Choosing My Path Through Sun and Shade

We are only officially a few days into summer here in Alabama but we’ve already suffered weeks of extra hot weather.

And while I can’t do a thing about the absolute temperature outside, I can make choices that help me tolerate it.

It’s the same in my grief journey.

Everyday decisions make a difference in how well I cope.

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.

Read the rest here: Sun & Shade: Picking My Path

Thirty-Eight Years and Counting

Today is thirty-eight years since we said, “I do”, and had absolutely NO idea what that would look like.

I first shared this a few years ago on our anniversary because I wanted other bereaved parents to know that while it is hard (and isn’t marriage always hard?), it is not impossible for a marriage to survive child loss.

We are definitely not the perfect couple. We fuss and struggle. We sometimes retreat into our separate worlds as we process some new aspect of this earthly life without one of our children.

But we have learned that we are stronger together and that we are willing to do the work necessary to stay that way.

Today my husband and I celebrate 38 years of marriage.  

Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.

Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far:

hector and me 29 anniversary

Read the rest here: Dispelling Marriage Myths Surrounding Child Loss.

I Need to Give Sorrow Words

I’m participating in an online discussion group with others who are reading ATLAS OF THE HEART* by Brene Brown.

It’s a helpful exercise to map, name and explore emotions so that I can create more meaningful connections to myself and others.

I think I’ve been doing some version of this my whole life. Language matters. Being able to give any emotion-especially the deep pain and sorrow of child loss-matters.

Language is our portal to meaning-making, connection, healing, learning, and self-awareness….

Language shows us that naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding and meaning.

Brene Brown, ATLAS OF THE HEART, xxi

The morning Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, after I made the awful phone calls I reached for my journal.  

I knew if I didn’t start spilling the grief onto paper my heart would explode with sorrow.  

Since I learned to hold a pencil I’ve been writing. 

It’s how I sort my thoughts, figure out my feelings and express my heart. 

Read the rest here: Give Sorrow Words.

*Warning: ATLAS OF THE HEART contains language that may offend some folks. I just don’t want anyone to be surprised. ❤

So, How Do I DO This?

This is still the question that comes up most often in bereaved parent groups: ‘How do I DO this?’

No one is prepared for the devastation of child loss. There are no manuals issued as you walk away from your son or daughter’s earthly shell.

And what makes it worse is that because child loss is every parent’s worst nightmare, no one wants to talk about what happens after everyone else goes back to their lives and families are left alone with grief, isolation, devastation and desperate pain.

❤ Melanie

After the flurry of activity surrounding the funeral, our house was so, so quiet. 

Even with the five of us still here, it felt empty.  

Because Dominic was gone, gone, gone and he was not coming back.

And the silence pounded into my head and heart until it became a scream: 

How do I DO this? 

Read the rest here: How Do I DO This? The Question Every Bereaved Parent Longs to Ask

The Second Year Can Be Surprisingly Hard

It’s not true for everyone but it is true for enough of us. The second year after child loss can be especially hard.

Numbness and the rhythm of all the “firsts” in the twelve months following Dominic’s death kept me both anticipating the shock and protecting me from its full impact.

The second year was when it dawned on me that I was doomed to repeat this cycle as long as I lived.

I was absolutely overwhelmed.

Melanie

I remember very well the morning I woke on April 12, 2015-it was one year since I’d gotten the awful news; one year since the life I thought I was going to have turned into the life I didn’t choose.

I was horrified that my heart had continued to beat for 365 days when I was sure it wouldn’t make it through the first 24 hours. 

And I was terrified.

Read the rest here:  Why is the Second Year SO Hard?

Grief Journey Update: Eight Plus Years and Counting

In the years since I started sharing in this space I’ve had many challenges in addition to the ongoing burden of missing Dominic.

Our family has gained members, lost members, my health has declined, my husband has retired and all my earthbound children have experienced lots of important and sometimes uncomfortable or unwelcome life changes.

For some reason the past two and a half years have been more difficult to navigate in certain ways since the first two years after Dominic’s death. In fact, the past six months have been particularly hard but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

Maybe it’s fatigue-emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational-or maybe it’s what marathoners know as “the wall”. That place when you’re fully committed to running the race but suddenly wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into.

I don’t run marathons (just look at me and you’ll know that!) but I do tend to push through pain and discouragement and what others consider unbeatable odds to reach whatever goal I’ve set for myself. I haven’t been able to employ the usual pep talks or psychological tricks or external cues to do that of late.

People running in city marathon on street

I’m spending too much time thinking about what I need to get done and not enough time doing it.

I’ve got tons of half-written blog posts in my draft folder and too few finished ones lined up to publish.

I remember feeling a bit like this when I graduated from college three months pregnant with my daughter. One giant task was accomplished but one, largely unknown, task was staring me in the face.

That summer is a blur.

I know I did some practical and predictable things to get ready for Fiona’s arrival but I’m not sure I really had much of a plan.

I’ve been walking the road of child loss for more than eight years now. I’m committed to sharing the journey with whomever it might help. I have a basic daily routine that at least includes finding old posts to re-share if not carving out time to create new ones.

The other hours of my day are spent talking or messaging with family and friends, moderating an online bereaved parent community, trying to keep my house relatively clean (no white gloves allowed!), walking two miles each morning, doing research, cooking meals and handling five or six (typically) other random and/or pressing issues along with caring for our menagerie of pets and livestock.

And while my life is good, I’m definitely experiencing dissonance between what I thought it would be like at 58 and what it actually IS.

I thought I’d be writing books or making quilts or teaching craft or cooking classes in my local church.

I absolutely, positively didn’t think my story would include child loss! I couldn’t have imagined that fused bones in my hands and wrists would keep me from doing so many of the things I love to do.

I’m not complaining (well, I’d complain to anyone who’d listen about Dominic not being here) but I am just being honest.

I know the saying, “Grieve the life you thought you’d have and then move on with the life you actually have and be grateful for it”.

Trust me, I have and I am.

I am so, so grateful for each day’s beauty, blessings and the grace and strength to appreciate them.

I am beyond grateful for a loving family, my precious grandsons, the gift of modern medicine and compassionate companionship of friends who help make my burdens easier to carry!

I do wake every morning thankful for the breath in my body and the promise that this body is not the only one I’ll ever have.

I look forward to the final and complete redemption of every pain, every tear, every sad and awful thing, and the restoration of all that has been stolen.

This life continues to be one I didn’t choose but one I choose to make as joy-filled and as productive as possible.

A challenge?

Absolutely.

Finding Courage to Face the Future

I think it was somewhere around two months from Dominic’s departure when my heart realized life was moving forward whether I granted permission or not.  

Not only folks on the fringes and the “bigger world out there” but close by-in my own family, my own circle of intimate friends-people were making plans, having birthdays, going places and doing things.  

I wanted to scream.  

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Finding Courage to Face the Future

I’ve Learned SO Much From Other Bereaved Parents

There’s a kind of relational magic that happens when people who have experienced the same or similar struggle get together.  

In an instant, their hearts are bound in mutual understanding as they look one to another and say, “Me too. I thought I was the only one.”

It was well into the second year after Dominic ran ahead to heaven that I found an online bereaved parent support group.  After bearing this burden alone for so many months, it took awhile before I could open my heart to strangers and share more than the outline of my story.

But, oh, when I did! What relief!  What beautiful support and affirmation that every. single. thing. that was happening to me and that I was feeling was normal!

Read the rest here: What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

Receiving and Extending Grace

Truth is, beyond my single vote or my social media post or a letter (remember those!) I might write to an elected official or the editor of a local paper, I don’t have much influence in the larger world.

But I can absolutely make my family, my place of worship and my community a safe space for reasonable people to share opinions, seek solutions and save the best parts of what makes us human.

There’s not a lot I can add to this post from last year-it’s all about giving and receiving grace.

It’s about refusing to label, categorize, dehumanize, point fingers and standing steadfast for long held ideas without considering new information and new insights.

We’ve got to do better, y’all.

We have to.

There is so much going on right now in our country and our world that hurts my heart.

I could get on my soapbox and pontificate about what policies should be or what politicians should do but my tiny voice wouldn’t make a difference on the grander stage.

My world is pretty small in comparison to social influencers and the ones who want to be.

BBC Radio - The English We Speak, It's a small world

Even still, what I do and what I say each day matters.

Read the rest here: Extending And Receiving Grace

This Is Why Memorial Day Matters

Today is a day when we honor those who gave the last full measure in service to our country and our country’s wars.

It is a day to remember and mark with solemn gratitude the sacrifice of a life poured out.

You don’t have to agree with the reasons for a war to grieve the individuals who died fighting it.

War is far from glorious. It’s ugly and dirty and awful. For those that fight it and those on whose land it is fought.

But in this world where nation invades nation and the wicked often rule it’s sometimes necessary.

Battle field cross (With images) | Memorial day quotes, Soldier ...

Every soldier is a mother’s child. Every soldier leaves someone behind.

Read the rest here: Why Memorial Day Matters

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