Help! My Family Won’t Talk About My Missing Child.

 

At first everyone talked about him.

It’s what people do just after a person leaves this world and leaves behind only memories.

It comes natural before the unnatural fact of child loss settles in and begins to make everyone uncomfortable.

But at some point after the funeral and way before the tears dried up, people stopped feeling easy mentioning his name.

And when I mentioned him, they weren’t sure whether they should just let those words fall with a “thud!” between us or pick up the conversational ball and run with it.

It’s a bit easier to understand when friends do it.

But so, so many bereaved parents lament the fact that even family members stop saying their missing child’s name aloud.

They stop sharing memories and stop acknowledging the place he or she holds in a parent’s heart regardless of their permanent address.

It hurts.  A LOT. 

I realized after the first six months or so that most people (including my family) didn’t know HOW to talk about my missing son.

So I began modeling it for them: I spoke of memories in past tense as I would for anyone, I spoke of character traits in present tense– because he is still all that plus some in Heaven-and I refused to ignore the elephant in the room.

grief is often the elephant in the room

I told them it was impossible to make me sadder by mentioning Dominic but it was very possible to make my burden heavier by NOT mentioning him.  They were not reminding me that he was gone, I breathe his absence in and out like oxygen all day long.  

miss-you-every-day

 

I know it seems unfair that we must simultaneously learn by (awful and heartbreaking!) experience and also educate those around us, but it is what it is.

If I’m honest, though, before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I didn’t really know how to talk about a young person who died.  It’s natural to reminisce about Grandmama’s favorite recipe or the old-fashioned way she did her hair.  It’s positively Unnatural to speak in past tense about a young, vibrant human being that you never expected to outlive.

There are always going to be some folks-even family-who cannot or will not speak about my child in Heaven.  

I can’t force them to do it.  

But I can encourage the ones who do by telling them what a beautiful gift it is to hear his name on their lips.  

 

mention them teddy bear

Repost: Anger or Sadness? Or Both?

We live in an angry society.

Social media is full of rants about this and that.  Television blares raised voices shouting over one another in what passes for news coverage.  T-shirts are emblazoned with one-liners intended to provoke others.

We tolerate and even embrace anger as a legitimate emotion.

Yet we rarely make room for mourning.  We hide our tears.  We shame those who don’t hide theirs as “weak” and “soft” and “cowardly” or worse.

Read the rest here:  Anger or Sadness? Or Both?

 

Accepting My Limitations

I’m no quitter.

I grew up with the mantra, “You can be anything you want to be if you want to be it badly enough” ringing through my childhood.

I added this one for my kids:  “Failure is not an option.”

But I’ve got to admit, while both are great motivators when motivation is the missing ingredient, they are lies.

I cannot be “anything I want to be”.  I can be the best me possible, but I cannot be anyone but me.

authenticity embracing who we are daily practice

And failure-well, how do you want to define that?  Is it failure when you have poured every ounce of energy into a person or a project and things just don’t work like you hoped they would?  Is it failure when despite all the planning, pursuing and perseverance a heart can muster life takes a giant left turn you never expected?

One of my favorite but most exasperating memories of Dominic is when he was about six months old and would wake every morning close to 3 a.m. and refuse to go back to sleep.  Now, judge me if you want to, but this whole “let them cry it out” thing was not in my parenting wheelhouse.  With two other siblings and a small house, if he was crying for hours, it meant soon everyone would be awake.

So after nursing him and trying to get him to go back to sleep, I finally gave up and just went into the living room and let him play.

This went on for weeks-my body was so, so tired and I was frustrated beyond imagination.

Until I realized that I was burning more energy being upset over the inevitable than I was in just getting up and enjoying the one on one time with my baby.

So instead of fussing every early morning, I started getting up, making coffee, playing with him and then doing necessary chores while he prattled on with his toys.

I accepted what was out of my control and made the best of it.

That’s how I feel this side of Dominic running ahead to heaven.

I am not the person I used to be.

I cannot do all the things I used to do.

I need to acknowledge that.  I need to let go of unrealistic expectations that only drive me to distraction and despair. 

courage starts with showing up water

I’m freeing myself to lean into the life I have NOW by admitting it’s not the life I USED to have.

I’m not giving up. 

I am letting go of excess emotional baggage.

But I’m holding onto hope with both hands. 

holding onto hope dandilion

Speaking Truth

In the South, we tend to pussyfoot around hard truths because most of us grew up with the admonition, “Now just be nice!”

And while that makes for charming dinner table conversation, it makes for lousy long-term relationships.

Because we all know the longer you live with, work with and love another body, the more things that should be said but aren’t add up.

Pretty soon the pile is so big it obscures the love or fun or shared interests that should be holding hearts together and instead they drift apart.

I haven’t been all that good at following the southern tradition of code words and cute phrases that mask true intent. But I used to be guilty of it from time to time.

These past years of heartache and hardship have pretty much stripped all the veneer that was left off my tongue.

I doubt you will find a soul that would call me a silver-tongued devil.  They’re more likely to call me a brash something else.

But I have important things to say and I don’t want to waste time sugar-coating them.  I don’t want the meat of my message hidden inside a puff pastry of silly words.  I believe truth should be easy to swallow but not necessarily tasty.

Often the most efficacious medicine leaves a nasty aftertaste.

So I’m here to tell you:  don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.  

All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.  

If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.

It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable. 

But it’s worth it.  

And it’s really the only way to authentic and lasting relationships.  

business-authenticity

Repost: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here:  Healthy Boundaries in Grief

Repost: No Mirrors, Please!

I hate mirrors.  Not because I’m ashamed of my wrinkles or my fat hips.  But because the face staring back at me now is not one I recognize.

I see someone who’s supposed to be me and can’t quite place her.

There’s a vague resemblance to the person that used to look me in the eye while I was brushing my teeth or fixing my hair.

But now, she is “other”unfamiliar, strange in a “slightly off” kind of way.

Read the rest here:  No Mirrors, Please!

Permission To Grieve

You wouldn’t think we need permission from total strangers, friends and extended family to grieve but many times it feels like we do.

Odd looks, questioning stares and wagging tongues can make a heart doubt whether it’s really OK to do this or that while trying not to fall apart.

Well I’m here to tell you-ignore all that!

You have permission to do whatever it takes to endure this journey as long as you are not harming yourself or others.

grief-is-loves-souvenir

I have all kinds of little things I do to help my heart hold on.

Some of them are quite public and others only I know about.

Either way, it’s no one’s business but mine.  

I do try not to make other people uncomfortable but I draw the line at the place my sanity outweighs their discomfort.  I won’t apologize for utilizing whatever supports keep me keeping on and not giving up.

So if you are worrying more about what other people think than what helps your heart, PLEASE STOP! 

You are free to be who you have to be.

You are free to do what you have to do.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to grieve.  

You have permission to grieve what has been and what feels a little bit lost, but you are not lost. You are right where He has placed you for such a time as this. Walk on. Lift your chin and fix your eyes. This is your remaking. You don't have to explain it all, you don't have to have any answers, and you don't have to hold it together.