I’ve found myself in a bit of a writing funk these past weeks. Once January draws to a close (a short reprieve from surviving the holidays) the calendar barrels on to the anniversary of that fateful day.
This will be the seventh time I’ve weathered that period where I mark all the “lasts” and try to honor Dominic’s life and not only focus on his death.
For someone who used to be able to draw up a game plan for any occasion, I am still out of my depth when it comes to commemorating the date of my son leaving for Heaven.
So I’m sharing this again-as much for me as for anyone else. It’s just plain hard. But I hope these ideas help another heart find a way through the minefield of remembering.
I first shared this post three years ago when I was approaching the four year milestone of Dominic’s leaving for Heaven.
By that time most folks who knew me when he died had relegated that part of my story to some ancient past that surely I was over by now. I’d met others who had no clue my heart skipped a beat on a regular basis because one of my children was buried in the churchyard down the road.
And even the closest ones-the ones I thought would understand forever-were sometimes impatient with my ongoing refusal to leave Dominic behind and be “healed” of my grief.
What I long for more than anything as the seventh anniversary of his departure draws near is simply this: Let me be me, whatever that looks like.
Don’t try to fit my journey into your mold.
Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave. Try not to disappoint people. Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”
There are all kinds of ways child loss plays with your head.
One of the most common and often repeated questions among bereaved parents (especially those who have lost their only child , all their children or a child before or at birth) is this: Am I still a mama (or daddy)?
Short answer: YES. Absolutely!
The fact that your child has taken up residence in Heaven and is no longer here to hold and love and parent on earth changes NOTHING about your status.
Yesterday I finished a short video for a bereaved parents event that should have been completed a week (or two!) ago.
I just kept putting it off and putting it off for no good reason other than I didn’t want to do it.
It wasn’t hard, didn’t cover ground I haven’t already explored dozens of times and really only took about thirty minutes to complete including set up and recording.
But I just wasn’t feeling it.
I’ve been more than a little undermotivated these past few months and as I enter what I call my “season of sorrow” marking Dominic’s departure for Heaven, it’s gotten worse.
There have been a lot of changes and adjustments in the past twelve months-some associated with the larger pandemic story and impact and some peculiar to my family. All of those in addition to the usual ebb and flow of grief (yes, even after nearly seven years!) have contributed to a (not laudable) attitude of, “What difference does it make?”.
It’s kind of the emotional equivalent of stretchy pants. It’s easy to ignore a few extra pounds or inches as long as you can still fit in your clothes.
I’m weary of death.
Weary of daily social media posts pitting one “side” against the other as if there could possibly be any “winners” in this awful scenario where the virus is claiming lives and the attempt to limit death is claiming businesses, young folks’ college years and individuals’ mental health as they face isolation and devastation.
I’ve been weepy the past few days thinking of the parents who have had to bury children (whatever age) and spouses burying lifetime partners. I don’t have an answer for any of this except that I wish we would all be more compassionate and less territorial or political.
There is a very happy and exciting visit on the horizon that is lighting a fire under my backside. I hope I can overcome my lack of motivation and choose to lean in and work hard to get ready for it.
I want to, with all my heart.
I hope to, with as much energy as I can muster.
My default (in the past) has always been running wide open.
Imagine being used to the modern convenience of electricity at the flip of a switch and then being suddenly plunged into darkness and disconnection.
Unprepared-no matches, no alternative fuel sources, no extra warm clothes for winter days and nights-just plucked from the world you knew and dropped into a world you didn’t.
That’s what it felt like when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. No warning, no chance to think through what life might be like, what changes I would have to accommodate, how I would need to face the days, weeks, months and years of his absence.
If we haven’t already we will soon surpass the total number of Americans killed in WW II (in four years) with the number of Americans killed by (or whose deaths were hastened by) COVID19 (in less than a year).
In addition to those grieving the death of a loved one are those grieving the death of financial security, jobs, dreams and freedom.
May I just tell you this?
You are not invisible. Your struggle matters. Your everyday bravery in opening eyes to an unchanged and devastating reality is laudable and noted.
Child loss is not the only devastating life circumstance that can make a person want to hide in bed.
Every single day, broken hearts, broken bodies and limping spirits open their eyes to the dawn and choose to get up and get going.