It would be helpful if the world could just stop for a day or a week (or a year!) when your heart is shattered by the news that one of the children you birthed into this world has suddenly left it.
But it doesn’t.
And immediately all the roles I have played for decades are overlaid by a new role: bereaved mother. Except instead of being definitive or even descriptive, this role is more like a foggy blanket that obscures and disorients me as I struggle to fulfill all the roles to which I’ve become accustomed.
I have to admit that I’m not nearly in the fog as much with my mama’s death as I was with Dominic’s death.
I’ve found this time around I can kind of stand a little apart and be a little more objective.
It’s no less horrific or painful or sad, but it IS an orderly death (parents before children) and gives me space to take a step back and observe some things instead of having to filter every single interaction through my emotions.
So can I share a little secret?
It literally takes five minutes or less to encourage a broken heart.
I know people often think that if they don’t have the perfect words or lots of time it’s better to do or say nothing.
That’s just not true.
Send a text, a private message, an email, a card. Make a quick phone call (believe me, the bereaved will not keep you on the line!) or leave a voicemail.
What grieving hearts want to know is that someone sees their pain, someone has taken notice of the drastic and unwelcome change that’s been thrust upon them.
We don’t want to feel invisible. We don’t want to be overlooked because it makes you uncomfortable.
Face your own discomfort (which is microscopic compared to the heartache of the bereaved!) and make the call, send the message, write the email or card.
I promise you will waste more than five minutes today.
So take that tiny bit of time and focus your efforts on speaking courage to a hurting heart.
You don’t have to have the perfect words- “I’m so sorry” is just fine.
Then your head can hit the pillow tonight knowing you helped a heart hold onto hope.
You made a difference between someone giving up or going on.
If you follow my personal Facebook page you know that part of my family evacuated ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
We are waiting the storm out at my parents’ farm in a safe spot. It was an unexpected opportunity to see one another and a sweet blessing (the visit, not the storm!) but a houseful makes it hard to do the kind of writing I normally do.
So…you’ll see some reposts for a couple days.
Hurricanes and random shootings and awful accidents can make a heart remember that relationships are really what matters.
One hard, hard lesson I’ve learned from waking up one morning to a never-coming-home son is this: You may not have another chance to make amends, say “I love you“, kiss a face or hug a neck.
I’m here to tell you: don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.
All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.
If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.
It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable.
I remember learning lists of synonyms and antonyms as a kid.
Each word was neatly stacked in discrete categories, no overlap.
But that’s not how it is, you know- not in real life.
We live with lots of ambiguity, lots of places where the line between joy and sorrow, hope and despair, brave and scared is fuzzy and hard to find.
Life after child loss is full of seeming contradictions.
I am broken yet God is redeeming those fragments and reassembling a life of beauty and meaning. The cracks are visible but they haven’t disqualified me as a vessel that can hold His love, His grace, His mercy and pour all that out on others.
I’m often scared, but am able to walk into each day brave in the knowledge I don’t walk alone.
My life is filled with joyful moments- high notes- accompanied by the low, slow melancholy melody of loss.
No tidy columns of separate experience here.
I’m learning to live satisfied in this undefined and undefeated space.
Scared and brave, reaching for Jesus, carrying on.
Everything broken doesn’t have to be completely fixed for me to be completely fine. I can be scared and brave and frail and unbelievably strong all in the same leap of faith.
And I can be hurt but I don’t have to live hurt. I can choose to believe in the epic goodness of God to completely surprise me with breathtakingly awesome possibilities.
Broken is what people are. Beautiful is what God makes them.