New Year’s Eve and Auld Lang Syne

There is something about the song, “Auld Lang Syne” that strikes a chord in the hardest heart.  

You don’t have to understand the words to understand the meaning behind them.  

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?”

Every new year since Dominic left us my heart screams, “NO!” in answer to that question.  We CAN’T forget!

But we do.  No matter how carefully I mine the memories, I find the details beginning to escape me. 

I have boxes of photographs but even nearly five years out I find some of them too hard to look through.  When I see the innocent laughing eyes in pictures of six year old Dominic it breaks my heart.  Why oh why was I worried about so many things other than simply experiencing life in the moment?

But then I bring my heart back to reality and sternly tell myself that I had no idea what the future held.

And that’s really the crux of it, isn’t it? 

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  We plot and plan and hope and dream but in the end we have very little control over how our story ultimately plays out.

So we are left each New Year’s Eve with some good memories, some not so good ones and some we cling to like gold from a treasure chest because they are all we have.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?

Never. 

As long as this heart beats. 

I will not forget.   

Are There Any Gifts in Grief?

It was a long time before I wanted to believe that I received any gifts worth keeping from this life I didn’t choose.

I knew I had tears, pain, agonizing sorrow, loss, heartache, dashed hopes, empty arms.

If I could give those back and regain my son, I would do it in less than a heartbeat.

I can’t, so I’m left here to ponder what else I’ve received from burying a child.

Read the rest here:  Grace Gifts of Grief

Emotional Overload and T.M.I.

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

I know I said (still say!) things that wound others.  Most of the time it’s because I’m distracted or hurting myself and my mouth begins speaking before my brain is fully engaged.  Sometimes, though, it’s because I’m in pain and (frankly!) I want to transfer some of that pain to someone else.

Misery DOES love company!

Often other people in my life will say or do things that wound me.  Some of the folks are part of my inner grief circle and I know that it’s unintentional or they are having a pain-filled day like I am.

A few are extended family members who are either blissfully unaware of the ongoing pain and drama of child loss or are too caught up in their own lives to give it a thought.

Some of them are friends who think by now I should have toughened up and are no longer willing to extend extra grace and try harder to be tender.

Sometimes it’s acquaintances or strangers who don’t have a clue.

Whenever someone pierces my armor and inflicts pain, I have a choice:  Do I suck it up and take it or do I say something and try to reconcile?

There are days when I feel strong enough to just overlook it.  But I know if it represents a pattern, sooner or later the pressure will build and I’m going to blow.  And that’s not good for either one of us.

couple fighting

There are days when I absolutely, positively have to address it.  That’s when I need to be careful of overloading another heart with too much information (TMI).  See, it’s easy to make one person the target for all my strong feelings.  It’s easy to do an emotional and informational “dump” on whoever happens to be handy or whoever is the least intimidating.

That’s unfair and unhelpful-for them and for me.  

So when I decide to open my mouth and address a specific situation with a specific person, I need to keep my margins clean and only say the things that pertain to THAT instance.  I can’t bring up every single thing the person has done in the past or things that they haven’t said or done but which have made me more sensitive to certain words or actions.  I don’t need to burden them with all the details of MY bad day or week or month.

Instead I should talk about my own feelings in relationship to them and their actions or words. 

“I feel like _________when you say________” gives vent to my emotion without accusing another heart.  I need to leave room for them to share what they were/are thinking and feeling too.  It can’t be one-way conversation if I hope to have a two-way relationship.  

i statments graphic

Any stressful life circumstance makes us all more vulnerable to offense.  And child loss is certainly stressful.  It’s stressful in ways others can’t see or comprehend.  It alters the way a parent sees and experiences the world.

It makes everything harder.  

Relationships included.  

I want to be full of love, grace and mercy, not overrun with bitterness, anger and offense. 

So I have to be mindful of what I say, how much I say and when I choose to say it.

young man thought bubble

Grace Quotes

I need to remind my heart on a regular basis that grace covers it all-every mistake, every sin,  every need, every. single. thing.

Because if it doesn’t, then it’s not grace at all.

So here are some of my favorite quotes about grace. 

They help me hang on when my heart wants to let go.  They help me hear my Father’s voice when my ears are full of condemnation and guilt.  They help me recognize truth when the hater of my soul fills my head with lies.

grace is a blanket of hope

 

Every time you fall down, at the bottom of every hole is grace. Grace waits in broken places. Grace waits at the bottom of things. Grace loves you when you are at your darkest worst, and wraps you in the best light. Grace seeps through the broken places and seeps into the lowest places, a balm for wounds.

~Ann Voskamp

grace-is-what-we-need-in-the-dark

 

The gospel is not just an evangelistic principle; it is a message that gets you out of bed in the morning. The sovereignty of God is not some debatable proposition; it is the assurance that your child’s death is not a meaningless accident. Grace is not simply a word in a hymn; it’s the very thing you rely on when you are so bereaved that you cannot imagine living another day. Faith is not just a cliche’ term for religion, it is the thing that picks you up off the carpet where you have been crying for over an hour.

~Cameron Cole, Therefore I Have Hope

grace-sufficient

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

grace lifeline to hope

My faith demands that I face the uncertainty of the future in the confidence that in any meeting of affliction, I am held by the tether of God’s grace. My way is well known to my Master, and therefore I walk in confidence. No testing will come that will not be accompanied by sustaining grace. If I failed to believe that, I would be impoverished beyond measure and would deny the truthfulness and example of Scripture. God’s provision has been adequate in the past; it will be adequate in the future. The secret of our courage lies in our confidence that the future is controlled by the providence of a sovereign God.

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

wil take grace sustain

Repost: No Way to “Fix” Child Loss

This was shared in a bereaved parents’ group to which I belong and I really like it.

It’s a great reminder to those of us traveling this road that it is a lifelong journey.

It’s also a good explanation of why there is a gap between our experience and those who have never experienced child loss.

Read the rest here:  No Way to “Fix” Child Loss

Absolutely More Than I Can Handle

We’ve allowed a lot of common sayings to rise to the level of Scripture in everyday language and that’s unfortunate.

Because many of them are just plain wrong.

And some of them are dangerous.

One of those I consider dangerous is this:  “God will not give you more than you can handle”.

Why is it dangerous you ask?

For lots of reasons.  It implies that I am capable of “handling” my own life, my own problems, my own future.  If I find myself unable to handle something then I must be defective.  My faith must not be strong enough.  It becomes all about me.

None of that is true.

Without Christ and His strength, even many ordinary challenges would pin me to the ground under their weight. 

I most certainly would not be standing under the burden of child loss!

heals the broken hearted

This oft-quoted saying also leads a heart to embrace the idea that everything that happens is the result of God’s direct intervention in my life.  The Bible clearly teaches that we live in a fallen world where natural forces (weather, gravity, disease and old age) impact us in ways God did not intend when He created it perfect and good and placed man in the Garden.  We also know that other people’s sinful choices (drunk driving, murder, foolish behavior) can, sadly, result in bad outcomes for us and those we love.

Could God intervene?  Of course! 

But does He?  Not always.

I do not believe for one minute that He sends those things to taunt me, teach me or punish me.  He did not take my son’s life so that I would be a better Christian.  In fact, I don’t believe He TOOK my son’s life at all.

And finally, it is absolutely, undeniably counter to what Jesus Himself experienced and promised those who follow Him will experience.

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  ~Jesus

John 16:33 NIV

We need to be honest about how hard life can be.

We need to stop saying foolish things that make hurting hearts hurt harder.

We need to admit that God allows much more than we can handle alone.

And then turn to the One that can help us handle the load.

do not want you to be uninformed

Christmas Morning Prayer for Hurting Hearts

Oh, dear one who opened your eyes to the morning light carrying wounds so deep no one can see!

I am so, so sorry.

When things have gone terribly wrong it’s hard to get up and make merry.

I know.

grief is love unfinished

But that first Christmas felt more like heartache and less like ho-ho-ho.  So you are in good company.

You don’t have to pretend that nothing has changed but you can reach out and take hold of what remains.

You don’t have to hide your tears or your memories but you can share them with people who love you and long to help you carry the legacy of the one you miss.

grief like joy is holy receipt pink

Today may be long.

But it is only one day.

You can make it.

You will make it.

I promise.

May you experience the Presence of the Christ of Christmas no matter how dark and lonely and sad you feel.  May your heart hold onto hope regardless of how tempted it is to give in to despair.  May the Holy Spirit Who overshadowed Mary, overwhelm you and fill you with grace and mercy.  May you hear the Father whisper, “Courage, My child” to your soul.

And more than all this, may you know that you are seen, you are loved and you are being carried.  ❤

~Melanie DeSimone

 

 

Christmas Drama

We’ve whitewashed everything about this scene:  beatific Mary gazing serenely at a cleaned up baby cozy in a cleaned up manger towered over by Joseph and surrounded by adoring shepherds and freshly groomed, sweet smelling animals.

It was nothing like that.

Birth is pain and sweat and effort.

And messy.  So, so messy.

I like to think more clearly about what that night was like.  It helps my heart to know that even while God was being birthed as a man into the world He created, He didn’t hide the hard.

The world was a mess on the first Christmas night, but Jesus came. He came wearing a name of endless hope and promise: ‘God with us.’ God is with us when the money runs out, with us when the bad news comes, with us when the holiday isn’t happy, and with us when everyone else disappears. The question this Christmas is not, ‘Will Jesus show up?’ The question is, ‘Will I receive Him, even if He’s all I have?’

Today is a good day to give yourself permission to be the real you in front of the real God. You don’t have to hide your hurt or sin away. He comes to heal, to save, and to rescue. Let earth receive her king.

~Bo Stern, When Holidays Hurt

There’s no evidence that Mary was spared labor pains or all the usual difficulty of bringing forth life.

And poor Joseph!  In a culture where women helped women he was alone and lonely with his young bride in a place hardly appropriate for birthing a baby much less for protecting her modesty and reputation.  He was unwitting midwife to the most important birth in history.

I’ve often wondered whether Mary and Joseph were relieved to see the shepherds who confirmed again the truth that their Son was Savior or if they were thinking the visit might have been better timed a few days later when things were tidier and the idea of parenthood had settled in.

Drama. 

All of it.

But the biggest drama that night was this:  Darkness was overcome.  Once and for all.  Never to reign again.

When He created the heavens and the earth, God declared, “Let there be light!” Physical light entered time and space.  Darkness was pushed back and limits set on its power and dominion.

Yet sin marred the light of God’s love, provision and perfect creation.

And from that moment on, darkness crept forward through the actions of men whose hearts were hard and by the designs of the evil one who has no heart but only destruction in his bosom.

But God….

He would not leave us this way.  He did not allow the darkness to win.

We were not abandoned.

We are not abandoned.

Emmanuel is here.

And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

manger empty

Cheerleaders Are More Important Than You Think

I‘ve never been the cheerleader type. 

No long legs, long hair or graceful moves that might have caught the eye of the ever watchful gatekeepers who picked the favored few each year to represent beauty on the sidelines.

So (I’ll be honest here) I really didn’t give the position much thought beyond the fact that those girls always got asked to dances first.

But in these years since Dominic left us I’ve learned something very important about cheerleaders-both the ones in the cute clothes at sporting events and the ones that come alongside others in real life:  they make a difference.  

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

Cheerleaders are more important than you think.

Someone calling courage can mean a heart holds on when it’s about to let go.

Someone reminding you what’s at stake if you give up can help you dig deep for that last bit of effort hiding inside.

Someone chanting rhythm to your plodding forward progress can provide another focus for your mind besides the throbbing pain in every step.  

Someone showing up and standing by your side even when the odds are against you says, “You are worth the effort-win or lose!”

courage-dear-heart

You don’t have to be a certain size or a certain type to be a real-life cheerleader.  

You don’t even have to fit into those cute little skirts.

The only qualification is an unqualified commitment to showing up and being seen and holding on and hanging in no matter where life takes the ones you love.  

You have the power to be the difference in somebody’s life. 

I guarantee it.

So get out there and cheer them on! 

cheerleaders

Repost: When You Think You Can’t Hold On-Let Go

So many ways to be reminded of how hard it is to hold on in these days and weeks around Christmas.

If your heart is barely able to beat, the pressure to be “hap-hap-happy” can send you over the edge.

If your home is empty of cheerful voices, the constant barrage of commercials touting family togetherness can leave you feeling oh, so lonely.

Read the rest here:  When You Think You Can’t Hold On