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.

Want To Try Journaling? Here’s How.

Journaling has been and continues to be a very important part of my grief journey.

Putting thoughts on paper gets them out of my head.

Writing them down helps me understand them.

Read the rest here: Grief Journaling Prompts

Baking Hope

I’m a “dash of this” and a “bit of that” kind of cook.

Nearly forty years of prepping meals for a large family and literally hundreds of guests has provided confidence when making a roast or stew or casserole.

But baking is another matter entirely.

Baking is science (as my high school chemistry teacher pointed out) so the proportions need to be precise and measurements matter.

It’s much the same when it comes to feeding my heart and mind in the “after” of child loss.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it wasn’t as critical if I paid attention to how much negative information or opinions I consumed. I could brush them off and focus instead on all the blessings I enjoyed.

But after-well the equation changed.

I was already so weighted toward sorrow and despair, adding even a dash of additional negativity could push me right over the edge.

I learned to limit my exposure to generally unhelpful sources (like social media from some folks, clickbait websites, negative Nellies who only rant and rave). I learned to shut down my own tendency to rehearse slights, sad memories and internal dialogue that said I was a failure because one of my children died.

I work hard to find something for which to be thankful each day. I try to get outside and breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sunshine.

And when I have a rainy day-whether it is literally dripping water from the sky or simply dripping tears from my eyes-I try to do something that will help my heart hold on.

Often I turn to baking.

There is hardly a more satisfying moment than when I pull a perfectly formed loaf of bread or cake or muffins from the oven.

I never get tired of the magic that occurs when you mix the right amount of flour, eggs, sugar and leavening to produce a beautiful edible gift of love.

If you want to find me after a stress-filled day or week, join me in the kitchen.

It’s where I do my best work.

It’s where my heart heals as my hands knead dough or I scrape the mixer bowl.

Baking hope is what I do.

In case you want to join me:

*MAMA D’S POUND CAKE*

  • 2 cups quality flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter (not margarine) OR 1 stick butter and 4 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla
  • 5 eggs

Cream butter and sugar until fully blended and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add vanilla. Finally, add flour a bit at a time and beat until blended. Then continue to beat for 2-3 minutes until batter reaches a shiny smooth consistency.

Pour batter into a prepared (greased and floured OR use quality baking spray) Bundt pan or tube pan.

Bake 10 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 45-60 minutes (pans and ovens vary).

Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve with fresh berries, ice cream or toast for a yummy breakfast treat.

It’s OK-Yell, Scream and Throw Things!! (Just Not at People)

A mom who is also coming up on her season of sorrow this spring wrote that she felt like screaming and throwing things.

I get it.

And because I live in the middle of the woods, far from neighbors or nosy passers-by, I’ve done it.

Read the rest here: Go Ahead-Yell, Scream and Throw Things!

What IS “Grief Work”?

I have used the term for years and only recently has someone asked me to define it.

I guess I never realized that in all the writing about it, I’d never really explained what it meant.

So here goes.

Read the rest here: What, Exactly, IS “Grief Work”?

How Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

I’ve just had the privilege of a house full of family for the first time in over a year. My son, wife and his son (our only grandchild!) came for an extended visit and it has been wonderful!

But after such a long stretch of only us older, predictable (read boring) and relatively quiet folks rattling around this place, the vibrant, noisy, slightly chaotic frenzy of a nearly two-year-old has been a little challenging.

I’ve really had to work hard on centering my focus and being present in the moment. And I don’t mind telling you, I’ve missed the mark several times now.

I know better-I know I have absolutely, positively GOT to set aside some quiet time each day but I’ve let my “to do” list rob me of it.

So here I am, preaching to myself. Again.

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

What Exactly IS Normal In Grief?

It hurts my heart every time I hear it or see it written at the end of a long, heartfelt post in a bereaved parents’ group: “Am I normal?”

Because in addition to bearing the weight of child loss so many mothers and fathers wonder if what they are feeling, what they are thinking and what they are doing is within the range of “normal” for those who have buried a son or daughter.

If we didn’t closet the deepest and most difficult aspects of grief and loss hearts wouldn’t have to fret about whether or not their experience was common, expected, typical, ordinary and very, very NORMAL.

I just came home a couple days ago from a weekend retreat for bereaved moms and was reminded again that the range of “normal” in grief-especially child loss-is so very wide.

Still crying after a decade? Absolutely normal.

Trouble getting dinner on the table or remembering your child’s school schedule? Yep. That’s normal.

Read the rest here: Grief-So What’s Normal???

Can My Marriage Survive Child Loss? Absolutely.


A few decades ago, faulty research methods made popular an inaccurate statistic that a disproportionate number of marriages fail after a couple experiences child loss.

Like many urban legends, once fixed in the minds of many, it’s nearly impossible to dislodge.  

And that is more than unfortunate because when marriages falter (and they often do) after child loss, lots of people just give up because they think failure is inevitable.

But it’s not. 

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Can My Marriage Survive?