You Don’t Need Permission To Grieve

You wouldn’t think we need permission from total strangers, friends and extended family to grieve but many times it feels like we do.

Odd looks, questioning stares and wagging tongues can make a heart doubt whether it’s really OK to do this or that while trying not to fall apart.

Well I’m here to tell you-ignore all that!

Read the rest here: Permission To Grieve

Many Kinds Of Grief: Eight Ways To Help Your Heart In Hard Times

Long time readers may have noticed that the past month there have been fewer original posts and more recycled ones.

I’m not sure precisely why, but it’s been a lot harder to put my thoughts and feelings into words than at any other time in this journey.

I’ve started and abandoned post after post. They languish in my “drafts” file and will, hopefully, eventually, be completed.

There’s just something about the rest of the world being forced to live in the no-man’s-land between what we used to take for granted and what we now have to face that makes it harder to talk about my personal experience.

Grief takes many forms and I believe the whole world is grieving now.

I can hear it. I can feel it.

All of us are facing (many for the first time!) the fact that control is largely an illusion. We climb into our vehicles and assume the person coming at us in the other lane will maintain their position but don’t know that he or she is distracted or medically impaired or drunk.

And then-BAM!-all bets are off. What we take for granted can change in an instant.

So I guess my challenge is in translating my particular grief into language others can understand and relate to.

For the first time I feel there’s a wider audience longing for the secret recipe to life after loss.

I know not every heart is suffering from physical loss of a loved one but I think there are some general principles I’ve learned that can help anyone who’s struggling to find a path through this difficult season:

  • Acknowledge what you’ve lost. It often helps to name what’s changed, what you miss, what you’ve had to give up. It may seem obvious but you might be surprised. When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I knew I’d no longer have HIM. But what I didn’t realize at first was that I also lost the family I once knew (we were all changed), the me I used to be and the life I thought I’d have. There are Secondary Losses hidden inside every grieving heart.
  • Face your feelings. Consider journaling your thoughts. Often speaking or writing out a feeling is the first step to dealing with it. Grief isn’t just one feeling-although we tend to think of it that way. It’s A Tangled Ball of Emotions. I had no clue until it was me trying to unravel the strands and understand what to do with them. Emotions will leak out somewhere. Are you short-tempered and cranky? There’s probably something underneath those outward signs.
  • Think about your strengths and coping skills. What has helped you get through tough times in the past? How can you use the same set of skills or tools to tackle this challenge? Child loss is the greatest and most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. If you had asked me in the first five minutes if I’d survive I would have told you, “no way”. But I have. Largely by leaning into my faith in Christ (which I know not everyone shares) and depending on coping skills I learned over the years dealing with chronic illness and other hard things. What have you survived in the past? Use that to get through this.
  • Stay connected to the people who matter most to you. Social distancing is an unfortunate label for what is actually physical distancing. Social media, smartphones, Skype, Zoom meetings and other electronic means of connection are widely available and can help a heart stay in touch with friends and loved ones. When someone feels isolated he or she is much more apt to give up and give in. Humans were made for community. If you can’t be physically next to people, find another way to get close and stay in touch. It might well require more effort but it’s worth it.
  • Make a new routine. It’s not just babies that thrive on schedules. We all need a semblance of control and normalcy. Eat at regular times. Set up a work station/school station if the virus is keeping you at home. If possible, make sure each day includes some physical activity and outdoor air. Exercise, hobbies, family story time or shared movies are all things that could be included. Try to go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. For several months after Dominic left us, I wrote each day’s plan on an index card. When I found myself at loose ends, sitting staring into space and sinking into despair, I consulted my card. I moved on to the next thing and eventually found I’d made it through yet another day.
  • Limit your media diet. Let’s face it-most of us are easily drawn into an “us vs. them” mentality. And once we begin to think in those terms it’s harder and harder to see beauty in the world. It’s one thing to remain informed and it’s another to be absorbed by all the things over which we have no control. Focus on smaller things-friends, family and community. That’s where a heart can make a difference.
  • Practice discernment and draw a line between what is inconvenient and what is truly tragic. Lots of things can FEEL like the end of the world but very few things actually ARE. Life has changed dramatically but it’s still life. Work and school look different. Masks are uncomfortable. Celebrations might be virtual. Shopping without trying on clothes is a hassle. But none of those things equate to death or loss of income or being unable to visit an elder in a nursing home. There are absolutely, positively tragic aspects to this experience and (sadly) one or more of them may visit your family. But unless and until they do, save your energy in fretting over (relatively) minor inconveniences.
  • Remember that there are more chapters to your story. All of us have dark pages in the books of our lives. Some of us have several chapters’ worth. But as long as there is life, there is hope. My family HAS survived child loss/sibling loss. We are different, we are wounded, but we have survived. Some of the things we have learned are truly beautiful (although we wouldn’t have chosen to learn them this way). If you listen and pay attention, you will learn things too.

Truth is, grief can drag you down so low you don’t remember which way is up, much less how to get there. No one knows that better than a bereaved parent.

Still, there are things you can do even there that will help your heart hold onto hope.

Where there is hope there is light.

And light will always, always chase away the shadows.

It Is OK To Laugh. Truly.

Thankfully our family has always turned to laughter as a way of making it through things that would otherwise bring us to tears.  So it wasn’t but a couple days past when we got the news of Dom’s leaving we managed a giggle here and there as his friends shared some funny stories with us.

But it felt strange to have laughter bubbling up in my throat even as I couldn’t stop its escaping my mouth.

It wasn’t the unforced expression of joy and merriment it used to be.  Instead it was a strangled, mishapen gurgling mixture of the joy I once knew and unspeakable pain I now knew.

It didn’t float airily into the atmosphere, it thudded heavy to the floor.

And then I felt like I was betraying my son.

Read the rest here: Is it OK if I Laugh?

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Ten Ways To Survive Hard Grief Days

Even six years into this journey I have hard grief days.

I had one just this week and needed to remind my heart that while I can’t stop the waves from rolling in, I have ways to hang on and ride them out.

There are many, many ways to survive such days but here are ten that have proven helpful to me over and over again.

My hardest grief season begins in November and runs to the end of May.  Thanksgiving through Dominic’s birthday on (or near) Memorial Day are days full of triggers, memories and stark reminders that one of us is missing.

If I could fall asleep November first and wake up in June I’d do it.

But I can’t so I have to employ all the tricks I’ve learned in the nearly six years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven to survive those particularly challenging months.

Here are ten ways I survive hard grief days.

Read the rest here: Taking Care: Ten Ways to Survive Hard Grief Days

Child Loss: How Do I DO This?


After the flurry of activity surrounding the funeral, our house was so, so quiet. 

Even with the five of us still here, it felt empty.  

Because Dominic was gone, gone, gone and he was not coming back.

And the silence pounded into my head and heart until it became a scream: 

How do I DO this? 

Read the rest here: How Do I DO This? The Question Every Bereaved Parent Longs to Ask

Picking My Path Through Sun And Shade


I walk the half-mile stretch down and back on my driveway at least four or five times a day.

In the winter I follow the sun.

In the summer I follow the shade.

The path I choose to take either adds to or subtracts from my ability to make the trek in relative comfort.

Read the rest here: Sun & Shade: Picking My Path

If It Happened Once, It Could Happen Again

I was reminded today how close fear sits to the door of my heart and to the door of the hearts of many bereaved parents.

Once again a mom shared an experience of not being able to get in touch with a surviving child and how that quickly spiraled downward to a frenzy of fear.

To some it may seem like an overreaction. But to those of us for whom the one thing you think won’t happen, HAS happened, it made perfect sense.

Before Dominic was killed on his motorcycle I had the normal parental misgivings about my kids driving here, there and everywhere. I always prayed for them and tossed a, “Be safe!” as they walked out the door with keys in hand.

I shook my head sadly, teared up and felt awful when I saw an accident report on the news.

But I lived in the protective bubble of never having actually experienced sudden, tragic loss and I was blissfully unaware of how quickly and how completely life could change.

Now I know.

And fear creeps up my back and takes hold of my heart in an instant if anything unusual prevents a loved one from answering his or her phone when I think they should.

In the first couple of years I could not stop it. I was at the mercy of my feelings and my mind was quickly overwhelmed with all the “what ifs” and would imagine every possible awful outcome.

Knowing Fear. | Still Standing Magazine

So our family put some simple protocols in place to help everyone’s heart.

We text or call when we arrive safely somewhere; we offer alternative phone numbers if traveling with others so there’s a second means of contact; we know that if one of us calls another repeatedly it’s important and regardless of where we are or what we are doing, we need to pick up; and if we are on a longer trip with multiple stops we provide an itinerary.

Now I’ve learned a bit better how to push irrational thoughts away, to focus on the probable and to allow a little time and space for someone to get back in touch with me.

It’s hard and requires great effort.

But I was reminded just the other day that no matter how hard you try or how much you work to push those feelings away, they can threaten to overtake you regardless.

My dad and I talk every morning. He texts me when he’s up and I call him when I’m done with morning chores. On his end, two texts, one hour apart, had gone through to my phone with no response. He finally called me because he was afraid something was wrong.

The same day, I began a conversation with my daughter by saying, “Your brother called…” at which point she immediately asked what happened. I realized my mistake for starting with those words and quickly assured her everything was just fine.

You never forget making or receiving that phone call delivering the unchangeable and unbelievable awful news.

I am still prone to jump to conclusions.

If it happened once, it can happen again.

But I’m trying hard to learn to live in a less friendly, less safe world than I once depended upon. So I aim my heart and mind in the direction of the most likely instead of the most awful.

On the best days, it works.

Anything Human Is Mentionable

We wall off our world with words.

The ones we speak and the ones we swallow down so they don’t escape our lips.

But, as Mr. Rogers says, “Anything human is mentionable.”

Won't You Be My Neighbor?' the Mister Rogers Documentary, Comes to ...

Even death.

We don’t like to talk about death. It’s unpleasant and frightening and often divisive. We all know it’s coming-no one (except Enoch and Elijah) have left this world any other way. Yet the polite thing to do is pretend it doesn’t exist or at the very least, isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

But that serves no good purpose.

It stops us from having meaningful conversations with those we love as they approach the end of their days. It keeps us from making amends while there is still time, saying the things that need to be said, wrapping up loose ends and frayed relationships.

It stops us from listening to the bereaved. If we get too close and pay too much attention to the aftermath of loss then we have to think about what it really means to live on without someone we love.

And it has shaped a society in which those who grieve too loudly or too long are shushed and shamed.

Refusing to talk about death doesn’t make it disappear.

It only makes it harder to deal with.

The rest of the Mr. Rogers quote is this:

…and anything mentionable is more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.

Fred Rogers

Learning the language of loss and lament is part of the healing process in grief.

We’ve never been very good in Western society talking about or dealing with death. And the recent restrictions around traditional rituals associated with saying farewell to loved ones have made it that much more difficult. So many hearts are hurting and have nowhere to go, no one to talk to, no safe refuge for their pain.

If someone trusts you with his or her feelings, receive it as a gift.

Make space for them to be honest about what they are experiencing.

Remind them that “Anything human is mentionable”.

And listen.

I don't believe in best friends {discuss amongst yourself ...

Walking Out The Worry

Sit. Soak. Sour.

It happens to milk left out of the fridge and it happens to people too.

If all I do is sit in a chair, soak up the news, social media rants and talk show ravings, I’ll end up sad and sour.

Grumpy (Disney) | Heroes Wiki | Fandom

I don’t want to do that.

So I get outside and soak up the sunshine and fresh air instead.

I know everyone doesn’t have the option to walk for over a mile on their own property but even in the strictest of the locked down states, there are parks, sidewalks and other outdoor spaces you could visit.

My walking companions.

Sit on your stoop if you have to.

But just get outside, for goodness sake!

Turn off the screens screaming fearful headlines, walk away from the four walls that feel like they are closing in on you, open a window at least and stick your head out.

Road Trips and Car Travel With Your Dog | Currents Veterinary Centre

If you really, truly can’t manage any outside time or fresh air, grow something.

Remember when you were a kid and mom or grandma cut the tops off carrots and put them in a shallow dish? They will grow fluffy greenery in a few days.

Watching the progress of any living thing is balm to a weary soul.

Carrot Top Experiment - Red Kite Days

Even grocery stores sell potted plants or herbs in most places. Buy a few. They’ll improve indoor air quality as well as providing a diversion from worry.

When all a heart thinks about is death, destruction and dire news, it shrinks into a hardened ball.

It becomes increasingly difficult to feel anything but fear or anger or bitterness.

Sour. Dour. Persnickety. Cranky. Grumpy.

I'm cranky in the morning. (With images) | Snoopy, Snoopy quotes

That’s not how I want to be and it’s probably not how you want to be either.

So get up. Break the habit of soaking in bad news.

Get some fresh air and sunshine if you can or at least create your own little corner of green.

Refresh your soul and feed it hope.

Anxiety: A Very Real Part of Child Loss

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I would not have described myself as “anxious”.

Of course I had my moments, but anxiety, panic or worry was not really something I experienced on a regular basis.  

That’s changed. 

Read the rest here: Anxiety After Child Loss Is Real