Walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, A Mother's Journey of Child Loss
I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.
When I decided to make my thoughts, experience and heart public in September 2015 I had no preconceived notions regarding who might read what I wrote or what impact it might have on anyone’s life but my own.
I think I simply felt like what I had inside of me just couldn’t be contained.
I had been writing in my journal since the morning Dominic left for Heaven but those pages were no longer large enough. So I ended up here.
I’ve been amazed at how gracious, how kind, how supportive and how encouraging the community of hearts that have gathered around these blog posts have proven to be-to me and to one another.
When I asked y’all if you thought a book might be a good idea I was blown away by the response.
Thank you for stepping up and giving me feedback.
So many of your comments touched my heart! I’m humbled that choosing to be transparent has been helpful to even one other grieving parent.
I think I will pursue a print compilation of what I’ve written in this space.
I doubt it will be available very soon as I intend to investigate various options.
I promise to keep you updated!
In the meantime, know that every comment, every share, every “like” encourages me.
It will soon be seven years since Dominic stepped into Heaven.
It’s really hard to write that and harder still to live it.
In those years I’ve spent a great deal of time dragging out what I thought I knew about God, about how He works in the world, about how we take Scripture and wrap it around preconceived notions to make us feel safer and more in control.
I’ve had bad days and better days. Days of doubt and days of faith.
But every day I’ve felt assured of this truth: Even when my grip on Jesus is slipping, He holds me fast.
I’ve mentioned it before.
I’ve encouraged others not to resist.
But I want to be absolutely clear: Losing my son made me doubt EVERYTHING.
I’ve had more than one person suggest I compile these blog posts into a print resource.
It would be a daunting task.
Much of what I write is meant to be a short, stand alone musing about one aspect of grief or another and I’m not sure how to weave individual posts into some sort of cohesive fabric or narrative that would be worth anyone’s time or effort to read.
So I have an honest question: Do you, faithful reader, think such a thing would be helpful?
Is it worth the time, energy, effort and seeking publisher permissions for quotes?
If you do think it’s a good idea, what format might be best? Short essays/posts collected by topic or a narrative of my journey punctuated by excerpts from blog entries?
This is NOT a vanity post, it’s a genuine question.
For some of us life’s twists and turns include unfathomable pain, sorrow and loss. Broken hearts beating side by side in the dark often find it difficult to reach out across a chasm of grief.
Marriage is hard work under the best of circumstances. Child loss makes it harder.
But there are ways to create space for one another and to extend grace even in this Valley.
It’s no secret that men and women are different.
It’s the subject of everything from romantic comedies tohundreds of books.
“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” and all that.
So it shouldn’t surprise those of us walking this Valley that our spouse may be grieving very differently than we do. But it often does. Because everything is amplified when it echoes off the high mountains on either side.
And just when we need it most-for ourselves and for extending to others-grace is often in short supply.
Even that most awful first day I swallowed tears as I made phone calls and airline reservations and asked for help from those I knew would lend it.
But sometimes the weight of grief and life and stress and pain is simply too much to bear.
So falling apart is really the only option.
And that’s OK.
I can let go and let the tears flow.
I can hide under the covers or inside the house and not answer the phone.
I don’t have anything to prove.
Because I know the One who will hold me until I feel strong enough to pick up the pieces and carry on.
And when you are old, I will still be there, carrying you. When your limbs grow tired, your eyes are weak,And your hair a silvery gray, I will carry you as I always have. I will carry you and save you.
This year has been challenging in ways I could never have imagined nor anticipated. It’s been that way for most of us I think.
Communal grief, pain and loss have wrapped themselves around the unique grief, pain and loss of hearts everywhere.
Definitely plenty to give a person pause.
And while I do believe it’s a good thing to reflect every so often I’m not certain it has to be on the same date every year.
But since the world seems to agree on this one, I’ll join in:
Turning a calendar page doesn’t guarantee a fresh start. Resolutions, affirmations, hopeful aspirations can’t erase the marks we bear from previous life experiences. I’m all for declaring boldly that tomorrow may be better but I’ve learned the hard way it might be worse. So I hold my hands open either way and adjust my stance to accept whichever it may be.
Attitude makes a difference.I despise silly little mantras that claim I can will my way out of every dark and desperate situation.Bad things happen. Sorrow and sadness are appropriate and reasonable reactions to hard times. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but feel the feelings, let the tears fall and allow my heart to experience the pain. But I can choose to turn my attention to whatever may still be beautiful in my world. I can lift my eyes to tiny flickers of light on the horizon. I can embrace joy along with sorrow.
My worth is not tied to external accomplishments or society’s arbitrary markers of success. I refuse to listen to the enemy’s lies whispered in my ear, “You are less than. You are a failure. You only count if your ‘wins’ outweigh your ‘losses'”. A new year may feel like a new beginning but it can also be a stark reminder of last year’s list of resolutions that may or may not have yielded measurable progress. Striving for improvement is healthy. Beating myself up for not meeting every goal is not.
Things can be replaced, people can’t. I’m not making light of the very real and very painful loss so many people have suffered this year as businesses failed, income dwindled and hopes for financial progress dashed. It’s no small thing to come back to ashes where your home once stood. Standing in line at a community food bank for a box when you used to stand in line at the grocery store is humbling. But if my family is alive and (relatively) well at the end of the year, we can work the rest out together.
The only investment with a guaranteed return is love. Sure I try to plan for the future. I eat right, exercise, save money and maintain my home and car all in the hope that investing time, energy and effort today will pay off tomorrow. But truth is (as we’ve all learned this year!) outside and unseen forces can undo the best laid plans and preparation. But love is never wasted or destroyed. All the love I pour into others lasts forever.
This time last year I was hope-filled and looking forward to a less stressful, amazing twelve months.
That’s not how it turned out.
I’ve learned some things though.
So I’ll carry that wisdom into 2021-no lofty resolutions or proclamations-and settle for survival. ❤