Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend

It would be helpful if the world could just stop for a day or a week (or a year!) when your heart is shattered by the news that one of the children you birthed into this world has suddenly left it.

But it doesn’t.

And immediately all the roles I have played for decades are overlaid by a new role:  bereaved mother.  Except instead of being definitive or even descriptive, this role is more like a foggy blanket that obscures and disorients me as I struggle to fulfill all the roles to which I’ve become accustomed.

Now I’m a bereaved mother AND 

  • wife,
  • mother to surviving siblings,
  • daughter,
  • sister,
  • friend.

In addition to all the challenges those various roles represent, I have a new challenge: 

How can I be the person I need to be for the ones I love when I’m barely able to be any kind of person at all?  How do I encourage THEM when I have to give myself a pep talk just to get out of the bed?  How do I navigate my own emotional landmines and help them navigate theirs so we all arrive safely on the other side of birthdays, holidays and special occasions?

I have to admit that I have. absolutely. no. idea.

I’m trying.  I don’t give up (although I want to!).  I keep showing up and having conversations (even some that are one-sided as I take the brunt of another’s emotional explosion).  I try to be a middleman and get first one person’s perspective and then another’s-negotiating for common ground and some kind of compromise.

But it often backfires.

No matter how hard I work at it, I can’t please everyone.  And the problem with being seen as the negotiator is that if things don’t turn out well, you are the scapegoat too.

I’ll be honest.  There have been more than a few days this past month I wanted to crawl up in the bed, pull the covers over my head and not answer the door or the phone.

After nearly five years of this, I’m worn down, worn out, feeling sick, feeling incompetent and feeling like no matter how hard I try it really doesn’t matter. 

I know it’s not true.  

But it feels that way.  

And it takes another giant bolus of energy I don’t really have to drag my butt out of the bed, make a list, make phone calls, do the things that need doing and then show up, smiling, to whatever event is next. 

Because that’s what wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends do.  

hope whispers blinding light

Repost: Spent

I wrote this awhile ago but circle back around to it every now and then.

I don’t know why I think I will reach a place in this journey where there won’t be days I’m overwhelmed.  Wishful thinking, I guess.

Anyway, even with lots of good and beautiful and wonderful things happening all around me, I still get to the end of my emotional, physical and mental resources on a regular basis.

And then I just need to draw my head in my shell, hunker down and lie low until I can get some rest and perspective.  ❤

There’s only so much a body can take in a day.  And I’ve reached the limit.

Comfort-For-Those-Grieving-Alone

Started out pretty good-up with the chickens and settled into my rocking chair with a cup of coffee and my journal.

 

But it didn’t last.  First one thing and then another-unexpected, unwelcome, uncomfortable-life just comes flying and all I can do is hang on.

Read the rest here:  Spent

Overcome, Overwhelmed and Undone

The past seven days have been anything but the lazy, hazy days of summer. 

There has not been a solid 24 hours where some kind of crisis didn’t find its way to my doorstep, across my driveway or into my living room.  

Seriously.  

tree on driveway edited

On a scale of one to ten, none actually rank high in that there’s not a solution or plan of action. 

But every single one of them raised my stress and anxiety to very uncomfortable heights.  

I have no idea why I keep thinking maybe-just maybe-there will be a season of rest when I can get my feet under me, get my mind settled (a bit) and get the laundry put away.

There are good days.  

But then there are bad ones right on their heels.

I’m 54 years old, raised and home educated four children, helped my husband with his career and a personal business, managed a small farm and cooked, cleaned and was the all around go-fer for my family while each one pursued his or her education and dreams.

But there has been no season as stress-filled and trying as this one: the season of grief, the season of missing, the season where I have had to admit that control is an illusion.

So many days I watch the sunset in defeat.

Overcome, overwhelmed and undone.

I know the new day will bring new mercies and that is how my heart holds onto hope. 

lamentations-3-22-23

One Reason Why Grief Requires So Much Energy…

I’ve been doing this for a bit over four years now.

I’m pretty good at it in many ways-I’ve developed standard answers to common questions, figured out ways to keep my mouth shut when no answer I can think of is appropriate (literally biting my tongue), learned how to squelch tears and swallow sobs in public spaces, and (usually) how to avoid major triggers.

But navigating this territory is still exhausting.  

Because every. single. day. I have to make choices and make changes so I’m not overwhelmed and incapacitated by grief.  

And that takes a lot of energy.  Energy that’s not available for other things.  

Yet the world marches on and my responsibilities remain.  

It’s no wonder I flop in bed exhausted every night.  

I wrote this a couple years ago and it explains it well:  

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

Read the rest here:  It’s Complicated

Ain’t Nothing Easy About It

I’ve been doing this for 1,487 days. 

If it takes two weeks to form a habit, I’m way past habit by now.  

Except that, as C.S. Lewis says, “in grief nothing ‘stays put'” so even though it seems I am traveling the same road, walking the same territory, it shifts and moves so that I’m never quite sure of my footing.

And there ain’t nothing easy about it. 

No flat spots to catch my breath.  No downhill slope regardless of how many hills I climb.  It seems that I never reach a patch that’s just a little less strenuous.  

I wish I would.

I wish so badly that I could have two days strung together where I could just kind of coast along-no real effort required.

charlie brown too tired to cry

Last week I visited my oldest son in Florida.  He’s really into CrossFit and while my joints preclude my participation, he convinced his younger brother to join in a friendly intra-gym competition.

As I sat watching Julian lift that weighted bar over and over all I could think of was, “This is hard, but it’s not the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”  

julian at crossfit1

When you’ve buried a brother (or a child) and lived each day since, there aren’t too many things that measure up to that level of difficulty.

I wish I could say that I’m better at this by now, but I’m not.  

There are better days-I can laugh and rejoice and even sing-but when grief rolls over me it is just as devastating-every. single. time.

It doesn’t last as long.  

And for that I’m thankful. 

But ain’t nothing easy.

It’s still hard.  

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.

~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

What’s It Like Four Years Down the Road of Grief? Exhausting.

In four days it will be four years.

Four years since I woke to the news that my son was dead.

Four years since what I thought was going to be my life was shattered.  

Four years since I was forced to walk a road I do not want to travel.

Four years into the life I did not choose.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately which won’t surprise any bereaved parent reading this.

We think.  A lot.  

About what might have been.  About what is. About what it might be like to live for years or decades still carrying the weight of missing.

One thing that surprises me about life as a grieving parent is how ordinary it remains.  My world was shattered.  But THE world was not shattered.

My family is a tiny drop in the sea of humanity and our up-close tragedy is not even on the radar in the larger scheme of things.  If headlines about mass shootings drop to page ten in a week, how much more unlikely anyone but those intimately involved in our story will be thinking about it a month, a year, four years later?

All the things I had to do BEFORE Dominic left us I still have to do.  

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

The grass grows, clothes get dirty, food must be prepared. 

Friends have birthdays, holidays roll around, kids finish school, get married and have babies.  

This juxtaposition of internal disarray with ordinary routine means I spend a great deal of energy bringing my attention around to what needs to be done instead of allowing my mind to wander down memory lane or explore “what-ifs” or “why-nots”.

Everything I do requires more energy than it used to.  Everything takes more planning, more intentional action, more effort.  

So I’m tired.  

Four years in and I am. so. so. tired.  

This surprises me too.

I thought I’d be better at it by now.  

I’m not.  

EvilSuffering

 

 

Busy Doesn’t Fix Grief

I don’t know if this is the way of other mama’s hearts but mine always accuses me when I try to take it easy.

Maybe it’s a lifetime of a too long list of chores and a too short day in which to do them, but I’m uncomfortable sitting down, doing nothing.  

to do list

If I try to take a minute, my mind races until my hand reaches for a piece of paper and begins to jot down things I need to do.

Shoot-even as I fall asleep I’m usually planning what my day will look like tomorrow!

As I’ve written before, it is tempting to fill every minute trying to avoid the pain and sorrow of missing Dominic.  

But it’s not a healthy way to deal with grief.  

And moving ever closer to the anniversary of the date Dom met Jesus, the temptation grows stronger and stronger.

Just. stay. busy. 

Just. don’t. think.  

What I NEED is solitude and space.  What I NEED is freedom to cry (or not!).  What I NEED is less doing and more being.  What I NEED is to face my feelings, process my feelings, journal my feelings, pray through my feelings and to do the hard work grief requires.

sometimes the most important thing is the rest between two breaths

What I NEED is to treat myself the way I would treat one of my children in distress. 

I NEED tender loving care.  

But it’s just. so. very. hard.  

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: The Inestimable Value of Rest

Have you ever been on a long car trip and looked anxiously for the “Rest Area Ahead” sign?

If you have, you know the wonderfully restorative power of even a few moments to get out of the car, stretch your legs, smell fresh air and change your point of view.

Sometimes it’s tempting to pass by without stopping because you can save a few minutes. But it’s always worth taking time to rest. It makes it easier to keep going.

It’s not the same as just doing nothing.

Sitting still doesn’t guarantee that the mind remains quiet or the spirit settled.

I know, because sometimes I’ve been forced to stay perched in a chair like a toddler in time out and it was not restful.

Read the rest here:  The Inestimable Value of Rest

Receiving Rest

It’s hard sometimes to admit that I’ve reached the end of my physical strength. 

I’m much more adept at finding the edges of my emotional limits.  I’m even half-way good at understanding that my brain just isn’t what it used to be.

But giving up on getting up?  That feels like defeat to me.

But it’s not.

I am a fragile human being and just like all human beings have limits.  My body can only take so much.  If I push too far past the boundary of exhaustion it will take more than rest to bring it back to working order.

tired

So today, after six weeks of stress, mental strain and travel, I’m resting.

Not just sitting down for a few minutes between chores but curling up with a book and glass of tea and not moving all day.

rest renew and reconnect

At least that’s my plan.

We’ll see how it goes.

I really need to rest.

I hope I can.

we all need a break ordained sabbath

Zero Points for Pretending: You Can’t Hide Your Heart

Oh, sometimes I think I’m clever enough to do it.

I edit my words, costume my body and fix my face so  I can act the part.  But truth is, I never manage to fool anyone who looks closer than my plastic smile.

I can’t hide my heart.

And I don’t know why I try-I don’t get points for pretending.

There’s no prize at the end of this long road for the one who makes it with fewest tears.

No one offers me any token for the months or years or decades I make it without breaking down or cracking up.

exhausted-over-trying-to-be-stronger-than-i-feel

But I damage my own soul by shoving the feelings deep.  I clog my arteries by swallowing every angry word.  Sorrow turns to despair which turns to hopelessness if I never let it out.

And like it or not, it leaks out somewhere.

So I’m learning to speak my truth, to name my feelings and express them in healthy ways: 

  • I journal.
  • I share in safe spaces like bereavement groups and my church small group.
  • I exercise-which helps to burn off “steam” or just that awful sense of discomfort when darker feelings overwhelm my heart.
  • I build rest into my day along with silence so my mind and heart get a break from constant self-restraint and editing needed during conversation.
  • I read helpful articles and books.
  • I write this blog.
  • And when I need to, I talk to someone who is making my journey more difficult and try to work it out.

All of this takes energy and effort when I have the least of either to spare.  But the alternative is too grim to consider.  

I don’t want to walk the rest of my years carrying more heartache than that of child loss-which is heavier than I could ever have imagined. 

I choose to shed the extra pounds of emotional baggage I can leave by the roadside.

I won’t hide my heart.  

feel deal heal