Sun & Shade: Picking My Path

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.

It would be foolish for me to not take advantage of available provisions.  It would be silly for me to shiver or sweat more just because I was too lazy to adjust my trajectory.

I can’t change the absolute temperature outside but I can influence how I experience it.

I’ve found that the same practical wisdom applies to my grief journey:  I can make things easier or harder on my heart by making even small changes in how I face a day or situation.

I can’t change the fact that my son is dead.  But I can influence how I experience it.

On days when I am struggling with sorrow, I seek out some “sunshine”-both actual sunshine by getting outdoors and figurative sunshine by feeding my soul with positive images, thoughts and the truth of Scripture.

sunrise brightest

I minimize my interaction with “negative Nellies” and sites or shows or books or places that send me further down the path of despair.

I share my struggle with safe people who will listen and not try to correct me or force me into pretending that sorrow is not what I feel.

I go to bed early, knowing that each sunrise brings new mercies from our Heavenly Father and that one bad day does not have to define a week.

steadfast-love-in-the-morning

On days when I’m overwhelmed with the “heat” of commitment or too many people or too much activity, I seek out some “shade”-I look for a spot in my schedule where I can rest a bit and catch my breath.

I reassess and find things I can give up.  I find other ways to meet obligations that give me more space and require less frantic scrambling.

I make myself sit down and slow down, even if it is for just fifteen minutes.

let-yourself-rest

I’m honest with my family and friends, because if I’m not I will end up being ugly and hurting someone’s feelings.

So, so many things about grief are outside my control.  I cannot anticipate every random trigger that might land me in a puddle of tears.

Life goes on and continues to demand my participation.

I want to be fully present for my loved ones.  I want to show up and make merry for all the special occasions.

So I try to use wisdom in how I approach each day, assessing my grief “temperature” so that I can do what’s necessary to ensure I’m emotionally healthy enough to do what I really want to do.

Shade in summer.

Sun in winter.

between stimulus and response

Repost: Emotional Bankruptcy-I Can’t Spend the Same Energy Twice

I wasn’t born with an “I don’t give a hoot” gene.

When I commit to a person, a project or a problem, I’m all in-no holding back.

That’s why this side of Dominic’s leaving I’ve been very cautious about making commitments. But in the past year I’ve begun branching out and joining in again.

In many ways it has been a positive experience.

In other ways, not so much.

Read the rest here:  Emotional Bankruptcy: I Can’t Spend the Same Energy Twice

Repost: Be Free to Celebrate [Or Not!]

Often bereaved parents dread the major holiday season that starts in November and lasts through January.  We brace ourselves for THOSE days because they loom large on the calendar and give fair warning.

But the year is chock full of minor holidays and other celebrations that require just as much emotional energy as the “big” ones.

If I’m not careful, they will slip up on me and drain me dry.

So here’s how I try to approach them.

It helps my heart.

Maybe it will help yours too.  ❤

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.

Read the rest here:  Be Free to Celebrate [or Not!]

When Life Gives You Lemons (Well, You Know the Rest)

You’d think that after having the most unexpected and awful and out-of-control thing happen to me, I’d stop looking for patterns or certainty in life.

But, being human, and a former control freak, I just can’t quit.

So I still use a calendar, still try to make plans, still depend on others to keep their word and adhere to (a semblance) of schedule.

Silly me!

Remember this post:  Salt In The Wound?

Well I flew to California-neither a simple nor cheap undertaking-to handle this business.  In a one hour meeting, one party to the process declared a “personal conflict” and the whole thing is now moved to the end of July.

Wow!  Yep.  Couldn’t send an email a couple days ahead and save me a trip, could you?

So here I am, laughing because  If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry

And working to make lemonade out of these lemons life keeps tossing my way.

Here’s my list so far:

  • The weather was great.  It amounted to an extended spring season for me since it’s already in the high 80’s and low 90’s in Alabama.
  • Sidewalks everywhere.  I could walk to the store, the library, the park.  I managed a walk every day for a week.
  • Time to write.  There is still a mile-long “to do” list around the farm but since I wasn’t there, I could ignore it and spend more time writing.  Those walks help clear my mind and focus my thoughts.
  • A couple quick day trips to fun spots with my husband.  One of the things we’ve tried to do since he’s been out here is use my visits to explore California.  This time we went to San Juan Capistrano and learned more about the mission system that was instrumental in settling the state.  We also visited the Getty Museum.  Both places had beautiful buildings and gardens, as you can see in the pictures at the end of this post.
  • A renewed sense of gratitude for southern culture and graciousness.  I’m sorry if I offend any left coast readers but as a group (NOT individuals) these are just not my people.  I smile, nod and speak when I meet someone on the street or in a grocery store aisle.  With few exceptions, people out there just don’t do that.  I feel torn between being (what I consider) rude and respecting their customs.  I missed my redneck brothers and sisters 🙂
  • Some much needed rest and sleep.  Once my body adjusted to the time change, I slept longer out there than I have most nights for years.  Maybe it’s the walking or cooler temps or just the lack of morning cues from home, but I was able to get a good 7 or 8 hours every night.

I’ve always tended to be a “glass half full” kind of gal, but since Dom left us, it can be harder to find the bright side of hard situations.  

I’m working at it.  

Making this list will help my heart refuse despair when I have to board that plane again in just two short months.

(I hope ❤ )

 

 

Season of Grief: How a Heart Marks the Days

It’s different for every heart.

But each of us who know child loss have a season of grief.

It’s so much more than “just” the day our child left for Heaven.

For me, it starts in November and runs through the end of May-fully half of

every.

single.

year.   

November 2013 was my 50th birthday and the kids arranged a surprise party for me at Dominic’s apartment.  My husband was home from California and we were all together for my birthday, Thanksgiving and the Iron Bowl.  So many memories, so many moments.

As the leaves begin to turn in Alabama, my heart begins the countdown.

Then that Christmas-it would be the last one where the table was full and all I have are a few fuzzy photos because we anticipated a spring season of graduations and a wedding.  Plenty of time for better pictures when we were dressed for the camera.

As we hang the lights and the nights get longer, my heart gets sadder.

January was back to routine.  Everyone busy.  James Michael and Julian would be graduating soon.  We had normal back and forth texts and messages, never knowing how precious these few recorded words would become.

As we move toward warmer weather, my heart grows cold.

February 14, 2014 was Julian’s birthday and for a couple of hours all the kids were home. We sat outside on an old trailer laughing and cutting up.  Someone suggested a photo.  Everyone demurred because we were in ragged work clothes and thought it was a waste of time.  Oh, how I wish I had that picture now!

But there’s no going back.

I saw Dominic in March a few times.  Since he lived just 25 miles away I would meet him to go to Sam’s Club and stock up on basic food stuffs.  He came out to our place to work on a friend’s car.  He and Julian met up and made a road trip for Spring Break.

It was the last time I’d see him alive.  My heart hates turning the calendar to April.

April.  What can I say about this awful, awful month? 

I will never be able to recapture any sense of hopeful anticipation as flowers bloom and leaves bud.  I don’t care when the last frost might be because try as I might, I can’t plant a garden.  When the first really beautiful day arrives, whether or not it corresponds to Dom’s death date, it only makes me fearful other young men will take their bikes out for a ride after a long, cold winter.  I wonder how many mamas wake to a knock or phone call. 

The smell of cut grass reminds me of the people that came to help us clean up before the funeral.  The sun streaming in the living room window conjures the mornings I woke and dared it to shine in the face of such tragedy.

My heart barely holds on.

And then May.  Mother’s Day-what kind of mother lets her son die?  Even though logic tells me otherwise, my heart still accuses.

Graduations, weddingsreminders that Dominic never got to finish his law degree, will never marry and that every single molecule of him is gone, gone, gone-no children, no likeness ever looking back at me again in this life. 

Finally, there’s his birthday-the one he missed by only a few short weeks.  Forever 23.  Never any older.  May 28th comes and goes.  Sometimes it’s on Memorial Day like the year he was born but often not.  So I gird my loins to face the date AND the day.

My heart hurts but breathes a sigh of relief.

This season is over.  But it will come again.

So I try, try, try to cram as much into the intervening months as possible.

The calendar is relentless.

 

Life. Suspended.

Grief … gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.

~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

It is really impossible to convey the bizarre nature of life after traumatic loss to anyone who has not lived it.

And yet, here I am, trying my best to do just that.

I guess I always hold out hope that at least one heart will be affirmed in his or her experience or one heart will be made aware of how to offer compassionate companionship to someone they love.

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven my family has operated in two worlds:  one where every heartbeat taps out a rhythm of, “he’s not here, he’s not here” and another where we live, breath and move as we have always done.

But there are things I’ve had to lay aside for these past four years.  Things that used to consume time, talent, resources and energy that I just. could. not. do.

Before Dominic ran ahead I was a list making fool.  I was a manila folder maniac.  I was a put-things-in-their-place person.

That ended when Dom left us.

From that day forward, I have hung on by a thread.

I’ve managed by assigning things to piles or see-through plastic bins stacked mile high in the room that used to be his.  If forced to locate an important document, it takes hours or days to find it where before I could put my finger on it in minutes.

I feel like these years have been both a horrible journey and a giant parentheses in the story of my life.

While forced to carry on and meet every necessary obligation, every ordinary daily, weekly, yearly chore-it’s been kind of a dream.

I am just now beginning to reclaim some of the long-neglected corners of my house, my heart and my life.

I’ve hauled out the manila folders again.  I’m organizing some of the piled up papers so that I can once again lay hands on them in a timely way.

I cleaned my covered porch of years of dust, bugs, tools and random items so I can sit outside and enjoy the spring breeze.

I’ve purchased hanging baskets of flowers to brighten the front entrance and am remembering to water them (a giant leap forward!).

front porch spring 2018 edited

I’m writing more cards, sending more birthday greetings and making more personalized gifts for friends and family.

I still feel like I’m moving through dense fog some days but the corners are lifting and I occasionally see the sun light around the edges.

My life has been profoundly changed.

My life will always be informed by my loss.

But I am slowly learning to live this new way, with this new me and to be productive once again.

our cross may be heavy but one sight of christ

Repost: A Fine Line

“Can you?”  ” Would you?” “We need you to… Help!”

You’d be surprised how soon people start expecting a bereaved parent to jump right back into the responsibilities and activities they shouldered or enjoyed before burying a child.

I know the rest of the world didn’t stop when mine did, but I was truly amazed that some people in my circle seemed unaware mine had stopped at all.

As I’ve written before here the funeral is not the end of grief’s journey, it’s quite near the beginning.  It took a year for me to just convince my heart Dominic wasn’t coming back.  It took longer to begin to understand how very different I am now and to embrace those changes.

I simply cannot do some things I once did.

Read the rest here:  A Fine Line