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.

 

Salt In The Wound

In case you are wondering, there appears to be no limit to the depth or number of struggles one may be required to endure this side of heaven.

Sure we’ve all read Job and give mental assent to overwhelming breadth of his loss. 

But, really, how can our hearts even begin to comprehend it when devastation upon devastation is given within seven verses-everything he owned and everything he loved (except his wife) was stolen or destroyed.

It’s so easy to read it and not to FEEL it.  

job and misery

I’m here to tell you I know parents who have lost more than one child.  Parents who have lost their only child.  Parents who have lost a child and then lost their living children’s love and companionship because their family fell apart.  I know bereaved parents who are homeless because they couldn’t keep a job after burying their child.

In addition, there are the everyday struggles we all have to deal with-bad bosses, financial troubles, health issues, frustrating interpersonal relationships.

Right now our family is facing the culmination of a situation that began before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  I’m not free to discuss it but it’s the kind of thing where you need legal advice.

And you want to know what’s harder than dragging my fanny through this nasty mess?

The salt it’s rubbing in the wound of my broken heart.

Because if Dominic were here, he’d be three years out of law school and ready to rock and roll.  I’d have a personal hot line to all the legal counsel a body could stand.  And if he didn’t know the answer, he would have access to the kinds of resources that could find it.

dominic at tims wedding

Instead we have to rely on strangers and hope that they have at least a smidgen of the commitment our own son would have were he able to represent our cause.

I hate so many things about this life.

I hate that the life I thought I would have-the life our whole family thought we would have-is not the one we are stuck with.  One of the things I hate most is every moment when Dominic SHOULD be here and he’s not.

I miss my son.

Not only for the free legal advice, but because his presence lent courage to my heart.

Every hard thing is harder now.

And that is definitely salt in this wound.

sun up not here

 

 

 

Mother’s Day 2018: A Letter to My Living Children

I wanted to do a version 2.0 of this post but felt like I couldn’t really add much to what I’ve already written.

So here it is again-a letter to the children still walking planet Earth with me.

You are every bit as important and loved as your brother that is waiting for us in Heaven.

I love you.

You are my breath, my life, my heart walking outside my body.  ❤

I never thought it possible to love you more than I already did.

But I do.

photo (20)

Your brother’s untimely departure has opened my heart in a whole new way to the glory that is your presence.  It has made me drink you in like water in the desert.

Read the rest here:  A Letter To My Living Children*

From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this last year, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

I know most days your eyes are misty with tears, your mind full of questions, your voice quieted, your heart broken by the pain of living without me.

There are only two ways to gain a child: birth or adoption.

But nobody and nothing in this world prepares you for the harsh reality that there are countless ways to lose one.

I can’t dry your eyes or answer your questions; strengthen your voice or fix your broken heart. But today, the day you stand with empty arms or a few empty chairs while others’ hearts and homes are full, I want to remind you of a few things:

It is not your fault.

You are a great mom.

It’s OK to wish for more time.

Broken crayons still color and the world needs your tear-washed rainbows to remind them that stormy clouds are not the end of the story.

I’ll see you soon.

<3,

The One Not Sitting at Your Table”

because i have known despair

Bereaved Moms and Mother’s Day Celebrations

It was only last year that I found out there was such a thing as International Bereaved Mother’s Day celebrated on the first Sunday in May.

I hope that my fellow sisters-in-loss took advantage of that opportunity to think about and honor the child or children that won’t be here to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday.

Even if you did, it’s not going to be much easier to face a day full of “Happy Mother’s Day!” greetings when your heart may feel anything BUT happy.

Thankful for the opportunity to be a mother-yes.  Thankful for children still here on earth with me-yes.  Thankful that God has given me the strength to carry on in the face of unimaginable pain and loss-yes.

But “happy”probably not.

So if your heart is a heavy looking toward tomorrow, I hope this post helps a little. 

It’s OK to not be OK.  

Read the rest here:  Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

 

Rude Awakening

Even though I got the news from a knock on the door and not a phone call, ever since Dominic’s accident I sleep with my home phone and cell phone next to the bed-I have to be absolutely, utterly reachable.   

There have only been a couple times since he left us that they have rung in the dark of night or early morning, but each time my heart is jolted into overdrive and I cannot go back to sleep.

Yesterday morning I received a series of three (obviously wrong number!) calls around 2:15 a.m.

It was a fax machine-probably auto-dialed-and oh, so annoying because I didn’t even have the satisfaction of calling them back and fussing about their lack of courtesy and bad timing.  

phone ringing

The only good thing about it was that the *beep*beep*beep* on the other end told me instantly it was not an emergency call from a family member.

I tried to go back to sleep.  

I used all the tips and tricks I’ve learned in these four years to calm my heart and distract my thoughts.  The two cats that sleep with me worked their magic and together tried to purr me back to sleep.

just because its all in your head

It was a no-go.  

So I got up and came downstairs.  Made the coffee, made the rounds and dropped feed in bowls inside and outside. 

Sat down and started writing.  

hand-coffee-roosevelt

I do love writing in the wee hours of the morning-my mind is clearer and less prone to distraction.

But I hate rude awakenings.  

It will take half the morning for the adrenaline to work its way out of my system and I’ll be dragging this afternoon just when I need to get things done.

I used to be able to roll over and go back to sleep no matter what woke me in the middle of the night.  

Not anymore.  

heart leaf torn

Post # 1000: Thelifeididntchoose By the Numbers

This is one of my favorite photos of my son Dominic-the inspiration for this blog.  I love it because he was doing something he loved.  He was traveling in Brazil and went mountain climbing on his 21st birthday.

It’s pure Dom-shorts and sleeveless shirt (he was always warm-natured) and what you can’t see in this photo is he was in flip-flops-hardly appropriate footwear for the mountains.

Strong, fearless, brave and adventurous-God I miss him!

Until the day my pain is redeemed and my heart restored, I’ll keep sharing the life I didn’t choose.

I am thankful for every reader who now carries a tiny bit of my son in his or her heart too.  ❤

I rarely pay attention to all the statistics offered by WordPress when I log into my account.

I can see how many views a post has received, where my readers are and how they got to the post-whether via Facebook, Pinterest, search engines, etc.

Sometime last week I did notice a tiny number at the top of the list of published posts and realized I was creeping close to having made 1000 posts.

It floored me.

When I started writing in September, 2015 I envisioned a once-in-a-while update on my grief journey primarily for family and friends.  I had started blogs in the past but never had the mojo nor the commitment to keep them up much longer than a few months.

And then I discovered that writing for a bigger audience than myself and God was helpful and freeing.  I found out that putting words out in public forced me to refine my thoughts and dig deeper than I was otherwise willing to go.  I found out, like Flannery O’Conner, that often I don’t really know what I think until I write it down.

i-write-because-i-dont-know

I made a commitment in November, 2015 to write every day and thought it would only last a month. 

But it’s lasted now for nearly two and a half years!

Sometimes I’m too exhausted to produce fresh material so I will repost an old entry.  Sometimes I recycle a post because it was well-received and I feel like it needs to be put out there again.

Most days I write something fresh that reflects where I am right now.

I decided early on that writing here was going to be a way to honor Dominic, my family, my journey and God so I would not monetize it in any way.  I plan to stick to that commitment.

Free of any commercial expectations or limitations I can write what I want, when I want, how I want.

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process

Interacting with readers and with others on Facebook sent me in new directions and challenged me to explore the corners of my experience and try to put it into words that might help others feel less alone and misunderstood.

The result so far is one thousand posts! 

I can hardly believe it.  

So here are a few statistics for Post # 1000 that I find fascinating:  

wordpress and gears

Number of countries where at least one person has accessed a post:  189including Iraq. The Palestinian Territories, The People’s Republic of China and Uzbekistan! There is even a fairly large group that accesses daily posts from South Africa.

Obviously I knew in my head that the Internet has no borders, but this has really proven it to me in a very practical and surprising way!

Total number of views:  (at the time of writing) 794, 980

Total number of visitors:  492, 058

Several posts have been shared thousands and tens of thousands of times which is another fascinating and surprising statistic that I find hard to grasp.

There have been a few moments when choosing to be so public has been painful. 

Sometimes I’ve gotten comments that try to pick a fight over theological positions that I consider tangential to the central tenets of Christianity.  Sometimes I’ve had to ward off people who really just want to rant and rave in their grief-I’m truly sorry for their pain but I’m in no position to be an endless source of support and affirmation.

Once or twice my material has been stolen and circulated by others and that hurts because it is a record of MY journey and a tribute to MY son.

But all in all I have been blessed.

Blessed by the folks who take time to comment on the blog or comment on the public Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child Facebook Page.  I’ve been blessed by people who let me know that they look for the post every morning and that it gives them strength to get up and go on.

Mostly I’ve been blessed by knowing that I am doing the work that God prepared in advance for me to do.

Dominic’s death was no surprise to the Lord.

He knows the end from the beginning.  I am so thankful that I don’t.  But I can see how He was preparing me for decades to be able to put this journey into words and share it with others.

I don’t like my subject.

I would give anything-literally ANYTHING– for the calling on my heart to be something else.

But until He tells me to stop or I run out of words, I’ll be here.

I hope you’ll continue to join me.

heart baloon girl