Grieving While Working: Handling Grief Waves At Inconvenient Moments

A bereaved mom just a month into this journey shared that she feels bad for not being able to handle grief better at work.

She wants to be professional, do her job well and shield unsuspecting coworkers and clients from her tears.

Her question was (slightly expanded):

Does anyone have practical suggestions for how to handle the unpredictable, overwhelming, undeniable waves of grief that come out of nowhere and demand attention regardless of how convenient it might be at that moment?

Here’s my reply (also expanded):

Don’t waste what limited energy you have in these early, especially hard days on beating yourself up! There’s no such thing as a “standard for grieving” even though there may be someone here or there that tries to impose one. Don’t expect too much from yourself.

In the early days, it took every ounce of energy I had to just make it through each day I couldn’t waste any blaming myself for what I might have “gotten wrong”.

Try to find a quiet spot (if possible) or at least a focal point in the room or rooms you work in most often so you can rest your eyes and focus your breathing/thoughts when the inconvenient waves sweep over you.

Often just making a plan is all a heart needs to regain control. As you shift your mental and physical focus, your body will tend to follow.

The little 5-4-3-2-1 centering exercise for anxiety works for nearly any strong emotion.

I wore a necklace or carried a memento in my pocket every day for years. I still do that when I know I’m going into a stressful place. I could reach in (or up), take hold of that physical object and it helped me breathe, slow my heart rate and lasso my emotional response.

Finally, if a tear falls, let it.

Don’t apologize or make it bigger (you can briefly mention you’ve lost a child-if appropriate and the person doesn’t know), wipe it off (or not) and go on.

I’ve found most people follow my lead.

I am so very sorry you even have to figure this out.

It’s not something any parent should have to do.

However you manage is really OK.

I promise. ❤

***If YOU have hints, tips, wisdom or encouragement for other bereaved parents who work AND grieve, please comment! It is such a blessing to hear that another heart has fought this particular battle and is reaching out. ***

None Of This Is Easy

It gets harder and harder to be honest the longer I walk this Valley.

Because it’s natural that those for whom Dom’s death was a moment in time, a short season of mourning, an unfortunate incident they sometimes look back on with sadness and regret but don’t live with daily move on.

The further we get in time from the actual moment of Dominic’s sudden departure, the larger the gap between my heart and theirs.

I understand that.

But that chasm is more and more difficult for me to bridge.

It requires energy and effort I don’t always have to reach out and reach across and try to help them understand me.

So sometimes I just don’t.

There is always going to be a blank space where Dominic SHOULD be, but isn’t.

There are always going to be places that aren’t colored in because that part of the canvas belongs to HIM.

There is always, always, always going to be pain when I line up for family photos, set the table for family dinners, go on family trips, wrap presents, send cards, list names on documents because HE IS NO LONGER HERE.

Others think the water fills in where the stone sank down.

But my mama heart knows exactly where those ripples ought to be.

So I quietly remember, quietly mourn, quietly mark that special spot-smiling on the outside.

No one the wiser.

No one the sadder.

No one but me anything at all.

Thank You For Four Years of Faithful Listening!

Four years ago today I shared my first post in this space.

It was a timid foray into the wider world just a year and a half after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I was truly frightened that once I began sharing my intimate thoughts, good (and not-so-good) experiences and things I was learning in this Valley of the Shadow of Death I would either (1) find out no one really cared and/or (2) offend friends and family.

But what motivated me to overcome that fear was a sense that for all the information out there on grief in general, I couldn’t find nearly enough first-person experience written in bite-sized chunks on child loss in particular.

After Dom ran ahead, it was difficult for me to sit down and read a whole book. I needed bits I could read on a single computer screen.

I also needed someone to be upfront and honest about what it meant to continue to cling to faith even when it was hard and even when it meant acknowledging doubts and living with unanswered questions.

It’s difficult to believe now with the plethora of popular books (both secular and religious) on “open broken” but four and five years ago, there weren’t many around.

So I decided I’d just say what I had to say and let it fall on the ears that might need to hear it regardless of who didn’t like it or chose to ignore it.

And here we are four years later.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep writing-probably as long as I feel like I have something to say, people are listening and my fingers can still tap-tap-tap the keyboard.

For now, writing is what I do.

Even when life interrupts almost everything else I will find a few moments to jot down thoughts and hit “publish”. I know some posts are much thinner than others-maybe just a meme or two and an encouraging word. But I want to show up in case THIS morning someone’s having an especially rotten one.

I want you to know that there IS life after child loss.

A very different life.

A harder life.

A life you didn’t want and wouldn’t ever choose, but life nonetheless.

And I appreciate every. single. heart. who joins me here and cheers me (and others!) along.

It’s Been Years-What’s Wrong With You?

If you think that time makes a difference to a mama’s heart that’s missing a child who ran ahead to Heaven without her, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

Time does not heal all wounds-especially the kind that shatter a heart into a million pieces.

It takes time for the wound to scar over, but it doesn’t undo the damage.

So if you are wondering why your coworker still takes the day off on his child’s birthday or the anniversary of her child’s homegoing, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Years disappear when those milestones loom large.

It’s just as painful today as it was on THAT day when a bereaved parent has to face an unavoidable reminder that his or her child is gone, gone, gone.

I’m not diminishing anyone’s loss when I say this but child loss is unique.

If we lose a spouse, we cannot replace that person, but we can enjoy the same type of relationship with another one.

When we lose a parent, we cannot replace that individual or that relationship, but we all know age eventually makes a claim on every life. We anticipate (even if subconsciously) that younger folks will outlive the older ones.

A parent’s heart is not equipped to outlive their child.

And yet, some of us do.

“IT’S so WRONG, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before its parents. It’s hard enough to bury our parents. But that we expect. Our parents belong to our past, our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. How can I bury my son, my future, one of the next in line? He was meant to bury me!”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

So if the bereaved parents in your life need extra space, extra grace, extra accommodation on those days when the loss is unavoidable don’t be surprised.

What SHOULD astonish folks is that we are able to function as well as we do on all the other days of the year without additional help.

We get up.

We go on.

That’s the real surprise.

Repost: Suicide and Child Loss-Christ’s Blood is Sufficient

I have always, always felt a special duty to tread lightly with respect to those parents in particular.  I want to honor them and never suggest I speak for them.  I’ve started and discarded at least a dozen posts on child loss and suicide.

So when a mom who lost a child to suicide shared this in one of our closed groups, I messaged her and asked permission to publish her comment here. 

So here are HER words, precisely as she shared them:  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/29/suicide-and-child-loss-christs-blood-is-sufficient/

Your Story-Someone Else’s Survival Guide

Hey-I get it.

Who wants to air the good, the bad and the ugly for everyone else to see?

In today’s world where photo filters on our cellphone cameras can turn a pretty rotten picture into a magazine worthy masterpiece no one is anxious to be seen as less than polished and put together.

The pressure is on to pretend that all is well even when all is, well, going quite the other direction.

If you are trudging through a tough patch, let folks know.

You might be surprised by who reaches out saying, “That was me just a while ago. Would you like to know how I made it through?”

If you’ve already walked the long and lonely road of grief, loss, trauma, depression or other difficult circumstance-share your story!

Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t clean up the messy bits. Don’t gloss over the hard spots.

How can anyone learn to walk the hard roads, the rocky paths, the treacherous terrain of life unless someone else is willing to be a guide? And who can trust a guide that hasn’t also made that journey?

Tell it like it was.

Then tell it like it is.

Map the path from there to here.

Shine a light for a soul that thinks darkness is all there is.

Reach back and take a hand.

Help a heart hold on to hope.

Repost: Faking a Smile Doesn’t Make Me a Better Christian

Heartache (which is very real, and often outside our control)  crushes a spirit. 

That’s a fact, reality, truth, cause and effect. 

I understand how those who have not been visited with hard, unchangeable, traumatic life circumstances can be tempted to see only the “choice” side of this verse.  But those of us who have had our hearts shattered, our worlds destroyed, our lives ripped asunder know that sometimes there is no choice in heartache.

And we should not be guilted into smiling when our hearts are breaking. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/09/06/faking-a-smile-doesnt-make-me-a-better-christian/