Healthy Grieving: You Can’t Fake it Forever

There’s a common bit of advice in grief circles:  Fake it until you make it.

It’s not bad as far as it goes and can be pretty useful-especially just after the initial loss and activity surrounding it.

Like when I met the acquaintance in the grocery store a month after burying Dominic and she grabbed me with a giant smile on her face, “How ARE you?!!! It’s SO good to see you out!!!”

I just smiled and stood there as if I appreciated her interest, a deer caught in headlights, silently praying she’d live up to her talkative past and soon move on to another target.

Faked it.

Boom!

BUT there comes a time when faking it is not helpful.  In fact, it’s downright dangerous.

Read the rest here: Can’t Fake It Forever

The Necessity of Setting Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

Wondering If It Will Ever Get Better?

I know that when I first stumbled onto a bereaved parent group, it was one of the things I was looking for: evidence that the overwhelming pain of child loss would not last forever.  

Some days I was encouraged as those who had traveled farther down this path posted comments affirming that they could feel something other than sorrow.

Some days I was devastated to read comments from parents who buried a child decades ago asserting that “it never gets better”.

Who is right?  

What’s the difference?

Do I have any control over whether or not this burden gets lighter?

Read the rest here: Will It Ever Get Better?

Solitude? Isolation? Is There a Difference?

Since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I find I need even more alone time than before.

That quiet place is where I do my most effective grief work, undisturbed by interruptions and distractions.

But I need to be careful that solitude doesn’t shift into isolation. 

Read the rest here: Solitude or Isolation? Which is it?

Good Answers to Awkward, Uncomfortable, Difficult Questions

I was utterly amazed at the questions people plied me with not long after Dominic’s accident.

They ranged from digging for details about what happened (when we ourselves were still unsure) to ridiculous requests for when I’d be returning to my previous responsibilities in a local ministry.

Since then, many of my bereaved parent friends have shared even more questions that have been lobbed at them across tables, across rooms and in the grocery store.

Recently there was a post in our group that generated so many excellent answers to these kinds of questions, I asked permission to reprint them here (without names, of course!).

So here they are, good answers to hard (or inappropriate or just plain ridiculous) questions:

Read the rest here: Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions

Inviting Grief to the Table: Holiday Host Etiquette

Spending holidays with friends and family while grieving is hard. No one is really comfortable-neither the bereaved nor those hosting them.

But there are ways to welcome grief to your table, to pave the way for the broken and bruised to join you, if they are able.

Here’s something that’s been going around social media circles this holiday season and offers advice on hosting the bereaved this Christmas.

Holiday Host Etiquette by Sarah Nannen

(Emphasis and paragraphs added)

“If you’re inviting someone to your home and they’re grieving, be sure you’re inviting their grief to attend, too. It will be there, anyway.

Don’t invite someone with the goal of cheering them up for the holidays. Don’t expect them to put on a happy face in your home. Don’t demand they fake it til they make it or do something they don’t want to do, either.

Invite them with the loving intention of offering cheer and companionship and unconditional care during the holidays. To do this, you will need to honor and be responsive to their needs and emotions.

You can do this by privately acknowledging their grief when you make the invitation: ‘I know this season is extra hard and you’re heart is hurting. You and your grief are welcome in our home. Come as you are, we’d be honored to have you with us.’

It’s also incredibly loving to honor the reality that it’s often hard for grieving folks to know what they will want, need, be up for, or able to tolerate at the holidays.

Giving them an invite without the need for commitment and permission to change their mind is extra loving: ‘You don’t have to decide right now. If it feels good to be with us, we will have plenty of food and love for you-just show up! I’ll check in again the day before to see if you’re feeling up to coming over and if there’s anything you’d like me to know about how we can support you.’

Your grieving friends and fam need attentive care and responsiveness at the holidays, not plans to keep them busy, distracted, and happy. If they’re laughing, laugh with them. If they’re weeping, ask if they’d like your company or your help finding a quiet place to snuggle up alone for awhile.

If they’re laughing while weeping, and this is more common than you’d think, stay with them – this is a precious moment of the human experience that is truly sacred.

We don’t need to protect ourselves or each other from grief at the holidays. In fact, the more we embrace grief as an honored holiday guest, the more healthy, happy, and whole our holidays will be.”

In solidarity, Sarah Nannen

The truth is that loss and sorrow will visit every life eventually.

We do no one a favor by pretending it doesn’t exist, least of all ourselves.

I honestly believe that when we welcome the happy, the hope-filled AND the hopeless to our table we are most human.

Surviving December With a Broken Heart

It really doesn’t matter if it’s your first December after loss or it’s your tenth, the holidays bring unique challenges for those of us whose hearts are wounded.

I have to remind myself every year that I need to grant grace, set boundaries and take each day one breath at a time if I’m going to make it through.

It comes up again and again-and not just for the parents facing their year of “firsts”:  How do I survive December with a broken heart?

There’s no single answer or list of things to do that will suit every family.

But there are some general principles that can make even this awful reality a little easier.

Read the rest here: How To Survive December With a Broken Heart

Is It Possible to H.A.L.T. a Grief Spiral?

If you’ve ever been in any kind of counseling or recovery group , you have probably seen or heard this acronym and advice: HALT  before you speak.

It’s a great reminder that I should take a moment to consider my frame of mind before I blurt out something that might damage a relationship or wound someone else’s heart.

I had never thought about it until recently, but it is also a great reminder to us who grieve that what we interpret solely as grief (which we cannot control) might be compounded greatly by other things  (some of which we can control).

So I am learning to apply the HALT acronym to a grief spiral in my own life.

Read the rest here: HALTing a Grief Spiral

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

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