We want to DO something, to effect change, to “solve the problem”, to make things better.
But there are circumstances in life that cannot be fixed, changed or solved.
Child loss is one of them.
Those suffering under the load of pain and sorrow, devastation, heartbreak and brokenness that enter a heart when a child leaves this earth need compassionate companionship, not advice.
That might mean you have to bite your tongue. It might mean you have to sit silent as tears roll down or sobs wrack your friend’s body. It might mean that you have to refrain from making comparisons between their grief and your own (whatever that might be).
It most certainly means that you should keep reaching out, reaching across the divide that separates the bereaved from the non-bereaved, and put your own ego aside when it seems like all the effort you are making isn’t making a difference.
It takes lots and lots of time and lots and lots of work for a heart to even begin to heal from deep grief.
Your constant and unwavering support can provide the space and grace that enables someone to do that.
Don’t give up on your brokenhearted friend.
Encouragement can make the difference between giving up or going on.
Your compassionate companionship can offer hope and light in a hopeless and very dark place.
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. ❤
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.
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.
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.
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.