Sorry I Haven’t Texted Back

I remember the early days after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven when people were still checking in often on our family.

Some days there were a dozen or more messages that really, really needed an answer.

But I just couldn’t.

“How are you?” is often a more difficult question than you might think when your world is falling apart.

I wanted to tell the truth about how hard the days were and harder still the long dark nights but it felt too personal, too frightening and too likely to be misunderstood by a heart with no frame of reference.

So most of my responses looked something like this:

Eventually I found out who the safe people were and began to share more openly.

The others-the ones who weren’t safe or who were only asking out of a sense of curiosity or obligation-simply stopped asking when they didn’t get the answers they were looking for.

I Hate Nosey People (@IHateNoseyPeeps) | Twitter

I’ve learned to give hurting hearts space.

I give them permission NOT to answer.

I want them to know I care but I don’t ask penetrating questions that might require answers they aren’t prepared to give.

Because I remember how that felt. ❤

Anxiety: A Very Real Part of Child Loss

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I would not have described myself as “anxious”.

Of course I had my moments, but anxiety, panic or worry was not really something I experienced on a regular basis.  

That’s changed. 

Read the rest here: Anxiety After Child Loss Is Real

At A Loss For Words: Another Birthday Without You

It would surprise my mama most of all that on this day I’m at a loss for words.

I regularly embarrassed her with my non-stop commentary as a child. I told stories about what I heard and saw (and what my young mind THOUGHT it heard or saw) to anyone who would listen.

But I realize now there are moments too sacred, wounds too deep, experiences too precious for words.

Either you are there and share it-or you’re not-and can’t imagine.

This is one of those times.

Dominic would be thirty years old today if he had lived.

He’d be several years out of law school, on some path toward making his mark in the world, maybe (?) married, perhaps even a dad but definitely, positively here and part of our lives.

To be honest, I wouldn’t even care what his life looked like right now as long as it was LIFE.

Something very few people know and even fewer would note is that on Dominic’s birth day, the doctor who delivered him had just the day before become a bereaved parent himself. His daughter left this world by her own hand.

Another C-section, Dominic was lifted up next to my face by this sweet and vulnerable man while the tears poured down my face. I was crying for HIM not for me. I was undone that he had shown up and delivered my child while his own laid lifeless wherever they had taken her.

I thought I understood then.

But I had no clue.

I understand now.

Sometimes you show up and do what you need to because it’s the only way for a heart to survive. Sometimes you walk on because standing still leaves too much time for the horror to take root and overwhelm you.

I miss Dominic.

I miss the future we would have had together and the family we would have been if death hadn’t invaded our reality.

I would literally give anything other than the life of one I love for Dominic to be alive right now.

But it’s not an option.

So I’ll spend his birthday thinking about what we had, lamenting what we will never have, rejoicing that his faith is made sight and I’ll cry.

Because a mama’s arms are made for holding her child, not holding his memory.

Changed For Life

I wrote this three years ago but it still speaks my heart.

I will not get used to the fact that my son is beyond my reach.  I have come to a certain acceptance of it as fact, and acknowledgement of the truth that I cannot change that fact.

The pain hasn’t become less painful, only more familiar.  It doesn’t surprise me as often when it pricks my heart anew.

The world goes on.

Read the rest here: True Truth

Grieving As A Family

Child loss is also often sibling loss.  

In addition to their own heartache, bereaved parents carry the heartache of their surviving children.  

The family everyone once knew is now a family no one recognizes.  Hurting hearts huddle together-or run and hide-and it is so, so hard to find a way to talk about that pain. 

Read the rest here: Grief is a Family Affair

What Can Make Grieving Harder? Things You Might Not Expect.

I’m the kind of person who thinks a lot about what makes people tick.

I always assume the person in front of me is the sum of his or her experiences.

We all are, really.

No one wakes up one day and just “is”. We become, over time, as our innate nature interacts with the world around us. First our parents and siblings influence us and then school, friends, life experience either gently molds us or pounds us into shape.

Often we get so used to our own way of doing and being we never give it much thought. It’s just “how we are”. We work around our faults and try to use our strengths to our advantage.

Most of us are pretty good at it.

Then something earth shattering comes along and suddenly the cracks are exposed and we haven’t the energy to cover them over.

Grieving hearts can be overwhelmed by all the seemingly unrelated issues that crop up after child loss. They lament that the pain and sorrow they bear missing their child is more than enough of a burden. Why, oh why are all these other things demanding attention at the same time?

How we grieve is informed by so many things!

Not only by our relationship with the one we miss but also our relationship with previous losses, ourselves and others.

Here are some often overlooked things that affect our grief:

  • Relationship with the one we miss. I think most of us realize this intuitively but we might be afraid to look deeper than the most recent memories and feelings. Dominic was almost 24 when he was killed in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident. At first my reaction to his death was mostly about losing him as a young adult. Over time I mourned losing him as a younger middle child who came along when I wasn’t taking as many photos of babies and toddlers (I have far fewer of him than his older siblings!). I mourned not making as much of his high school graduation and being not long out of major surgery for his college graduation. I mourned not making videos of his amazing drum playing because, you know, there’s always next time. My relationship with Dominic was complicated as all relationships are. I’m still discovering sore spots, having to think about, feel them and forgive myself or him for that specific pain. It takes time and willingness to explore my heart even when it hurts.
  • Relationship to previous losses. We’ve all suffered loss in our lifetimes. It might not have been due to death, but something or someone was taken from us, left us or is missing. And we’ve observed how others in our family have dealt (or not dealt) with loss. How we processed previous loss-what we learned or didn’t learn-in the course of living through it impacts how we approach child loss. I suffered numerous smaller losses before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. One of the most profound was the decade prior to his leaving when my health declined in ways I could neither control nor anticipate. Over and over I was forced to accept that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t MAKE something happen (or not happen). I had already surrendered, for the most part, to the worldview that I was not in control. It didn’t stop my heart from crying out nor stop my mind from trying to find a reason for this awful tragedy, but it helped me get past the initial disbelief that it could happen at all.
  • Relationship to ourselves. Some of us are masters of ignoring inner voices and prodding. Some folks never have a conversation with themselves, question their own motives or examine their own behavior. They walk through life and experience it moment by moment, day by day without looking too far ahead or looking over their shoulder at what they might leave in their wake. I’d love to have a day like that. Because I’m precisely the opposite. I will replay a conversation a dozen times trying to figure out where it went wrong or what I could have said differently. I am never free of a long list of self-imposed “Do’s and Don’t’s”. Even while grieving, I had expectations regarding what was allowed and what was out of bounds. It took time for me to give my heart permission to do whatever was necessary as long as it didn’t harm me or others. The less introspective may need help setting boundaries around their words and behavior so they don’t damage other hearts and relationships in unbridled grief.
  • Relationship to others. One of the most shocking realizations in child loss is that although others are in your immediate grief circle (spouse, other children, grandparents) no one has precisely the same relationship with the missing child. And every relationship within a family is impacted by the space left behind. Families are reshaped as much by the subtraction of a member as by the addition of a new baby or spouse. It changes everything. So even in this intimate setting, misunderstandings happen. Each person is working through their own grief. As they do, they will change. And the cycle begins anew. The husband I knew and the children I knew BEFORE Dom left have been reshaped as much by this experience as I have. I tend to want to relate to the people they were before and not to the people they are NOW. The gap between the two can be difficult to navigate. We continue to learn to live together in our new reality-changing and (hopefully) growing together. We talk more about important things, hide less behind false fronts and work harder at keeping short accounts.

Child loss shook me to the core.

It rattled every loose thought and feeling so hard they fell out and I was forced to deal with them. It ripped away any facade I’d managed to construct around poor coping techniques and suddenly I had to find new ones. Excuses that served to kick relationship problems down the road weren’t enough anymore.

There was a lot of work to do.

Still is.

Celebrating the Good Things

Our family’s experience was a bit unusual though hardly unique.

In the two months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven we had Easter, two graduations, a wedding, Mother’s Day and his birthday.

So we were thrust right into the uncomfortable whirlwind of celebration and mourning from the start.

I remember having to dig deep to let the happy come out through the muck and mire of sorrow.

But even then, it was there.

Six years later and it’s much easier to let laughter loose and produce a genuine smile for those Kodak camera moments.

Six years later there are a heap of things to be happy about not the least of which is the addition of this little fella to the family circle.

From frightening beginnings to a first birthday full of love, laughter, food and fun my grandson has come a long, long way.

A couple of days ago was the one year anniversary of his coming home from NICU-what a glorious day when he made that trip safely and slept the first night in his crib next to his parents’ bed!

I am still in awe of how this story (that could have had a much different ending) has a beautiful one.

Last night his dad FaceTimed us and we got to see our little Captain cutting up, laughing, taking a few tentative steps, reacting to our voices and generally having a great time.

It’s balm to my soul.

It doesn’t fill the space where Dominic should be but it has enlarged my heart once again.

If you are wondering if you will ever feel joy or gladness again, hang on.

Celebrate the good things even when it’s hard.

It’s not treason to let love and laughter back in.