Absolutely, Positively Not Normal

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

Grief and Post-Holiday Exhaustion

I don’t know about you, but I find I can often white-knuckle through a holiday itself only to be spent and exhausted on the other side.

Staying busy in the kitchen, trying hard to be present and participate, enjoying extra folks in the house and around the table are great distractions.

I love being with my people!

Thanksgiving Pandemic Style 2020

Of course I’m constantly aware of the quiet tune that plays in the background, “Dom’s not here” but I genuinely appreciate every moment I have with the ones I love.

But…then comes the quiet.

A silent reminder of the hollow carved in my heart.

And I can’t ignore it.

So I have to take a day (or two or three) and rest.

It’s what I call a “holiday hangover” and it has nothing to do with over-indulging in spirits or food.

It’s OK if I don’t rush to tidy the house or start planning for the next get-together. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

I can pause, take a breather, sit and read or do nothing at all.

You can too.

Grief Triggers Still Surprise Me

It’s funny what can make my heart race and my eyes fill with tears.

Sometimes it’s obvious- I hear of another son killed in a motorcycle accident.

But sometimes it’s obscure- like when I see someone using a legal pad to take notes.

Either way, triggers take me back to ground zero. They rivet my mind’s attention and my heart’s focus to the very moment I first learned Dominic had left us.

Read the rest here: Grief Triggers

Holidays 2020: Some Practical Ideas

Our family has yet to settle into a routine for the holidays even six years after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I’m always looking for new ideas that might be suitable.

Pinterest just doesn’t cater to those trying to craft celebrations that make space for grief and empty chairs.

So here are a few ideas I’ve compiled from other bereaved parents. I hope those who read this post will add their own.

Maybe one or more will help your family make a plan.

❤ Melanie

It cannot be overstated:  holidays are extremely hard after loss.  Every family gathering highlights the hole where my son SHOULD be, but ISN’T.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to handle the holidays after losing a child.

For many, there is only survival-especially the very first year.

Read the rest here: Practical Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays after Child Loss

Holidays 2020: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

This is the most shared post on the site.

When I wrote it, I was writing my personal feelings after a couple of years trying to fumble through holidays with friends and family. It was an honest expression of how hard it was and continues to be to navigate the stress-filled season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

I’m not sure I’ve grown any more skillful in fitting all the pieces together-especially as our family grows and moves in different directions-but I continue striving to keep the lines of communication open and to try to acknowledge and accommodate everyone’s needs as best I can.

❤ Melanie

“I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

Read the rest here: Grief and Holidays: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Don’t Be Shackled By Shame!

Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.  

And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.

Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons:

  • Circumstances surrounding the death of their child-suicide, alcohol, drug abuse;
  • Inability to provide the funeral or burial they want due to financial constraints;
  • Missing signs or symptoms of an illness that may have led to death;
  • Family dynamics that pushed a child away from home or relationship.

The list could be endless-on the other side of child loss our brains pick apart every interaction, every choice, every moment that could have gone one way but went another.

Read the rest here: Shake Off the Shame

Walking the Valley: Trust After Loss

When this video popped up in my Facebook memories, I was tempted to skip it.

Three years ago I was in a very stressful season of life. My mother was seriously ill, my husband was working away from home and facing daunting challenges, my surviving children were in various stages of transition and I was just plain worn out.

But I stepped out in faith and accepted an invitation to share at a gathering for bereaved parents.

I was used to hiding behind my keyboard, having days to edit and refine what I would say; not opening my mouth and spilling thoughts without any opportunity to call them back.

It was truly frightening and I had no idea it would be recorded.

I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I sound. But I love the message the Lord laid on my heart and enabled me to deliver that day.

So I’m being brave, being transparent, risking whatever judgement others might feel and some might voice to share it here.

{I’m no tech guru and have absolutely no idea how to edit the video so here it is in its entirety. If you’d rather skip the worship music segment, fast forward to the 30 minute mark.}

Three years later I STILL need to preach to myself. I STILL need to exhale my doubts and questions and pain and inhale the truth and grace of Jesus Christ.

I continue to circle round and round, revisiting questions and issues and feelings I thought I’d conquered.

And every single time He meets me there.

I am more convinced than ever that I am only able to stand in the strength and power of my Father God.

Every day I reach out and take hold of the hem of His garment.

And every day that is enough.

He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

My Child Existed. He Matters.

I hid this post in my draft folder for months before I published it the first time.

It seemed too raw, too full of all the pain inside my mama heart to put out in the wide world for everyone to see.

And then it was time (like now) to change the flowers on the place where my son’s body rests and I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS IS NOT ALL THERE IS OF MY BOY!” I wanted to stop people on the street and make them listen to his story, to give away a piece of him for others to carry in their hearts.

My son is not a number or a statistic or only a memory.

He is integral to my story, blood of my blood and flesh of my flesh–part of my life.

I rest assured he lives in heaven with Jesus but I miss him here with me. That’s selfish, I know.  But I can’t seem to help it.

Read the rest here: You Existed, You Exist

Grief Is Really Only Love

At first grief felt only like sorrow and longing and brokenness.

Then it felt like confusion and anxiety and despair.

A little further along this journey it mostly felt like apathy.

Now it feels like love.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/09/23/grief-its-really-just-love/

Ten Grief Quotes That Speak To My Heart

When I find words for my feelings it helps.

So I collect quotes, copying them down in my journal and sometimes hanging them where I can see them throughout the day.

Here are a few that speak to my heart. I hope they speak to yours. ❤

I wish there WERE a secret to surviving this journey. But there isn’t. There is just one moment, one breath, one step at a time. I do the best I can each day.

Over time I’ve grown stronger and better able to carry the load. Over time I’ve learned how to shift my focus from my son’s death to his life.

Death ends so many things.

But it does not end the influence of my son’s life on my heart and it can’t steal the moments I shared with him.

As long as I hum the tune of his unique song I can still hear him.

Before I was the one in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I didn’t realize it’s a lifelong journey. I acknowledged that loss changed a person but I didn’t know that it keeps changing you. Grief influences how I experience the present not just how I view the past.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it instantly changed the landscape of my life. The future I thought I’d have was shattered and I was thrust into unfamiliar and often frightening territory with no road map. It has taken a long time to learn how to walk in this uncertain world and I still stumble.

There are no set standards for how or how long a heart grieves. Everyone brings his or her own personality and experience to the process.

It’s tempting to look for a structured guide to measure my progress.

Others can share how they are walking this road but ultimately I have to forge my own trail through the wilderness.

This is one of my very favorite quotes. Great love, great grief. How could it be any different?

When a child is born into a family, no one finds it strange that the addition changes everything. When that child leaves too soon they shouldn’t find it strange that it changes everything once again.

I didn’t just lose my son, I lost the family I used to have.

The place he should be but isn’t looms large every time we sit at the table, gather for celebrations or just line up for a group photo.

Part of the work grief requires is learning to hold onto the love and influence my son poured into my own life. I have had to redefine my relationship with Dominic-figuring out how I to mother a child I can no longer see or hold.

There’s a lot of pressure on grieving hearts to “get better” based on the medical model of illness, treatment, recovery. But grief is not a disease. It truly is the price you pay for love. I have experienced healing in the six years since Dominic left for Heaven but I won’t be fully healed until I join him in eternity.

Every single child is a unique gift to the world.

When death steals their presence, the light and love they shared with others lives on.

As long as we remember, as long as we speak their names, they continue to be a gift to those who love them . ❤