Will It Ever Get Better?

I know that when I first stumbled onto a bereaved parent group, it was one of the things I was looking for: evidence that the overwhelming pain of child loss would not last forever.  

Some days I was encouraged as those who had traveled farther down this path posted comments affirming that they could feel something other than sorrow.

Some days I was devastated to read comments from parents who buried a child decades ago asserting that “it never gets better”.

Who is right?  

What’s the difference?

Do I have any control over whether or not this burden gets lighter?

It will be five years in April since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and I’ve learned a few things since then.

letting-go

Time, by itself, heals nothing.  But time, plus the work grief requires, brings a measure of healing.  

If I cling with both hands to my loss, I can’t take hold of the good things life still has in store for me.  

Longing for the past all the time only brings sorrow.  I cannot turn back time.  Days, weeks, years will keep coming whether or not I choose to participate in them.  I will rob my heart of potential joy by focusing exclusively on the sorrow I can’t undo.

Daily choices add up.  When I lean into the small things required each day, I build confidence that I can do the bigger things that might still frighten me.  Making phone calls eventually helps me show up to a meeting or to church.  I strengthen my “can do” muscle every time I use it.

Doubt doesn’t disappear. Facing my doubt forces me to explore the edges of my faith.  It does no good for me to stuff questions in a drawer and hope they go away.  They won’t.  I have to drag them into the light and examine them.  Doubt is not denial.  If God is God (and I believe that He is!) then my puny queries don’t diminish His glory.  He knows I’m made of dust and He invites me to bring my heart to Him-questions and all.

My mental diet matters more than I might think.  I have to be very careful what I feed my mind.  If I focus on sadness, tragic stories, hateful speech and media that feeds my fears and despair then those feelings grow stronger.  If instead I focus on hopeful stories, good conversation with faithful friends and inspiring quotes, verses and articles I feed the part of my heart that helps me hold onto hope.

I need a space where I can be completely honest about what this journey is like.  Bereaved parents’ groups have been that space for me and have been an important component of my healing.  But even there I must be cautious about how much time I spend reading other parents’ stories if I notice that I’m absorbing too much pain and not enough encouragement.

me too sharing the path

Grief is hard.  

It’s work. 

And that work is made up of dozens of daily choices that are also often difficult.  

I don’t expect to be healed and whole this side of eternity.  But I do know that if I consistently do the work grief requires I will be stronger, more whole and better able to lean into the life I have left than if I don’t.

I want to live. 

I want to honor my son by living a life that’s more than just limping along, barely making it, struggling for each step.  

So I do the work grief asks of me.  

Even when it’s hard.  

give yourself space to do the work grief requires

 

No Substitute for My Missing Child

Bereaved parents hear lots of things from folks who truly do wish to bring comfort but often miss the mark by a mile.

One of them goes something like this, “Well, at least you have your other children (and/or grandchildren) and they need you!”

Now, if they gave it a bit of thought, they would know right away that’s at best an uninformed remark and at worst, a very painful one.

before you tell a grieving parent to be grateful which of yours could you live without

People are not interchangeable.  

There is no substitute for my son.  

He is a unique individual who holds a unique space in my heart.  

dominic at olive garden

As much as I rejoice in my surviving children and look forward to grandchildren, no one else can take his place.  

It’s little comfort to think that no matter how large our family circle grows in years to come, it will always-ALWAYS– be a broken circle.

The place where Dominic should be, but isn’t, will remain unfilled. 

I will never stop missing him.  

Never.  

missing child from arms

 

 

Repost: The Mercy of Not Knowing

I participate in a number of online support groups for bereaved parents.

And one topic that makes the rounds at least once a week-often once a day-is how those outside our experience cannot truly understand our experience.

Because it’s true-you THINK you can imagine the pain of child loss if you have children, but even the most vivid imagination can’t conjure the utter blackness that waits on the other side of hearing, “Your son is dead.”

Read the rest here:  The Mercy of Not Knowing

Repost: No Way to “Fix” Child Loss

This was shared in a bereaved parents’ group to which I belong and I really like it.

It’s a great reminder to those of us traveling this road that it is a lifelong journey.

It’s also a good explanation of why there is a gap between our experience and those who have never experienced child loss.

Read the rest here:  No Way to “Fix” Child Loss

This Is What I Want You To Know About A Grieving Parent’s Heart

I wrote this three years ago and it was probably one of the first posts where I was bold enough to bare it all.

I was afraid to hit “publish” because I was afraid it would be misunderstood or seem pushy or too raw.

But then something amazing happened-I was out shopping later that day and had an email come through from the Huffington Post.

I thought it was a joke.

It wasn’t-they wanted to publish this on their blogging website platform.   And they did.  (You can read it here.)

It’s still one of my favorite posts-not because it was picked up by them but because it’s been shared by many, many grieving parents in an attempt to open the door of the closet full of emotions we often keep hidden.

People say“I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

It isn’t nostalgia for a time when things were different or better or you talked more: it’s a gut-wrenching, breath-robbing, knee-buckling, aching groan that lives inside you begging to be released.

Read the rest What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know.

 

Busy

My empty nest means I’m rarely crazy busy even around the holidays.  

I no longer have to fit in shopping whenever I can manage it because little eyes might be watching or Christmas choir performances and church programs fill the calendar.  

No.  

Most of my shopping is online and I don’t even have to worry about whisking gifts off the porch before anyone sees them.

I’m a different kind of busy now.  

I’m busy making sure I’m not overexposed to Christmas commercials, Christmas movies or Christmas carols because they are likely to open the floodgates of tears I keep behind a dam of determination.

I’m busy drawing deep breaths when I pick up the phone and it’s a relative that never calls but needs an address for a Christmas card and, since I’m apparently the Keeper of the Addresses, always calls me.

I’m busy looking away from the childhood photos lining my upstairs hallway so I can stay focused on the vacuuming that needs doing.

I’m busy pinning down fruitless thoughts of “what if” or “if only” or “I wish”.

I’m busy getting things ready for the brief time my remaining family will be gathered around the dining room table.  I’m trying hard to accommodate schedules and preferences and favorite foods and treasured traditions.

I’m busy pushing back sadness that threatens to overwhelm me in the dark of the year when clouds and rain make it even darker, even earlier.  I’m lighting candles, plugging in lights and adding cheerful touches here and there to drive out the shadows that come creeping.

From the outside looking in, I’m awash in free time and easy choices.  

And some folks wonder why I don’t answer the phone or join in the party.  

But I am very, very busy.  

I was busy

Just Yesterday and Forever

The human heart is a funny thing-always working hard to protect itself from grievous injury yet prone to exactly what it tries to prevent.

I honestly believe that one of the gifts of early grief is disbelief.  Because if I could have understood at once what it meant that Dominic was really, truly GONE, I would have never lasted the first 24 hours.

Even now, going on five years, my head plays games with my heart.

Missing my son is very much like bringing him home except in reverse.

I don’t know about you, but each child added to our quiver slipped in and seemed like he had always been there.  It was nearly impossible to remember life before he joined us.  I knew, as a matter of FACT, that months and even years had passed without him there, but it was so natural, so beautiful, so perfect now that he was here, the before faded in the background of the after.

It’s much the same way now that he’s gone.  

Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the human mind and heart.  The spaces I was able to keep sacred to Dominic’s memory (or maybe because some part of my heart held out hope he’d return) are slowly being filled in by people and events and things that he’s never met, participated in or touched.  They crowd out the Sacred Spaces I have worked hard to maintain.

And bit by bit it’s as if it’s always been THIS way.  

Only it hasn’t.  

I’m not forgetting my son.  That will NEVER happen.  But I am losing the daily pathways that once helped me trace his fingerprints on my life, my belongings and my heart.  

And that makes me sad.  

I’m trying hard to find new ways to keep him current, part of everyday conversation, events and gatherings.  I want his name mentioned as naturally as that of my other children.  I want the funny things he used to do remembered and recounted.  I want my oldest son’s child to know Uncle Dominic as well as his or her other aunts and uncles.

There are still moments, days and even a week here and there, when it feels like only yesterday that Dominic left for Heaven.  The pain is as fresh, as intense, as unbelievable as it was when I got the news. 

That shocks me every time.  

But most days I’m digging deep to tap old memories, working hard to weave his story into our ongoing story and looking for ways to keep his legacy alive for the generation to come.  

Time is a funny thing.

Yesterday AND forever.