Challenge Accepted: Why Am I Still Here?

Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.

They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.

They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.

So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).

It was an excellent exercise.

I looked back over social media posts and blog posts from the half-decade and more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I could trace progress from breath-robbing, body-wracking, all-consuming sorrow to a gentler, muted and tender missing that made room for joy and beauty alongside the ever-present tangible absence of one of my children.

I also noted a transition from “spilling my guts” to “trail guide”.

I’m no longer primarily using this space to release feelings and thoughts I’m not comfortable tossing out in day-to-day conversation. Instead, I’m mostly thinking about and sharing what I’ve learned along the way-pointing out the pitfalls and (hopefully!) encouraging hearts to keep on keeping on.

I’ve given myself permission to repost earlier entries (please note dates when you click through) that represent more raw emotions without making apology for either the lack of time or energy to write something new or the angst I once felt.

I’m also choosing to limit my online interaction to an hour in the morning and maybe an hour in the evening.

I absolutely desire to speak encouragement, grace and hope to hearts that are struggling but still need to guard my own from overload.

And as for friends, family or strangers who think, “Goodness, gracious! She needs to MOVE ON!”.

I say, “How can I hide or hoard this hard-won wisdom and experience?”

This is my ministry.

I didn’t ask for it, but it’s mine.

I won’t run away.

So until the Lord tells me definitively He has another path for my life I’ll be here.

Every morning.

Child Loss: My Child is MORE Than an Addiction

We talk about a lot of things as if they didn’t reflect a real person and a real life.  

Addiction is one of them.  And let me just tell you, every single number is a life and behind every single life is a family.  

Statistics are easy to toss around until one of those numbers represents YOUR child.

My son was not an addict.  He was a health nut.  But he liked his motorcycle and never saw the contradiction between spending hours at the gym then putting that beautiful body on a fast moving, unprotected engine-on-wheels.  A helmet was not enough to save him that night.  

Addicts don’t start out wanting the life so many of them end up living.  

Read the rest here: Child Loss by Addiction

Fragile Vessel, Mighty God

I was asked by a precious fellow bereaved mama to write a guest post for a new and exciting ministry her family is launching in honor of their son, Rhett.

It was an interesting and challenging assignment to create a single entry that might give enough background to make my voice an authentic source of hope based on shared experience.

I spent over a week working it out but settled on what you have below: The essence of my story is I am a broken, fragile vessel whom God chooses to use to share His light, life and hope in a world full of searching hearts.

Child loss is MY cross. Yours may be something else.

But our great and faithful Lord can and will use us, if we let Him.

“But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. “

~2 Corinthians 4:7-10 VOICE

As a young mother of four stairstep children I copied out these verses and taped them to my bathroom mirror for encouragement.

I knew Paul was talking about his own hard times and troubles as he carried the Gospel to those who hadn’t heard but I felt certain God would allow them to minister hope and life to my fragile, worn out heart even if the pressure was coming from another place.

And He did.

Paul’s words became a touchstone I returned to many times over the decades between those early years and one very, very awful day.

When a deputy rang my doorbell in the wee hours of April 12, 2014 I was startled from sleep, unsure of why he was there and generally confused until the words that shattered my heart fell from his lips.

My third child would never be coming home again.

I can’t claim that my mind went immediately to a holy place. I didn’t rush into the arms of Jesus or feel overwhelmed by supernatural peace.

I simply felt overwhelmed.

Undone.

Broken.

In a little while-maybe ten minutes or so-I remember taking the hands of the two children who were with me and saying, “We will survive this. This will not break us. This will not end us.”

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was reminding my heart of the truth I’d been clinging to for all those years: We might be cracked and chipped but we would not be crushed. We might be confused but we were not abandoned. We were definitely knocked down but we would not be destroyed.

That night was only a beginning. I didn’t have the tiniest clue how much more challenging, painful, desperate and frightening things would become and how often I’d have to return to these verses.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I clung tightly to the promise of preservation in those verses. Now, I am drawn just as much to the promise of pain redeemed.

Paul never pretended that all those trials didn’t scar a heart. He never shied away from giving details about the suffering he endured. He never suggested that death wasn’t real or awful or hard.

I am not the woman I once was. Child loss has chipped away at my edges, poked holes in my self-sufficiency and revealed oh, so many fragile places.

Pain has definitely left its mark.

It’s tempting to try to cover up the tattered edges of my worn out soul but I’m convinced I’m a more authentic herald of the Good News precisely because of the loose threads and broken bits.

This journey is a hard one. There are no shortcuts, no detours, no easy paths through the tangled briers and over rocky steppes.

But my Shepherd King never leaves me.

I think sometimes our desire to demonstrate the power of Christ in our lives makes us long to tie things up into a perfect package.

I know I do-I want desperately to be able to say that I can see the good that can come from Dominic’s death. I long to be able to point to a finished monument of redeemed pain and restored joy.

But I’m compelled to tell it like it is.

And it is just plain HARD.

But God uses the broken things of this life to display His glory.

Because then there is NO DOUBT as to the Source of strength.  He leaves no room for boasting.

He declares His power and faithful love by taking those of us who are weak and stumbling and leading us home, redeemed and victorious.

“For look at your own calling as Christians, my brothers. You don’t see among you many of the wise (according to this world’s judgment) nor many of the ruling class, nor many from the noblest families. But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world calls weak to shame the strong. He has chosen things of little strength and small repute, yes and even things which have no real existence to explode the pretensions of the things that are—that no man may boast in the presence of God. Yet from this same God you have received your standing in Jesus Christ, and he has become for us the true wisdom, a matter, in practice, of being made righteous and holy, in fact, of being redeemed. And this makes us see the truth of scripture: ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

I Corinthians 1:26-31 PHILLIPS

Here’s the link to this new ministry: https://www.archwayofhope.org/

Check them out. ❤



Headlines and Heartstrings

I am a bit of a reformed news junkie.

It was one of the things I shared with Dominic since both of us were Political Science majors and had aspirations of a legal career.

In recent years I’ve found it healthier to eschew most newscasts and instead selectively choose printed news stories based on interest, relevance and headlines.

Success Kid Meme - Imgflip

Yesterday I was blindsided by what seemed innocuous enough, “Gas Prices Expected to Rise in Wake of Cyber-attack on Pipeline”. Curiosity led me to click and read the article.

Everything was just fine until I read this line, “Gas prices will soon reach levels not seen since 2014.” That’s when it hit me.

So. much. life. has been lived between Dominic’s leaving and this moment.

Living on a farm I’ve buried a lot of things in this Alabama dirt, I never thought my brother would be one of them. I miss you so much Hector Dominic DeSimone! ~Julian DeSimone

Of course I’m always aware to some degree that time is passing and he is drifting further and further behind relative to my family’s everyday experience. But I’m not often required to stop, take stock and really count the days and ways he hasn’t been part of all the things that fit between his last breath and my most recent one.

2014. My goodness that’s working it’s way to a decade!

And when you consider that college degrees are (ideally!) completed in four years, babies are in the womb for nine months before making an appearance, jobs can be won and lost in a week and retirement declared in thirty days-well, seven plus years is a very, very long time.

Sweet Ryker has only been part of our lives for just over two years.

My mama joined Dominic in heaven eighteen months ago.

The pandemic has forced uncomfortable changes and choices for more than twelve months.

My husband’s official retirement date was half a year ago.

And that’s just a few of the bigger changes since Dom left for Heaven!

I am thankful (didn’t think I’d ever really mean that) to have survived and, in many ways, thrived, since burying one of my children.

It’s been hard.

But I don’t want to rush my precious family into further grief and pain.

Even so I’m prone to sit, bewildered, that time refuses to stand still in light of the giant loss we’ve all suffered.

And sometimes even headlines remind my heart of that.

Grief Doesn’t Stay The Same

The first time I shared this post was two years ago-before my mother’s death.

It had been five long years since Dominic left us and I was beginning to notice reliable, positive changes in the heaviness and quality of grief.

Our grandson was born very premature but his story has a happy, happy ending! He’s growing even more and is such a delight.

There have been other changes too-Covid19, social isolation and my husband’s retirement-all impacted daily life and how I experience Dom’s absence.

I want to offer this bit of hope for those who are just beginning the awful journey of child loss-the pain softens, I’ve grown stronger and better able to carry it, and life, in all its varied forms keeps going.

There ARE some beautiful things ahead.

Hold on.

❤ Melanie

This life is not all sadness and sorrow, death and darkness.  

It was.  For a very, very long time all I could see was distant flickers of light.  

They were just enough to keep me going but not enough to lift the utter blackness that surrounded me.  

Read the rest here: Grief Changes

Holiday Hangover?

Sometimes the day or the week after a holiday seems extra hard.

Deflated. Exhausted. Weepy. Irritable. Discontented.

All words that can describe a heart once the dishes are washed and the celebration ended.

Some of y’all probably woke up thinking, “I did pretty good on Mother’s Day” only to be blindsided by the tears you managed to hide and the grief you managed to stuff.

Read the rest here: Holiday Hangover

I Know My Child Is Gone, But…

Seven years and most days I accept that it’s real like I accept the Theory of Relativity-factually true but I don’t really understand how it fits in my life.

When I pause and focus on, ”Dominic is gone” it’s just as shocking today as the very first day.

Even therapists get it wrong sometimes.

Especially therapists that only know what child loss is supposed to look like from books and lectures.

I understand how logical it seems that a parent should be able to accept his or her child is no longer alive. After all, most of us saw our child’s lifeless body and performed whatever rituals our hearts find most comforting.

Read the rest here: Am I Refusing To Accept My Child Is Gone?

My Eighth Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

When it first happened all I could think about was getting through a minute, then a day and then all the decisions and days leading up to a funeral or memorial service.  

There’s no road map.  

Even when others come alongside (and many, many did!) there’s just no easy way to navigate that part of the journey.

And then I realized that in addition to all the “regular” days that absolutely, positively  break your heart, I had to forge a path through “special” days.

It was overwhelming!

Read the rest here: My Seventh Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

Mother’s Day 2021: A Letter From the Child Not Here

I post this around Mother’s Day every year since my daughter, Fiona, wrote it in the voice of her brother who is in Heaven.

It helps my heart sort the mixed emotions that this day stirs up.

I’m not ONLY a bereaved mother. I’m a mother and grandmother of earthbound children too.

I’m grateful for all of them. So very, very grateful.

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this several years ago, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day.

Tenacious, Unyielding Trust

Just think-when our hearts hang onto hope in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, we are taking back territory from the enemy of our souls.

We are shedding light and spreading salt.

What a powerful testimony to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Read the rest here: Defiant Faith