Is It More Admirable to Pretend?

 

We say we want real.

But we really don’t.

We tune in by the millions to watch “reality TV” even though we know the drama is manufactured and the outcome decided months before.

We participate daily in quiet subterfuge when our coworker pretends her marriage isn’t falling apart even though we overhear her desperate phone calls trying to mend it.

We like to hear “Fine, thank you.” when we offer the polite greeting, “How are you?”.

What happens to the person who refuses to play along?  What about the one whose heart is so broken that she can’t begin to put on the false front that would make everyone else more comfortable around her?

smile-question

What do you do when someone stops pretending everything is OK?

Often, people walk away.

Because we have absolutely no idea what to do with real. We have no words when “How are you?” is answered with “Awful.  My world is falling apart.”

We reward those who choose to go along with the script that makes us comfortable and isolate the ones that don’t.

But is that the world we really want to live in?  Do we want to walk with unsaid words between us, unreleased feelings bottled up and threatening to overflow?

It is really more admirable to pretend?

 

masks by shel silverstein

MASKS  by Shel Silverstein

She had blue skin
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through.
Then passed right by —
And never knew.

 

Dispelling Marriage Myths Surrounding Child Loss

Today my husband and I celebrate 33 years of marriage.  

Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.

Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far:

hector and me 29 anniversary

This is us on our thirtieth anniversary, at our oldest son’s wedding -holding one another up as best we could:

IMG_2151

This is us last Christmas:  

beach hector and me and boys in sand

We are definitely the worse for wear, but we are still here.

Together.

There are a lot of myths floating around about what happens to a marriage on the other side of child loss.  The one tossed out most often cites a “study” reporting 90 percent of marriages fail after the death of a child.  

It’s just not true.

But the danger is that if you believe it is true, you may stop trying.  You may stop reaching out across the painful abyss that threatens to keep you apart forever.  You may decide that living alone with your broken heart is better than living alongside someone who may be broken in very different ways than you are.

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The truth is that child loss is no more likely to destroy a marriage than a list of other terrible life events-even though child loss is the most terrible.

A child’s death shakes a marriage to its foundations and reveals the weak spots. And EVERY marriage has weak spots.

So the challenge in this season of marriage-like every season of marriage-is to turn toward one another instead of away.  Choose to do the work necessary to make it:

  • Do the best you can to take care of your own emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual health so that you can come together stronger and better able to help one another.
  • Assume the best and not the worst about your spouse.
  • Allow for different grieving styles and different ways of honoring your missing child.
  • Get help from others.
  • Don’t expect your spouse to carry your load of grief as well as his or her own.

It takes energy and commitment right when we don’t have any to spare. But at least in this, we have a choice.

I have already lost so much over which I had no control.  

I will fight for what I CAN hold onto as hard as I know how.

wedding rings

 

 

Attitude Adjustment

This week has been challenging on multiple fronts and the challenges kept coming at the most inopportune moments.  None of the things I faced was truly awful but each wave of stress swept over me exactly when I thought my head would be above water and I could breathe easy for just a bit.

I admit that by Friday morning my attitude was pretty awful.

And I was feeling rather justified and satisfied in my bad attitude-some people had let me down, some people had lashed out against me, my hips hurt, my feet hurt and my “to do” list had lengthened every day instead of getting shorter as I worked through the items.  I was not looking forward to next week which is going to be filled with daily interaction with strangers and increased responsibility for children I don’t know.

But a conversation with my daughter (O Wise One!) helped turn that around.  

She didn’t do it by shaming me or tossing Bible verses at me or refusing to acknowledge the very real challenges, stress and pain I faced.

She did it by turning my heart and mind to the children I would have the opportunity to reach next week in our community through VBS.

She did it by reminding me of the many children she and our family have known through the years that may not need to hear the ABCs of how to receive Christ (because they have heard that before) but may need the undivided attention of a trusted adult for just five minutes out of a long summer.  

let the little children come to me

She helped me remember I love children and I love seeing their faces light up in the glow of genuine affirmation and encouragement.

She reminded me who I really am.  

Sometimes we all need an attitude adjustment and her wise words helped adjust mine.

I have a shepherd’s heart.

It’s why I go to extraordinary lengths to save a member of my flock.  It’s why I will drop everything to come to the aid of a broken heart.  It’s why there is no such thing in our house as being “too busy” when someone reaches out and needs a hug.

But for a few days I forgot that.

I had forgotten my true identity in the frenzy of trying to live up to others’ expectations and in allowing others’ remarks or actions to dictate my own.

I forgot that the only One Who matters is the One Who made me.

When I remember that I am the beloved child of a loving Father Who has promised to meet every need I have through the riches of His bounty in Christ Jesus, I am free to be the person He created me to be.

And that’s who I want to be.

Nothing-you-do-can-change-Gods-love

 

Worn Slap Out

The best remedy for my heart on the days when grief rolls in like morning fog and refuses to burn off with sunshine is hard work.

If weather permits I go outside and move hay bales, pick up limbs, cut weeds or do anything that requires large muscles to accomplish the task.  The goal is exhaustion so I can sleep.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’ll try to tackle jobs inside that I otherwise tend to ignore.  If you ever see me cleaning the bathroom or kitchen sink fixtures with a toothbrush, just leave me alone-I’m working something out.

So these past days leading up to Dominic’s birthday, that’s what I’ve done.

I sheared sheep, raked out a hay shed, moved hay, medicated horses, dogs and goats, picked up limbs brought down by rain and high winds, vacuumed, washed clothes, cleaned bathrooms and organized (sort of) my closet.

The ungrateful sheep and the silly cat kneading his paws while I’m bent over shearing her. 

photo (44)

Skinks are some of the happier surprises when moving hay.  Snakes and ants not so much.

 

The good thing about so many critters that eat grass is that I rarely cut it.

Now I’m worn slap out!

I think I’ll hit the sack.

fatigue is the best pillow

Repost: Memorial Day

Last year around this time, my eldest son received his captain’s bars and had just begun Officer Training School.

jm captain

This year, it’s even more real to me that one of my own children may be called upon to risk or give his life for the life and liberty of another.

And the number of mothers I know whose child has died in service or because of service related wounds or PTSD has grown ever larger.  

Memorial Day is not “just another holiday”.

It is a solemn occasion that merits our deepest reverence.

We must never forget:   Freedom isn’t free.

Read the rest here:  Memorial Day

Repost: He Will Hold Me Fast

I need to remind myself of this every few days.

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.

Read the rest here:  He Will Hold Me Fast

Head Above Water (Most of the Time)

Some days I go gangbusters-rip through my “To Do” list from top to bottom before lunchtime.

And some days I can barely get up out of the chair in the morning for a second cup of coffee.

It depends.

Most times I have no idea what throws me into a tailspin.

Oh, I’m prepared for the “circle the date on the calendar days” like Mother’s Day (coming up!), Dominic’s birthday, his heaven day and the holidays. But there are random, not-special-occasion-days that plunge my head under a grief wave that I did not see coming.

Maybe it’s the smell of cut grass through an open window or the sound of a motorcycle thrumming at the end of our lane or the sight of trees full of leaves (again-another season he isn’t here).  I really don’t know.

The drowning feeling may last five minutes or five hours.  All I can do is go with it and hope the wave spits me out sooner rather than later.

And they DO pass.

My heart is always tender, always aware of missing Dominic.  But it is better able to join in laughter and celebration than it was even six months ago.

I no longer feel as if I am drowning every moment of every day with only a gasp of air now and then.

Instead I feel like I’m swimming-tired and often out of-sight of shore-but managing most of the time to keep my head above water.

Grief waves come.  They will always come.  I have to endure the choking, sputtering, frightening, drowning feeling when they do.

But they are not the only thing I feel now.

And for that, I am very grateful.

be-thankful-for-today-change-in-one-moment