The Sweetest Words: “I’m sorry for your pain. I’m listening. I’m not going anywhere.”

I first shared this post several years ago when I realized that the best thing anyone could say to me was: “I’m sorry for your pain. I’m listening. I’m not going anywhere.”

At the time it was mainly about my experience with child loss.

Now I know it’s really the best thing for any heart whenever its hurting or afraid or feeling alone.

Watching someone you love in pain is very, very hard.

And it’s natural that people want to say something or do something to try to ease the burden.

They might offer a story illustrating that it “could be worse” or rush past an expression of sorrow by changing the subject or even compliment me on “how well I am doing”.

But none of those things makes me feel better.

Read the rest here: Sweet Words

Sorry I Haven’t Texted Back

I remember the early days after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven when people were still checking in often on our family.

Some days there were a dozen or more messages that really, really needed an answer.

But I just couldn’t.

“How are you?” is often a more difficult question than you might think when your world is falling apart.

I wanted to tell the truth about how hard the days were and harder still the long dark nights but it felt too personal, too frightening and too likely to be misunderstood by a heart with no frame of reference.

So most of my responses looked something like this:

Eventually I found out who the safe people were and began to share more openly.

The others-the ones who weren’t safe or who were only asking out of a sense of curiosity or obligation-simply stopped asking when they didn’t get the answers they were looking for.

I Hate Nosey People (@IHateNoseyPeeps) | Twitter

I’ve learned to give hurting hearts space.

I give them permission NOT to answer.

I want them to know I care but I don’t ask penetrating questions that might require answers they aren’t prepared to give.

Because I remember how that felt. ❤

My Story Scares You. I Know Why.


At first all I could feel was pain.

Pain of abandonment, of being misunderstood, of being pushed to the outside edges of groups that used to welcome me with open arms.

But as time passed, I began to understand.

My story scares you.  You are utterly afraid that if child loss can happen to ME, it can happen to YOU.

You’re right.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/25/i-know-why-my-story-scares-you/

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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Emotional Overload and T.M.I.

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

I know I said (still say!) things that wound others.  Most of the time it’s because I’m distracted or hurting myself and my mouth begins speaking before my brain is fully engaged.  Sometimes, though, it’s because I’m in pain and (frankly!) I want to transfer some of that pain to someone else.

Misery DOES love company!

Often other people in my life will say or do things that wound me.  Some of the folks are part of my inner grief circle and I know that it’s unintentional or they are having a pain-filled day like I am.

A few are extended family members who are either blissfully unaware of the ongoing pain and drama of child loss or are too caught up in their own lives to give it a thought.

Some of them are friends who think by now I should have toughened up and are no longer willing to extend extra grace and try harder to be tender.

Sometimes it’s acquaintances or strangers who don’t have a clue.

Whenever someone pierces my armor and inflicts pain, I have a choice:  Do I suck it up and take it or do I say something and try to reconcile?

There are days when I feel strong enough to just overlook it.  But I know if it represents a pattern, sooner or later the pressure will build and I’m going to blow.  And that’s not good for either one of us.

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There are days when I absolutely, positively have to address it.  That’s when I need to be careful of overloading another heart with too much information (TMI).  See, it’s easy to make one person the target for all my strong feelings.  It’s easy to do an emotional and informational “dump” on whoever happens to be handy or whoever is the least intimidating.

That’s unfair and unhelpful-for them and for me.  

So when I decide to open my mouth and address a specific situation with a specific person, I need to keep my margins clean and only say the things that pertain to THAT instance.  I can’t bring up every single thing the person has done in the past or things that they haven’t said or done but which have made me more sensitive to certain words or actions.  I don’t need to burden them with all the details of MY bad day or week or month.

Instead I should talk about my own feelings in relationship to them and their actions or words. 

“I feel like _________when you say________” gives vent to my emotion without accusing another heart.  I need to leave room for them to share what they were/are thinking and feeling too.  It can’t be one-way conversation if I hope to have a two-way relationship.  

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Any stressful life circumstance makes us all more vulnerable to offense.  And child loss is certainly stressful.  It’s stressful in ways others can’t see or comprehend.  It alters the way a parent sees and experiences the world.

It makes everything harder.  

Relationships included.  

I want to be full of love, grace and mercy, not overrun with bitterness, anger and offense. 

So I have to be mindful of what I say, how much I say and when I choose to say it.

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Ask Me, Please.

I have been guilty of this more times than I ‘d like to admit. 

I assume someone else’s feelings mirror my own and act on that assumption by withdrawing or not showing up or “giving them space”.

But the problem is, most times, on reflection, I realize my action (or inaction) was really all about sparing my own feelings  or staying within my own comfort zone.

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

~Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

So I’m learning to ask hard questions.

And I wish others would do the same.

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Before I assume someone doesn’t want companionship, or a phone call or another text or message, I’m trying to give them the opportunity to say no.  

I’ve been surprised more than once when I wanted to keep my distance in the name of “giving someone space” or “not bothering someone” that if I DID reach out, she responded by saying it was just what she needed.

I admit that asking risks rejection or worse-I might end up bearing the brunt of someone’s very bad day (or week!).  But not asking means I may not be doing precisely the thing God wants me to do.  I may be choosing the easy way out and rationalizing it so I feel better but the poor heart that needs my companionship or encouragement is left without the very help I was meant to provide.

I think Dominic’s death has made me brave in this one tiny place:  I say things I might not have said before.  I risk pain in relationships where I might not have been willing to risk before.  I assume that if I don’t speak important truths RIGHT NOW I might not get another chance.

I long to be a burden bearer for my friends and family because I know what it is to bear a burden.

So I ask and don’t assume.  

If someone wants to be left alone, then they are free to tell me.

But I will not stay silent or keep away simply for my own comfort.  

Who knows?  Maybe this is exactly the good work God has prepared in advance for me to do.

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