Sometimes I’m envious of folks hobbling along in those plastic boots designed to support an injured leg or ankle and aid healing.
Not because of the injury–I’m thankful I’ve never broken a bone-but because it’s an outward warning to anyone who might otherwise be impatient or insensitive that they just can’t go any faster.
I think there ought to be some kind of t-shirt, pin or banner that gives the same kind of warning for those of us walking around with broken hearts and broken lives.
But there isn’t.
Except for the first shell-shocked days immediately following Dominic’s death, I look pretty much the same as I always have.
Most of us do.
If you lined up a hundred parents and scattered ten in the group who had suffered child loss, very few people would be able to single them out.
The giant heart wound we bear is barely noticeable to the uninitiated.
Yet even years later, we need extra support, extra care, extra grace to help us continue to heal.
There’s no plastic boot to fit around a broken heart. But there are things friends and family can do to create safe spaces that protect it.
- Remember my heart is tender and easily bruised.
- Speak about my child in Heaven. When I hear his name it is music to my ears.
- Allow me to graciously bow out of activities or gatherings that are noisy, busy or filled with people I don’t know.
- Don’t change the subject when I become emotional because you are uncomfortable-acknowledge my pain as a perfectly acceptable response to an unfathomable loss or just hug me.
- Help me carry the light and life of my missing child by sharing memories, photographs or mementos. It’s a great gift to know that my child is spoken about, remembered and loved by others.
- Recognize that while I am stronger, the absolute weight of my burden isn’t lighter. On some days it’s heavier than others so don’t be surprised by tears that seem out of place or out of time.
- Remember important dates like my child’s birthday or memorial service day or even when he or she would have graduated high school or college if denied that opportunity. My heart mark all those silent grief anniversaries even when no one else recognizes them. It can be awfully lonely. Compassionate companionship expressed in a note, text or call helps so very much.
- Please don’t give up on me! There may be seasons when i isolate in an effort to protect my heart. I know it’s hard to continue to reach out to someone who won’t reach back, but sometimes I just don’t have the strength to do it even when the distance is short. Try again in a little while.
If you know someone whose child has run ahead to Heaven, don’t ignore the wound.
Don’t insist that they walk as fast or as unencumbered as you might.
Be willing to slow down and walk with them awhile.