Repost: Magical Bear Traps

My heart hurts every time a name is added to this awful “club” no one wants to join.

One more family knows our pain.

One more family has an empty chair at holiday gatherings.

woman-looking-out-of-window

But I am thankful for the moms and dads that share their hearts in bereaved parents’ groups.  I’m thankful for the safe space to speak honestly about what this life feels like and the challenges that greet us in this Valley.

Read the rest here:  Magical Bear Traps

Grief-A Tangled Ball of Emotions

Someone posted this image yesterday on Facebook-they had received a copy in a therapy session and found it a helpful way to picture grief.  

I wanted to share it because perhaps you may find it helpful as well.  ❤

I think it’s one of the very best ways to think about grief for several reasons:

  • First, it accurately represents the many emotions that are part of grief and lossit’s not “just” sorrow or missing-it is so many other things as well.  And some of those emotions catch me off guard because I don’t always recognize them as grief-related.
  • Second, it illustrates how tangled and interwoven these emotions can be. Teasing out where one feeling begins and ends is really hard.  Separating a single emotional strand can be almost impossible.
  • Third, emotions experienced in the grieving process are not necessarily sequential.  There’s no certain charted course through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  My experience may be very different from yours in terms of what I feel and when I feel it.
  • Finally, the sphere is a perfect representation of how my feelings may circle back around again and again as new experiences post-loss remind me of yet another part of life that has been impacted by my son’s unexpected and untimely death.

grief a tangled ball of emotions.jpg

Grace and Space

It didn’t take long after Dominic’s leaving for life to ramp up and obligations to pour in. We had two graduations and a wedding within two months of his funeral.

Then there were thank-you notes to write, dishes to return and every day chores necessary to manage a home and family.

No escaping what must be done.

It took me a little while to realize that if I was going to survive this lifelong journey I had to make some changes in how and when I responded to requests to do something, be somewhere or participate in outside events.   Because no matter how worthy the request, there was only so much of me to go around and I was forced to spend nearly all my energy and time and effort on figuring out how this great wound was impacting me and my family.

I cannot overemphasize how much strength and energy is needed to do the work grief requires.

At first, turning down a request or asking someone to reschedule was relatively easy-the loss was fresh in their minds and they were gracious and understanding.  As the weeks and months and now YEARS have passed, it is harder.  Not always because they don’t understand but because I sometimes hold myself to an untenable standard that says I should be better by now.   I should be able to do all that I could once do.  I shouldn’t be so sensitive to the date on the calendar or the place we might meet for lunch or the rainy weather that brings my mood down.

But I’m not able to ignore all those things and sometimes I just can’t do what someone else would like me to be able to do.

So I keep repeating the mantra, “grace and space” to myself.

I need grace-from my own heart FOR my own heart– I must cut myself the slack I would be happy to extend to others.

I need grace from friends and family. I cannot help you understand exactly what it’s like to be me.  You can never know all the ways I ache for the life I had before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  You could never imagine all the daily pinpricks my soul must suffer as I walk in this world and am reminded of what I’ve lost.

So you will have to take it on faith when I say, “I just can’t do that”.

I need space.

I need space between me and the noise of the world and the shouting urgency of “to do” lists and project deadlines.  So much of the work I must do is silent, solitary work. It takes hours and hours of thinking, talking to God, reading Scripture, journaling and just being alone to sort this all out.

I’m not rejecting YOU-I’m trying to preserve ME.

It isn’t selfishness, it’s love for my family.  I refuse to add to their burden by running myself into the ground.  I won’t choose to make life harder for them by creating an unecessary crisis.

I don’t know when I might (or IF I might) return to the busy bee I once was.  Right now I can’t even imagine it.

I think I will need grace and space for a very, very long time.

fine not fine

Repost: Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

As a follow up to the repost a couple days ago:  Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?, I wanted to share this entry.

Here are some practical ways to deal with anxious thoughts, take them captive or redirect my focus so that they don’t rule my heart.

Please feel free to add any helpful tips in the comments section below.  We learn best from those that share our journey.  You may have the very words that will encourage another parent’s broken heart!

I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels. 

And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.

So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.

It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.  

I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess-

Read the rest here:  Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

Repost: Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?

It surprised me when I felt anxious after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Not that the doorbell startled me, or that passing the place of the accident was hard nor that hearing motorcycles made my skin crawl.

But that every single day for many, many months anxiety crept up my backbone and made a knot in my neck.

It surprised me that I felt like I was literally going to explode.

Read the rest here:  Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?

Be Free to Celebrate [or Not!]

One of the most challenging things that faced me immediately after Dominic’s funeral was that we had two college graduations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, his birthday, a wedding and my own thirtieth wedding anniversary within two months.

Thankfully we had some amazing friends and family that stepped up and filled in the gaps.

How do you celebrate when your heart is broken?  

How do you make merry when you can barely make it out of bed?

How do you NOT cheat your living children when you’ve buried their sibling?

In the three years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven we have marked the occasions above as well as Christmases, Thanksgivings, my father’s 80th birthday, my husband’s 65th birthday, my daughter’s graduation with a master’s degree and receiving Dominic’s posthumous diploma from the University of Alabama School of Law.

In between these mountain tops were multiple hills of accomplishment that required more or less recognition and affirmation.

So the question comes up:  “How should I celebrate [fill in the blank] now that my child is gone?”

The short answer is:  However best suits your broken heart, the wishes of your immediate grieving circle and your circumstances.  

And you owe no one else an explanation of why you make that choice.

Now, I’ll warn you that not all the choices you make will be received well by others who might be impacted by your decision.  Extended family, no matter how much they may want to understand, often won’t.

I get that-traditions are hard to turn loose.  Family habits are hard to change.  If everyone is used to getting together to open Christmas presents it can seem selfish when one person says they just can’t do it.

But no one but a grieving parent can truly understand that the most random things can trigger uncontrollable anxiety and overwhelming sorrow.  And no one but a grieving parent can know how much energy it takes to JUST SHOW UP.

Every single time my son SHOULD be here with us but ISN’T, is another stark and undeniable reminder that he is gone, gone, gone.

So this is how I make the decision about how to celebrate [or not!] any particular holiday or occasion:  I ask my husband and children first what will best meet their needs, feed their souls, help them face the day with minimal stress and/or sorrow.

Then I stack that against the expectations of others that may be involved.  Where they overlap, we join in.  Where they don’t, we politely decline.  And if there is a way to bend standing traditions to accomodate our grief, I will often propose a compromise.

I try to be thoughtful and plan ahead.  I try to let anyone else involved know as far in advance that we will either be participating (or not) so they can make their own plans. But I reserve the right to back out last minute if I wake up and find out I simply can. not. face. the. day.

So far I’ve realized that having a plan takes a great deal of stress out of the system.  Being honest with extended family and friends is so much better than trying to fake it and finding out halfway through the meal I just can’t.  Choosing to stay home is kinder than making a scene and ruining the gathering for everyone.

Sometimes my suggestions have been met with resistance.

That’s just going to be part of this life.  

I’m learning to stand up and speak my truth even when others don’t understand or like it.  I work at being kind but I won’t be bowled over by someone else’s lack of compassion.

So much of life this side of loss is outside our control.  We do not have to live up to other’s expectations of how or when or where we celebrate [or don’t!] birthdays, holidays or other special occasions.

None of us chose to be bereaved parents.

No one but us has to carry this heavy burden.

If we are going to do it well, we will have to make choices about the battles we fight and the additional burdens we allow others to place upon us.

It’s OK to say, “No.”  It’s OK to do things differently.  It’s OK to not do them at all.  

Be free!

authenticity brene

 

 

Worn Slap Out

The best remedy for my heart on the days when grief rolls in like morning fog and refuses to burn off with sunshine is hard work.

If weather permits I go outside and move hay bales, pick up limbs, cut weeds or do anything that requires large muscles to accomplish the task.  The goal is exhaustion so I can sleep.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’ll try to tackle jobs inside that I otherwise tend to ignore.  If you ever see me cleaning the bathroom or kitchen sink fixtures with a toothbrush, just leave me alone-I’m working something out.

So these past days leading up to Dominic’s birthday, that’s what I’ve done.

I sheared sheep, raked out a hay shed, moved hay, medicated horses, dogs and goats, picked up limbs brought down by rain and high winds, vacuumed, washed clothes, cleaned bathrooms and organized (sort of) my closet.

The ungrateful sheep and the silly cat kneading his paws while I’m bent over shearing her. 

photo (44)

Skinks are some of the happier surprises when moving hay.  Snakes and ants not so much.

 

The good thing about so many critters that eat grass is that I rarely cut it.

Now I’m worn slap out!

I think I’ll hit the sack.

fatigue is the best pillow