow (unless you are a very close friend).  Let me go.  I will return if I can and if I can’t, I won’t.  Text me if you’re concerned.  If I come back, let me slip in without any fanfare.

If I cry, hand me a tissue or a handkerchief.  Don’t ask, “What’s wrong?” Besides the obvious, I may not have an answer for you.

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Please help me move conversation along when I lose my train of thought or seem at a loss for words.  Grief makes it hard to think sometimes, especially when in a crowd and/or a place with lots of background noise.  Give me permission to end a conversation-it probably doesn’t have a thing to do with YOU-I’m just running out of steam and need a few minutes’ respite from having to talk.  

Attending social events is exhausting for me now.  I want to celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations-but that means a lot of people and a lot of unknowns.  Dozens of potential triggers, any one of which might conjure a grief wave that can drown me.  

I do what I can to be prepared. 

But I’ll take all the help I can get.

best-way-you-can-help-me

 

 

Why I Still Speak About My Son

 

I know it makes some people uncomfortable when I speak of Dominic.

They aren’t sure whether to join in or ignore my comment and hope I change the subject.

I get it-they are wondering whether my continued interest in my missing child is a sign of mental illness (she’s “stuck” in grief) or a delusion or wishful thinking.  They have no frame of reference other than an elderly relative whose passing into eternity was a more orderly and expected event.

But out of order death is wrenching and traumatic and not the way things are supposed to be.  A parent doesn’t stop thinking about or talking about or loving his or her child simply because they have been robbed of their physical presence.

I speak of my son because he is STILL MY SON.

 

 

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