Repost: Christmas Cards-Yes? No? Maybe?

I’m posting this again because last year it seemed to help some bereaved parents figure out something that plagues all of us:  what to do about Christmas cards after a child runs ahead to heaven.

This year I did things a little differently.  I actually sent out Thanksgiving cards (a week late since my mom was in the hospital) and included a similar note with those.

Whatever you decide to do, do it because it helps YOUR heart, not because you feel compelled to meet others’ expectations.  ❤

Getting Christmas cards out on time was always a challenge in my busy household.  

So for the last years of kids at home, we transitioned to sending New Year’s greetings.  It was easier to get a family photo with everyone home for Christmas, there was no artificial deadline to send them and we could include a “thank you” or respond to news in their Christmas letters.

I haven’t sent anything for three years.  

What could I say?  

And a family photo was out of the question.

Read the rest here:  Christmas Cards-Yes? No? Maybe?

What Else Can I Do?

I will confess right here that this week I am more than tired. 

I’m defeated. 

I have fought the good fight, tried hard to endure and worked myself nearly to death and in the end can’t move the challenging situations I face one inch closer to resolution.

And like I’ve written before here,these months and years after Dominic ran to heaven have amply demonstrated the truth of the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  It’s not the STRAW, it’s the unbelievable heavy weight the camel is already carrying!

That last, seemingly tiny, almost weightless additional burden sends the poor critter over the edge.

straw that broke camel back

But unlike a dumb animal, I don’t get to just lay down and give up.  My head and my heart tell me that if I do, the load will just shift to my family.  If I quit I can’t simply drift off into witless sleep where I don’t realize how hard I’m making it for everyone else.

So I don’t give up. 

I keep on keeping on. 

I raise my eyes to the sky and beg God to give me the grace and strength and help to endure. 

I beg for mercy-for some small token that things might just get better.  

I lean into the promises of God in Christ and hold on with both hands.  

What else can I do but keep praying to You even when I feel dark;

to keep writing about You even when I feel numb;

to keep speaking Your name even when I feel alone.

Come, Lord Jesus come.

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

-Henri Nouwen

 

What IS and IS NOT “Impossible”

I freely and publicly admit that until Dominic ran ahead to heaven I was just as likely as the next person to declare something “impossible” when it was really simply hard, distasteful or uncomfortable. 

Because before Dominic was snatched away in an instant-irretrievably lost to me this side of eternity-I lacked perspective.

I didn’t realize that as long as someone is breathing, there is hope. 

As long as there are choices, you can make them. 

As long as people offer to help, you can let them.

What I am facing may seem insurmountable but if money, time and/or energy can make a difference, then no circumstance is truly impossible.

So I carry an absolute yardstick in my heart:  death is the only utterly impossible situation.  

Anything that falls short of that holds out hope.

I can choose to grab hold or choose to let go, but I have a choice.  

It may be excruciating and hard and frustrating and foolhardy, but I can still hold on.  

 

 

Why I Have To Talk It Out

I admit I’m full of words.  When my mama came to pick me up when her best friend was babysitting for awhile, she said, “You can’t have her yet, she’s telling me all kinds of things!”

More than once my mouth got me in trouble.

It’s still the source of most of my problems.

But for a time after Dominic left I found that the only words I could muster beyond what was absolutely necessary were written in my journal.  Because the words I wanted to say were bitter and harsh and tasted bad as they came up my throat and threatened to roll off my tongue.

I didn’t want to tell the story of that early morning knock.  I didn’t want to speak aloud the terror that gripped my soul, the literal shattering of my heart, the unholy darkness that enveloped me.

I HAD to make phone calls.  I was forced to say, “Dominic is dead” over and over and over.  Then I wanted to hide in silence and stay on the fringe of conversations that filled our home and the church before we buried him.

It seemed easier to swallow the words than taste them.

But I couldn’t do that forever.

Eventually the words began to rot inside me and make the pain even worse.  I had to let them out.  I had to talk about it.  All of it.

The actual events.

The feelings associated with the accident.

The pain of choosing a cemetery plot, a casket, an order of service, of writing an obituary, of burying my son.

The awful emptiness that one life missing makes in a family of six.

The fact that at some point I woke from the stupor enough to wonder how the God I had worshiped for all these years let this happen.

And I needed someone to listen.  I needed someone to be a witness to my words.  It was no longer enough to write them down, wrap them up and hide them away.

They had to be spoken so that the power they had over my soul could be broken.

business-authenticity

Thank God for people who are willing to listen!  

I have friends and family who let me recite the same thing over and over and over so that each telling helps my heart toward healing.

I have several online and in-person communities of bereaved parents who do the same (and more!) because they understand precisely how I feel and can offer hope from their own stories of healing. *

Listening is love in action.

If you know someone whose heart carries great grief-and child loss is not the only hard journey hearts are makingoffer to listen. 

Give up a few minutes to hear how they are really doing, what is really hard, what they really need to say but may be afraid to speak aloud.  Leave spaces in conversation so a heart can work up the courage to share.  Don’t be quick to offer platitudes that shut down deep discussion.  

It often takes many, many repetitions of traumatic events for a heart to begin to heal. 

And each time you grant someone permission to share and listen to his or her story, you are applying balm to a weary soul.  ❤

listening is a postive act

 

*Here are two online closed communities for bereaved parents:   While We’re Waiting Support for Bereaved Parents  Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child

The Compassionate Friends offers in-person support groups around the country.

GriefShare also holds classes and offers in-person support.  Check online for availability in your area.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Mom Who Was Almost Me

I hesitated to post this but plunged ahead for two reasons:

  • I want my friends to know that I welcome the opportunity to pray for them and their children-my heart longs to join in petition for the life of another mother’s child.
  • But it still hurts to hear too much detail about some things-you have no idea how well my imagination can fill in the gaps in stories of twisted metal and almost death.

So here it is.  I hope you receive it as it’s intended. ❤

heart baloon girl

Dear Mom Whose Son Survived the Accident,

I want you to know that I am beyond thankful that you will be spared my pain.  I prayed for your son as you requested-begged God to spare him.

They say misery love company but I say misery loves comfort.

I do not want one more parent to know the heartache of child loss.

Given the chance, I would not hesitate a moment to answer the Miss America question:  “If you could do one thing in the world to make it a better place, what would it be?” 

“I would make sure no parent ever had to bury a child.”

Not from disease.

Not from starvation.

Not from war or natural disaster or accidents.

No more out of order deaths!

Every parent would go to his grave assured his son or daughter would continue to carry the family legacy.

But that’s not possible.  So I rejoiced extra hard when YOUR son had that awful accident, yet lived.

You get to visit him in the hospital, take him home with medicine and physical therapy.  I met my son in the funeral home and could only choose a casket for his final resting place.

You will have this holiday season tempered by the shadow of what might have happened, but rejoicing in a second chance to make new memories.

This will be my fourth set of holidays without my son-without his presence at the table, his face around the Christmas tree, his stocking limp and empty because there’s nothing left for me to give him.

You were impatient when I asked you to respect how difficult it is for me to hear the details of your son’s accident.  Even in my joy that you will be spared my fate, it hurts to hear how close you came.  You were offended and that really hurt my heart.

I didn’t contact you; you contacted me.

I didn’t ask you to pray for me, you asked me to pray for you.

And I did. 

And I will.

Because even if you are insensitive, ungrateful and inconsiderate, I will ask God to continue to protect your son-that’s what a broken heart does.

It begs for mercy.

Love, 

A Broken Hearted Mama ❤

look into your own heart and refuse to inflict that pain

 

 

Fault Lines: Bereaved Parents and Social Anxiety

I’m no geologist, but from what I understand, earthquakes are nearly always “about to happen”.  Fault lines guarantee it.  Pressure is building underneath the surface of the earth and when it reaches a level that can no longer be contained, it spews.

Can I just let you in on a secret?

Bereaved parents are full of fault lines.

Many of us are nearly ready to blow almost every single minute, yet hold it in and hold it together.  If you could put a meter to our temple and measure how close we are to a come apart, you would be amazed that it happens so rarely!

And this is why we sometimes say, “no” to an invitation.  It’s why we stay home from church or baby showers or weddings.  Not because we are anti-social, but because social situations present unique challenges to our desire to keep it together.

We don’t want to become the center of attention when the center of attention should be the mom-to-be or the wedding couple or the birthday boy.

It may be months or years or decades since our child ran ahead to heaven.  And you may think that’s enough time to “get over” or “get past” or “learn to live with” his or her absence.  In some ways it IS.  Most of us have a “game face” we plaster on to make it through ordinary days and even some extraordinarily difficult ones.

But underneath the veneer of “everything’s OK” there are the fault lines and when extra pressure is applied, we just know we might blow.

Many times I want to be there, really I do.  If I choose not to be, know that it’s because I am trying to be thoughtful, not ugly.  I stay home out of love, not disrespect.  

So please extend grace. 

Give me the benefit of the doubt. 

Let me bow out gracefully when I  know in advance my heart won’t be able to hold on. 

It’s best for both of us, really. ❤

the best we can falls shour

 

 

 

Repost: Daily Battle-Tempted to Give Up

I wrote this over six months ago.  Parts of it still describe me.  Parts of it don’t.

I continue to struggle to find an overarching narrative to my current story.

My empty nest (which was inevitable and a GOOD thing) is somehow emptier with one child not just out of sight but totally unreachable.

So many adjectives that once reflected who I am no longer fit.  And I can’t seem to find the ones that do.

When a bad day comes-and it does from time to time-I’m still tempted to give up and give in.  Struggling to endure seems like more trouble than it’s worth.  Heaven is tempting, and I’ve got someone waiting for me there.  ❤

So many things raced through my mind in the first five minutes of hearing the news:

Oh, God!  Is it true? (I have to authenticate his identity);

How do I tell everyone? (I have to make phone calls);

What do you do when your child dies? (I have no idea how to plan a funeral);

and on

and on

and on.

Of course, that doesn’t touch the FEELINGS flooding my heart.

Read the rest here:  Daily Battle: Tempted to Give Up