Repost: Why Do We Turn Away?

No one chooses pain. No one chooses to bury a child or live with chronic disease or the after effects of stroke.

But others get to choose whether they come alongside, practice compassion, serve as witness and call out courage or just walk away-thankful it’s not them that suffer.

THAT’S a choice.

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

Read the rest here:  Why Do We Turn Away?

Why Friends Abandon Grievers

It happens in all kinds of ways.  One friend just slowly backs off from liking posts on Facebook, waves at a distance from across the sanctuary, stops texting to check up on me.

Another observes complete radio silence as soon as she walks away from the graveside. 

Still another hangs in for a few weeks-calls, texts, even invites me to lunch until I can see in her eyes that my lack of “progress” is making her uneasy.  Then she, too, falls off the grid.

Why do people do that? 

Why is it, when we need them most, many friends-and I mean really, truly FRIENDSjust can’t hang in and hold on?

I admit in the early days I didn’t care WHY they did it. 

It broke my heart and enraged me all at the same time.  I felt abandoned, judged, forgotten, pressured to conform to some unwritten standard of how I was “supposed” to do grief and utterly, completely forsaken.

It took me months to begin to even consider their perspective and years to come to a place where I could forgive them.

butterfly away from hand

Here’s what I’ve figured out this side of devastating, overwhelming, heart-shattering pain about why some friends run away:

  • I represent their greatest fear.  I am a billboard for loss.  My life screams, “We are NOT in control!” And that is scary.  Most folks run away from scary if they can.
  • I remind them that faith is a living thing, tender and vulnerable to trials and testing.  We love to tout Sunday School answers that follow like the tag lines on Aesop’s fables when asked about anything to do with Jesus or how God works in the world.  But it’s just not that simple.  The Bible is full (FULL!) of untidy stories where even the giants of faith got it wrong for a season.  I think people are afraid that if they follow me down the rabbit hole of questions they might never come back out.  Better to stand outside and hope I emerge safe and sound without risking themselves.
  • My situation is messy and they don’t want to get involved.  I will need ongoing, intense investments of emotional energy and time. Who knows where it might lead?  Who knows how many hours might have to be given to come alongside and support someone whose journey looks more like slogging through a swamp than a walk in the park?  These folks are just not going to risk entanglement.
  • Some friends and family are genuinely afraid of doing harm.  They feel my pain so deeply that they are frozen, unable to do or say anything because they fear they will make things worse.  These are the hearts most easy to forgive and the ones most likely to jump back in when I assure them they cannot make it worse but their support can make it better.
  • Some people were going to disappear anyway.  We don’t like to admit it but many friendships are only for a season-we go to the same church, live in the same neighborhood, our kids go to the same school-and as soon as circumstances change these people fade away.  Well, circumstances certainly changed!  They leave because our differences outweigh our similarities and it requires too much effort to maintain the friendship.

Understanding why people run away has helped my heart. 

It doesn’t undo the pain inflicted by abandonment of those I felt sure would stay close by my side, but it puts it in perspective.

Truth is, I’m not sure how many people I would have stalwartly supported for the long haul either before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  

None of us possess infinite emotional, mental, physical and relational resources.  It’s only natural that we portion them out according to our own priorities-even when that means abandoning friends who really need us.

Rehearsing offense only ties me in knots. 

It changes nothing.

I have limits as well. 

Forgiving those that chose to walk away frees me to use my resources in more fruitful ways that help me heal.  


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.

Heartache, Healing and Hope

I spent last weekend with eleven other bereaved mamas in a small Christian camp in Mississippi*

I’ll be honest-what sounded like a great idea a few months ago had begun to sound like an awful and intimidating idea about three days before I was supposed to go.

Even though I felt more prepared for this event than the  Through This Valley Conference in October, I was still filled with trepidation at facilitating five sessions over three days with women I had only “met” online.


melanie at hhh retreat 2018 last session (2)

I wanted to go.

I wanted to take this next step toward sharing and serving and healing for my own heart.  But I was still more than a little scared.

I am so, so glad I went!

Every single mama who came through the door brought one more measure of grace into that cabin.  Every heart that cracked open and shared spread the sweet aroma of brokenness and compassion rose up to meet it.

hhh retreat pics of kids (2)

Every tear was acknowledged, every sorrow counted, every story heard.

It was beautiful.

I was overwhelmed by the grace, mercy and love that flowed in, around and through the women there.  It was a perfect picture of how God intends the Body of Christ to work!

We were all poured out in service to one another.

No need for a kitchen committee or clean up crew because it was natural to reach out and pitch in.

I am oh, so sorry for the reason that brought us together.  But I am absolutely amazed at the blessing that ran like a river through that place.

hhh retreat hugging cristal (2)It was a river of healing and life.

No one left “healed”But we all left a little better equipped for this journey.

No one received “answers”But we all left with a few more truths tucked into our belts.

Our hearts are knit together because we chose to show up and be vulnerable.

It is a gift I will carry with me wherever I go.

healing power of exchange


*If you are looking for a lovely place to hold a children’s camp for your ministry, please consider  Abby Acres Christian Camp Facebook Page

Love in Action: Being a Friend

For fifty years I was on the “other side”-the one where I looked on, sad and sometimes horror-stricken, at the pain and sorrow friends or family had to bear.

I wanted to help.

I wanted to say the “right thing”.  I wanted to express how very much my heart hurt for them and that I badly wished I could carry some of their load.

Sometimes I think I did a pretty good job of reaching out and touching the wound and offering a little bit of comfort.  But other times, I would say nothing because I didn’t know what to say.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: Being a Friend

Love in Action: How the Church Can Serve Grieving Parents and Other Hurting Hearts

One of the hardest things for me  to hear is how sometimes the church fails to minister to grieving parents.

I don’t think it’s because leadership decides to ignore them and others who have intractable situations.

But I do think that our modern emphasis on programs and platforms often leaves hurting hearts behind.

I am a shepherd.  My goats and sheep depend on me for food, for guidance and for their security.

And every day I am reminded that a shepherd’s heart is revealed by the way he or she cares for the weakest and most vulnerable of the flock.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: How the Church Can Serve Grieving Parents and Other Hurting People

Love in Action: Understanding “Acceptance”

Sometimes those that walk alongside the bereaved are biding time, waiting for that “final” stage of grief: Acceptance.

And some therapists, counselors and armchair psychiatrists are certain that if the grieving mother can simply accept the death of her child, she can move on–that she can get back to a more “normal’ life.

But this notion is as ridiculous as imagining that welcoming a new baby into a household doesn’t change everything.

Read the rest here:  Loving well: Understanding “Acceptance”