What Else Can I Do?

I will confess right here that this week I am more than tired. 

I’m defeated. 

I have fought the good fight, tried hard to endure and worked myself nearly to death and in the end can’t move the challenging situations I face one inch closer to resolution.

And like I’ve written before here,these months and years after Dominic ran to heaven have amply demonstrated the truth of the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  It’s not the STRAW, it’s the unbelievable heavy weight the camel is already carrying!

That last, seemingly tiny, almost weightless additional burden sends the poor critter over the edge.

straw that broke camel back

But unlike a dumb animal, I don’t get to just lay down and give up.  My head and my heart tell me that if I do, the load will just shift to my family.  If I quit I can’t simply drift off into witless sleep where I don’t realize how hard I’m making it for everyone else.

So I don’t give up. 

I keep on keeping on. 

I raise my eyes to the sky and beg God to give me the grace and strength and help to endure. 

I beg for mercy-for some small token that things might just get better.  

I lean into the promises of God in Christ and hold on with both hands.  

What else can I do but keep praying to You even when I feel dark;

to keep writing about You even when I feel numb;

to keep speaking Your name even when I feel alone.

Come, Lord Jesus come.

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

-Henri Nouwen

 

Pressure Relief Valves and Blowing Off Steam

I use a pressure cooker when canning some things from the garden.  It’s the only way to ensure food safety for low-acid, low-sugar foods.

It took me awhile before I could work up the courage to use that contraption-when a pot comes with warning labels about “check to make sure seal is intact before every use” and “always be certain pressure cock is seated properly and working”-well, that’ll make you think twice about how much you want canned beans come winter.

I imagined all kinds of awful scenarios the first time I fired up the stove under that big cooker.   But none of them came to pass.  Sixty minutes later and all was well.

Pressure-canner

I’ve thought a lot about my pressure canning days recently and how that pot is uniquely created to allow just enough steam to escape to keep it from exploding.  Sure, it gets mighty hot (that’s the point-to kill the bacteria) but not so hot that it bursts into lethal metal shards all over the kitchen.

I feel like so many of us (bereaved parents or not!) are like that pressure cooker-boiling and roiling with heated emotions getting hotter and hotter and threatening to explode.

Some of us do.

It’s messy or even dangerous.

angry

I’ve thought about how critical that relief valve is to the proper function of the pressure cooker and how people need relief valves too.

Some of us find relief through hobbies or exercise or journaling or praying.  But many of us can only relieve our sense of building pressure by talking to another person. 

We need to be HEARD and SEEN in order to let off steam.

We need someone to be the relief valve for our pent up feelings so they don’t spew uncontrollably over everyone and everything. 

So when you are thinking about what YOU can do for someone going through a tough time, here’s a thought:  Offer to meet them and let them talk.  Just let them say whatever they need to say without correcting them or judging them or steering them toward safer topics of conversation.  

Just listen. 

Offer appropriate comments now and then so they know you are paying attention but let them empty their hearts of the pent up steam of strong emotions.

Then keep all the secrets they shared in your own heart.  Don’t spread them around to others and don’t use them later as ammunition or leverage.  

listening is a postive act

Listening is love in action.

Providing a safe space for a heart to let go is one of the best gifts of all.  ❤

 

 

 

 

“He Wouldn’t Want You to be Sad” and Other Myths

If I got ten grieving parents in a room we could write down fifty things we wish people would stop saying in about five minutes.

Most of the time folks do it out of ignorance or in a desperate attempt to sound compassionate or to change the subject (death is very uncomfortable) or simply because they can’t just shut their mouths and offer silent companionship.

And most of the time, I and other bereaved parents just smile and nod and add one more encounter to a long list of unhelpful moments when we have to be the bigger person and take the blow without wincing.

But there is one common phrase that I think needs attention and here is why:  It simultaneously dismisses my current reality and assumes knowledge that you simply do not have.

“He wouldn’t want you to be sad.”

Really?  How do you know?  Did you live with my son for nearly 24 years? Were you his confidante?  His nursemaid in illness?  His champion in victory?

My tears are as much an expression of the love I STILL have for my son this side of death as the hugs and kisses I gave him since he was a baby were on the other side.

My heart holds him now as surely as my arms held him then.

This is what I have left-tears that bear witness to that love.

You can’t bury love.

Love is forever.

Dominic would totally understand.

grief only exists where love lived first

Reminder for Weary Hearts

If you are worn and weary from surviving Thanksgiving, take a few days to recover.

December isn’t here yet. 

Don’t let other peoples’ expectations push you farther or faster than your heart can bear. 

It is perfectly acceptable to observe a pause between one holiday and the next. 

not-required-set-yourself-on-fire-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures

What IS and IS NOT “Impossible”

I freely and publicly admit that until Dominic ran ahead to heaven I was just as likely as the next person to declare something “impossible” when it was really simply hard, distasteful or uncomfortable. 

Because before Dominic was snatched away in an instant-irretrievably lost to me this side of eternity-I lacked perspective.

I didn’t realize that as long as someone is breathing, there is hope. 

As long as there are choices, you can make them. 

As long as people offer to help, you can let them.

What I am facing may seem insurmountable but if money, time and/or energy can make a difference, then no circumstance is truly impossible.

So I carry an absolute yardstick in my heart:  death is the only utterly impossible situation.  

Anything that falls short of that holds out hope.

I can choose to grab hold or choose to let go, but I have a choice.  

It may be excruciating and hard and frustrating and foolhardy, but I can still hold on.  

 

 

Hiding in Plain Sight

They say that if you want to hide something so it’s never found, hide it in plain sight. 

I think I’m living proof. 

Because every single day I hide my wounded heart.

band aid heart huff post earthy

I walk right up to people and they never know.  I conduct business, entertain family and friends, sing hymns in church and do daily tasks without a hint that something’s wrong-terribly, terribly wrong.

Am I stronger now than three years ago?  Absolutely!  I have developed muscles I didn’t know existed.  I have a go-to method to stop tears, stop screams, stop tremors, stop panic attacks and swallow words that might otherwise slip out and give me away.

I can make small talk with the best of them.  I’ve learned to redirect a conversation so that it cannot venture into territory that guarantees I won’t be able to keep it together.

I look for opportunities to serve at gatherings.  Kitchen duty?  First in line!  It’s easy and perfectly acceptable to mutter one word replies when your hands are in the sink washing dishes.

I locate bathrooms and exits everywhere I go.  Ducking into the ladies’ room or out the door for a minute or two is usually all I need to regather myself and reenter the fray.

All this hiding takes a toll.  So much energy is needed to shield the world from the pain I carry.

I often find that after a holiday or extended period of social interaction I need a day (or a week!) to recover.  And that’s OK. 

I’m learning to say “no” to invitations or expectations or intimidation.  

I’m learning I have to give myself time to regroup. 

Because then I can reengage, recharged and ready to keep hiding my heart.  

fine not fine