In the last post I shared the difference between mourning and grief. While the outward ceremonies have long passed, the inward struggle to embrace and understand the pain and sorrow of losing my son continues.
If you love someone who has lost a child, perhaps these thoughts might help you understand a bit of their pain and how completely it changes the way bereaved parents encounter the world.
Please be patient. Please don’t try to “fix” us. Please be present and compassionate. And if you don’t know what to say, feel free to say nothing-a hug, a smile, an understanding look-they mean so very much. ❤ Melanie
A bereaved parent’s grief doesn’t fit an easy-to-understand narrative. And it flies in the face of the American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.
You can’t beat it–it’s not a football game-there is no winning team.
You can’t lose it–it’s not the extra 10 pounds you’ve been carrying since last Christmas.
You can’t get over it–it’s not a teenage love affair that will pale in comparison when the real thing comes along.
You can only survive it. You can heal from it, but it will take a lifetime and require very special care.
Read the rest here: Loving Well: Understanding the Grieving Heart
I first shared this post three years ago when I was approaching the four year milestone of Dominic’s leaving for Heaven.
By that time most folks who knew me when he died had relegated that part of my story to some ancient past that surely I was over by now. I’d met others who had no clue my heart skipped a beat on a regular basis because one of my children was buried in the churchyard down the road.
And even the closest ones-the ones I thought would understand forever-were sometimes impatient with my ongoing refusal to leave Dominic behind and be “healed” of my grief.
What I long for more than anything as the seventh anniversary of his departure draws near is simply this: Let me be me, whatever that looks like.
Don’t try to fit my journey into your mold. ❤ Melanie
Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave. Try not to disappoint people. Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”
Whatever that meant.
Read the rest here: Can I Just Be Me?
I never expected to have to reach across time and space and heaven to touch my child.
I hate this divided life!
Imagining the worst thing possible can’t hold a candle to knowing it by experience.
Read the rest here: Juxtaposed
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.
So let me hear from you.
It’s popular in books, self-help articles and even in some grief groups for people to declare , “Child loss does not (will not, should not) define me”.
And while I will defend to the end another parent’s right to walk this path however seems best and most healing to him or her, to that statement I say, “Bah! Humbug!”
Child loss DOES define me.
It defines me in the same way that motherhood and marriage define me.
Read the rest here: Child Loss DOES Define Me
If I got ten grieving parents in a room we could write down fifty things we wish people would stop saying in about five minutes.
Most of the time folks do it out of ignorance or in a desperate attempt to sound compassionate or to change the subject (death is very uncomfortable) or simply because they can’t just shut their mouths and offer silent companionship.
And most of the time, I and other bereaved parents just smile and nod and add one more encounter to a long list of unhelpful moments when we have to be the bigger person and take the blow without wincing.
But there is one common phrase that I think needs attention
Read the rest here: “He Wouldn’t Want You to be Sad” and Other Myths
I first shared this a few years ago when I really thought I should have reached a place in my grief journey where holidays weren’t as difficult as they were at first.
But what I realized then and what has been confirmed since is that every year has new and unique situations that make Christmas a fresh challenge each time.
This year is particularly difficult since our family will not be able to spend it together due to the pandemic. It makes an already melancholy season even more so. ❤
As the seventh Christmas without Dominic rapidly approaches, I am pondering the question: “Why, oh why, is Christmas so hard?”
I think I’ve figured out at least a few reasons why.
For me, probably THE biggest reason Christmas is hard is because it throws off the routine I depend on to shepherd my heart through a day. It’s easiest for me to manage when I have at least a couple of hours of quiet time each morning. I need those silent moments to let my heart feel what it needs to feel, to cry if I must and to orient my thoughts after, once again, “remembering” that Dominic isn’t here.
Read the rest here: Why, Oh Why, is Christmas So Hard???
As hard as I may try to help those around me understand how very difficult it is to walk on in this life I didn’t choose, my efforts often go awry.
I forget to make a phone call, I assume some plans are in place, I mistake silence for assent, I’m unaware of secondary pressures or I simply underestimate pent up feelings waiting for an opportunity to be expressed and what I thought would be a regular encounter ends up being an uncomfortable or painful confrontation.
And I’m trapped. No where to go, no where to hide. Stuck in an unfruitful conversational circle.
No matter how carefully I listen, how cautiously I employ “I” statements and affirm another heart’s perspective, it isn’t enough. Because what they really need from me is something I can’t give: to make life like it was “before”.
But we both know that’s not possible. So I become the sacrificial punching bag-the person they pummel until the negative energy is spent.
I want to agree to disagree and lay down arms. I want to walk away, hang up the phone, run and hide.
Because if there were a way for me to relieve this built-up inner pressure (without hurting another heart) I’d do it too.
But there isn’t. So I take the licks.
I add that to my sack of “Things You Have To Endure Post Child Loss” and carry on.
Just barely, some days.
This has certainly been a year, hasn’t it?
For some of us, along with societal angst, fear, illness and loss (of income, dreams, opportunities), we are heavy laden with grief.
That makes everything harder when it’s most certainly already hard enough.
So while there may be fewer gatherings, parties, school activities and community events due to Covid19 you are probably already feeling some pressure to show up and be part of something, somewhere.
I want to take a minute to think about how important it is to make and maintain space for grief during this busy season.
You have to do it.
I know, I know-where to fit it in between all the other responsibilities!
If you don’t, though, the grief will out itself one way or another.
So may I offer the following practical suggestions for this upcoming holiday season?
- Start each day (whenever possible) with a few minutes of alone time. Let those moments be the buffer between you and the day ahead. Don’t allow your mind to wander to your “to do” list. Sit. Sip the hot beverage of your choice and let silence soothe your soul.
- Don’t overschedule your days (or nights!). Exercise the option of saying, “no” to things that are not really important or necessary. Just because you have done it every other year doesn’t obligate you to do it this year. Exhaustion always magnifies despair.
- Try to balance busy days with not so busy days. The surest path to meltdown is traveling in the fast lane.
- Let other people take on responsibilities-especially if they offer- and even if they don’t. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness.
- Keep a pad and pen on your nightstand and jot down any random thoughts that you don’t want to forget before bedtime. There is no sense worrying about something you can’t address until morning and writing it down means you won’t forget it.
- Make use of online everything. Have gifts sent directly to recipients. Order groceries for pick up. There are many ways to make life less hectic and more enjoyable. If you don’t know what’s available in your area, ask friends and family.
- Plan for at least one recovery day for every large gathering/party/meal you have to attend. Some of us need two.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you are used to having matching everything, perfect centerpieces and gourmet meals it may be hard to lower your standards. But if there is one thing I have learned since Dominic ran ahead to heaven, it’s that the companionship of those we love trumps anything else. People rarely remember how you set your table but they will remember who sat around your table.
- And if your heart is too tender to do anything but hold on and hope this month passes quickly, then do that. You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations. Sometimes that’t the best we can do and that is OK.
Grief requires so. much. energy.
And you can’t spend the same energy twice.
So make space for grief in your holiday plans.
Something you hear early on in this grief journey is that one day you will find a “new normal”.
I hate that phrase.
Because while I have certainly developed new routines, new ways of dealing with life, new methods for quelling the tears and the longing and the sorrow and the pain-it is NOT normal.
Read the rest here: Nothing “Normal” About It