Holidays: Every Year is Different

I admire those families that have holiday plans pinned down for next year by the time they box up this year’s Christmas decorations.

Somehow we’ve never perfected the art of predictable patterns and unchanging life circumstances that make such a thing even possible.

So while we try to observe some of the same traditions from year to year, they tend to be expressed a little differently each time.

Of course, the year Dominic left us EVERYTHING changed.

“Changed” isn’t even really the right word. It was more like everything just stopped. Holidays were out of place in a world where all the color had faded to gray. What heart can make merry when all it feels is sorrow and despair?

Even still, the calendar beckoned and we muddled through the first Thanksgiving and Christmas as best we could.

This will be the eighth (!) holiday season since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

My children are all adults with established careers living away from home. We’ve added to the family circle through marriage and childbirth and we’ve had to say “see you later” to my mama who joined Dom with Jesus in 2019. Of course, like so many others, Covid interrupted last year’s celebration.

The past two years have been filled with travel (some planned, some unexpected) including a trip this week out to Texas to spend time with my son’s family.

So I find myself only days away from Thanksgiving without a concrete plan for when we will actually get together around the table and what, exactly, might be on it when we do.

(Please don’t ask me about Christmas yet!)

It’s more than a little uncomfortable for this gal who loves lists and planning and decorating to choose flexibility and flying by the seat of my pants. And it’s very uncomfortable to be the point of contact for various family members who are used to me having answers instead of more questions when they call to find out when they should show up and what they should bring.

But if there’s one thing I’m learning in this life after loss it’s this: Control is an illusion. All the planning in the world can’t account for random and unexpected.

I’m going to make some phone calls today to try to figure it out.

I’m pretty sure we will have plenty to eat, plenty to say and plenty of room for whoever shows up.

Hugs all around!

And pie for dessert.

Looking Forward: A New Season of Grief

For a long, long time I couldn’t bear to see a monthly calendar.

I didn’t want to be reminded that time refused to stand still for my broken heart and I hated there were no more “Dominic” events to scribble in on the blank squares.

Around the third year I was able to once again mark major events like birthdays, holidays and short family trips. But it was even longer before I was able to truly look forward with excitement to those things.

Seven plus years, multiple family changes, a pandemic, retirement and a grandchild have reshaped my heart so that I’m genuinely thrilled to prepare and participate in most things from family meals to “Granny Camp” (which I get to host next week!).

I’m not forgetting nor minimizing Dominic by diving into these events with gusto. In fact, I’m sure he would approve.

So I’m entering a new season of grief-one which makes room for current joys and celebrations while still holding space for Dominic.

I can be present and participate without reserve.

I am making memories with those who are still here.

Enjoying every moment.

Child Loss: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

I know I’m not the only one who carries a calendar in my head that threatens to explode like a ticking timebomb.  Days that mean nothing to anyone else loom large as they approach.

The date of his death.

The date of his funeral.

His birthday.

My birthday.

The day he should have graduated from law school.

On and on and on.

How can I survive these oppressive reminders of what I thought my life would look like? How can I grab hold of somethinganything that will keep my heart and mind from falling down the rabbit hole of grief into a topsy-turvy land where nothing makes sense and it’s full of unfriendly creatures that threaten to gobble me whole?

Read the rest here: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

How To Survive Grief Anniversaries


I know I’m not the only one who carries a calendar in my head that threatens to explode like a ticking timebomb.
  Days that mean nothing to anyone else loom large as they approach.

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The date of his death.

The date of his funeral.

His birthday.

My birthday.

The day he should have graduated from law school

On and on and on.

How can I survive these oppressive reminders of what I thought my life would look like? How can I grab hold of somethinganything that will keep my heart and mind from falling down the rabbit hole of grief into a topsy-turvy land where nothing makes sense and it’s full of unfriendly creatures that threaten to gobble me whole?

Read the rest here: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

Holiday Help For Grieving Hearts

The calendar is tricky for grieving hearts.

It’s not just a way to plan events or remember doctor appointments.

It’s full of milestone dates and commitments that loom large and awful like an oncoming train in a dark tunnel.

Sometimes I just want to fall asleep sometime around the end of October and wake up in January after all the hoopla is over. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/10/21/grief-and-holidays-how-can-i-make-it-through/

August Scripture Journal Challenge: Verses on Grief

I don’t know about you but it’s been much harder for me to study Scripture since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Not because I don’t want to dive deep like I used to but because I don’t have the same ability to sit still and read like I did before.

So I’ve looked for easy ways to make Scripture study part of my morning routine.

One way I’ve done that is by using a themed “Monthly Scripture Writing” calendar.

There are several around and regardless of which month may be slapped across the top of the list, they can be used according to whatever topic is most helpful or appropriate for you at the time.

In an effort to encourage myself and anyone who wants to join in, I’m going to be writing blog posts using a calendar of verses on Grief.

Here’s the link: http://www.swtblessings.com/2017/03/april-scripture-writing-plan-grief.html (You can download and print your own copy.)

It will work like this:

Purchase or find a notebook you can designate as your Scripture journal. It can be a spiral notebook (easy to find and on sale now before school starts), a composition book (plain or fancy), a traditional journal (usually in a smaller format) or simply loose-leaf paper that you can pop in a three ring binder. It really doesn’t matter. Use what is easiest for you to keep track of and write in.

I personally prefer the cheap 70 sheet spiral notebooks because they lay flat when opened and make writing and drawing easier. It also means that if I want to or need to, I can use up to four pages per day and it will all still fit in one notebook. The covers are easy to decorate (if I want to) and pages are durable. I choose wide-ruled which leaves room for doodling around words for emphasis.

Round up some colored pens, pencils, crayons and/or markers. We will use these to highlight/emphasize words and to illustrate verses.

Purchase or locate a few regular pens that you prefer for writing. For just a couple dollars you can get roller ball or gel pens that really do make a huge difference when copying the longer verses. It’s no fun to write with a cranky instrument!

A Bible in the version you prefer. I have more than one in various versions but also use an online resource like Biblegateway.com or Biblehub.com which makes most English versions available at my fingertips. I really like that option because even though I will only copy out the verse in a single version, reading it in several versions sheds more light on the meaning than when I only read it in one. I’ve also found that familiar verses can become stale if I only read/copy them in the version I know best.

That’s really all you absolutely need for this challenge.

But if you are interested in making your journal more fun and expanding your knowledge a little more, here are a few other things I’d add to my Bible journal basket:

Sticky notes in several different colors. I love, love, love these! I will often copy out the verse in one Bible translation and then jot down significantly different language from another onto a sticky note and add it to the page. I also sometimes use these notes for my own insights or personal illustrations/examples. On occasion, when pressed for time, I’ll write out a question I want to look up later and pop it into the journal as a reminder.

A dictionary. I love to look up words. While it may well be that I technically understand the meaning of a word, when I look it up in the dictionary I’m always reminded of subtle distinctions I’d miss otherwise. Plus there is usually a list of antonyms and synonyms that refine my understanding.

Stickers. I confess I’ve never quite gotten over having these colorful, playful and pretty little additions in my stash to brighten pages here and there. Absolutely NOT necessary but awfully fun.

Topical concordance. If you’ve never learned to use one, now’s a great time to do so. Obviously our main topic will be grief for this month. But often as I’m reading a verse, I want to explore other topics mentioned and use the concordance for that. It’s true you can Google the topic but what you usually get in those results is someone else’s idea of which verses are most pertinent. A good concordance lists all the verses that contain that word in order for the whole Bible.

Magazines that I am comfortable ripping apart for illustrations. I comb through magazines and rip out pages that have interesting graphics or word bubbles or landscapes and keep them in a folder for when I want to add just a little something to a page.

This list could be endless. I hope that some folks will comment below and share what they enjoy adding to a journal.

I place all these in a basket I keep by my rocking chair so I never have to go searching for one or more of the things I need to complete each day’s assignment.

That’s really all there is to it.

Each day you will write that day’s verse(s) on one page. You can add in-text notes or save your observations and notes for after the Scripture. Use a second page to record thoughts and observations, cross-referenced scriptures, an illustration or two, quotes, pictures or prayers.

At the end of the month you will have your very own personalized topical Bible reference notebook and prayer journal.

I’ll be posting something about each day’s selection here and on Facebook in both our closed bereaved parents’ group and on the public Heartache and Hope page if you’re looking for companionship and encouragement.

I hope you’ll join me and add your own voice to the discussion.

How Can It Be Five Years??!!

We all experience it from time to time-that moment when your head comprehends that life has kept going but your heart refuses to keep pace.  

So today, I’m looking at a calendar that assures me it has been five years since that deputy knocked on my door. 

It’s a fact.  

My heart says, “It cannot be true.  It cannot be that long since I saw my living, breathing son cross the threshold of our family home.  It cannot be that long since I made the phone calls that still echo in my ears.  It can. not. possibly. be. that. long.”

And yet it is.  

If folks ask me how I’m doing, how my family is doing, I usually say we are OK.

Because, all things considered, we ARE. 

beach-and-family-better

None of us find daily life unmanageable.  None of us have fallen prey to addiction or unhealthy coping mechanisms.  None of us sit inside all day, moping and mourning the loss of a life we couldn’t hold onto even if we had seen it slipping away in time to take a firmer grip.

But we are absolutely, utterly, profoundly CHANGED.  

I often think back to old Star Trek episodes that showed crew members transporting to the surface of an unknown planet.  Their bodies were broken down into the tiniest component molecules and reassembled somewhere else.

I think that’s what this life is like. 

We’ve all been disassembled and reassembled. 

But instead of everything falling back into place, there are missing bits here and there, gaps too small for others to see but very, very real to us.  Connections lost.  Memories without proper context.

dont recognize myself without one of my sons

Feelings floating free of any anchor, bubbling up at the most inconvenient moments.  

And we all just plain MISS HIM.

We miss Hector Dominic DeSimone and who he is, what he brought to the table and car rides and family gatherings.

We miss who we were before we knew loss that burrows deep in your bones.  We miss the unmitigated joy and celebration we could toss around like confetti at the slightest provocation.

So today, unlike most days, we will give in to the sorrow.  We will remember that morning.  We won’t brush away the tears or the sad memories.  

He is worth every second and every heartache.

He is never forgotten.  

He is always, always on our minds.  

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Springtime Preview: Countdown to April

We’ve had an unusually warm winter this year.  

Not at all like the winter in 2014 which was punctuated by several deep freeze days and one giant “Snowmeggedon” that resulted in hundreds of people trapped in cars, at work or in schools.  

But there are other things that strike a chord in my heart and make me feel like I’m reliving that January through April. 

Lots of rain-both here and at my parents’ place in Florida.  A few days before Dominic left us, I sent him a photo of his younger brother nearly knee deep in creek water that had spilled from the banks into a nearby field.  He couldn’t believe it!  I still have the texts.

julian and creek in 2014

 

As for my parents’ home-well the rain has already filled the ponds which have risen across some spots in the dirt road that connects them to everywhere.  In 2014, the water got so high they were forced to evacuate for months as travel became nearly impossible except for lifted trucks or tractors.  It probably won’t reach that state again since dirt has been added to the road bed but it’s coming awful close and that taps memories and feelings in ways it’s hard to explain.

The year Dominic left us was going to be a year full of celebrations, culminations and hearty parties.  Julian was graduating with a Business Management degree, James Michael was wrapping up Veterinary School, Dominic would have survived the first two years of Law School with relatively easy classes left, Fiona was advancing in her Masters of Public Health Degree and James Michael and Lillie were getting married.

We thought all we’d need to “survive” that year was a cold winter and wet spring.  

We were wrong. 

This year is another year of celebration:  Fiona is marrying Brandon.  James Michael is coming home from deployment and will welcome, along with Lillie, his first child.  My husband will retire.

And all the preparation, along with the rain, is making me anxious.  

I wish it didn’t.  

Something about the timing, the temperature, the smell of green grass growing and leaves unfurling just overwhelms my heart.  

I’m so much better at planning now than I was just a year ago.  I can think more clearly, work more consistently, stay on track and make progress much better than those first years after Dominic ran ahead.

I have notebooks stacked on my table, decorations stacked in the room that used to be Dom’s.  Plastic bins full of tidbits we’ll use for the wedding and bridal showers.  My dress is sleeved in plastic and hung on the door for safe keeping.

I’m as ready as I can be.  

But once you’ve made big plans and had them shattered in an instant, once you’ve looked far forward to exciting times and had dancing turned to mourning, once you’ve done all the right things to make everything right and it’s gone all wrong-well, you just can’t shake the feeling that it might happen again.

I’m working hard to throw off the mantle of hesitation and anxiety that threatens to weigh me down.

I’m doing everything I can to remind my heart that this is an entirely different year, these are completely different celebrations.

Some days I am really good at it.  

Others, not so much.  

But I AM looking forward to all the beautiful things on my calendar.  

New marriage.  New life.  Bigger family circle.  

Spring is the year’s promise.   

I’m hanging on to that.  ❤

no winter lasts foreer and no spring skips its turn

One Little Word 2018

I used to spend every New Year’s morning with my Bible, my thoughts and my Lord.

I wrote each family member’s name in my journal and waited for the Holy Spirit to give me a verse to pray for them for the next year.

I would end with my own name and ask God what good works He had planned for me.

When I look back over these journals I realize that what I had essentially been doing for decades was asking God for “One Little Word” to focus my energy, resources and attention each year.

I honestly believe that every human on the face of the Earth is here for a reason. They are not a random collection of cells and neurons. They are created in the image of an Almighty God to impact the people around them in specific ways.

So I challenge you to ask the God of the universe to give you One Little Word for 2018. 

And then hold every potential commitment up to that light to determine if it is really part of God’s plan for you this year.

For some of my hurting parent friends the word may be “healing” or “rest” and that’s just fine.  For others it may be “endurance” or “perseverance” and that’s fine too.

It’s between you and God.

May you hear clearly and receive with open hands.

Who’s Gonna Miss You Baby?

Busyness has become a national idol-we rush from commitment to commitment, signing up to fill every single minute with something, anything that makes us feel important, valuable, irreplaceable.

Of course we have job and family obligations-as we should-but we don’t feel fully accomplished until we have colored in the edges of our calendar until no white space remains.

Because we think that if we don’t show up, people will miss us.  We think that if WE don’t do this or that, it won’t get done.  We are absolutely certain that our input is critical to the success of every mission, every committee, every project.

Can I let you in on a little secret?  It’s not.

One of the inconvenient and difficult truths that has been burned in my brain since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven is this:  his absence didn’t make a bit of difference to the world at large.

It only made a difference to the hearts that loved him.

He was editor of a law journal-guess what?  It was still published.

He died days before final exams.  They happened anyway.

His apartment? Cleaned out and rented to the next in line.

His commitments? The hole closed up around the space he would have occupied or it was filled with someone else’s body and energy.

He is truly missed by those for whom his absence was inconceivable, not by those for whom his absence was an inconvenience.  

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So my take away is this:  I will not waste my time running here, there and everywhere.

I will not spend my life energy on things or projects or activities that don’t matter.

I am not going to invest the scarce resource of the rest of my life in busyness.

I will give everything I’ve got to hearts and lives and people.  I will pour myself into projects I’m passionate about, people I love and pursuits that will outlive my few years on this earth.

Because busyness does not define me.  

Love does.

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