What I’d Like You To Know About Grief

There are some things I’d like you to know about grief.

Things I didn’t know until I was the one walking the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Things that can help you companion me and others compassionately, wisely and graciously.

My grief is here-get used to it (please and thank you). Grief has entered my life and while it may be an unwelcome guest, it’s here to stay. I won’t be getting over it or moving on. Grief is the price you pay for love. I will love and miss my child as long as I live, so I will grieve him until my last breath.

The goal of grief isn’t to forget. In fact, the goal of grief work (facing and working through my feelings, my fears and finding a way forward) is to remember and remain connected. I no longer have a physical relationship with my child. I’m trying to figure out how to have one with him in his absence.

I have to do grief my own way. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Who I am, who my child is, what my family looks like, circumstances surrounding my loss, previous life experience all inform how I face this challenge. There is no “right way” to grieve. As long as I am not harming myself or others, there’s only “my way” to grieve.

I am the same person, but I’ve also changed. I know you are trying to figure me out post-child loss. I’m trying to figure me out too. I didn’t get a how-to manual when I buried my son. Even six years into this journey I’m still finding ways in which I am profoundly changed. But I’m also still the same person that needs your friendship and longs for compassionate connection. It’s work for both of us but I don’t want to be alone in my grief.

Even when I’m OK, I’m still grieving. It’s normal for friends and family to look for signs I’m “better”. The early days of sobbing and unceasing pain do (usually) morph into a more gentle, quiet and manageable burden. But even when I’m laughing, participating and gathering new, joy-filled memories I’m grieving. My son’s absence is background music to every moment. I’m never free from the feeling he should be here but isn’t.

I may stay connected to my loved one in ways you don’t understand, but trust me, they’re normal. There are SO many ways hearts work hard to stay connected to their missing child! Dominic’s jacket is hung on a peg in our mudroom right where he left it the last time he was home. I see it every day and touch it often. There are other little mementos here and there that keep his presence part of daily life. I have tokens I carry in a pocket that help me take him with me. Other parents sleep with a favorite stuffed toy or their child’s pillow. Some make blankets of old t-shirts or clothing. It’s all normal.

Grief will visit every heart eventually.

If it hasn’t come to rest in yours yet, consider yourself blessed.

I’m sure you have at least one friend carrying this burden.

When you take time to try to understand even a little how they feel, you help them bear the load.

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Companioning The Bereaved


I’ve learned so much in this journey.

I’ve had to unlearn some things too.

One of the things I’ve had to unlearn is that the medical model of “identify, treat, cure” is not applicable to grieving hearts.

Read the rest here: Companioning The Bereaved

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

An Open Letter To My Fellow Sisters In Loss On International Bereaved Mother’s Day

Dear Mama,

I know that you never-in your wildest imagination-thought that you would need a day set aside for your broken heart and your empty arms.  

Who thinks when they learn a new life is growing inside that this same life might be cut short?  What heart is brave enough to consider the possibility? 

Yet here you are.  

I’m so, so sorry.  

But there are a few things I want you to know.  There are some important truths to remember on this broken road-truths that can help you hold onto hope and finish strong.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/05/06/international-bereaved-mothers-day-an-open-letter-to-my-fellow-sisters-in-loss/

Here Are Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent


It’s oh, so hard to know what to do when you are watching a heart break.

You want to reach out and make it better, make the pain go away, make a difference.  But it seems like nothing you can do will matter much in the face of such a huge loss.

While it’s true that you cannot “fix”  the brokenness in a bereaved parent’s life, there are some very important and practical ways you can support them in their grief.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/04/20/five-practical-ways-to-support-grieving-parent/

Start By Showing Up

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of Dominic running ahead to Heaven. I spent a portion of the day thinking about all the people who ministered to our family in those first days and weeks.

What a difference they made!

When our hearts were full of sorrow, they helped us bear the burden. When we couldn’t think straight and make important decisions they came alongside and guided us through. When the dark closed in around us, they held our hands and held a light.

If you want to know what to do when someone you love is thrust into a life they didn’t choose, show up.

You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be present.

This weekend another family joined the ranks of the bereaved. 

A beloved son left for heaven in a car accident.

The mama’s best friend messaged to ask what she could do to help this newly broken heart.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/04/05/what-can-i-do-show-up/

Memories, Milestones and Melancholy

I’m finding it hard to write these days.

Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.

So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.

Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.

I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.

Lately my trusty tool has let me down.

I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.

Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.

Dominic was so full of life, it’s impossible to think of him breathless and still.

Part of it is the time of year.

Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.

But I’m not.

Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.

Roosevelt, my faithful companion for over a decade. ❤

Last year’s Facebook post:

2:53 4/7/2019  ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.

I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.

So today, breathing is enough. 

2:53 April 7, 2019

And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.

Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.

How my heart hurts!

I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.

I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.

I wish the words would come.

I’m afraid if they don’t my heart will burst.

Offering Space Instead of “Fixing”

The world is upside down and inside out and hearts are hurting.

Suddenly everyone knows what it’s like to be stuck in an alternate reality, hoping, hoping, hoping that one morning they will wake up and find it untrue.

When the sun rises day after day after day and nothing changes, it’s oh, so easy to give up hope. And when unhelpful words are tossed at fragile hearts it adds to the burden.

What I say and how I say it (especially NOW) makes a difference. It can be the difference between going on or letting go.

❤ Melanie

I didn’t realize until I was the person who needed comforting how unhelpful and sometimes painful my own past comments were to my suffering friends and family.

There are many important and necessary conversations going on right now about how we talk to and talk about our fellow humans.  I’m thankful folks are learning that words are rarely (ever?) neutral.

They build up or tear down. 

And we are responsible for them.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/01/instead-of-fixing-offer-space-to-share/

Oh, To Be Understood! What a Blessing.

Today I’ll toss all the random bits and pieces I’ve assembled for this weekend’s retreat into my car and drive away.

I’m always a little nervous until I’m far enough down the road that turning back isn’t a realistic option.

Even though this is the third retreat in the same place with some of the same moms (plus some new ones) I always fret over whether or not the message God gave me is the one that will bless their hearts.

But I have to trust in this as in all things and keep moving.

One thing that is always, always, always a blessing-Every. Single. Time.-is the compassionate companionship of women who, like me, know what it is to bury a child.

I try to encourage every heart that might even think about joining us with this: you can be yourself.

No mask*No filter*No worrying about whether or not your tears will upset the person next to you*No wondering if your questions or queries or doubts will be considered a failure of faith*No need to hide the ugly truth that child loss is awful and time does NOT heal all wounds.

There’s nothing magical about this retreat or these moms.

It’s simply a shared experience, a shared commitment to transparency and a shared trust in the Word of God that makes our time together fruitful, strengthening and restorative.

So if you have an opportunity to join or create a small group in your neck of the woods, centered on the truth of who God is, founded on the principle of transparent sharing and committed to creating a safe space where masks are unnecessary-go for it!

You will never be sorry you did.

Hardly The Time For Being Taught

It seems to be the nature of humans to listen with an ear to respond rather than an ear to hear.

I’ve done it myself.

Jumped right in with all kinds of suggestions designed to “fix” someone else’s problem.

Or worse, heaped my own experience with something more or less (often less) similar onto an already overburdened heart.

I hate that tendency in myself and I’m working hard to try to change it.

Image result for listen to respond listen to understand

Those who feel compelled to just say SOMETHING often bombard grievers with platitudes, comparisons to their own grief or just empty, frivolous words that require we either stand there dumbfounded or find a gracious way to exit the conversation.

It’s especially painful for a broken heart when a well-meaning someone decides THIS is the moment for a theology lesson.

“God has something planned for you in this” or “God will use this for good”. (Romans 8:28-29)

“We don’t grieve as those without hope!” ( I Thessalonians 4:13)

“All our days are numbered.” (Psalm 139:16)

I get it-death is a heavy subject and the death of a child isn’t something anyone wants to talk about, contemplate or be forced to wrestle with. So it’s often easier to simply say something-anything-do your duty and walk away.

But it is hardly helpful.

Deep grief as a result of unbearable loss is not a teaching moment.

It’s an opportunity to listen well, think carefully about if or when you need to say anything and simply offer compassionate companionship to a broken heart.

Grieving felt hardly like the time for being taught, at least initially. Early grief was my time for pulling out of my past those truths that I had already learned — out of my ‘basement — so that I could begin to assemble them together into something even more meaningful to me than before. It was the time for understanding that even though I had always believed in heaven, it now looked to my perceptions to be more real than this world. It was the time when, even though I already believed in God’s control of the world, I now felt dependent upon him being sovereign over it for all my hopes. It was the time for realizing that even though I already believed that Christ conquered death, I now longed to see death die.

Lianna Davis, Made for a Different Land