Repost: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here:  Healthy Boundaries in Grief

A Challenging Year: For Better or Worse

One year ago today I came in from Wednesday night church to a message on my answering machine:

“Melanie, when you get this, call me on my cell phone.  I’m on my way to Dothan.  Your mama was lifeflighted and I’m headed to the hospital”

I have no idea what else my dad said because that was as far as I got before shutting down the message and dialing his number with shaky fingers.

Because when you’ve endured the worst possible news-the news that is utterly final-it only takes half a second for your brain and body to jump from alright to utterly terrified.

So began nearly three months of trying to help my mother recover from a fall, a heart attack and serious complications from congestive heart failure.

It’s been a year and she’s doing so much better.

But it has been a hard row to hoe as they say in the South.

Papa has carried the lion’s share of the burden. 

He’s learned to keep up with Mama’s medications, her doctor’s appointments and plan menus.  He’s had to decipher the complex world of home health care, durable medical equipment and getting a handicapped parking tag.  He’s cooked, cleaned and kept Mama company since she is unable to go anywhere by herself anymore.

And that means he is as homebound as she.

Of course, poor Mama has had to endure all kinds of medical procedures, uncomfortable hospital beds, loss of autonomy and is now tethered to oxygen.  

I am oh, so proud of both of them!  

They are learning to live this new life together.  

Which is exactly what I expected from a pair that has done just that for over 57 years!

wedding rings

Refuse to Cause Pain

I’m a kinder, gentler person than I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

It’s a high price to pay to learn to walk more grace-filled through this life.

I’ve come to find out that every heart has a story.  Every heart is carrying a burden.-perhaps not the same as mine, but a burden nonetheless.

And what causes the most pain in this life (next to the burden itself) is when another person runs over my heart without thinking about the burden it may hold inside.

So I have purposed not to do that to other people.

refuse to cause pain

I certainly forget sometimes-in the heat of a moment, in the rush of daily life, when driving behind a car that just won’t go any faster-but it’s becoming a habit more and more.

I try to look-really look-at the person in front of me to see what might be hiding behind her eyes.

Is she a young mom working a retail job and trying to make ends meet?  An older man still working because his Social Security check runs out before the month does?  A teen driver frightened to make that left hand turn across traffic?  Someone fighting addiction or just out of cancer treatment?  A heart that is lonely because she doesn’t have any close friends or a kind voice welcoming her home each day?

The list is endless.

I am committed to offering the tiny bit of life and light I can to each heart I meet.  And that’s how I think about them-as hearts inside fragile bodies-not as obstacles in the way of me accomplishing a task.

I will do my best not to cause pain.

It’s my daily offering.

It honors the price I’ve paid to learn this lesson.

The Elephant in the Room

I’ve often been the person who refused to go along with some group’s plan to ignore a real issue and try to talk around it.  

I usually begin like this, “I know it’s hard to talk about, but let’s be honest and…”

I’m even more inclined in that direction now. If my son’s instant and untimely death has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s no use pretending.

So I’m not going to pretend:  Western society doesn’t do grief well.  

grief is often the elephant in the room

I’m not sure that was always the case but like so many other unpleasant, sad and/or uncomfortable aspects of life, we’ve sequestered grief to separate buildings and specialists. We’ve tried to clean it up and clear it away from the everyday.

Like they say, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If we can hide it, we don’t have to deal with it. 

But I’m here to tell you, you WILL have to deal with it.  One day, one way or another, death will come knocking at YOUR door.  No one gets out of here alive.  

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  

Let’s stop ignoring death and grief and how one person’s departure for Heaven leaves others behind trying to deal with the loss, the pain, and the hole that missing life leaves in their hearts.

I know it will take effort to learn the language of grief.  It’s a lost language and it will feel strange on your tongue.  

The more you use it, the more you will realize that it’s really just the language of love with a slight accent.  There are a few more pauses between words, a bit more emphasis in some places and less in others.

And when you don’t know what to say, it’s fine to admit that. 

Just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Because that means you see the elephant too.  

Repost: No Mirrors, Please!

I hate mirrors.  Not because I’m ashamed of my wrinkles or my fat hips.  But because the face staring back at me now is not one I recognize.

I see someone who’s supposed to be me and can’t quite place her.

There’s a vague resemblance to the person that used to look me in the eye while I was brushing my teeth or fixing my hair.

But now, she is “other”unfamiliar, strange in a “slightly off” kind of way.

Read the rest here:  No Mirrors, Please!

Permission To Grieve

You wouldn’t think we need permission from total strangers, friends and extended family to grieve but many times it feels like we do.

Odd looks, questioning stares and wagging tongues can make a heart doubt whether it’s really OK to do this or that while trying not to fall apart.

Well I’m here to tell you-ignore all that!

You have permission to do whatever it takes to endure this journey as long as you are not harming yourself or others.

grief-is-loves-souvenir

I have all kinds of little things I do to help my heart hold on.

Some of them are quite public and others only I know about.

Either way, it’s no one’s business but mine.  

I do try not to make other people uncomfortable but I draw the line at the place my sanity outweighs their discomfort.  I won’t apologize for utilizing whatever supports keep me keeping on and not giving up.

So if you are worrying more about what other people think than what helps your heart, PLEASE STOP! 

You are free to be who you have to be.

You are free to do what you have to do.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to grieve.  

You have permission to grieve what has been and what feels a little bit lost, but you are not lost. You are right where He has placed you for such a time as this. Walk on. Lift your chin and fix your eyes. This is your remaking. You don't have to explain it all, you don't have to have any answers, and you don't have to hold it together.

 

“Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.” – By Naomi Shihab Nye

After living through three weeks of divisiveness intended to plant seeds of doubt, distrust and shore up stereotypes, this post made my heart smile.

Kindness Blog

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.

Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee?

شو دعاء , شو بدك حبيبتي , استني استني شوي , من فضلك , شو بتساوي

Translation: “Duaa (girl’s name) what do you want honey , wait, wait a second , please , what are…

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Grief is Not a Hammer in the Hand of God

I may risk offending some of my fellow believers in Jesus but I will take that risk.

While scripture is plain that God uses the events in our lives to help fashion our hearts, it is also equally plain that God does not act cruelly or spitefully or wantonly.

What Joseph’s brothers did to him was evil.  God redeemed it.

What the crowd did to Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was evil.  God redeemed it.

What Nero did to the early Christians was evil.  God redeemed it.

Death is the ultimate evil, the last enemy. But Jesus overcame it and God will redeem it.

Yes, “all things work together for good for those that love the Lord” but not all things are good.

My son’s death is not a test, a lesson, a trial nor a hammer in the hand of God sent to pound me into the shape He desires for me.

It is an evil that He can and is using for good.

It will one day be absolutely, totally and irrevocably redeemed.

I can’t wait.

grief is not a tool

Here’s The Post I’ve Wanted To Write But Couldn’t Before Today

My husband was sued for discrimination by a disgruntled employee. The whole thing started heating up just after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven in 2014.  The suit was filed just before Christmas 2015.

We’ve been living with this awful thing hanging over our heads for nearly 3 years.  Thankfully, the truth prevailed and my husband was exonerated.

But it took a huge toll on both of us and on our whole family.

I sat in a courtroom a few days ago feeling nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

I was waiting for a verdict that had the potential to change the rest of my life but I could not muster a single feeling.

Because when you’ve watched your child’s body lowered beneath the ground, there’s really not much else the world can do to you.

I stared straight ahead as the jury walked in.  I didn’t dare hope that they had found in our favor.  I’ve learned that hoping for the best sometimes only hurts a heart worse in the end.  Better to expect absolutely nothing and then if you get a tiny something, it feels huge.

In agonizing slow motion, the long verdict form was read.

The first question offered a sliver of hope.

But we had to wait thirty more minutes for the hope to be confirmed.

It was oh, so slow and very frustrating as the jury was polled, mistakes in counting were made, recounts were required but finally the numbers were recorded and everything was squared away.

Now on to the individual verdict form.  Was my husband going to be held accountable for something he simply did not do?  Was there still a shred of justice in this world?  Could 12 strangers sift through three weeks of complex and often conflicting testimony and get down to the truth?

Yes!

They could and they did!

We both let out the breath we’d been holding and managed a tiny smile.

Twenty-one days in court, nearly three years with this lawsuit dangling like Damocles’ sword over our heads-over in the short minutes it took to read the verdict.

This trial has cost me more tears than I thought I had left.

Every legal pad pulled out of leather brief cases was a reminder that Dominic should be here with us, guiding us, reassuring us that he was on our side and no matter how things turned out there would be ways to make it right.

legal-yellow-pad_5

I cannot adequately express the toll this season has taken on my soul.  

But I am overjoyed that the Lord saw fit to reach down and assure the victory.  

If you see me on the street I might look a little dazed.  It’s hard to accept something good has happened when all you’ve come to expect is something bad.  So it may take me a few days to grow into an expression that reflects the beauty of the gift.

Bear with me. 

I am so, so thankful.

Thankful for every prayer raised, for every encouraging text, message, email and card.

And thankful most of all for the absolute assurance that no matter what I may face in this life, not only is God with me, but you are with me as well. 

It’s easy to be courageous when there are so many faithful friends standing behind you.  

Thank you.  ❤

when anxiety was strong

How To Hold On To Hope

We use the word “hope” like a magic spell, an incantation, a lucky rabbit’s foot.

But hope is only as sure as the object of our hope.  

My hope is based on the unchanging nature of the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Because of that, I will not be ashamed.  

they that wait with hope shall not be ashamed

 

He will prove faithful.  For He cannot be otherwise. 

So I speak truth to my heart.  I sing life to my soul.  I hide myself under the wings of the Almighty, assured that He is my hiding place, safe and secure.

hiding place bird

I cannot let my mind linger long on the whispered lies of the enemy.  I won’t dawdle around the water cooler, inhaling gossip, wondering if God is Who He says He is.  

I lean into love-the eternal, unquenchable force that guarantees deliverance and victory.

Some days it’s harder than others.  But no day is utterly devoid of hope.

The Lord is faithful.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  

I can rely on that.  

I DO rely on that.  

Thank God.  

blessed is the one who believed his promises to her