Bereaved Parents Month 2020: But I Had All That BEFORE!


I absolutely understand that when people say things like, “Just think of all the wonderful memories you have” or “He brought you so much joy” they mean well.

Because it’s true-I have beautiful memories of Dominic.  And he DID bring me great joy.

But I had those things BEFORE he was beyond my reach.

Read the rest here:But I Had All That BEFORE!

Grief Is A Tangled Ball Of Emotions


Someone posted this image yesterday on Facebook-they had received a copy in a therapy session and found it a helpful way to picture grief. 

I wanted to share it because perhaps you may find it helpful as well.  ❤

Read the rest here: Grief-A Tangled Ball of Emotions

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Ten Ways To Survive Hard Grief Days

Even six years into this journey I have hard grief days.

I had one just this week and needed to remind my heart that while I can’t stop the waves from rolling in, I have ways to hang on and ride them out.

There are many, many ways to survive such days but here are ten that have proven helpful to me over and over again.

My hardest grief season begins in November and runs to the end of May.  Thanksgiving through Dominic’s birthday on (or near) Memorial Day are days full of triggers, memories and stark reminders that one of us is missing.

If I could fall asleep November first and wake up in June I’d do it.

But I can’t so I have to employ all the tricks I’ve learned in the nearly six years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven to survive those particularly challenging months.

Here are ten ways I survive hard grief days.

Read the rest here: Taking Care: Ten Ways to Survive Hard Grief Days

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Singing Hymns That Hurt My Heart


I grew up singing hymns.

I was introduced to praise choruses in my mid-twenties.

I love both.

I used to hear or sing along to them and feel them feed my spirit.

My family sang in choirs, served on worship teams and was rarely absent from church for over twenty years.  Music was part of everyday life with a special bonus on Sundays.  

dominic at gray haven

Now I find it hard to hear and even harder to sing some hymns I used to love. 

Read the rest here: How I Sing The Hymns That Hurt My Heart

Sighing Is My Second Language

Pale.  Flat. Tasteless. 

Yes.

They’d crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn’t. Colors bled pale. Music was just notes. Books no longer transported or comforted, not fully. Never again. Food was nutrition, little more. Breaths were sighs. And they knew something the rest didn’t. They knew how lucky the rest of the world was.

― Louise Penny

It was absolutely this way for more than the first three years. 

Read the rest here: All The Color Gone

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Physical Manifestations of Grief

Grief is not *just* feelings. It is so much more.

I shared this last year around this time in response to many, many comments and questions from bereaved parents about what felt like random or unusual physical manifestations of their own grief.

I hope it helps another heart navigate this life none of us would choose.

It’s a well known fact that stress plays a role in many health conditions.  

And I think most of us would agree that child loss is one of (if not THE) most stressful events a heart might endure.  

So it’s unsurprising that bereaved parents find themselves battling a variety of physical problems in the wake of burying a child.  

Read the rest here: Bereaved Parents Month Post: Physical Manifestations of Grief

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Courage Is a Heart Word

You know what breaks my heart all over again?  

The fact that so many bereaved parents tell me they don’t feel they can share their experience on their own FaceBook or other social media pages.  

That’s just WRONG!

They have been shushed to silent suffering because when they break open the vault of emotions and let others see what’s inside, most people turn away-or worse, they condemn that wounded heart for sharing. 

Read the rest here: Bereaved Parents Month: Courage is a Heart Word

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: They’re Not Just “Things”

I was surprised at myself.

When we cleaned out Dominic’s apartment two weeks after he left us, I couldn’t throw away a thing.

Just as Dominic left things when he went out that evening.

Even though it meant boxing it up, carting it down the stairs and loading and unloading it onto our trailer, I DIDN’T CARE.

If it was his, if his hands had touched it, his body worn it or he had placed it in the cabinet or fridge, it was coming with me.

The only thing I left in that space was the empty echo of his fading presence.

I brought all the rest home.

Because these things aren’t just things. They represent some portion of my son-his personality, his preferences, his history and his hopes.

Many are the minutiae that make up a life:

  • scraps of paper tucked inside his briefcase as reminders
  • a dry cleaning ticket in his wallet
  • a legal pad on the table where he was taking notes to study for an exam
  • receipts from recent purchases strewn on the kitchen counter
  • shaving cream, hair products, favorite soap
  • clothes and ties and shoes
  • a fridge full of food he’d chosen for himself
  • the good coffee
  • containers saved from food I’d sent home with him

Of course there were the larger items most folks would think of bringing home if not keeping-furniture, computers, his car, television and stereo.

We put the delicate and temperature sensitive things inside the house.

The rest was placed in a storage building on our property. Every time I opened the door to the building for several years it smelled of Dominic.

I loved it and hated it in one breath.

I’m using his furniture in our living room. His television set is downstairs in the family room. Some of his other things live in his siblings’ homes.

We’ve all found ways to touch what he touched last.

I am slowly getting better at getting rid of some of Dominic’s things.

Just yesterday my husband replaced faucets in the bathroom my boys used growing up. In the process we pulled out stuff from under the deep cabinets.

Tucked in the back were some old bottles of hair gel and other half-used, dried up products that once belonged to my fashion conscious son who was always trying to tame his curly hair.

I grabbed them and tossed them into a plastic trash bag as we prepared to put replace things underneath. I almost pulled them back out.

Sighing, I tied up the bag and took it straight to the big curbside garbage can before I could change my mind.

These things aren’t *just* things.

Every time I get rid of something that was Dominic’s I feel like I’m erasing a little bit more of HIM. I feel like I’m losing one more touchstone to help my mind hold onto memories that might slip away without it.

They are a tangible connection that I can see, smell and touch to a child with whom I can no longer do any of those things.

I suspect I will always keep at least a tiny stash to pull out on heavy days or birthdays or just days when my heart needs reminding.

And I’m OK with that.

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Child Loss

I’ve had awhile to think about this. Six 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):

There is absolutely no way to prepare your heart for the death of a child. I have always been an avid reader. Over the years I’ve read dozens of accounts both real and imagined centered around child loss. I’ve seen well-scripted movies and television shows depicting it as well. And, like many parents, I had my moments when I imagined what it might be like for one of my children to leave the house and not return. But nothing-NOTHINGI read, saw or imagined was remotely as devastating as the experience of child loss. In the space of a few words, a few seconds, a single awful door knock, my world was utterly and completely shattered. It’s really no wonder that it takes a lifetime to even begin to put the pieces together.

Most people are doing the best they can to respond to our pain. When Dominic first left us, I was a walking nerve. Anything someone said or didn’t say, a look, a social media post or dozens of other things provoked a reaction: “How could they!?” But eventually, when I was able to think more clearly I recognized they were wrapped in the same protective bubble of “hasn’t experienced child loss” I once enjoyed. How could I expect them to know what to say or do when truth is, I still (to this day) stumble over my tongue when confronted with a parent who joins our ranks. Now I try to receive even the most bumbling efforts as grace gifts offered in hope of encouraging my heart.

Grief lasts longer than sympathy. I’ve written before about the cost of compassion. It’s so much easier to send a card, send a meal, show up at the house or funeral than to walk beside someone for a month or year as they try to pick up and reassemble the fragments of a shattered heart and life. Grief is not the same as mourning. Mourning is a shorter period with lots of outward symbols and rituals that warn others of our broken hearts. Grief is the burden of loss, sorrow, missing and pain that is left behind after everyone else goes home. Grief is lonely.

The circle that will walk with you for the long haul is going to be smaller than you expect and will be comprised of some folks you’d never have imagined. We all have an image of which people will run toward us instead of running away should disaster strike. I did. And some of those folks were there. But others weren’t. After decades of pouring our time, energy, effort, love and lives into more than one church family, I was surprised at who showed up, who stayed away and who was willing to go the extra mile. Of course at the beginning there were hordes of folks and we were very appreciative. But one by one or in groups they quit calling, coming or even texting. The tiny band that has stuck it out is precious. I am so, so thankful for them.

Life goes on without our permission. At first, I just wanted the world to STOP. I wanted every single soul on this planet to realize-at least for a second-that my son was no longer among the living. But of course it didn’t. Not only did the world not stop, it seemed to race ahead. I’ve written before about our family’s busy, busy two months (Graduations and Weddings and Trips, Oh My!) after Dom ran ahead to Heaven. That was just the beginning. In the six years since he’s been gone, there have been all kinds of large and small crises that have rocked our world. I don’t have a pass to slip through my remaining years without trouble or trial.

Loss keeps happening and comes in many forms. Life is risky. If you dare to love, you risk loss. I made a decision early on that I would not cut myself off from those I love in hopes of saving my heart more sorrow. Friendships melt away under the burden of grief. Life circumstances change in unpleasant and unexpected ways. Health deteriorates. Loved ones die. I’ve experienced all these things in the last six years and will experience them until I join Dominic in Heaven. I won’t rail against every one as an injustice or act surprised.

Laughter and joy return if you make space for them. I remember the first time a small chuckle escaped my lips after Dominic left us. It felt like betrayal. How could I laugh when my heart was utterly shattered? Where did that come from? But I learned, over time, that laughing was not dishonoring my son. Laughter is a gift. It’s a way of knitting together some of those broken pieces. It’s a means of allowing light back into a darkened soul. I also learned that joy and sorrow are not opposing feelings. You don’t have to shove one aside to feel the other. You simply have to expand your heart to make room for both. But it IS a choice. I can refuse laughter, joy and light and hunker down with my sadness, sorrow and despair. I have to decide.

The missing never ends. You never reach a moment (as shared by many bereaved parents further along this path than me!) when you won’t miss your child. A parent’s heart carries his or her child as long as it’s still beating. It takes time to learn to live with the ache. It was several years before I could see past Dominic’s absence. When the family gathered the gaping hole where he SHOULD be but WASN’T filled my vision and made it hard to focus on who and what I still possessed. Over time the missing has grown softer. Now, missing Dominic is the background music to everything.  A quiet tune I hum in my head that keeps me company all day and invades my dreams at night. .

You will survive if you keep taking the next breath and making the next step. That first day when the house filled with people coming to support our family after the awful news, I kept asking the women sitting with me, “Am I breathing?”. It felt as if the breath had left my body when the life-shattering words fell on my ears and I couldn’t get it back. But I soon learned that broken hearts still beat. The first anniversary of his death I was horrified to realize I had survived 365 days when I was certain I wouldn’t survive the first 24 hours. Grief  is work. But if you choose to face the feelings, spend time dealing with them and allow your heart space and grace to begin putting the pieces back together you will make progress. I have. It has often been slower and more painstaking than I like, but it’s happened.

I’m still learning.

Almost every day I find another place grief is changing my life, my family’s life and my heart ever so slightly. In a few more years this list may be different.

For now, it’s my top ten.

I hope it helps another parent who might be wondering what to expect in this Life [We] Didn’t Choose.

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Friends and Family Can Anchor a Heart


Child loss rips through a life like a tornado-wild, unpredictable, viciously destructive.

It drops from the sky like a meteorite-no warning, no defense, just crushing weight.

It wrecks havoc in absolutely every corner of a bereaved parents’ heart and life.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Friends and Family Can Anchor a Heart