Children’s Grief Awareness Day

Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day.

I’m thankful a day is set aside to focus on children’s grief because it’s so easy for their grief to be overlooked, underrated and even dismissed.

Grown ups often tout the line, “Kids are resilient. They will adapt.”

And while it’s true that from the OUTSIDE it might look like a child is OK or even thriving, on the INSIDE she may be curled up into a ball or he may be angry and resentful.

Sometimes these feelings find unhealthy expression through addiction or risky behavior. Sometimes they simply grow into a giant overwhelming shadow that darkens the child’s whole world.

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My own mother’s mama died suddenly from a stroke when she was only ten years old. Within days, Mama was whisked away from everyone and everything she knew to live with her oldest married sister.

No one understood then that children needed to grieve so Mama never really did.

At least not out loud where anyone could hear.

But that grief informed her entire life-it made her kinder to many people and made it harder for her to develop deep attachments to others. She was only able to talk about it in the last couple of years of her life when failing health, my own loss and many hours spent in hospital rooms together created safe spaces for her to share.

Children grieve whether we observe it or not.

Children need safe spaces to express that grief even when it hurts our hearts to hear the words or see the tears.

No child should have to wait until they are grown to acknowledge his pain or her brokenness.

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Just like we parents, surviving siblings grieve what they’ve lost AND what will never be. Graduations, weddings, new babies, holidays, birthdays and other occasions mark their hearts too.

Children bear other burdens as well.

They are often targeted by those outside the grief circle for updates on the family while their own grief goes unnoticed. After five years, my kids have developed a standard answer to the question, “How’s your mom doing?”

“About as well as you’d expect.”

Next.

Sometimes children feel they must be extra good and extra quiet in an effort to make up for the sadness in a home after the death of a child. Sometimes they take on adult roles, shouldering responsibilities a depressed or grieving parent can’t manage right now. Sometimes they struggle with misplaced guilt when their hearts are jealous of all the attention focused on the missing child.

Often they just wish things were back to how they were before tragedy struck.

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Your children may never tell you these things unless you ask.

And they may not confirm them even if you do.

But rest assured, they are grieving too.

Give them permission to do it out loud.

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A Little Getaway Is Good For A Heart

My birthday is in a couple of weeks and my daughter has arranged for us to have a little getaway together this week.

She had no way to know when she made the reservations four months ago how badly we both would need it.

But God knew.

Nothing takes Him by surprise even when it blindsides me.

I often have to remind my heart of that truth.

Especially when blow after blow lands hard and knocks me off my feet. Especially when I feel that I might be crushed under the load. Especially when my mind is so full of fear and anxiety there’s no room for much else.

I’m thankful for a daughter who thinks ahead and a God who knows.

Some quiet time is precisely what our hearts are longing for this November. We will sleep and talk and walk and wander. We won’t have to answer to a clock or a phone.

It will be glorious.

Bereaved Parent Holiday Survival Tips: Surviving Siblings and Christmas

How do I honor the child for whom memories are all I have and love well the children with whom I am still making memories?

That’s a question I ask myself often.

And it is especially difficult to answer for celebrations and holidays, special events and birthdays.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/12/16/surviving-siblings-and-christmas/

Holidays are Coming, Ready or Not!

We’ve reached the peak of Hallowthankmas in the stores.

I‘ve never liked smashing one holiday on top of another which seems, in my mind, to rob each of their respective unique characteristics.

I’m also particularly frustrated that Halloween-a “holiday” mocking death and focused on fear (for many)-occupies way more space in mass retailers’ aisles than Thanksgiving.

But I can no more hold back the onslaught of merchandising than I can the days marching resolutely toward end of year holidays even if I choose not to join the commercial bandwagon.

So here we are.

There are forty-eight days until Thanksgiving and seventy-five days until Christmas.

Only a short time left to figure out how to honor the missing and love the living through some of the most difficult days of the year for bereaved hearts.

I’ve written many posts about what helps, what hurts, how and when to have hard conversations with extended family members about making space for brokenness at the table and in our celebrations.

I’ll be reposting those over the next couple of weeks since I firmly believe it takes forethought and planning if we want Thanksgiving and Christmas to look more like a Hallmark movie and less like a disaster film.

In the meantime I want to share some questions that are helping me sift through my own expectations, hopes and preferences for what our holidays might look like this year:

  • What is TRULY important to you, your family and/or close friends with whom you celebrate?
  • Do you love to make an elaborate meal, bake tons of cookies, pull out all the old family recipes that call for less-than-healthy ingredients? Is decorating your thing? Does it just not feel like Christmas if you miss driving around looking at lights?
  • Are you fresh on this journey and need a way to skip traditions all together? Maybe you want to spend the holidays away from home or at home with a single candle lit in honor of your child.
  • Do you have to consider younger children (either surviving siblings or grandchildren) that might pressure you to keep things “normal” for their sake?
  • Have you asked your surviving children what’s important to THEM? Don’t assume their silence equals assent.

The first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, lots of things had changed in addition to his absence. One son got married and moved out of state, my mother’s health was in decline, my husband was working out of town and my house felt so, so empty.

We chose to put up a very small tree with limited ornaments consisting of family photos and hearts. We gave gifts but asked that others not give us any. We joined extended family for a meal but not for opening presents.

That’s what was right for US for that year.

Each year since has been slightly different.

I have to ask those questions of myself and of my family over and over, recalibrate, shift our focus or change our choices depending on how life has reshaped our circumstances in the past twelve months.

If this is the first holiday season since your child left you might want to ignore it altogether. That’s OK. But at the least you may have to tell friends and family that’s your plan.

So grab some paper and find a quiet spot to think.

Then write without editing your thoughts, feelings or ideas.

Save the page so you can reflect on it and make the decisions right for YOUR family THIS year.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting ideas from other bereaved parents that might help you navigate this particularly challenging part of the journey.

It may seem impossible.

But you’ve faced the impossible before.

Like It Or Not, I’m Teaching My Children How To Grieve

In spite of my best efforts, I have made and continue to make less-than-healthy or ideal choices in grief.

I’m sure some of those patterns are being passed down to my children and I hate that. Grief is hard enough on its own without adding layers of dysfunction that make it harder.

So I try to be mindful of what I model because like it or not, I’m teaching my children how to grieve.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/10/02/why-its-so-important-to-model-grief-for-our-children-grandchildren/

Repost: When You Feel Like You Can’t Breathe-Setting Living Children Free

I wrote this last year just before my son deployed for a lengthy overseas assignment.

So much has happened in the months since then including the birth of HIS son, way too early but mercifully safe and sound.

This tiny fella is now a round little six-month-old.

I returned yesterday from another quick visit with his now-larger family at my parents’ home halfway between my little farm and my son’s house.

I had forgotten all about my musings from a year ago but they are still the cry of my heart:

A couple weeks ago I walked away from my son’s house, after kissing him goodbye and prayed under my breath that it won’t be the last time I see his bright eyes and lively smile.

Because when you’ve mistakenly waved a cheery “see you later” to your child, ignorant that it’s the LAST time, your heart never takes these moments for granted again.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/09/19/when-you-feel-like-you-cant-breathe-setting-living-children-free/

None Of This Is Easy

It gets harder and harder to be honest the longer I walk this Valley.

Because it’s natural that those for whom Dom’s death was a moment in time, a short season of mourning, an unfortunate incident they sometimes look back on with sadness and regret but don’t live with daily move on.

The further we get in time from the actual moment of Dominic’s sudden departure, the larger the gap between my heart and theirs.

I understand that.

But that chasm is more and more difficult for me to bridge.

It requires energy and effort I don’t always have to reach out and reach across and try to help them understand me.

So sometimes I just don’t.

There is always going to be a blank space where Dominic SHOULD be, but isn’t.

There are always going to be places that aren’t colored in because that part of the canvas belongs to HIM.

There is always, always, always going to be pain when I line up for family photos, set the table for family dinners, go on family trips, wrap presents, send cards, list names on documents because HE IS NO LONGER HERE.

Others think the water fills in where the stone sank down.

But my mama heart knows exactly where those ripples ought to be.

So I quietly remember, quietly mourn, quietly mark that special spot-smiling on the outside.

No one the wiser.

No one the sadder.

No one but me anything at all.