Bereaved Parents Month 2021: Grief is a Tangled Ball of Emotions

Someone posted this image yesterday on Facebook-they had received a copy in a therapy session and found it a helpful way to picture grief.  

I wanted to share it because perhaps you may find it helpful as well.  

Read the rest here: Grief-A Tangled Ball of Emotions

[Under] Motivated

Yesterday I finished a short video for a bereaved parents event that should have been completed a week (or two!) ago.

I just kept putting it off and putting it off for no good reason other than I didn’t want to do it.

It wasn’t hard, didn’t cover ground I haven’t already explored dozens of times and really only took about thirty minutes to complete including set up and recording.

But I just wasn’t feeling it.

I’ve been more than a little undermotivated these past few months and as I enter what I call my “season of sorrow” marking Dominic’s departure for Heaven, it’s gotten worse.

There have been a lot of changes and adjustments in the past twelve months-some associated with the larger pandemic story and impact and some peculiar to my family. All of those in addition to the usual ebb and flow of grief (yes, even after nearly seven years!) have contributed to a (not laudable) attitude of, “What difference does it make?”.

It’s kind of the emotional equivalent of stretchy pants. It’s easy to ignore a few extra pounds or inches as long as you can still fit in your clothes.

I’m weary of death.

Weary of daily social media posts pitting one “side” against the other as if there could possibly be any “winners” in this awful scenario where the virus is claiming lives and the attempt to limit death is claiming businesses, young folks’ college years and individuals’ mental health as they face isolation and devastation.

I’ve been weepy the past few days thinking of the parents who have had to bury children (whatever age) and spouses burying lifetime partners. I don’t have an answer for any of this except that I wish we would all be more compassionate and less territorial or political.

There is a very happy and exciting visit on the horizon that is lighting a fire under my backside. I hope I can overcome my lack of motivation and choose to lean in and work hard to get ready for it.

I want to, with all my heart.

I hope to, with as much energy as I can muster.

My default (in the past) has always been running wide open.

Let’s see if I can rekindle that flame.

Emotional Overload: Child Loss Impacts Relationships

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

Read the rest here: Emotional Overload and T.M.I.

So…How ARE You Doing?

Sometimes it’s hard to gauge effectively and objectively how I’m really doing.

Living inside my own head often obscures tell-tale signs that maybe I’m not coping as well as I think I am.

So I depend on feedback from friends and family as an early warning safety system.

But now many of us are physically isolated from others who might otherwise help us discern when we need help. A heart can fall fast into a deep pit of despair without realizing it.

A friend recently shared this infographic and I love it!

It’s an objective (though not exhaustive!) checklist anyone can use to determine if they are slipping into unhealthy or potentially harmful behaviors, attitudes and thought patterns.

I wanted to share it with my fellow broken-hearted sojourners as a tool.

Please be honest with yourself even if you can’t be honest with others.

And if you find that you are closer to the red than the green, let me (or SOMEONE) know!

You may be isolated but you are NOT alone!

Reach out.

You are irreplaceable. ❤

You are irreplaceable – Freed to Fly

Why Don’t I Feel A Thing? Sometimes Grief = Numb.

Many bereaved parents will tell you that after the initial shock of loss hits hard, a blessed numbness falls over a heart.

It happened to me.

The pain was still there, of course, but a fog descended that allowed me to maintain some distance between what I was feeling deep down and what I had to do in order to get through the decisions and days that follow death.

Nighttime was still hard because when the house went dark and quiet, all the emotion I’d managed to push away in the daylight came flooding back. I spent months falling into fitful sleep with tears on my pillow.

And then the fog lifted.

I’m not sure how long it was that I sobbed uncontrollably for some portion of every day and some days all day long.

A whiff of fresh air reminded me Dominic no longer drew breath into his lungs. A random sound upstairs or outside jolted my heart into hoping maybe, just maybe, he was coming home. Everywhere my eyes landed held a memory that screamed, “He was here! Where is he now?”

I felt everything. All the time. No respite.

It was exhausting.

But at some point-maybe in the middle or toward the end of the second year-a blanket of profound emotional silence wrapped itself around my heart and I could not feel a thing.

Really.

Not one single thing.

I could conjure up appropriate facial expressions so those around me didn’t have a clue. I could remember what I was supposed to feel. I could almost-almost-touch a spot deep inside that used to feel. But if there had been a meter on my heart it would have displayed a flat line.

This was more frightening than the prospect of living with overwhelming sorrow and pain for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to hurt like that forever but I didn’t want to give up feeling love and happiness and excitement and awe either.

I don’t really know how long that lasted.

Maybe most of a year, I think.

And then one day I realized some color had crept back into my daily life.

I was beginning to look forward just a bit to a date on the calendar. A smile crossed my lips without effort in response to a joke. Sadness once again took up residence in my heart next to the place Dominic always lived. But joy eased its way in around the edges.

I’ve thought long and hard about that season of “un-feeling”.

Why did my heart shut down? Why the long silence when no emotion pierced my soul?

I think it was necessary.

I think a body and mind and heart can’t operate for too long at warp speed. I think that just like fainting is a response to the brain needing oxygen, numbness is a response to the soul’s need for respite and time to heal.

So if you are in the season of numb, you’re neither crazy nor alone.

It, too, will pass.

Feeling will find its way once again to your heart. Pain, yes, but also joy.

When you are ready.

Wondering If All These Crazy Emotions Are Normal In Grief? Yes. Absolutely.

You’d think that the depths of despair, the breath pressed out of your lungs would stop a brain from wondering if even here, I’m “normal”.

I’m not sure it’s the same need for affirmation junior high girls crave-am I doing/saying/being the things that will guarantee I fit in-but it’s a close cousin.

The human heart longs to know that what it feels is something other hearts feel.

I was desperate for assurance that what I was going through fell well within the range of “normal”.

So let me assure you.

If you wonder if all these crazy emotions are normal in grief, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”.

Grief is a ball of emotions any one of which may demand more or less of your attention on a given day. It’s not just sadness or missing or sorrow or even pain.

It’s anger, frustration, rage, relief, abandonment, jealousy, rejection, inadequacy, guilt, denial, dismay, apathy, bitterness, longing, anxiety, woe, depression, vindictiveness, despair, confusion, depression, yearning and more.

Just like loving a living child is complex and complicated, loving a child that has run ahead to Heaven is just as complex.

So don’t make your journey harder by worrying that what you’re feeling is outside the range of normal.

It isn’t.

I promise.

Grief Is A Tangled Ball Of Emotions


Someone posted this image yesterday on Facebook-they had received a copy in a therapy session and found it a helpful way to picture grief. 

I wanted to share it because perhaps you may find it helpful as well.  ❤

Read the rest here: Grief-A Tangled Ball of Emotions

Emotional Overload Means I Have to Be Careful With Those I Love

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/29/emotional-overload-and-t-m-i/

Unsettling Dreams: Grieving In My Sleep

I’ve always had vivid dreams.

That was a problem as a young child because often I couldn’t tell where the dream ended and real life began when I woke.

Many, many nights I’d cry out from my bed, begging my parents to come save me from whatever monster followed me from my dream.

I pretty much grew out of that as I got older and learned to be very careful what I fed my mind-especially right before I fall asleep. I don’t watch horror movies, dark so-called comedies, violent dramas or anything that my brain might twist into scary or disturbing shapes in the dark.

After Dominic left for Heaven, I once again experienced a season of uncomfortable dreaming. Only one or two of my dreams were actually awful, but I would often wake feeling out of sorts, a bit “off” or vaguely aware of something just outside my consciousness that was sure to frighten me if I could see it clearly.

That season passed and only very rarely was I troubled with those kinds of dreams these past few years.

But since my mama joined Dominic, I’ve had at least one disturbing dream every single night.

I can remember some of them-like the one that woke me at two this morning-but not all of them. Even when I can’t recall the exact sequence of events, they all have a similar theme: Someone I love is in peril and I can’t save them or something I hold dear is lost and I can’t find it.

And that awful feeling of helplessness follows me when I open my eyes.

It doesn’t take a PhD to interpret these dreams.

Grief is leaking out in my sleep.

All the feelings I’ve become so good at pushing down during waking hours since Dominic left us are growing stronger again in the wake of my mother’s death.

Image result for dream

The lid my conscious mind keeps screwed on tight is no match for the power of the unconscious.

Off it pops and all the sad, scared, anxious, helpless, longing, fearful emotions stirred up by losing one more soul my heart loves come flying out and swirl around until they create a perfect storm of awful to parade across my mind’s eye while my body tries to rest.

I think I’ve only had one night of more than three hours uninterrupted sleep since the week Mama was hospitalized.

I’m trying all the old tricks of carefully tending what goes into my brain each day. I’m feeding myself healthy and wholesome images and words. I’m ending each day with prayer and asking God to give me sweet dreams or no dreams at all.

I may have to revisit some of those old feelings.

I would rather face my fears in the daylight.

I don’t want them to leak out at night.

Image result for dream

Emotional Overload and T.M.I.

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

I know I said (still say!) things that wound others.  Most of the time it’s because I’m distracted or hurting myself and my mouth begins speaking before my brain is fully engaged.  Sometimes, though, it’s because I’m in pain and (frankly!) I want to transfer some of that pain to someone else.

Misery DOES love company!

Often other people in my life will say or do things that wound me.  Some of the folks are part of my inner grief circle and I know that it’s unintentional or they are having a pain-filled day like I am.

A few are extended family members who are either blissfully unaware of the ongoing pain and drama of child loss or are too caught up in their own lives to give it a thought.

Some of them are friends who think by now I should have toughened up and are no longer willing to extend extra grace and try harder to be tender.

Sometimes it’s acquaintances or strangers who don’t have a clue.

Whenever someone pierces my armor and inflicts pain, I have a choice:  Do I suck it up and take it or do I say something and try to reconcile?

There are days when I feel strong enough to just overlook it.  But I know if it represents a pattern, sooner or later the pressure will build and I’m going to blow.  And that’s not good for either one of us.

couple fighting

There are days when I absolutely, positively have to address it.  That’s when I need to be careful of overloading another heart with too much information (TMI).  See, it’s easy to make one person the target for all my strong feelings.  It’s easy to do an emotional and informational “dump” on whoever happens to be handy or whoever is the least intimidating.

That’s unfair and unhelpful-for them and for me.  

So when I decide to open my mouth and address a specific situation with a specific person, I need to keep my margins clean and only say the things that pertain to THAT instance.  I can’t bring up every single thing the person has done in the past or things that they haven’t said or done but which have made me more sensitive to certain words or actions.  I don’t need to burden them with all the details of MY bad day or week or month.

Instead I should talk about my own feelings in relationship to them and their actions or words. 

“I feel like _________when you say________” gives vent to my emotion without accusing another heart.  I need to leave room for them to share what they were/are thinking and feeling too.  It can’t be one-way conversation if I hope to have a two-way relationship.  

i statments graphic

Any stressful life circumstance makes us all more vulnerable to offense.  And child loss is certainly stressful.  It’s stressful in ways others can’t see or comprehend.  It alters the way a parent sees and experiences the world.

It makes everything harder.  

Relationships included.  

I want to be full of love, grace and mercy, not overrun with bitterness, anger and offense. 

So I have to be mindful of what I say, how much I say and when I choose to say it.

young man thought bubble