Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Grief Groups and Echo Chambers

I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.

I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family.  I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.

Sadly, there are new members added daily.  New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.

I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.

And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death.  It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.

But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.

Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again.  Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.

what is an echo chamber

Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:

No one understands,

everyone has abandoned me,

I am unloved, alone and hopeless.

That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.

But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.

hope holds a breaking heart togetherSo I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable.  I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.

Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.

let-yourself-rest

 

Repost: How to Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

Read the rest here:  How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

Exposed

When you pass that accident on the side of the road or read about the mass shooting in the press, what do you think?

What do you say?

Do you breathe a sigh of relief that no one you loved or knew was part of such a tragic disaster?  Do you feel chosen, special, “above it all” because you follow Jesus?  Do you think that your faithful, Bible-focused life and worldview will protect you from random accidents or the sinful actions of others?

Do you say, “Thank You God, it wasn’t me (or mine)?”  Do you pray for the ones caught up in the death and destruction?  Pray that they knew Jesus?  Pray that their families will be able to bear the weight of grief and sorrow that is just this moment bearing down on them?

Or do you snap a photo with your phone and post on social media something like: “Awful wreck on the interstate.  So glad I was a little late this morning or it might have been me! God is good!”

Or worse:  “Awful wreck on the interstate.  Traffic backed up for miles.  UGH!

I walk in two worldsone where I am so very thankful for each life and family spared what I now know by experience, and one where I am brought to tears every time they aren’t.

I wish believers in Christ would choose words that are consistent with compassion-whether the person is spared or not.

Jesus is a man of tears.

He was moved by love and compassion in every human encounter (even with the Pharisees-He wished their eyes were opened).

I want my heart and my words to reflect that I know this Saviour full of love and mercy.

Spared or not, it’s no doing of mine.

To say otherwise reflects only arrogance and ignorance.

Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit”! How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall be alive and will do so-and-so.” As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong. No doubt you agree with the above in theory. Well, remember that if a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.

James 4:14-17 PHILLIPS

Repost: Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing!

You are not going crazy because you can’t remember your best friend’s name.

You haven’t lost your mind because you can’t find your car keys, or the purse you put them in, or get lost in a store.

It’s grief brain.

And it’s a real thing….

Read the rest here:  Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing!

Repost: Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

I didn’t know last year that there was an International Bereaved Mother’s Day celebrated the Sunday BEFORE the U.S. Mother’s Day.

I hope that my bereaved mother friends took advantage of that day to think about and honor their missing child(ren).

But we still have to make it through tomorrow.  And that can be very challenging.

I wrote this last year:  Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

Help! I Need Somebody!

So, almost twenty years on a farm and I can NOT back a trailer.  Nope.  Can’t do it.

One day I spent hours trying to teach myself how to do it.  Never was able to do anything other than manage to jackknife the trailer, go unhook it and start over.

So when I go somewhere with a trailer I do one of two things:  (1) I find a space where I can drive in and be able to just make a loop or (2) I find the nearest person who CAN back a trailer, hand them my keys and ask them to do it.

I feel NO shame.

But that’s not the case with other things I can’t do.  So many times I try to avoid admitting that I am unable to meet certain people’s expectations or do certain things that I either used to be able to do or feel I SHOULD be able to do.

I think the reason I don’t mind outing myself on trailers is because that confession usually gets a laugh or a knowing look from the person who helps me or an admission from someone standing near at the feed store that they also have trouble backing up a trailer.

But when I say, “I just don’t think I’m up to teaching VBS” or “I’d love to come to that event but I’ve reached my social quota this week” or “I’m still struggling with driving by that spot or eating at that restaurant” it’s often met with (at best) a quizzical look or (at worst) a comment about how I should be “better” by now.

And then I DO feel shamed.  I feel like I don’t measure up, like I’m not as valuable as the next person or that I have failed some cosmic test.

shame-is-the-intensely-painful-feeling-we-are-unloveable-brene-brown

You know what though?  That’s a reflection on other people’s lack of compassion and experience or their personal insecurity NOT a reflection of my worth.

It is really just fine for me to admit my limitations because EVERYONE has limitations.

I can’t lift a 250 lb barbell.  But I can whip up dinner for fifty people.  I can’t read Chinese but I can read Dr. Seuss with an accent and hit all the rhymes on cue.  I can’t run a marathon but I can work all day without complaining (most of the time).

I’m human (surprise!).    So are you.

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth

I have some limitations as a result of burying a child. You may have limitations because of age or disease or something else I don’t know about or can’t see.

That’s OK.

Let’s make a pact:  I’ll take you as you are and you can take me as I am.  I’ll help you when you need help and you can help me when I need help.

We will extend grace and receive grace as needed to make life work.

Isn’t that really the essence of human community?

brene brown we dont have to do it alone

Healing? Curing? Same Thing?

Healing and curing are not the same thing.

Healing is a process that takes as long as it takes and may never be complete this side of eternity.  It’s a folding in of the hard parts of my story, an acknowledgement of the way I am changed because of the wounds I’ve received.  It involves scar tissue and sore spots and ongoing pain.

healing is not the absence of pain silhouette of sorrow

To be cured is to be free of the effects of disease or injury.  

And there is no cure for child loss.

I will never be free of the effects of burying a child this side of Heaven.

I did not understand the difference until it was my heart bearing an incurable wound.

The thing about healing, as opposed to curing, is that it is relational. It takes time. It is inefficient, like a meandering river. Rarely does healing follow a straight or well-lit path. Rarely does it conform to our expectations or resolve in a timely manner. Walking with someone through grief or through the process of reconciliation requires patience, presence, and a willingness to wander, to take the scenic route.

~Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

It really IS all about relationship.

Relationship first with the Living God through His Son, Jesus.

The ongoing life-giving ministry of His Spirit calls courage to me as I travel this Valley and sings hope to my heart when I cannot hear anything else.  

He will not leave me in my distress.

He does not abandon me in my darkest hour.

flesh-and-heart-may-fail

But it is also about relationship with others.

Relationship with those willing to meander with me along this unlit and winding path.  They are the ones who give me courage to carry on. They are the ones who lift me up when I am unable to lift myself and who lie down with me when even their best pep talk is not enough to get me off the floor.

friends pick us up

They have listened to me tell and retell my story.

The first time I told it, I didn’t have a clue what to say or how to say it-what to leave in, what to leave out.  How do you condense a life-sized earthquake to a novel, much less a few sentences?

But I find as I practice telling my story, it is healing.

Sometimes it’s as if I speak without my mind being engaged and listening,  I have an “aha” moment-suddenly recognizing a new insight and another place that needs work or has received healing.

I’ve learned that there is no substitute for companionship on this journey.  

My healing depends on the faithful Presence of my Shepherd

AND

the faithful presence of friends who refuse to leave even when it seems we are lost in the wilderness of grief together,

relationshipmatters-pic

 

 

 

 

Repost: Silence Doesn’t Serve Anyone Well

One of the reasons I write is to share my grief experience with others.

I realized when tossed into the ocean of sorrow that of all the things I had heard about or read about, surviving child loss was never mentioned.

Read the rest here:  Silence Doesn’t Serve Anyone Well

Subtle Disapproval

I mention that today is a hard day to someone who knows my story and the words fall with a loud “thud!”  between us.

I don’t know whether to pick them up or not and she isn’t having anything to do with them.

So I move on to another topic.  Clearly this one isn’t going anywhere.

There are lots of ways to send messages of disapproval.  You can “just say NO” like kids are told to do in anti-drug and anti-bullying campaigns.  You can rant and rave and argue and rail against someone or something in person and on social media.

Or you can just ignore someone when they spill what matters to them like an offering on the ground at your feet.

The opposite of love is not hate.

It’s indifference.

The opposite of support is not opposition.

It’s looking the other way.

Strangers line streets to cheer marathoners on-offering cups of water and words of affirmation.

“You can do it!”  “Keep going!”  “You are more than half-way there!”  “Don’t give up!”

hobbling-runner

And yet many of us are running the race of our lives without a cheering section.

I get ityou are so very tired of the fact that I am so very tired.  I have worn out the welcome mat to the door of your heart.  It DOES get old when I bring the same baggage with me each time we talk.

baggage

Trust me, I’m working hard at unpacking it.  I’m doing all I can to lighten my load and what I ask you to help me carry.

But it is a slow, slow process.

And every time I need help or encouragement and don’t get it, another brick is added to the suitcase.

You might think you are helping me learn to ignore the pain by ignoring my mention of it but I don’t have that luxury.

It’s my heart wound, not yours.  

It’s my child buried, my child not here, my child gone from sight-how exactly should I ignore that?  Which of your children could you put away for a lifetime and forget was ever here?

If you want to help me lighten the load,

let me unpack my pain by telling my story.

If you want me to finish the race strong,

cheer me on.

best way you can help me

 

 

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