Grief: You Aren’t Required To Pretend

There is SO much pressure on grievers to pretend they are “OK” once the socially acceptable amount of time has passed since their loss.

And that is more than unfortunate because not only does it place an undue burden on broken hearts, it inhibits the very necessary work grief requires.

Sharing honestly and openly with safe people, giving voice to our feelings, letting the tears and words flow freely is the only way forward on this treacherous journey.

It’s OK to not be OK.

If you are grievingyou are not responsible for making others feel better about YOUR pain.

You have suffered a great wound and you carry a heavy load.

You are allowed to express sorrow and longing.  It’s what people do.

Read the rest here: You Don’t Have to Pretend

Enrolled In The School of Suffering Against My Will

I, like many bereaved parents, am still processing the horrific event in Uvalde, Texas.

I have spent the past couple days enveloped in a fog of disbelief (like most folks) and utter horror (as only fellow bereaved parents can comprehend).

I’m processing. I’m mourning. I’m angry.

I’m reliving the awful reality of learning that my child will never again walk through my door, hug my neck, call my name, sit at my table or contribute to a family conversation.

Maybe tomorrow my thoughts will be organized enough to share with the rest of the world, tonight they are still disjointed and cannot be reduced to words.

But I want to share something I wrote last year because I think it’s important. It won’t be anything the parents of those precious little lives can digest right now, but it might be helpful to the rest of us.

❤ Melanie

I have written before that Grief is Not a Hammer in the Hand of God.

I do not for one minute believe that the Lord I love inflicted this pain on me for the purpose of “teaching me something”.

But I absolutely, positively believe that He can use it (and HAS used it) to make me more compassionate, kinder and more grace-filled than I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Still, “becoming” is painful and requires that I submit to the hand of the Potter.

Read the rest here: Unwanted Assignment: Enrolled in the School of Suffering

I’ll Cry If I Want To

I don’t cry nearly as much as I used to.

That kind of bothers me.

I don’t know if I’m just not as sad or if I’ve just used up most of my tears.

I think it’s a bit of both.

DO still cry.  And I try hard to remember that I do not need to be ashamed of my tears.  I don’t need to apologize for them-even if they make some folks uncomfortable.

Read the rest here: It’s My Story and I’ll Cry If I Want To

Some May Wonder: Why Am I Still Writing?

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.

Read the rest here: Challenge Accepted: Why Am I Still Here?

Goodness, Gracious! Why Didn’t I Think of That?

I know (really, I do!) that people MEAN well.

I understand the temptation to share cute little sayings like these in response to a bereaved parent’s Facebook post.

What runs through my mind, even eight years later when I read this isn’t, “Oh my!  Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t I just turn that frown upside down and CHOOSE to be happy instead of sad.”

Instead it’s, “If I could, don’t you think I WOULD?”

If I could just make a mental adjustment and wash away the pain and missing of loss, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Many times those who have been spared think that those who haven’t are holding grief too close, refusing to let it go.  They may think we are using it as an attention getting prop.  They rest certain that if it were them, THEY would rise above, get over or overcome grief.

You will never know how thankful I am that YOU. DON’T. REALLY. KNOW.

So when you’re tempted to subtly correct me and (out of the goodness of your heart) try to steer me toward a “cure” for my grief, think about it.  Think about how hollow these words might sound in the ear of a mother or father who will never, ever hear or see or touch their child again. Think about how ridiculous it would be to suggest that all it takes to “be happy” is to “choose” correctly.

Think about which one of your children you could live without.  

child-loss-overcome

Holidays Can Be Hard-What To Do About Mother’s Day

This will be the ninth Mother’s Day since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Every year has been different because families continue to grow and change and the world turns and life marches on.

Every year presents unique challenges and particular paths that must be navigated anew. It’s always an emotional roller coaster.

The Captain, March 2019

Three years ago our family welcomed a first grandchild. His frightening entrance into the world made his life all the more precious and Mother’s Day gave us a chance to celebrate him, his mama and the fact that his story has a happy ending.

The Captain, April 2020.

In March we welcomed his brother-also a bit early but not nearly as perilous! Once again we give thanks that things have turned out well.

Coming home!! Big brother is so excited.

This year I’ll be a motherless child when the sun rises tomorrow. For the third time in my life, I won’t be able to see or telephone my own mother. Another light and life lost from sight.

Dominic and Mama in Heaven together.

Julian, Dominic, Mama, James Michael & Fiona

Every year my living children work hard to celebrate me even when they are unable to make it home.

I always feel loved.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fiona-and-brandon-wedding-boys-and-fiona.jpg

So what’s a mama to do when her heart is torn between the very great and beautiful blessings of her living children and grandchildren and the very great and devastating sorrow of missing her child in Heaven?

Since discovering there is an International Bereaved Mother’s Day my heart has taken advantage of having a day to think about and honor Dominic and then another day to think about and honor my living children.

I also rise early enough on Mother’s Day to have time alone with my thoughts and feelings.

I walk my heart through the upcoming hours and “pre-grieve” moments where I’ll be looking for Dom among the faces at the table or around the room. I remember the gift of his life and place it in context of the gift of each of my children.

I thank God for my family.

Thanksgiving years ago, when we were all younger and all here on earth. One of my favorites. 

And then I get up, get dressed and open my heart to the love I have in front of me.

I never, ever want my living children to think that their brother’s ABSENCE is more important or more precious to me than their PRESENCE.

My mama’s heart has room for all of them as it always has.

And as it always will.

Inside One Grieving Mama’s Thoughts

Ninety miles an hour-that’s how fast my mind can go from here to there.

From what’s in front of me to what’s behind me.

From laughter to swallowing sobs.

We sit in a living room surrounded by toys and playing with children, talking about life and love and plans and people.  The little brown face that turns his eyes to mine looks so much like Dominic I have to suck in my breath.

Giggles.  Squeals.  Cars running up and down my arm and around my feet.

I will never see Dominic’s children. 

Read the rest here: A Peek Inside a Grieving Mother’s Thoughts

Yep. It’s STILL Complicated.

I first shared this post six years ago after a group of bereaved parents and I were talking about how things that used to be simple and straightforward simply weren’t anymore.

Things like the question, “How many kids do you have?”

Things like going to a movie or picking a place to eat out.

So. Many. Things.

Honestly, I thought it’d be less of a minefield by now-I mean it’s been eight years already! And while there ARE some things that I find easier, most of the things I talk about in this post are still hard.

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

Read the rest here: It’s Complicated

Walking With My Surviving Children Through Grief

One of the most challenging things I’ve had to do is walk alongside my surviving children in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Not only have they been forced to face and deal with death earlier than many people, they’ve also been forced to face and deal with the fallout for themselves and their family.

Sometimes I feel like an ineffectual first aid worker just trying to minimize damage and hopefully pass them off to a professional who can actually work on repairs and healing.

Other times I’m a young mama once again kissing boo-boos, applying bandages and invoking magical thinking to distract them from their oh, so very real wounds.

I’ve not done it perfectly or even adequately sometimes. But I’m trying.

Bereaved parents often have several tasks before them in the days and months and years following the death of a child.

One of them is to help their surviving children navigate loss.

I have three earthbound children.  And they are grieving.

Their world changed in the same instant mine did.  Their hearts are broken too.

I found it hard to watch the pain I saw written on the faces of my kids.

Read the rest here: Helping My Children Walk Through Grief 

Ten (Plus One) Things I’ve Learned About Child Loss

The first time I shared this I was trying to distill years of walking the broken road of child loss into a relatively few, easy to think about, “lessons”.

Since then I could add a dozen more but today I’ll only add one: Being a bereaved parent is not my IDENTITY but it impacts who I am in ways I’m still figuring out.

Just as being married or being female or being from the southern United States informs how I walk in the world and interact with others so, too, does having buried a child.

There’s a lot of pressure to pretend that’s not true.

But I won’t do that.

I’ve had awhile to think about this.  Eight years is a long time to live with loss, to live without the child I carried, raised and sent off in the world.

So I’ve considered carefully what my “top ten” might be.

Here’s MY list (yours might be very different):

Read the rest here: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Child Loss

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