Grief Groups and Echo Chambers

I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.

I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family.  I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.

Sadly, there are new members added daily.  New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.

I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.

And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death.  It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.

But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.

Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again.  Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.

what is an echo chamber

Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:

No one understands,

everyone has abandoned me,

I am unloved, alone and hopeless.

That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.

But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.

hope holds a breaking heart togetherSo I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable.  I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.

Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.

let-yourself-rest

 

Can We Talk?

Joan Rivers was famous for opening her comedic routine with the question, “Can we talk?”

She would launch into a hilarious rendering of topics that were usually off-limits in polite conversation but which everyone secretly wanted to share.  It actually helped bring some things into the light that had been hiding in shadows for far too long.

So, I’m going to take a cue from her and ask, “Can we talk?”

Can we talk about my missing son and quit pretending that just because he’s no longer present in the body, he’s not still part of my life?

Can we say his name without also looking down or away like his death is a shameful secret?

Can we share stories and memories and laughter and tears just as naturally about HIM as we do about anyone else?

Can we make a way to represent him at holidays, birthdays and special occasions?  It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture-even a photo or place setting or ornament will do.

Can we stop acting surprised that I still get upset when other people’s kids reach milestones my son will never attain?

Can we talk about your feelings as well as mine without devolving into a shouting match or a flurry of accusations about who should be feeling what by now?

Can we make space for tears?

Can we make space for solitude?

Can we make space in our conversations and celebrations that allows joy and sadness to dwell together?

Can we continue to honor the light and life that was (and is!) my son?

Because if we can do this, it will make all the difference. 

best way you can help me

 

 

Repost: A Little Extra Grace

Each day I am reminded by sights, smells, sounds and memories that Dominic is in Heaven and not here.  

But there are moments and seasons when his absence is particularly strong-when I can’t breathe in without also breathing a prayer, “Father, let me make it through this minute, this hour, this day.”

And that’s when I need grace-from family, friends and strangers.

Read the rest here:  A Little Extra Grace

ALL Things Through Christ

It is kind of a catchy saying to plaster across a Christian school’s gymnasium wall.

I know the one who decided to put it there meant well.  But “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength” is absolutely NOT about lifting weights, running an extra lap or hitting a ball out of the park.

No. No. NO.

Can we just look at it in context, please?

I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

Phillipians 4::12-14 MSG

Paul was thanking friends for their concern and aid.  But he didn’t want them to think he was desperately needy.  He was assuring them that because he had found utter fulfillment in Christ and through Christ and that he could be content no matter his outward circumstances.

But there is something else here too-another tidbit overlooked in our desire to lift verses out of context.

While Paul was content in his circumstances, while he was at peace and settled in his soul, he was also deeply grateful that his friends had remembered him.  He was encouraged that they had sent aid and lifted prayers and inquired as to his well-being.

Being content does not preclude discouragement.  

I can feel both deep peace and experience confusion over my present circumstances.  

It’s just then that I need faithful friends to remind me that I’m not alone and I’m not abandoned.  That is precisely the moment my spirit cries out for compassionate companionship.

This life is not meant to be lived alone-even in a prison cell.  

It’s meant to be lived in community with others who come alongside and call courage to our hearts.  

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

 

 

 

Amazing *FREE* Opportunity for Bereaved Parents

If you are a bereaved parent and can fly,

drive

or walk to Hot Springs, Arkansas October 6-7

you will want to make the journey.

April Wendland, a bereaved mama with a heart to reach others with hope and love has organized a conference just for us.  

And it’s *FREE* to bereaved parents.

leaf heart

From the website:  

“THROUGH THIS VALLEY is a faith based conference designed BY bereaved parents, FOR bereaved parents.

We know the deep pain. We know the longing.

We know the questions. We know the heartache.

But we’ve also found some healing. We’ve found some peace for our hearts.

We’ve found some answers.

And we understand the Healer in new & grateful ways.

It is our desire to share what we’ve learned with other bereaved parents who are searching for answers. And being together with others who have gone through similar experiences somehow gives us all a little more strength & comfort too. You are not alone. There is hope. This conference will change the lives of those who have open hearts & ears to hear.

There is no charge to the bereaved parents for the THROUGH THIS VALLEY conference.

All speakers, attendees & most staff are bereaved parents.”

I’m going.

Wanna join me there?  

Click here for more information or to register:  Through This Valley

me too sharing the path

 

 

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.

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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 something, anything 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?

Every family,

every child that has run ahead and

every situation is unique.

What works for one person (even in the same family) won’t necessarily work for another. But there are some ways to make these days a little easier.

Here’s a list of what has helped my heart and the hearts of others walking this journey. Take what may help and toss the rest:

  • Invite friends and family to a special celebration featuring foods and/or activities that honor your missing child.  On the first anniversary of Dominic’s homegoing, his friends brought lunch and they shared stories and memories with me-many of which I hadn’t heard since he was living away from home when he left us.  I didn’t do a lot of talking, but just listening was a beautiful way to pass that day.
  • Ask folks to do a “random act of kindness” in your child’s name.  Some parents have printed out cards (like photo Christmas cards) and distributed them with a picture and brief information about their child and a way to post the RAK online (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • If you have a charitable organization or scholarship or other project that bears your child’s name, remind people of it and request donations (if appropriate). Many times friends and family long to do something tangible to show they have not forgotten either.
  • For birthdays and holidays, purchase a cake (at a local bakery) or toys/gifts for a child the same age as your own.  I went a couple of days before Dominic’s birthday and paid for a cake ordered for a little girl’s first birthday.  I left a note that said, “Children are a blessing from the Lord.  Enjoy your sweet blessing.  In honor of my son, Dominic.  Love, His Mama.”
  • Some people launch lanterns at the cemetary or another meaningful place.  Check with local regulations before you do this-you don’t want the occasion marred by a confrontation.  There are environmentally friendly lanterns available online for those concerned about that. (This is why I don’t recommend letting balloons go.)
  • Gather gift cards to give to a local Ronald McDonald House or other charitable group that provides support for families of pediatric patients.  I know one family that did this for a group that had ministered to them during their son’s illness. The response was overwhelming and it touched them as well as all the families that benefitted from the gift cards.
  • Create a quiet memorial space in your own yard honoring your child.  There are lots of ideas online to get you started.  Some parents plant a tree while others use smaller plants and stones along with a bench and special items that remind them of their missing child.
  • Some grieving parents spend the day at home, under the covers and waiting for it to pass.

Most importantly, no matter what you do or don’t do, be prepared to give yourself grace whatever the day holds.

Don’t do what you don’t feel like you can do-even if you made plans ahead of time.

Do whatever helps your heart.

Hug anyone who chooses to come alongside and bear witness to this awful anniversary.

And hold tight to the fact that even the worst day only lasts 24 hours.

track record for bad days is 100

 

Don’t Want to Miss a Post? Here’s How.

I’m no tech expert.  I kind of blunder about like a blind mouse searching for cheese most of the time. So I feel you if you haven’t figured out how to make sure you get each day’s blog post.

For those that do want it each morning here are several ways to get it:

Sign up to receive the post via email.  You will get the whole post (minus the featured image at the top) unless it’s a repost and then you’ll have to click through to “read the rest.”

Sign up to receive posts via a WordPress account.  You don’t have to actually start a blog to have a free WordPress account.  Daily posts show up in your reader list when you log onto the site.

Follow my public Facebook page:  Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child.  I generally post early in the morning and the post can be shared easily from here to your own FB page if you like.

Go to my personal Facebook page (Melanie DeSimone) where I set those posts on “public” for easy access/sharing.

Follow me on Pinterest:  Melanie DeSimone Pinterest-I post the blog on a board called “The Life I Didn’t Choose” and also in “Grief”.

Follow me on Twitter:  @DesimoneMelanie.  I’m not a big Twitter user but for those that are, this is an easy way to view/share the blog posts.

I also use Google+ Melanie DeSimone Google+ Home.

Some of you are part of closed bereaved parents groups and I post there as well.

But if you want to share the post, you will need to access it another way.  If you share from the closed groups it shows as “attachment unavailable”  except to other group members even if you set it on “public”.

The social media icons on the right hand side of a post will take you to my Facebook page, Twitter account and Pinterest page.  For some reason the Google+ link won’t work but I’ll keep trying (told you I was no tech genious!)

I appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read what I write-it makes me feel that this pain is being redeemed, just a little.  And I am so thankful and blessed by feedback on the blog and via social media posts-let me hear from you!

It gives my heart courage to keeep sharing.  

your-story-could-be-the-key