Grief Journaling Prompts

Journaling has been and continues to be a very important part of my grief journey.

Putting thoughts on paper gets them out of my head.

Writing them down helps me understand them.

i-write-because-i-dont-know

Reading them back is an excellent reflective exercise. It’s a way to track progress, recognize repeating patterns and see where I need to do more grief work.

Sometimes I use Scripture, quotes or other prompts to get me started.  Often I may look up words in the dictionary and jot down the definition or synonyms or examples.  I may draw my way around a concept or cut out pictures from magazines or the newspaper to add to my creation.  There have been days I’ve spent hours and several sheets of paper moving my feelings from my heart to the page.

So if you want to try your hand at journaling, here is a list I find useful.  

Don’t set any parameters or have any expectations.  

Just write, color, draw or whatever flows naturally.

And if the tears fall, let them.

grief journaling exercise

Repost: Why Not Me?

I cannot bring Dominic back-I cannot have my child once again in my arms.  I cannot undo the damage death has wrought and the great gash loss has made in my heart.  

And so I am left with my pain and my questions.

“Why?” is not a particularly fruitful question (although I ask it still).

 “Why not?” is probably more helpful.

If I consider the lives of all the people God chose as examples of His faithfulness and grace there is not one who escapes heartache.

Read the rest here:  Why Not?

 

Eight Grief Quotes That Help My Heart On Hard Days

I’m kind of selective in what memes I toss around.

I don’t usually share them unless I can agree wholeheartedly with them.

But sometimes a meme is the simplest and most effective way to communicate truth.  And sometimes I just need a quick lift on a hard day. 

So here are a few I like:

mixed stages of grief

Grief is not a smooth path up and out of the pit of despair, it’s a tangled mess of thoughts, feelings and physical manifestations.  Grief is WORK.  So, so much work.

grief not a disorder

Grief is not abnormal.  It is not weakness.  It is the natural response to loving someone who is no longer within reach.  There aren’t any shortcuts on this journey.

grief lasts longer than sympathy

This is a hard one.  People mean well but unless they have lost a child (or experienced other significant loss) they just don’t realize that grief lasts a lifetime.  What is a date on the calendar for everyone else-a finite experience with an endpoint-is an ongoing reality for us.

Sympathy will not outlast grief.  The friends who stick around are the ones who understand that.  They choose compassion-which lasts forever.  

grief only exists where love lived first

Another way to say it is “Grief is love unfinished”.  Grief isn’t something conjured up by a heart.  It’s the natural expression of love when the object of that love is no longer available.  Grief IS love.  So it’s no wonder a parent will grieve the rest of his or her life.

give yourself space to do the work grief requires

You cannot do the work grief requires without setting aside time and space to do it.  Running away, stuffing and distraction seem like real options but they aren’t.

Grief will not be denied. 

It will not be ignored. 

So face it. 

Do the work it takes.

grief jumps out least expect it

No matter how long it’s been, grief will still surprise you.  Tears at the most inopportune moment, memories washing over you like waves, joy and sorrow meeting when the camera flashes.  That’s OK.  Let it roll.  Feel it.

its ok to ask for help

It’s not only OK to ask for help, it’s vitally important to ask for it.  NO ONE can bear the burden of grief alone.  People around you might not realize that or might not know how to help.  ASK.  Get counseling if you need to.  Get practical household help if you need to.  Take medication if you need to.  There is nothing shameful in asking for and receiving help.  

one step at a time necklace

Finally, rest assured that there is really no way to face this life in the Valley except to simply take it one step-sometimes one breath-at a time.  Looking too far down the road will only discourage you.  Perseverance IS the victory, dear heart.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  It’s not a sickness that can be “cured”It’s a heart condition that must be acknowledged and impacts life every single day.  

Sometimes when I’m having an especially hard day, I have to remind myself of all these things.  

It helps me.  

I hope it helps you too.  ❤

Repost: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this last year, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here:  From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day

My Sixth Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

When it first happened all I could think about was getting through a minute, then a day and then all the decisions and days leading up to a funeral or memorial service.  

There’s no road map.  

Even when others come alongside (and many, many did!) there’s just no easy way to navigate that part of the journey.

And then I realized that in addition to all the “regular” days that absolutely, positively  break your heart, I had to forge a path through “special” days.

It was overwhelming!

Mother’s Day was especially challenging that first year.  Our loss was fresh and we’d had to acknowledge and celebrate two graduations and a wedding was about a month away.  How in the world could I honor my living children and also safeguard my broken heart?

We muddled through by having Mother’s Day at my daughter’s apartment co-hosted by some of her sweetest and most compassionate friends.  Not a lot of fanfare, but good food, good company and a quiet acknowledgment of Dom’s absence but also my living children’s presence.

It was a gift. 

This is my sixth Mother’s Day.  Every year is different.  Every year presents new challenges and every year things change.  

Since discovering there is an International Bereaved Mother’s Day my heart has taken advantage of having a day to think about and honor Dominic and then another day to think about and honor my living children.

That helps.  

I wrote this post three years ago but can’t really improve on it so I’ll share it again.  I pray that each heart who finds Mother’s Day hard will lean in and take hold of the hem of His garment. 

It’s really the only way.  

Read the rest here:  Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

 

Grief: Why Hiding Isn’t a Long Term Solution

We’ve all done it-chosen to swallow words instead of share them.  

Or we’ve chosen to fake a smile instead of giving another person an honest peek into our hearts.  

Or we’ve pretended, pretended, pretended in the hopes folks sniffing around will go away.  

But it’s not a long term solution to the pain we carry, the scars we bear or the stories that need telling.

Hiding often seems a good idea at the time.  Conflict avoided.  Inconvenient conversations postponed.  Hard issues ignored.  Respite from harsh words, hard feelings and hopeless discussions obtained.

I’ve hidden for a fair share of my life.  

As a child it seemed that the best way to hover just under the parental radar was to go along to get along.  Don’t hold too many preferences too tightly.  Say “yes” even when your heart says “no”.  Let the loud ones prevail.  Stay quiet, stay small and stay out of trouble.

As a young married to a significantly older husband, it served me well.  Don’t rock the boat.  Silent assent keeps things smoother.  Say “yes” even when your heart says “no”.  It’s really not worth the hassle to do otherwise.  Stay quiet, stay small and stay out of trouble.

In a multitude of leadership positions within the church community, it served me well.  Don’t overstep-remember you aren’t a salaried employee.  Check your spirit and make sure your own heart is right.  Let it go and get over it.  Say “yes” even when your heart says “no”.  Stay quiet, stay small and stay out of trouble.

The problem with hiding from feelings and hiding from hard things and hiding from messy relationships is that I can’t hide forever.  Eventually someone or something will force those things to the top.  And if I haven’t been dealing with them all along, they gain strength and intensity in the waiting.

I don’t hide anymore.  

Dominic’s death unleashed a thousand unspoken words, a thousand unexpressed feelings. 

Suddenly I had a lot to say.  

And it didn’t all have a direct connection to Dominic’s leaving but it was his leaving that made them impossible to hide anymore.  Once the dam broke in my heart it ALL flooded out.

Or trickled. 

Or dripped.  

Decades of uncomfortable conversations I had avoided became unavoidable.  Years of relationship patterns that served no one were examined and remade.  I’m still finding bits that need attention, things I really need to speak aloud.  I will sometimes try to hide.  It doesn’t last long though.

What I’m learning from refusing to hide is that it’s so much healthier!  It’s so much better to speak my truth (always, hopefully!) in love.

When I silence my heart, I only postpone and prolong and pile up hurt.  

It doesn’t go away.  

It burrows in and makes a home, pushing out everything else.  

It’s no solution.  

Our hearts and minds are resistant to change and if you, like me, are one who hid to avoid conflict, who swallowed words and wounds and worry, it will be hard.

But try. 

Try to find ways (even if it’s writing letters to some folks) to express your true feelings.  Make sure you are speaking lovingly as well as truthfully.  Get a friend to read your note or hear you out and give you feedback.  

Then offer the important people in your life your heart-your true heart-instead of hiding. 

wounded_heart-960x600

 

Child Loss by Addiction

We talk about a lot of things as if they didn’t reflect a real person and a real life.  

Addiction is one of them.  And let me just tell you, every single number is a life and behind every single life is a family.  

Statistics are easy to toss around until one of those numbers represents YOUR child.

My son was killed in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident.  One of the 76 individuals who died on a motorcycle in Alabama in 2014.  If you look it up, you’ll find tables printed with clean edges and comparative data one year to the next.

But if you look at me-and hold up a photo from BEFORE-you’ll see grief etched into a mama’s face that can’t be measured, sifted or weighed.  

My son was not an addict.  He was a health nut.  But he liked his motorcycle and never saw the contradiction between spending hours at the gym then putting that beautiful body on a fast moving, unprotected engine-on-wheels.  A helmet was not enough to protect him that night.  

Addicts don’t start out wanting the life so many of them end up living.  They take a puff or a pill or a drink and think it’s all in fun.  They have no way to know that the one moment of weakness or even purposeful exploration may result in a lifetime of struggle.

Once caught in the cycle of craving and crawling out and caving again they may or may not eventually find the light.  They may or may not become sober for the rest of their days.  They may or may not have the inner strength, the outside support, the medical intervention and inpatient treatment they need to conquer this demon.

And it is a demon.  

Addiction is never a choice even when the first indulgence into drugs or alcohol is.  

no idea of the battle addiction quote

Parents living with addicted children do everything they can to guide them to help.  They try tough love, abundant grace, boundaries, threats and rewards.  Some even move their families to try to escape habitual influences on their child-hoping against hope that a new place and new friends will create a safe space where addiction can’t flourish.

It rarely works.  In the end, addiction takes too many of our children.  Addiction kills.

And the wreckage left the other side of those deaths is enormous.  It’s messy and ugly and hard to sort through.  

The one thing NO parent of an addicted child needs is someone else’s misguided advice on how they could have “saved” his or her child.  They don’t need quips about “seeing it coming”.  They don’t need anyone to heap shame on them because of the choices their child made and the disease that robbed them of choice in the end.

So when we talk about addiction and numbers and treatment and responsibility and especially death, we need to remember that every single statistic is a person. 

Every single person has a family.

And that family is devastated.  

Speak gently.  Extend grace.  Offer love.  

They already know shame.  

shame for being human