You are a Treasure

Grief has challenged every single thing I believed about God and about myself.

It made me doubt whether He is a loving Father, whether He keeps His promises, whether He even cares one whit about all us little humans running around on planet Earth.

And it made me wonder what in the world is wrong with me that MY child was killed?  What had I done to deserve this?

Grief tells lies.  

And one of the biggest lies grief whispers is, “You are worthless.”

That is simply not true.

Even if you weren’t treasured by your earthly parents, the God of the universe treasures you, and His thoughts about you are always good. He chose you when He planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12), and you are not a mistake (Psalm 71:6), and His thoughts toward you are countless – like the grains of sand on the shore (Psalm 139:17-18). You are really, truly, deeply loved by God.

~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine

I don’t know your story but I can promise you this: God isn’t finished with you yet.

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I believe that each one of us is celebrated as a unique creation of our Father.

That goes for our children, but also for us.

I have no idea why God’s plan includes me outliving my child but He has a purpose that is yet unfulfilled for my life.

What happens TO us doesn’t determine our worth-not even the awful and heart shattering experience of child loss.

You are loved by a Heavenly Father Who has a plan for your life.

He can bring beauty from ashes, even the ashes of child loss.

You are not alone-you have a community of bereaved parents who will listen, love and lift you.

Lean in and hold onto hope. Don’t let go.

I’m praying for you.

beauty from ashes clothespin

 

 

What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

There’s a kind of relational magic that happens when people who have experienced the same or similar struggle get together.  

In an instant, their hearts are bound in mutual understanding as they look one to another and say, “Me too. I thought I was the only one.”

It was well into the second year after Dominic ran ahead to heaven that I found an online bereaved parent support group.  After bearing this burden alone for so many months, it took awhile before I could open my heart to strangers and share more than the outline of my story.

But, oh, when I did! What relief!  What beautiful support and affirmation that every. single. thing. that was happening to me and that I was feeling was normal!

me too sharing the path

I have learned so much from these precious people.  

Here’s a few of the nuggets of wisdom I carry like treasure in my heart:  

Everyone has a story.  No one comes to tragedy a blank slate.  They have a life that informs how or if they are able to cope with this new and terrible burden.  Not everyone has the same resources I do-emotional, spiritual or otherwise.  Don’t put expectations on someone based on my own background.  Be gracious-always.  

Everyone deserves to be heard.  Some folks really only have one or two things that they insist on saying over and over and over again.  That’s OK.  If they are saying them, it’s because they need to be heard.  Lots of folks do not have a safe space to speak their heart.  But it’s only in speaking aloud the things inside that we can begin to deal with them.

Everyone (or almost everyone) is worried that they aren’t doing this “right”.  Society brings so much pressure to bear on the grieving.  “Get better”, “Get over it”, “Move on”.  And when we can’t, we think there is something dreadfully wrong with us.  But there isn’t.  Grief is hard and takes time no matter what the source.  But it is harder and takes a lifetime when it’s your child.  Out of order death is devastating.  “Normal” is anything that keeps a body going and a mind engaged in reality without being destructive to oneself or others.

Everyone can be nicer than they think they can.  Here’s the deal:  I THINK a lot of things.  I don’t have to SAY (or write!) them.  I’ll be honest, sometimes my first response to what someone shares is not very nice.  But when I take a breath and consider what might help a heart instead of hurt one, I can usually find a way to speak truth but also courage.  Snark is never helpful.  If I can’t say anything nice, then I just scroll on by.

Everyone has something to give.  I’ve learned that even the most broken, the most unlovely, the least well-spoken persons have something to offer.  It may take a little dusting off to find the beauty underneath, but my heart is stretched when I take time and put forth effort to truly listen to what’s being said instead of just ignoring it because of how it’s said.

Everyone deserves grace.  Because I am the recipient of grace, it is mine to give-without fear of running out-to every other heart I meet.  Sometimes I forget this.  I want to apply a different measure to others than I want applied to me.  But grace is the oil that greases human relationships.  Freely given and freely received, it provides a safe space for hearts to experience healing.

Everyone is standing on level ground when we gather at the foot of the cross.  There’s no hierarchy in God’s kingdom.  We are all servants.  I am responsible to my Master for walking in love and doing the good works He has prepared beforehand for me to do.  My works are not your works and your works are not my works.  I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, not on others always trying to see if I(or they!) “measure up”.  The standard is our Shepherd and only grace and mercy can help me strive for that goal.

Everyone needs courage.  When Jesus gave His charge to the disciples He told them it was “better for you that I go”What??? How could that be better?  But it WAS.  Because when Jesus returned to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit as the personal, indwelt connection to Himself.  He knew they would need courage to make it through. The Spirit calls courage to our hearts.  And we are given the privilege of calling courage to one another.  The bravest among us quivers sometimes.  You’d be surprised how often one word is the difference between letting go and holding on.

There are dozens more things I could share.

I have met some of the kindest, wisest and most grace-filled people this side of child loss.

They have been the purest example of the Body of Christ I’ve ever known.  

I am thankful for what they are teaching me.

heart hands and sunset

Repost: Will It ALWAYS Feel Like This?

I belong to several bereaved parents online communities and this question comes up again and again-it was the first thing I asked a bereaved mom just after Dominic ran ahead to heaven:

“Will this suffocating pain remain sitting on my chest, smothering the breath and life right out of me?  Will I ever be able to stop crying? Will it ALWAYS feel like this?”

Read the rest here:  Will It ALWAYS Feel Like This?

Repost: A Fine Line

“Can you?”  ” Would you?” “We need you to… Help!”

You’d be surprised how soon people start expecting a bereaved parent to jump right back into the responsibilities and activities they shouldered or enjoyed before burying a child.

I know the rest of the world didn’t stop when mine did, but I was truly amazed that some people in my circle seemed unaware mine had stopped at all.

As I’ve written before here the funeral is not the end of grief’s journey, it’s quite near the beginning.  It took a year for me to just convince my heart Dominic wasn’t coming back.  It took longer to begin to understand how very different I am now and to embrace those changes.

I simply cannot do some things I once did.

Read the rest here:  A Fine Line

Holy Week Reflections: Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

As we enter the week on the Christian calendar when most churches celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that often we race past the road that lead to Calvary and linger at the empty tomb.

But to understand the beauty of forgiveness and the blessing of redemption, we MUST acknowledge the sorrow of sin and the burden of brokenness.

Read the rest here:  Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

Repost: Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

How do you speak of the unspeakable?

How do you constrain the earth-shattering reality of child loss to a few syllables?

How do you SAY what must be said?

I remember the first hour after the news.  I had to make phone calls.  Had to confirm my son’s identity and let family know what had happened.

I used the only words I had at the time, “I have to tell you something terrible. Dominic is dead.”

Read the rest here:  Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

Zoom Out: Choosing to Let Our Real Selves Be Seen

Don’t you just LOVE photo filters?  They can transform a not-so-great picture into a work of art.

And with our phones attached to our hips like another appendage, we are one photo-snapping generation!

But when we choose what to make public-what to plaster across our favorite social media platform-most of us are as cautious as museum curators in deciding which pictures to include and which just don’t make the cut.

We are all about personal branding (even if we don’t realize or admit it!)

Of course this is nothing new-Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that there “is nothing new under the sun”.  It’s simply that what was once reserved for the rich, famous or infamous is now available to every Tom, Dick and Harry-and their kids.

I know when I want to share a moment on my little farm or show off some newly completed craft project, I’m very careful to zoom in and crop out the messy edges of my home, my property, my life.

It’s truly not that I’m trying to “be somebody I’m not” it’s more about trying to only let people see part of who I really am.

roosevelt in box on table spring 2017
The cute, cropped, curated photo.

Because who wants all the ragged and untidy borders of their life exposed to the masses?

I’m afraid there would be too much ‘splainin’ to do (like Ricky used to say to Lucy) if people saw it all.

  • I might have to own up to my less-than-perfect housekeeping or my procrastination that means I still have piles of junk on my porch nearly four years after Dom left us.
  • Someone might freak out that my cats are allowed on the kitchen table (where we don’t eat) because it is too hard to keep them off.
  • People may whisper that they just can’t understand how I live with piles of books stacked everywhere and random animal supplies in baskets by the door so they’re handy to grab on my way outside.

But when I edit the life I expose to others, I’m also limiting my opportunity to make genuine connections.

Because if the people around me think I’ve got it all together, then they can be afraid to admit that they do not. 

struggle with insecurity highlight reel

If the folks that follow me on Facebook think my life is all giggles and glitter, then they might be reticent to reveal that theirs is shadows and sorrow.  If all I ever do is talk about, post and promote the high points of this journey, then who will want to tell me that they are in a valley and can’t see sunlight or maybe that they’ve even forgotten what sunlight looks like.

So I’m going to zoom out. 

Stop cropping. 

Quit editing. 

Be real.

That doesn’t mean you won’t see funny photos or hopeful posts or encouraging memes on my timeline.

But it does mean that I’ll be out there-big hips, messy house, piled up books and all.

roosevelt in box on table spring 2017 zoom out
The REST of the story.