November: Four Years of Sharing And Counting

This month marks the beginning of the fifth year since I committed to write every single day in this space.

No one could be as surprised as I am that I’m still here.

I honestly don’t know what response I anticipated when I showed up and started sharing. I just knew that I could not let this heartache go to waste.

Dominic’s death had to count for something.

I had five goals in mind when I started the blog:

  • To be as honest and transparent as possible;
  • To encourage others and help them hold onto hope;
  • To provide a voice for the child loss community in a format that was easy to share;
  • To acknowledge and admit that faith did not make child loss any less painful, only more bearable; and
  • To chronicle my own progress toward healing.

Of course, I am a biased source, but I feel like I have met those goals in one form or another.

As I continue to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I find there are always new things to say. I am bombarded daily with queries or comments from other bereaved parents that raise a new issue, offer a different perspective or beg for an advocate along this lonesome road.

I’ve discovered that there are many ways life breaks a heart, many ways sorrow enters a soul.

Life is hard.

Love often ends in heartache.

Sorrow can overwhelm a soul so fast there’s no time to grab hold of a lifeline.

But reaching out, reaching back, choosing to be a lighthouse and beacon for the ones so lost they’ve forgotten that light exists, is as much a balm for MY heart as it is for theirs.

Every story matters.

You don’t have to write a blog to share yours.

Speak up. Speak out. Share the hope and strength that has helped you hold on.

You may be the lifeline the next heart needs to choose endurance instead of ending it 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.

Why Am I Still Writing About Loss Five Years Out?

I was one of those people years ago who set her sights on starting and maintaining a blog.  

I thought I would post a few times a week and share anecdotes about my family and critters, insight into daily living and inspiration from Scripture and interesting quotes. 

No, not THIS blog-the other two I started and quickly abandoned to who-knows-where in cyberspace.

Trouble was that the subject matter, while near and dear to my heart, wasn’t personally compelling enough to keep me disciplined and actively writing. 

If someone had said, “Pick any topic to write about”, child loss wouldn’t have been in the first million choices.

No one CHOOSES child loss (Thus the name of the blog:  The Life I Didn’t Choose).

But untold numbers of parents EXPERIENCE it every year.  This very day,  parents somewhere got a knock on the door or a phone call or sat next to a hospital bed as life slipped slowly from their child’s tired body.

Since I was already journaling and had walked this Valley for nearly a year and a half, it dawned on me that the ramblings I’d put down might be helpful to another heart.  So I started THIS blog in September, 2015.

And I’ve been here ever since.  

I’m not in the raw, breathless place I once was.  But grief and loss are part of every breath I take, part of every moment I experience.

whole in my heart mama

I miss Dominic.  I still consider death an enemy.  Every day I hate what was stolen and long for what was.  I mourn the changes grief has wrought in my family.  I wish things were different.  I discover new ways loss impacts my life and new ways of coping with it.

So I keep writing.  

I don’t want anyone to feel alone in this journey.  I don’t want anyone to think there’s no way to survive.   I don’t want a single broken heart to doubt that God is here and that He will help you hold onto hope. 

me too sharing the path

I’ll spill my heart out in words until the words are exhausted. 

It helps me.

I pray it helps others too. 

hope holds a breaking heart together

 

Repost: How and Why I Keep Writing-A Shepherd’s Heart

I am still utterly amazed that since November 2015 I have managed a blog post every day.

At first, I was writing because I wanted to make public the things I was learning in this Valley and to honor my missing son.  

dominic at tims wedding

He had been in Heaven a year and a half by then and it was clear to this mama’s heart that (1) people (including ME before it WAS me!) had absolutely NO IDEA what life after child loss was like once the funeral was over;  (2) one way to redeem this pain was to share how God had been faithful even as I struggled; and (3) I just didn’t see too many honest portrayals of life after loss for Christ followers (which is not to say they didn’t/don’t exist but I hadn’t found them).

So I wrote.

Read the rest here:  How and Why I Keep Writing: A Shepherd’s Heart

Trying to Keep Up

I love, love, love when people leave comments on the blog!  

Even though I wish we had come together over a common happy experience, I’m still thankful we have come together.

And I normally try hard to “like” and answer every comment in a timely way.

But this spring has been a real roller coaster ride and I’ve fallen dreadfully behind.

Please forgive me.  

I’m trying to keep up, but no matter how fast I pedal, I’m not quite able to make the miles I hope to make each day.

I appreciate every single heart that chooses to engage, chooses to encourage, chooses to turn back and hold out a hand to the next struggling soul behind them.  

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  

I love you all.  ❤

buckets to put out flames

In Case You Didn’t Know: Why It Hurts To Steal Someone Else’s Words

Over a year ago (maybe two now?) there was an incident in which a bereaved mom took my words and passed them off as her own.  

It was painful.  

Not because I’m pridefully invested in getting credit for the words but because I am emotionally invested in this blog as a record of my own grief journey and as a way to honor my son.  

It’s simply NOT OK to copy/paste and pass another’s words as your own.  

Just the other day a mom posted on a closed site that she had questioned another mom when the words she claimed as her own sounded too familiar.  Mom #1 googled the text and found that, sure enough, it was a direct quote from Angela Miller, a published author and fellow bereaved mother.

Mom # 1 challenged Mom # 2 but was shouted down by others because, after all, “everything is fair game on the Internet”.  

That’s untrue.    

Online publishing is subject to copyright laws as much as print publishing.  The fact that an author is willing to make the work freely available and easily shareable does not remove the obligation to give appropriate credit and use accurate citations.

sharing-economy-650x400

Grief is not a “free pass” to bad behavior.  

This blog is a record of my own grief journey and honors my son and my family.   

What grieving parent would want another person to steal (yes, steal!) his or her expression of the long, dark tunnel that is child loss?  What grieving parent would think that it’s alright to take a beautiful arrangement from the resting place of one child and put it on the resting place of another?

It’s out there, unprotected, in plain view, so what difference does it make?

The same common courtesy we expect to guide behavior in cemeteries should be the same common courtesy we can expect to guide behavior in online grief groups. 

I, and others. put our thoughts and emotions out there for parents to read in the hope that by reading them they will feel less alone.  

Most of us never make a dime from what we write.  

But we hope that whoever reads it, finds it helpful and then shares it, will honor our efforts by acknowledging the source.  We hope they will honor our child by using quotes and leaving his or her name in place.

It’s a beautiful thing to find words to express something deep in your heart.  

Just make sure to let folks know you found them and didn’t author them.  

Such a small act of gratitude for an amazing gift.  

me too sharing the path

Why Am I Still Writing?

I ask myself this question often:  Do I want to keep writing in this space?  

Sometimes the answer is a resounding, “no!”. 

Because while I love to write, some days it’s hard to put together words in a way others can understand.  Sometimes I’m tired, or rushed or just tired of thinking about how grief and loss impact my life.

And then I ask the follow up:  Do I still have anything to say?

That’s the one that keeps me here. 

Because as soon as I think the answer is “no” to that question,  a conversation or a comment thread or a personal experience brings up something that I feel I need or want to write about.

So I sit down and begin again.  

your-story-could-be-the-key

I made a commitment in the beginning to be as honest as possible and I’ve done that the best I know how while protecting identities of those who are part of my story but who have their own stories to tell (should they choose).

I also promised to be transparent about my thoughts on God, on faith, on life everlasting.  I feel like I’ve done that.  In fact, I’m pretty sure some of my rambling has shocked friends and family from time to time.  But I’m not afraid of shocking God.  He knows my frame, knows my heart and cannot be made small by my questions or doubts.

I try to do research when appropriate to bring together resources and ideas for bereaved parents in one place. 

One of the most frustrating things to me in the early months of missing Dominic was how hard it was to find good resources.  The Internet is not your friend if you are looking for local and accessible help for practical problems.  It was over a year and a half before I found a closed group of like-minded bereaved parents.  But once I did, oh, what a difference that made in my journey!

So if you are interested in finding a safe, closed group, ask me.  I know of several.  

And then there’s the sweet comments that (usually) mamas send my way-either through Facebook or here.  When someone writes that looking for the blog post each morning helps them get out of bed-well, that’s both encouragement and a serious responsibility.  I don’t want to not show up and disappoint a heart.  Even when all I have to offer is only my words.

So for now, at least, I plan to stay.  

When my life circumstances make it impossible to carry on or I run out of things to say (which my mother will swear won’t happen!) then I’ll quit.

I send each post into cyberspace with a prayer-even for my readers who don’t believe in prayer: 

“Father God, help each heart hold onto hope.  Send a ray of sunshine into every cloudy day.  Bring someone along who will listen, who will care and who will offer a hand to the one who is too weary and broken to take another step.  Help them believe that they are seen, they are loved and that they matter.  Overwhelm them with Your love, grace and mercy.”

You DO matter.

I DO care.

If you need to talk, message me. 

If you need a safe space, I’ll direct you to it.  

I’m not going anywhere.  

compassion and stay with you