Homesick

I remember the first time I felt homesick.  

I had been away from home before but never without the company of someone I knew well and loved.  

This time was different-I was at a sleepover camp populated with strangers.  Kind strangers, yes, but not a familiar face among the crowd.  

It had sounded like a great idea when I signed up.  So much to do and see:   horses to pet and ride, crafts to be made, campfires to sit around and cook over.

But I soon found that no amount of excitement or distraction could undo the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was not where I should be.  It was all just a bit “off”.  Everything was slightly skewed.  I never got comfortable enough there to truly enjoy myself.

Instead, I kind of simply endured.

Since Dominic left for Heaven, more than a few days have been spent with that same feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Although I am (very often) surrounded by people I know and love, I still can’t shake the sense that things aren’t quite “right”.

Of course I’m perfectly aware that part of the feeling is generated by Dominic’s absence.

But there’s more to it than that. 

desire-for-another-world-c-s-lewis

I know the Bible teaches that this world is not our home.

Still, I think most of us get so comfortable here that we forget. 

I know I had. 

As my family grew in number and years, I was able to bring “home” with me wherever I went.  Together, we created a bubble of love and companionship.  It seemed nearly perfect-until one of us left suddenly and unexpectedly.  

Immediately, Heaven as my true home become so much dearer to me. 

I know that the correct “Sunday School” answer is that I’ve always longed to see Jesus.

But if I’m honest-and I try very hard to be honest here-as long as my family was intact, Heaven could wait.  

It took the life-altering, heart breaking reality of child loss for me to recognize that this world is NOT my home.  No matter how beautiful, wonderful and fulfilling my life on earth may be, it’s never going to be free of hardship and heartache.

I am homesick-utterly, inconsolably homesick. 

So I point my face to the east-just as Dominic and other saints whose bodies await the resurrection face east-and look forward to that Glorious Day when Jesus will return and make every thing that’s wrong. right.

I admit that my homesick heart won’t ever be satisfied in this world.  

And I lean in and hold on to the hope I have in Christ-trusting Him to redeem and restore.  

I began to try to define the pain I felt. Yes, it was sorrow, but it was something more, something infinitely deeper. I felt it all the time, even when I was happy. It wasn’t just sorrow. It was a longing; a pining for a better place and time … no, not just a better place and time, a perfect place and time; a different reality. It felt like longing for home, but not for a home I had ever been to. I began to see that it was something like homesickness …. Perhaps Christians are the most consistently homesick people in the world because they know this world (as it is) isn’t their true home. Yes, I was home, but I was still homesick.
~Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home

Why, “Just Think About All The Good Memories,” Doesn’t Comfort My Heart

I pull out the memories like treasures from a locked strongbox.

“Handle With Care” because they are all I have left.

But they are not enough.

They will never be enough to satisfy this mama’s heart.

We are supposed to have to remember our elders, our grandparents, even, maybe our spouse at some point-but not our children.

I knew my son from before he made his entrance into the wide world.  He had already danced his way into my heart before he took his first step on solid ground.  He was part of me from the moment of conception.

I waited breathlessly to see his face for the first time.

I never expected that I would also see it for a last time.

We all have people we expect to outlive-our grandparents, our parents, elderly friends and neighbors-but not our child.

As our loved ones age, the wise among us begin to catalog and carefully store all those “lasts” or soon-to-be “lasts”.  We ask for stories to make sure we can keep telling them.  We take extra photographs, make extra phone calls and write down recipes.

I was living life forward with Dominic-just like all my kids.  We were a busy, busy family and I was never very good at scrapbooking or saving up the ordinary flotsam of everyday life.

dom age 2 sunscreen

So while I have some pictures, memorabilia and tokens of his too-short life, I don’t have nearly enough.  Oh, how I wish I had more!  Not to create a museum or a shrine but to help my poor brain remember.

When someone says, “Just think of the good memories” it triggers all kinds of emotions and not one of them is what the person intends when giving me that advice.

I feel guilty-guilty for all the things I CAN’T remember. 

Dominic is my third child and only 19 months older than his younger brother.  There are so many gaps from those early years because I was overwhelmed and tired.  Why can’t I conjure up images of him at 3 or 4? 

That hurts.

I feel incredibly sad-sad that whatever memories I DO have are all I will ever have.  I had the memories BEFORE my son wasn’t walking with me and had planned on making many more.

So focusing on memories brings little solace.

Even  at 4 1/2 years into this journey, I’m torn when I pull out the memories.

I can smile now about many of them, but it’s always bittersweet.

Because this treasure trove is as large as it will ever be. 

The Healing Power of Fellowship

I spent last weekend with eleven other bereaved moms.

And lest you think, “How sad!”, let me just tell you we had a beautiful time together.

Sure there were tears-how can there not be when talking about the precious children we miss-but there was fun too.

Of course we had somber moments. 

Especially as we lit candles in honor of each child whose light lives on even as their physical presence is denied us.

anchor retreat lit candle

In between Bible study sessions we ate, talked, walked outside and got to know one another.

A game of “Two Truths and a Lie” revealed all kinds of surprises that had us practically falling off our chairs with uproarious laughter.

Even though most of us had never met before, knowing we shared the heartache of child loss drew us together and opened the door to meaningful conversation.

anchor retreat hope

For 72 hours we didn’t have to put our masks on or walk with one foot in the world of the spared and one foot in the world of the deeply wounded. 

We were free-gloriously free-to be real and unguarded.

One of the fun things we did was have a Mary Kay consultant come and do facials and makeup.  I think we kind of shocked her when she went around the circle asking, “So what are you primary make up concerns?” and over half of us said, “I don’t wear make up.”

Poor woman.

anchor retreat mary kay lady (2)

She had no idea that we had long passed the point of faking feelings or saying what someone expects just because they expect it.

I know it was a stretch for some of the moms to make their way to this place they’d never been to and walk into a room full of women they’d never met.

It was a stretch for me to facilitate discussions when I felt I had reached my limit for anything besides staying home for the rest of this year.

But it was worth it.

There is nothing as beautiful as broken hearts gathering together to love, uplift, encourage and listen to one another.

If you have the opportunity and are afraid, please step out. 

Take a chance and link arms with fellow grievers.

I promise you will be glad you did.

circle-of-women

 

Grief Triggers

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.

Triggers can happen anywhere, any time. They are often unpredictable and surprising.

And there is not one. single. thing. I can do about them.

Even four plus years into this journey and I am as vulnerable today as I’ve ever been.

I try to limit my exposure. I try to have an escape route. I try to suck up the tears and stifle the sobs.

But sometimes no matter how hard I try, I’m overwhelmed and undone.

overwhelmed woman image with glasses huff post

There’s part of me that wishes I could just move on and rejoin life and the human race calm and collected,  regardless of what memories a sight, sound or smell taps into.

And then there’s part of me that wants the world to sit up and take notice of the ongoing pain and toll child loss inflicts on a parent’s heart.

I’ll be honest, as I’m writing this I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that one of my children is dead.

pencil-drawing-bereaved-mother

Oh sure, I can relate the series of events, but in my heart of hearts it is as shocking today that Dominic isn’t coming home as it was on April 12, 2014.

I really can’t adequately convey the ongoing sense that this must be a mistake.  There must be something someone has overlooked.  Maybe it was all a dream and he will come walking through the door.

I’m not crazy.

I know that Dominic is dead. I saw his body in the casket. I saw the casket lowered into the ground. I visit his grave to change out the flowers.

But I will never, ever get used to it.

family never gets over the death of a loved one

 

All it takes is a smell or a sound or any one of a thousand things that I associate with my third child and I’m transported to that awful morning.

So if you see me tear up, shut down or turn away- let me go.

I just need a few minutes to put my game face back on.

Holidays and Grief: Having Hard Conversations

You don’t have to bury a child to know that changing long-standing family traditions around holidays is a hard, hard thing.

Just ask a parent trying to work out Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time after an adult child marries.  Suddenly the way things have “always been” are no longer the way things are.

If you’ve decided to try to do things differently this year, you know that means telling other folks who might not like it.

And that’s really hard.  

But the sooner you have those conversations, the better. 

Because the only thing that makes it worse is procrastinating until it feels like an ambush to your extended family and friends.  

Read the rest here:  Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

 

 

 

Grief and Holidays: Some Practical Ideas After Loss

I wish I had found some of these ideas before we headed into our first set of holidays after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

It would have helped so very much.  

So I’m sending these out early enough so that someone else may be both validated and liberated in planning how to approach one of the most difficult times of year for bereaved parents.  

I pray they reach the heart that needs them.  ❤

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.

These days also stir great internal conflict:  I want to enjoy and celebrate my living children and my family still here while missing my son that isn’t. Emotions run high and are, oh so difficult to manage.

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

What the Bereaved Need from Friends and Family (But Might Not Tell You)

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