Repost: Curating Grief

I wrote this post 18 months ago after a number of incidents when friends and family members tried to tell me how long to grieve, what my grieving should look like and (most hurtful) how my son would want me to grieve.

I rejected that notion then, and I reject it now.

Most of us have taken a class or two in literature–we read other people’s writing and sit around discussing “what it really means”.  My husband has always scoffed at the notion that anyone but the author knows that.

Me–I love books, plays and poetry so I’ve spent a lifetime reading and trying to interpret the meaning of others’ words.

But now I find I’m leaning more toward my husband’s point of view.

One of the challenges I face as a grieving parent is finding that other people want to interpret my experience for me.

Read the rest here:  curating grief

Who’s Gonna Miss You Baby?

Busyness has become a national idol-we rush from commitment to commitment, signing up to fill every single minute with something, anything that makes us feel important, valuable, irreplaceable.

Of course we have job and family obligations-as we should-but we don’t feel fully accomplished until we have colored in the edges of our calendar until no white space remains.

Because we think that if we don’t show up, people will miss us.  We think that if WE don’t do this or that, it won’t get done.  We are absolutely certain that our input is critical to the success of every mission, every committee, every project.

Can I let you in on a little secret?  It’s not.

One of the inconvenient and difficult truths that has been burned in my brain since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven is this:  his absence didn’t make a bit of difference to the world at large.

It only made a difference to the hearts that loved him.

He was editor of a law journal-guess what?  It was still published.

He died days before final exams.  They happened anyway.

His apartment? Cleaned out and rented to the next in line.

His commitments? The hole closed up around the space he would have occupied or it was filled with someone else’s body and energy.

He is truly missed by those for whom his absence was inconceivable, not by those for whom his absence was an inconvenience.  

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So my take away is this:  I will not waste my time running here, there and everywhere.

I will not spend my life energy on things or projects or activities that don’t matter.

I am not going to invest the scarce resource of the rest of my life in busyness.

I will give everything I’ve got to hearts and lives and people.  I will pour myself into projects I’m passionate about, people I love and pursuits that will outlive my few years on this earth.

Because busyness does not define me.  

Love does.

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Repost: A Little Extra Grace

Each day I am reminded by sights, smells, sounds and memories that Dominic is in Heaven and not here.  

But there are moments and seasons when his absence is particularly strong-when I can’t breathe in without also breathing a prayer, “Father, let me make it through this minute, this hour, this day.”

And that’s when I need grace-from family, friends and strangers.

Read the rest here:  A Little Extra Grace

Baby Steps and Falling Forward

Sometimes I schedule a post the night before and wake up to a day that contradicts everything I just wrote.

Grief is like that.

Good day.  Bad day.  Better day. Worse day.

I can barely predict one moment to the next, much less a day or a week.

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It’s easy for me to become discouraged when I stare at my own feet-measuring paltry progress when I long for leaps and bounds.

But truth is, no life is lived primarily by giant strides.  It’s mostly baby steps and falling forward.

Got up this morning?  Step.  

Remembered to make that phone call?  Step.

Smiled at the bird outside the window? Step.

Looked at Dominic’s picture and treasured the memory instead of crying?  Step.

And when I trip over my broken heart listening to a song on the radio and tumble headlong into wracking sobs-I reach out and fall forward, still making a little progress toward learning to live through a day.

It doesn’t matter how fast or how far I’ve traveled in this Valley.

It only matters that I refuse to give up.

may not be there yet but closer than yesterday perseverance

 

 

 

 

 

Is it OK if I Laugh?

Thankfully our family has always turned to laughter as a way of making it through things that would otherwise bring us to tears.  So it wasn’t but a couple days past when we got the news of Dom’s leaving we managed a giggle here and there as his friends shared some funny stories with us.

But it felt strange to have laughter bubbling up in my throat even as I couldn’t stop its escaping my mouth.

It wasn’t the free-floating, airy expression of joy and merriment it used to be.  Instead it was a strangled, mishapen gurgling mixture of the joy I once knew and unspeakable pain I now knew.

It didn’t float airily into the atmosphere, it thudded heavy to the floor.

And then I felt like I was betraying my son.

How could I laugh just days after finding out he would never laugh again?  How could I giggle over a silly story when my own story had drifted into tragic territory?  Was there something dreadfully wrong with me?  Was I somehow defective?

No. No. No.

And No.

There is nothing wrong with laughing-even in the darkest night of child loss.

Laughter is a gift.

When we laugh our hearts and bodies are receiving strength for the work grief requires.

Laughter  has many proven benefits:

  • decreases stress hormones
  • increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease
  • triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • lowers blood pressure
  • works your abdominal muscles
  • improves cardiac health

Dominic had an amazing laughhe was always cutting up, teasing friends and family and finding the funny in every situation.  He loved to laugh.

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One of the favorite stories his classmates told me was when he dressed as a redneck client for a mock trial case.  They were petrified that when he walked into the “courtroom” he was going to ruin their strategy and chances of winning.

But he played the part to perfection and had everyone rolling in the aisles.

I am learning to embrace laughter not only for what it does for ME but for how it links my heart to his.

This Valley is a long, dark place-I’ll take any light that breaks through.

And laughter is one of the brightest.

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Surviving Grief Anniversaries

I know I’m not the only one who carries a calendar in my head that threatens to explode like a ticking timebomb.  Days that mean nothing to anyone else loom large as they approach.

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The date of his death.

The date of his funeral.

His birthday.

My birthday.

The day he should have graduated from law school

On and on and on.

How can I survive these oppressive reminders of what I thought my life would look like? How can I grab hold of something, anything that will keep my heart and mind from falling down the rabbit hole of grief into a topsy-turvy land where nothing makes sense and it’s full of unfriendly creatures that threaten to gobble me whole?

Every family,

every child that has run ahead and

every situation is unique.

What works for one person (even in the same family) won’t necessarily work for another. But there are some ways to make these days a little easier.

Here’s a list of what has helped my heart and the hearts of others walking this journey. Take what may help and toss the rest:

  • Invite friends and family to a special celebration featuring foods and/or activities that honor your missing child.  On the first anniversary of Dominic’s homegoing, his friends brought lunch and they shared stories and memories with me-many of which I hadn’t heard since he was living away from home when he left us.  I didn’t do a lot of talking, but just listening was a beautiful way to pass that day.
  • Ask folks to do a “random act of kindness” in your child’s name.  Some parents have printed out cards (like photo Christmas cards) and distributed them with a picture and brief information about their child and a way to post the RAK online (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • If you have a charitable organization or scholarship or other project that bears your child’s name, remind people of it and request donations (if appropriate). Many times friends and family long to do something tangible to show they have not forgotten either.
  • For birthdays and holidays, purchase a cake (at a local bakery) or toys/gifts for a child the same age as your own.  I went a couple of days before Dominic’s birthday and paid for a cake ordered for a little girl’s first birthday.  I left a note that said, “Children are a blessing from the Lord.  Enjoy your sweet blessing.  In honor of my son, Dominic.  Love, His Mama.”
  • Some people launch lanterns at the cemetary or another meaningful place.  Check with local regulations before you do this-you don’t want the occasion marred by a confrontation.  There are environmentally friendly lanterns available online for those concerned about that. (This is why I don’t recommend letting balloons go.)
  • Gather gift cards to give to a local Ronald McDonald House or other charitable group that provides support for families of pediatric patients.  I know one family that did this for a group that had ministered to them during their son’s illness. The response was overwhelming and it touched them as well as all the families that benefitted from the gift cards.
  • Create a quiet memorial space in your own yard honoring your child.  There are lots of ideas online to get you started.  Some parents plant a tree while others use smaller plants and stones along with a bench and special items that remind them of their missing child.
  • Some grieving parents spend the day at home, under the covers and waiting for it to pass.

Most importantly, no matter what you do or don’t do, be prepared to give yourself grace whatever the day holds.

Don’t do what you don’t feel like you can do-even if you made plans ahead of time.

Do whatever helps your heart.

Hug anyone who chooses to come alongside and bear witness to this awful anniversary.

And hold tight to the fact that even the worst day only lasts 24 hours.

track record for bad days is 100

 

Yay You! Here’s to the Hearts That Persevere

This past little while I’ve started taking care of some things that have lingered long since Dominic left us.

The thought of doing them, of dealing with the details, and of trying to keep my tears behind my eyelids was overwhelming.

But they needed to be done.

So I’ve plunged ahead.

I’ve called on good friends to give me pep talks.

I’ve given myself pep talks.

Honestly, I’m exhausted.  It will most likely take me a week to recover.

But I did it.

I didn’t give up.  I didn’t give in.  I marched forward and conquered the fear and anxiety.

yay me snoopy

And “Yay You!” to every heart that chooses to persevere

even when it’s hard

or uncomfortable

or feels impossible.

may not be there yet but closer than yesterday perseverance