When It’s Been YEARS-How to Bless a Grieving Parent

Please hear me. 

I do NOT blame you that my son and my sorrow have drifted down your list of “things that need attention”.  Your life is as busy as mine once was and your calendar full of commitments and celebrations that require your attendance.

There is no way you would know it’s 69 days until the fourth anniversary of Dominic’s sudden absence. 

There is no reason for you to be aware that as the southern landscape turns to spring, my heart and mind turn to death.  

But it’s the truth. 

As the rest of the world looks forward to Easter (and I do too-for the promise and hope it brings) I am dreading Holy Week.  Dominic was killed the Saturday before Palm Sunday and laid to rest the Monday after Easter.  So every year I relive it twice-once during Holy Week and once again (when the dates are different) according to the calendar.

And each year it feels lonelier and lonelier.  

Because each year fewer and fewer people remember or if they do, they don’t know how to offer that up as a blessing because it feels awkward or stiff.

So may I suggest a few things that most bereaved parents would absolutely LOVE for friends and family to say or do-especially as the months roll into years or even decades?

  • Send a card, message or text indicating that you DO remember.  And not just for the date of passing, but also for his or her birthday or other important milestone dates.
  • Send an electronic or physical copy of a photo.  It feels so empty to peruse the same photos over and over.  It is an invaluable gift to get one I haven’t ever seen before.  Every time it feels like I get a tiny new piece of Dominic to hold close to my heart.
  • If you have saved voice mails or videos-send those.  Not every parent can or wants to listen/watch these, but they are a gift nonetheless.  Just having them brings some comfort.
  • Post a memory on Facebook.  If the child’s timeline is still up, write something TO the child-did you share an experience, a class, a hobby-then speak to that.  Tell me how Dominic is still part of your life.  Because as long as his influence still lives, part of him lives also.
  • Speak his or her name in conversation.  I know it can be awkward.  But don’t shy away from mentioning my child in conversation just as you would if he were living.  If you are talking about an event in which he took part, please, please, please do NOT talk around him.  I remember.  You aren’t shielding me. It is so good for my heart to share these memories with other people.
  • If I post a photo or memory on Facebook, please don’t scroll past with the attitude “there she goes again!”.  I post because I will talk about Dominic just as I will talk about my living children as long as I live.  Yes, it’s the same photo-but I don’t have new ones because I CAN’T TAKE THEM, not because I don’t want them.  If you think it’s  “too much” I challenge you to cut off all (I mean ALL) communication with one of your living children for a week.  That’s just the tiniest taste of what it’s like.
  • If I plan some kind of memorial activity, participate if you can.  Personally I haven’t done this but many parents plan balloon releases or ask people to do a Random Act of Kindness in the name of their child.  If you are able, join in.

There is a common theme here:  if you think about my child, let me know.  

I will not forget Dominic.  

I couldn’t. 

But it is oh, so helpful to know that others aren’t forgetting either.  

missing child from arms


Toss that rock in the water and see what happens.

It’s impossible to keep the ripples from moving farther and farther from the point of impact.

And even though I can’t see it, my casual toss has changed the environment of the pond in ways it would not have been changed without my action.

Our lives are like that- we touch other people every day and rarely know how our brief brush may ripple through their lives for years or even eternity.

I have been lifted up by a smile offered by a stranger-that buoyant mood lasting long enough to save an otherwise dreary day.

I have also had a beautiful morning made overcast by the sour attitude of someone that should be helpful.

I want to bring sunshine not rain wherever I go.

I want to speak courage to trembling hearts.

No telling how far the ripples may go. ❤️


What’s Your Legacy?

I can’t tell you how many people try to tell me what Dominic’s “legacy” is.  They extol his positive virtues and comment on how many lives he touched in his short 23 years.

They want me to be consoled with the intangible, relational, immeasurable impact of his life on the lives of others.

Yet they continue to live as if their OWN legacy will be determined by the amount of stuff they acquire or the size of their retirement accounts or the money they leave behind for others to spend.

It can’t be both.

If my son’s life is worth remembering just because of who he was, the people he loved and how he lived, then EVERYONE’S life is worth remembering for the very same things.

Christmas is the one time a year when far-flung family members are often gathered around the same table.  It’s an opportunity to make connections and build relationships.

So I ask myself, “Am I going to spend it talking about the weather and the news and other sundry things that won’t matter in a day, much less a year?”


OR, maybe I can choose to reach out, to ask deep questions, to make space for honest conversation and real sharing.

Maybe I can mend a broken relationship by offering a long-hoped-for apology, speaking aloud the offense and taking responsibility for the pain I’ve caused in the past.  

Perhaps I can proclaim a REAL blessing-not just the one we memorized from grade school-over the food and over the heads of the people gathering to eat it.

Why am I glad they are there?  TELL THEM!

Most of the presents under the tree will be consumed, broken, outgrown and tossed away one day.  But meaningful words spoken in love and kindness will live forever in a person’s heart.

We all leave something behind.  

We are all building a legacy.  

This Christmas I’m asking myself, “What’s mine?”

greatest gift is your time



Be Present

I remember the first year cell phones became common among my children’s friends.

We hosted an event at our home and I watched, amused, as the guests realized, one by one, that there was NO cell service out here in the country.

get smart hear me now

Cut off from their electronic connection to everyone not in attendance, they were forced to be fully present with those that were.

Some of them embraced the opportunity while others bemoaned the fact they had to carry on face-to-face conversations.

And when they found out we didn’t have cable TV, well, THAT was a whole other disappointment!

What seemed natural to me and my family was unusual and uncomfortable for most of them.

Being present takes effort.

It’s so much easier to listen with one ear while pointing the other toward Facebook, YouTube, music or some other distraction.

It’s a lot harder to sit quietly through the same story you’ve heard every Christmas.  It requires self-discipline to lean in and love on that difficult aunt or uncle who can be so critical but is really so desperate for compassionate companionship. It is unnatural to lay aside our own desire to be the center of attention and make room for someone else instead.

But being present is the present only YOU can give.

wherever you are be all there

And it is the present that others will remember long after the trinket you bought them has been lost or broken.

So put down the phone. Turn off the TV.  Hide the remote and close the apps.

BE with your people.  They, and you, are a gift.

Today is a treasure that will never be repeated.  

Treat it that way.  




Here We Go Again: Season of Joy-Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

I wrote this two years ago,  our second without Dominic.

This will be our fourth.

I’m still feeling my way along this path, still trying to figure out how to honor the missing and love the living in ways that are meaningful and helpful. I didn’t get a “how-to” book when my son died. I and other grieving hearts are doing the best we can.

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

Read the rest here:  Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

The TRULY Beautiful People

I’ve spent the last three days with over a hundred bereaved parents.

And they are all beautiful.  

Beautiful in their bravery and their brokenness. 

It was probably the most diverse and HONEST “church service” I’ve ever been to-and it had nothing to do with the facility.  It had everything to do with hearts.  

These are hearts desperately longing to beat to the rhythm of the heart of God.  Hearts that are too shattered to pretend when there is an altar call.  Hearts that don’t care if sobs escape or tears stream down.

And hearts that receive other hearts with open arms no matter if the body that carries them looks familiar or proper or fashionable or is the same color as their own.

It was hard to be surrounded by so many hearts carrying so much pain. 

But it was also beautiful. 

I wrote this last year and was reminded of it yesterday:

We spend so much time, money and effort trying to make our decaying frame look less like the temporary shelter it’s intended to be and more like an eternal monument to beauty.

But try as we might, we are impotent against the forces that will eventually drag us to the grave.

What if, instead, I worked as diligently to exercise my inner woman as I do my too-generous bottom?

Read the rest here:  Beauty That Lasts

Something To Sing About

If you live in the city or a heavily-developed neighborhood you may only see a few birds. But out here in the country, with plenty of cover and a variety of bugs, trees and weeds, there are dozens of species living within earshot of my house.

sing aloud every day

And I love, love, love hearing their songs.

Sometimes it’s the keening wail of a hawk flying high and searching for something to eat. Sometimes it’s an owl calling to its mate or warning off another suitor.  Often it’s the chitter-chatter of wrens or robins or cardinals as they go about their daily business and fuss over patches of ground finding food.

The blue-jays chase the squirrels.

Mockingbirds dive-bomb crows.

Each one doing what it was created to do, not worrying about a thing.

A veritable chorus fills the air.

And at night I get a lovely bonus-a whippoorwill’s voice drifts toward my window through the dark reminding me that not everyone is ready to fall asleep.

All these songs make my heart sing too.

They lift my spirit and fill me with hope.

They remind me that I have also been given a song though I often forget it.

Yet in the light of day, the Eternal shows me His love.
    When night settles in and all is dark, He keeps me company—
    His soothing song, a prayerful melody to the True God of my life.

Psalm 42:8 VOICE

But when I choose to remember and sing, it calls courage to my heart.  

sing anyway 2