Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

I have no doubt that if you asked my living children, they could give you examples when I’ve failed.  Some days are just too much.  Some events are too hard to attend.

Some moments I am overwhelmed

and undone

and there’s no way to hide it.  

But I’ve learned a few things that help me be present, attentive and joyful for the beautiful things that are happening around me.

One of those is to set aside time whenever possible to “pre-grieve” an upcoming celebration or gathering.

hand-coffee-roosevelt

I allow my heart to feel all the things it needs to feel.  I journal the questions and comments and (sometimes) anger that would otherwise overflow and ruin a moment.  I write to Dominic and tell him how much I miss him, how much I wish he were here and how very hard it is to mark another happy occasion without him.

I mentally rehearse walking in, greeting people, making small talk. 

I think ahead to any big moments that might tap emotions I need to hold in check.  I even plan an “escape route” should I need it. Just knowing it exists has always been enough so far. 

Sometimes I find a song that suits my mood.  

I cry.  

And then I choose a token I can wear or slip in my pocket to remind me that I’ve got this.

I can show up and smile (honestly) because I’ve already loosed the dam of grief and let the stored up torrent flow over the spillway.

engagement party group shot (2)

I’ve learned the hard way that memories are precious.  I don’t want the ones I’m making now to always be tainted by sorrow and loss.  

Dominic is never far from my thoughts and always in my heart.  

I’m not abandoning nor forgetting him.

I honor him by honoring his siblings.  

Love lives.  

happy birthday balloons no words

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Really MY Responsibility? Letting Go of What I Can’t Control.

I’m one of those people that will answer a stranger’s question in a store if I think I can help.  

It’s how I’m made.  

Sometimes, though, that sense that “if I CAN help, I MUST help” is a burden.

I end up taking responsibility for all kinds of things that I shouldn’t.  I step in when I should just walk away.  I try to make folks happy when it is not in my power to do so.  I clean up messes I didn’t make and rob the one who DID make them the opportunity to grow and learn through a mistake.

 And, to be honest, I empty myself of the limited energy and resources I have this side of child loss.   

I’m trying to do better.  

I’m trying to let go and let others take their lumps.

I’m trying to shoulder only my OWN responsibility.  Because in the end, it’s all that I can really control.  

MY words, behavior, actions, efforts mistakes, ideas and consequences. 

The rest is up to others. 

is and is not my responsibility

Repost: Is My Son My “Guardian Angel”?

It’s really hard to wrap my mind around what exactly Dominic is doing now that he’s not here with me.  Sometimes I try to create a narrative or a scene or a story line that gives me something to hold on to.

It’s not easy though.  

So I absolutely understand why some parents think of their missing child as their “guardian angel”.  But that just doesn’t correspond to what Scripture tells me about what happens after death.

I firmly believe that there is a heaven and that my son is there, in the presence of Jesus and the saints that have gone before.

Read the rest here:  Is My Son My “Guardian Angel”?

Rainy Days and Mondays…

I don’t have to leave my house to “go” to work.  

Most everything I have to do is on these 35 acres or within a mile of my home.  And my routine is pretty much the same seven days a week.

So Mondays aren’t really all that big a deal.  But rainy days?  Well, those make EVERYTHING more challenging.  

It’s been one heck of week here.  Heavy rain for at least an hour or more each day means that it’s so soggy I can barely tell the difference between the mud and the manure (and that’s an important distinction to make around here!).

My driveway is a river.  I haven’t had to fill water troughs for days because it rains as much as the horses, donkeys and goats drink.

rain and gully

Gray days infect my soul with a kind of weariness that’s hard to express.

I’m always just a breath or two away from overwhelming sadness, and when there is day after day after day of rain and clouds and mud and muck it often overtakes me.

I try so hard to buck up and ignore it.  But I’m not always successful.  

Mornings are good.  If I sleep well the night before, I can get going and momentum carries me through until a little after lunchtime.  Somewhere between three and four in the afternoon,  I usually lose the battle.

Willpower just isn’t enough to overcome the sense of “what’s the use” that nips at my heels like a terrier chasing a squirrel.  

So I usually give in.  Sometimes I even go on to bed.  

I feel like a failure.  

I used to be able to work hard for a good 18 hours out of every 24. 

Not anymore. 

Especially on rainy days…

 

Real Love or a Paper Stand In?

My youngest son was born on Valentine’s Day.  

It wasn’t planned that way but escalating blood pressure meant that, ready or not, here he came!  

It’s been a lot of fun to have this day so often focused on romantic love (which, let’s be real rarely lives up to the hype!) focused instead on him and family love.  

julian in mountains

My habit the past few years has been to expand that focus even further and explore the edges of God’s love, my love for others and what love in action looks like.

Too often I SAY I love someone but refuse to DO the loving thing.

Truth is, love is hard.  It’s costly.  It can be uncomfortable. 

It almost always involves sacrifice.  

love in action

And if I’m not careful, I can let valentines and candy and flowers be a paltry stand in for the real thing. 

February is not the only month in the year that tempts me to give a token and walk away instead of giving myself and sticking around to help in meaningful ways.  

So I try to keep Jesus’ words before my eyes: 

For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.

~John 15:13 TPT

I try to focus on love in action instead of only love in words

Am I the Good Samaritan or am I one of those who toss a prayer from across the way and walk on, comfortable in my piety and clean clothes?  

Good-Samaritan-cropped

I want to be the Good Samaritan.  

Truly I do.  

 

 

Torches In The Dark

There are so many life circumstances that plunge a heart into darkness.  

Child loss is certainly one of them, although not the only one.  

And when you’re in the dark, stumbling around, trying to avoid the sharp corners and looking, looking, looking for a tiny sliver of light to guide you out, it is terrifying.  

If you don’t have a pocket full of matches or a flashlight or a lantern, you are at the mercy of whoever cares enough to come back for you.

I am so thankful for the friends and family who never tire of my fearful cries when I find myself in dark places.  

They come running.  

They don’t leave me there.  

Sometimes all they have is a tiny candle themselves, a sliver of hope they are clinging to.  But they raise it high , share its glow with me and together we take a step forward toward the brighter light of day.

I will never, ever forget the ones who come to me with a torch.

They help my heart when I can’t help myself.  

They refuse to leave me in the dark.  

 

you never forget a person who came to you with a torch in the dark

Photo of man with lantern by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

Repost: Flying Lessons

I wrote this last year when thinking about how easy it is for me to get lost in the clouds on this journey.

Like a disoriented pilot flying without any visual cues, I have to make a decision:  do I trust my unworthy feelings or do I trust the utterly reliable compass found in the Word of God?

I can’t deny that I FEEL certain things, but I can choose not to ACT on every feeling.

It was a lesson I saw my father teach many young pilots as they learned to trust their instruments instead of their own faulty sense of direction.

My dad is a pilot and flight instructor.  

He’s flown everything from a single engine private plane to a fighter jet in all kinds of weather-good and bad.

When I was a little girl, he’d take me with him sometimes while he gave a flight lesson.  If he was teaching instrument flying, the student would wear a hood that restricted his vision to just the plane’s instrument panel.

No external visual cues allowed.

Read the rest here:  Flying Lessons

Grief Lasts As Long As Love Does

I know that before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I didn’t really think a lot about grief.  

I had lost grandparents and other relatives, but no one so close to me that the thought of how I was supposed to relate to them after death made a daily difference.  

I realized when Dominic left, that all the love I ever felt for him I still felt. 

All the parts of me that belonged to him still belonged to him and the parts of him that belonged to me still belonged to me.  

grief is the last act of love angel and candle

Love doesn’t die.  Love lives as long as the person doing the loving has breath.  

Grief doesn’t replace love. 

It IS love.  

all acts of grief are normal

Have A Day. It Doesn’t Have to Be a Good One.

I don’t know about you, but I think of every day as a blank canvas and it’s my responsibility to paint something useful or beautiful or helpful on it.

I’m a list maker so each night before I drift off, I usually jot down 3 or 300 things I would like to do the next day.

I get up, get started and then (more often than I’d like to confess!) hit a wall.

hit the wall yoda

Sometimes it’s the wall of circumstance.  Things happen I didn’t expect and suddenly the hours I was going to spend cleaning the garage are spent cleaning a mess.

Sometimes it’s the wall of community. Someone calls.  Or a multitude of someones call. I hate to admit it but I’m really not a fan of the telephone.  Like Alexander Graham Bell, I consider it more of an inconvenience and interruption than a means of delightful connectivity.  Minutes slip by and I can’t recover them.

I love my friends and family. 

But I’d rather chat while we are doing something together in person than over the phone.

Sometimes it’s the wall of pain.  Rheumatoid Arthritis, like all autoimmune diseases, is unpredictable.  Usually I can tell in the early morning hours if my joints are going to cooperate on a given day.  But sometimes they surprise me and I find that all that yard work will have to wait.

Sometimes it’s the wall of grief or sadness or longing or any of a multitude of feelings.  I have gotten pretty skilled at steering clear of grief triggers when I know I have lots of things to do.  I don’t listen to the songs friends post on their timelines or read too many comments on the sites for bereaved parents.  But I can’t anticipate random sights, sounds or memories.  I’ve been working on a room, cleaning drawers, moving stuff tucked in corners and come across a Lego man or a pellet from the air soft guns they weren’t supposed to shoot inside the house (but of course did anyway) when the boys were young.  That does me in and I have to walk away.

Sometimes it’s the wall of “What difference does it make anyway?!!”This one I usually see approaching in the distance when there have been too many days and too little progress.  Or a string of gray, rainy mornings.  Or multiple failed attempts at fixing something.  And then I throw up my hands and decide my paltry attempts at controlling my corner of the world hardly matter, so why keep doing them.

So I give in and let myself just have a day. 

tired cat

It doesn’t have to be a good one or a productive one or even a cheerful one.  The glass can just be a glass.  I don’t have to pretend it’s half-full or declare it half-empty.

half-full

And after a rest I usually remember that what I used to find impossible is now possible;  what used to be hard, is often a little easier.

I am stronger and better able to carry this load.

Sorrow is no longer all I feel nor my son’s absence all I see.

And although THIS day may be lost.  It’s only ONE day.

It’s perfectly OK for me to sit down with a cup of coffee, a book or a movie and let myself off the hook.

The sun will rise tomorrow and I can start over.

I will start over.

have a day

Why Am I Still Writing?

I ask myself this question often:  Do I want to keep writing in this space?  

Sometimes the answer is a resounding, “no!”. 

Because while I love to write, some days it’s hard to put together words in a way others can understand.  Sometimes I’m tired, or rushed or just tired of thinking about how grief and loss impact my life.

And then I ask the follow up:  Do I still have anything to say?

That’s the one that keeps me here. 

Because as soon as I think the answer is “no” to that question,  a conversation or a comment thread or a personal experience brings up something that I feel I need or want to write about.

So I sit down and begin again.  

your-story-could-be-the-key

I made a commitment in the beginning to be as honest as possible and I’ve done that the best I know how while protecting identities of those who are part of my story but who have their own stories to tell (should they choose).

I also promised to be transparent about my thoughts on God, on faith, on life everlasting.  I feel like I’ve done that.  In fact, I’m pretty sure some of my rambling has shocked friends and family from time to time.  But I’m not afraid of shocking God.  He knows my frame, knows my heart and cannot be made small by my questions or doubts.

I try to do research when appropriate to bring together resources and ideas for bereaved parents in one place. 

One of the most frustrating things to me in the early months of missing Dominic was how hard it was to find good resources.  The Internet is not your friend if you are looking for local and accessible help for practical problems.  It was over a year and a half before I found a closed group of like-minded bereaved parents.  But once I did, oh, what a difference that made in my journey!

So if you are interested in finding a safe, closed group, ask me.  I know of several.  

And then there’s the sweet comments that (usually) mamas send my way-either through Facebook or here.  When someone writes that looking for the blog post each morning helps them get out of bed-well, that’s both encouragement and a serious responsibility.  I don’t want to not show up and disappoint a heart.  Even when all I have to offer is only my words.

So for now, at least, I plan to stay.  

When my life circumstances make it impossible to carry on or I run out of things to say (which my mother will swear won’t happen!) then I’ll quit.

I send each post into cyberspace with a prayer-even for my readers who don’t believe in prayer: 

“Father God, help each heart hold onto hope.  Send a ray of sunshine into every cloudy day.  Bring someone along who will listen, who will care and who will offer a hand to the one who is too weary and broken to take another step.  Help them believe that they are seen, they are loved and that they matter.  Overwhelm them with Your love, grace and mercy.”

You DO matter.

I DO care.

If you need to talk, message me. 

If you need a safe space, I’ll direct you to it.  

I’m not going anywhere.  

compassion and stay with you