I write a lot about what bereaved parents (me!) wish others knew or understood about child loss and this Valley we are walking. And I am thankful for every person outside the child loss community who chooses to read and heed what I write.
But I want to take a minute to tell those of you who are not part of this awful “club” that I get it-I really do get it–when you need to put distance between yourself and me or other people walking a broken road.
We all love to think that life is a never-ending ascent toward bigger, better and more enjoyable moments.
Our children are born and we think only of their future,not their future deaths.
It’s something I hear often from bereaved parents-sleep is elusive.
Falling asleep was nearly impossible in the first days and weeks after Dominic’s accident. I would lie down utterly exhausted but simply not be able to close my eyes because behind the lids scrolled the awful truth that my son was never coming home again.
Eventually my body overcame my mind and I would drift off for an hour or two but couldn’t stay asleep.
It was years before I finally developed something that resembled a “normal” sleep pattern. Even now I wake at four practically every morning-the time when the deputy’s knock sounded on my door.
Sleep is important. I can’t do the work grief requires if I go too long without it.
I have used (and still use!) various tips and tricks to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. Here are a few of them.
Boy, do I envy my cats’ ability to fall asleep any place, any time.
I’ve lived with chronic physical pain for over a decade and there are nights when it is hard to go to sleep-when it is impossible to ignore the pain. But I have never thought of myself as having trouble sleeping.
Our family had only recently upgraded to smartphones when Dominic left us so we didn’t have the treasure trove of photos and real time videos so many folks have today.
I often wish for more of those but there’s not one thing I can do about it.
Even now I don’t think we record as many family moments as we should-there’s just a subtle whisper, “He’s not here” that plays on repeat in the background when we get together.
Like so many other things after loss, photographs are complicated now.
I remember everything about the first formal family photograph after Dominic died.
It was two months to the day since we buried him, and his older brother was getting married. A day we had planned for and looked forward to for a long time. It marked a new beginning, a new life, but the spectre of death veiled my eyes and whispered in my ears.
Standing there, smiling and holding back the tears, my heart cried,”One of us is missing!” and I wanted to shout, “Don’t take the photo. Don’t memorialize the absence of my son.”
I swallowed the words and have an album full of evidence that he wasn’t there.
A little review as we get to the last post in our series: Trying to stuff or hide my pain from myself, God and others is fruitless and unhelpful.
I’ve got to breathe out the sorrow, doubts, angst and disappointment to make room for the life-giving breath of Truth and the Holy Spirit.
And then I need to do one more thing. I must appropriate the strength and courage of my Savior-the Author and Finisher of my faith.
It is possible to endure. It is possible to finish well. It is possible to hold onto hope and follow the Light and Love of Jesus through this Valley.
My friend and fellow bereaved mom, Margaret Franklin, Ryan’s mom, shared a beautiful Dutch word with me “Sterkte” (pronounced STAIRK-tah).
It literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more. It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insumountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.
Not MY strength, but HIS.
It’s the strength Isaiah meant when he wrote:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 KJV
This is what it means to appropriate God’s strength:
When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart. My heart shattered into a million pieces. And after almost eight years, I’ve yet to even FIND all of those pieces much less put them back together.
So what does a heart do when that happens?Because, try as I might, I cannot stop time.
Even THAT awful day only lasted 24 hours.
When the sun rose again, the pain was still there. And behind that pain and mixed with it was something else-disappointment, disaffection, distrust.