Step Back, Don’t React

It is possible not to react to every single thing someone says or does.  It is possible to scroll past social media posts that get under your skin and not look back.  It is possible to ignore a snarky comment or an unhelpful piece of advice from someone who ACTS like they know what you’re going through but really has. no. idea.  

Now if you are new on this journey, you will read these first few lines and think, “Is this woman crazy????” 

I felt EXACTLY the same way in the first months and even through the first couple years in this Valley.

But, I will tell you this:  the sooner you can embrace the habit of practicing the pause, the sooner you will begin to feel like you have some control in your world again.

And isn’t that one of the things we crave after the tsunami of child loss sweeps over our lives-order, control, a sense of purpose and direction?

It’s hard. 

Really, really hard not to react against every arrow shot into my wounded heart.  Even when I know it was an accident and the offense is collateral damage, it still hurts.

But I’ve found that if I just take a single, deep breath I can put a bit of distance between the oomph of the impact and my reaction.  And there is actually power in choosing to ignore offense.

Because then I am in control, not the person lobbing the arrows. 


So what do I do in the split-second it takes to draw in that preparatory breath?  I consider the source.  I think (quickly) about my ongoing relationship with this person, what’s happening in THEIR life and why they might have said or done what they said or did.

Is it ignorance?  Is it sloppy choice of words?  Is it due to stress in his life?  Is she just worn out and not thinking?

And I decide:  is reacting to THIS particular exchange worth damaging the relationship?

Is it worth the negative emotional energy that I will have to expend?

Is it something I can overlook and move past?

Most of the time the answer is, “yes”.  I CAN let it go.  It’s not that big of a deal.  It is not a fair representation of our relationship and it is certainly not worth ruining a friendship.

I’m not just doing THEM  a favor.  I’m doing ME a favor.

choose to respond

I’m not “letting them off the hook”.  I may actually revisit the issue later on, when emotions aren’t running high. 

But I have learned that I only have so much emotional energy to expend in this Valley.  So much of it is already absorbed in carrying the missing and sorrow and reining in my own outrageous feelings that I just don’t need to waste the rest on trivial things.

So I don’t (most of the time). 

Practicing the pause helps me do that. 

It gives me control. 

There is far too little of that this side of child loss.

So I will take what I can get. 

boundaries control react

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 “Step Back, Don’t React”

  1. Thanks again, Melanie! I was just recommended the book “Boundaries” Tuesday night. Somebody is keenly aware this is an issue in my life. Your article is such a great affirmation. It. is. true. The problem I have with the pause and thinking of the other person is, I have no more energy. I am tired! Five years since our son went to heaven. No closure in his death. So many broken relationships on the highway to the present. Ugh! I can handle the blessed snip-its of your blog. A book is too much for me right now. I sure do appreciate you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Books are still hard for me as well. When I need to read a bit more, usually I’ll google the topic and get some short articles from reliable sites. I’m so sorry for your pain and your loss. Nearly five years for me and it is still a struggle on many days just to do what I have to do.

      I pray that you feel the Father’s loving arms around you today, especially, and that He overwhelms your heart with His grace and mercy. May you hear Him whisper, “Courage, My child!” to your soul.

      Thank you for speaking encouragement to me, even as you bear the weight of your own burden. ❤


  2. I have a friend who tells me I am like a book of Greenshield stamps(savings stamps for goods)..he explained himself saying “Well when someone says something that upsets you, you don’t say anything but they have collected a stamp. Once the book of stamps is full – you blow a fuse! They then wonder what the heck hit them.”
    I have been working on it for years..saying something at the time and it had worked. However, it does mean I had to take a breath as you recomend and moderate what I say. I find it much more difficult these days and like you…I sometimes fail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep. I think many of us are like that. I grew up in an environment where the highest goal was “just be nice”. Problem with that is it can only last so long-like your friend pointed out. And then all the hard things, the bitter things, the hurtful things I’ve swallowed come flying out. ❤


  3. I try to do this myself. But sometimes I fail to breathe and move on. I’m with you, as time, healing and work I’m more able to move forward without pain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I fail many, many times! I hope one day it is so natural that I don’t have to think about it and make myself do it. But alas! The flesh is strong and sometimes I just want to bite someone’s head off. But when I am able to step back, things are so much better-for everyone.

      Liked by 2 people

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