The Importance of Self Care in Grief

Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.

I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.

And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.

Read the rest here: Self Care in Grief

Eight Ways to Help Your Heart in Hard Times

This time last year the world was just beginning to comprehend that life as we knew it might not be within reach anytime soon.

Quarantines, lockdowns, facemasks and remote learning were forcing most folks to face the fact that they were not in control.

And that’s a very, very scary reality.

This year things are different but not necessarily better.

So how DO you walk in a world when you’re not sure anything you do or don’t do makes a difference? How do you hold onto hope when the news and social media and personal experience scream, “All hope is lost!!”?

The bereaved can be trusted guides. Listen to them.

❤ Melanie

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.

Read the rest here: Many Kinds Of Grief: Eight Ways To Help Your Heart In Hard Times

Everyday Brave

So I did something last week that was pretty big for me.

I went to the dentist-not once, but twice-AND I let him make some long-needed repairs to my neglected teeth.

For some folks this might seem like a silly bit of whiny sympathy seeking for the kind of every day healthcare I should be grateful for and not complain about.

But for me, it was HUGE.

I’ve never, ever liked having my mouth worked on.

I don’t remember when it started but I do know that by five or six I would rather know I was going for a vaccine booster than to the dentist for a cleaning. Of course, having pretty lousy teeth (bad genes) and multiple cavities by my teen years didn’t help.

Anyway, fast forward to adulthood and of all the uncomfortable things I could make myself face in the name of being a grown-up I was never able to get over this ridiculous fear.

Last week it could wait no longer.

Retirement means our insurance provider changes and we needed to use up the benefits we had left on the old one. So armed with economic necessity, I dragged my behind to the dentist, committed to doing what had to be done.

One thing had changed, though, in the years (yes, I know it’s supposed to be every six months!) since I’d sat in that chair. I had learned to speak up for myself. I’d learned to be forthright about how much pain I was willing to take and when enough would just have to be enough for that visit.

I’ve discovered a perverse “law” this side of child loss.

I have suffered the absolute worst heartache and sorrow I can bear. So inconvenience or tiny slights or even some pretty large challenges are manageable.

But I’m not at all willing to suffer unnecessarily either physically or relationally anymore.

If a word to the wise, if honesty, if admitting up front that I need some kind of chemical aid or extra grace to endure a procedure will make a conversation, friendship or painful prod or poke go smoothly, then I’m going to ask for it.

So I did.

And while taking the short walk from the waiting room to the exam room involved some deep breaths and positive (silent) self-talk, once things got going it wasn’t bad at all.

I walked out encouraged and with sounder teeth.

I’ve got another complex appointment in a few weeks and am asking for the same treatment plan and protocol. But this time I’m not dreading it at all.

I’m learning that sucking it up or pretending isn’t the only flavor of brave.

I can ask for help.

That’s brave too.

Grief Takes A Physical Toll…

I don’t know about you but my face and my body tell the tale.

It’s a story of stress and strife and it’s not pretty.

I look at photos before and after and see grief written all over the pictures taken since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Read the rest here: Grief’s Physical Toll

Sometimes Running Away Sounds Like The Perfect Thing to Do

You know that scene in Forrest Gump where he starts running and just can’t stop?

I thought that was a funny way to deal with grief when I first saw the movie.

But now I understand it perfectly.  

run forrest run

If I could have started running, walking or even crawling away from the heartache in those first days and weeks I would have.  

Truth is, though, you can’t.  

Read the rest here: Can’t Run Away

It’s Alright To Be Little Bitty

I was recently told by someone that my world was tiny.

It hurt my heart.

Not because it is factually inaccurate but because the person who said it implied that distance traveled from my front door equaled responsibility and influence. If I don’t wander hither and yon, then I’m inferior. If I don’t have paid employment then whatever I do doesn’t “really” count.

I know many bereaved parents have been forced to scale back commitments, maybe change jobs or retire early, and, like me, lead a smaller life than before.

I’m here to tell you that’s perfectly OK.

In fact, if you are faithfully leading the life to which God has called you, it’s MORE than OK.

May be an image of text that says 'MAYBE YOUR GREAT PURPOSE FOR GOD iS Το LiVE A QUIET, PEACEFUL LiFE; LOVING YOUR FAMILY, AND BEING KiND AND COMPASSIONATE Το EVERYONE yoU MEET. @Love, the Only Thing He has shown you, o mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8'

It’s true that more days than not I never get farther than the quarter mile down my driveway.

But inside my home, behind my computer screen and through the magic of the Internet I regularly chat with folks from Australia to South Africa. I read news from around the world. I keep up with relatives all over the country.

And in my modest kitchen I prep and cook meals for my family as well as others in my community who might need them. I counsel friends struggling with loss or trying to companion someone struggling with loss. I moderate two closed groups for bereaved parents where they can safely share and seek support. I maintain three public Facebook pages-one for my church, one for bereaved parents and one with a more personal Biblical focus.

I write a blog.

It is absolutely correct that I receive no remuneration for any of this. So by worldly standards (and by the standards of the person who made the remark) these things are of small value. Because, after all, we know that if something’s free it must not be worth anything.

But that is simply not true!

Each of us (bereaved or not) has a unique circle of influence, a unique set of skills, a unique personality and ability to connect with those God brings across our paths. Some of us get paid for using them. Some of us don’t.

Regardless of how far-reaching your influence is, it is important.

It’s perfectly alright to be little bitty.

Do your thing, your way, right where you are.

And ignore those who can’t appreciate how beautifully your light shines.

Child Loss: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

I know I’m not the only one who carries a calendar in my head that threatens to explode like a ticking timebomb.  Days that mean nothing to anyone else loom large as they approach.

The date of his death.

The date of his funeral.

His birthday.

My birthday.

The day he should have graduated from law school.

On and on and on.

How can I survive these oppressive reminders of what I thought my life would look like? How can I grab hold of somethinganything that will keep my heart and mind from falling down the rabbit hole of grief into a topsy-turvy land where nothing makes sense and it’s full of unfriendly creatures that threaten to gobble me whole?

Read the rest here: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: Mental Health Days

I think it gets harder and harder over the years for me to justify the necessity of some time devoted solely to processing the ongoing changes grief produces in my heart, mind and body.

It just seems like I should be-I don’t know-“used” to it by now, “better” at it by now, “more capable” by now.

And, I suppose I am all of those things.

But every now and then I find the normal stress and strain of life combined with the constant hum of missing Dominic wears me down.

Read the rest here: Bereaved Parents Month Post: Mental Health Days

Speaking From Experience…

If you’ve joined me here for more than a minute you know I am a fierce advocate for bereaved parents in particular and all grievers in general.

But you’ve probably also noticed that, at least in my own life, I recognize how traumatic and/or difficult circumstances can make it hard to see past the hurt and the shattered world a broken heart inhabits. I can judge others harshly without meaning to.

A couple of recent incidents have reminded me how easy it is to interpret every offhand comment or heartfelt opinion as targeted at ME when, in fact, they are simply a reflection of that person’s experience in the world.

I can’t insist that others see the world through MY eyes if I’m not equally prepared to try to see it through THEIRS.

Look, I know how painful it is to scroll through social media posts and feel the darts land square in the center of my heart. Parents bemoaning their children leaving home (all the while I’m thinking, “yeah-but you can call, visit and still hug your child”); folks complaining about how hard it is to manage schedules and meals or trying to figure out family vacations with teens or young adults (“gee, I wish I had the privilege of including ALL my kids for holidays“); and then there are the “miraculous deliverance from a wreck” posts (I’m wondering why Dom wasn’t delivered).

But NONE of those folks are posting or commenting with me in mind. They are simply sharing their thoughts and feelings just like I share my own.

I’ve learned to just scroll on past.

It’s neither healthy nor helpful for me to type some long (or short!) snarky comment trying to “correct” them. I’m not entirely sure they need correcting.

Before it was ME that sent a child to Heaven I had No. Idea.

They don’t either.

So save your energy for the work grief requires. Save it for the family you’ve got left. Save it for a rainy day when tears fall as fast as drops from the sky.

You’re gonna need it.

How Stress Impacts Grief

It would be so helpful if there was an app to track stress like there is to track spending.

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to get an alert that said, “Low Balance”, for mental, physical and psychological reserves like the one you can get for your bank account right before you are heading to overdraft territory?

But there isn’t.

And few of us are very good at gauging just how much is left in our mental wellness accounts which means we often keep giving when the well is more than dry.

I’d be lying if I said I spend the same amount of time crying, lamenting and bent over in agonizing pain that I did in the early days of mourning Dominic. I’ve found a way to keep him close, to trust his soul to Jesus and to (largely) live in the present instead of always longing for the past.

There are days, though…

Some days are easy to anticipate-birthdays, holidays, the awful anniversary of his leaving-and some sneak up on me. I can often trace my overwhelming sadness to a specific trigger or memory dug up in a drawer or found in a pile of photos.

Occasionally, I have a horrible weepy day for no discernable reason.

That’s when I walk my heart back through recent events and always come to the same conclusion-I’ve let myself run dry:

  • I’ve overcommitted.
  • I’ve not planned rest.
  • I’ve had hard pain days.
  • There’s been family drama.
  • Someone I love is sick.
  • I’m sick.
  • A deadline looms large.
  • There’s some major unpredictability going on.
  • I’ve counseled too many people without enough time to regain my own emotional stores.
  • I’m not sleeping well.
  • I’m doing too much and not listening to my body.

What I’ve come to understand is that stress is a HUGE impact on my grief and how I experience it.

I won’t patronize folks reading this with a simplistic (but wholly unhelpful!) suggestion to “reduce or avoid stress”.

For heaven’s sake! If we could do that with a snap of our fingers we would hardly need someone to tell us to take advantage of that solution.

Truth is, stress is often largely outside our control.

But there ARE some things I can make choices about. So I do. I look ahead at the calendar and note upcoming milestone days. I plug in doctor’s appointments, birthdays and holidays. I review every invitation to celebrations or lunch in light of what is already inked in.

I’ve learned to be honest with folks about my limitations and send a card or gift through the mail if I can’t be there in person. I sometimes suggest an alternative date and time if the one a friend offers just doesn’t work for me. I stand firm in my opinion that “no” is a complete sentence and as long as I’m kind and gracious it is not incumbent upon me to offer an explanation for why I’m turning down an invitation.

And if I have an unexpectedly hard day-from grief or activity or because of my RA-I drop back the next day to allow time to recuperate and rest (if at all possible).

The reality is that child loss means there is ALWAYS a certain low-level hum of stress in my life.

Adding to that already higher-than-average stress means it’s easy for me to be tipped into unhealthy territory.

Crying is only the tip of the iceberg.

Health problems, heart problems, relationship issues and other long-term consequences often result.

It’s not only OK for me to set boundaries to protect my health and my heart,

It’s absolutely, positively the right thing to do.