Grief and Post-Holiday Exhaustion

I don’t know about you, but I find I can often white-knuckle through a holiday itself only to be spent and exhausted on the other side.

Staying busy in the kitchen, trying hard to be present and participate, enjoying extra folks in the house and around the table are great distractions.

I love being with my people!

Thanksgiving Pandemic Style 2020

Of course I’m constantly aware of the quiet tune that plays in the background, “Dom’s not here” but I genuinely appreciate every moment I have with the ones I love.

But…then comes the quiet.

A silent reminder of the hollow carved in my heart.

And I can’t ignore it.

So I have to take a day (or two or three) and rest.

It’s what I call a “holiday hangover” and it has nothing to do with over-indulging in spirits or food.

It’s OK if I don’t rush to tidy the house or start planning for the next get-together. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

I can pause, take a breather, sit and read or do nothing at all.

You can too.

Responding To Another’s Pain

We are surrounded by hurting hearts. When one of them turns to you and bravely holds out her pain, accept it as an offering.

Because it is.

An offering of trust, friendship and vulnerability.

❤ Melanie

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.

It can end badly-both of you walking away uncomfortable and wary.

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

Why It’s Important For Me to Talk About My Loss (And Why I Need You to Hear Me)


I admit I’m full of words.
  When my mama came to pick me up when her best friend was babysitting for awhile, she said, “You can’t have her yet, she’s telling me all kinds of things!”

More than once my mouth got me in trouble.

It’s still the source of most of my problems.

But for a time after Dominic left I found that the only words I could muster beyond what was absolutely necessary were written in my journal.  Because the words I wanted to say were bitter and harsh and tasted bad as they came up my throat and threatened to roll off my tongue.

Read the rest here: Why I Have To Talk It Out

Thanksgiving Plan Modified, Again.

We were pretty sure Thanksgiving was nailed down this year.

Several of us have spent months doing work down at Papa’s place creating the perfect space for the whole family to gather. Food was ordered, menu planned and travel coordinated.

But no one can plan for the unpredictable.

So when Covid cases skyrocketed and we did the math, it became too risky for four separate households to spend five days eating, sleeping and playing together under one roof.

We called it off.

It was and is heartbreaking.

But not as heartbreaking as adding another empty chair around the table or missing another face in our family circle.

Perhaps you’re faced with some equally hard choices this year, this season.

I’m so sorry.

It seems especially unfair to those whose hearts are already lonely from loss to be forced to give up the chance for fellowship and encouragement in company of family and friends!

I wish there were some magic to make it all better.

There isn’t.

And one thing I’ve learned in this life I didn’t choose is this: you have to make the best of what you have left.

Thanksgiving with the family before loss. ❤

So I pray no matter how small, how unusual, how disappointing your own Thanksgiving may feel this year that you find space in your heart for hope.

We are not doing what we planned, but we are doing something.

It won’t be what we wished for, but we will still have a day.

I’ll take it.

Gratitude Doesn’t Undo Grief

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned in child loss is that while gratitude is important, and helps my heart hold on, it does not undo grief.

I truly look for and rejoice in every good thing, every tender moment, every smile, hug and bit of laughter shared with those I love.

But I can never stop looking for Dominic’s face around the table or longing to hear HIS voice in the chorus of chatter from the other room.

Oh, how I wish it were different!

The odd bits that break my heart-

The  moment my three living children are in the family room, joking and laughing-but his voice is so obviously missing.

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The moment I say to one son, “Have you texted your brother?” and don’t have to give a name, because there is only one brother left to text.

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Read the rest here: The Odd Bits That Break My Heart

Laughter Lubricates Life

I’m sure retirement is an adjustment for everyone. One or both partners ending long-time work and coming home to unlimited hours of schedule-less days is HUGE.

For my husband and me it’s been perhaps even a bit more tricky.

The past eight years he’s worked out of town-WAY out of town-2000 miles from our little redneck hermit home in the woods of Alabama. So when he hauled his accumulated stuff across six states and showed up at the door it felt a little bit like an invasion.

I know, I know, my traditional friends are cringing that this Jesus-loving, (mostly!) submissive wife would say that aloud.

But let’s be honest.

I’ve been a stay-at-home wife/mother/educator for thirty-six years. These walls are my castle (such as it is) and this land is my kingdom. I’ve had to learn to do lots of things on my own because I was (pretty much) on my own. I couldn’t call hubby to come home and fix the drainpipe or chase off a fox or dog threatening the livestock.

Of course, our youngest son has always made himself available (since he lives close) but I try not to burden him too much with anything less than a true emergency.

Do the math.

Thirty-six years of marriage divided by eight years away. Yep. Nearly a full quarter of our years have been spent largely apart.

So there’s a little adjusting to do.

We’ve had some out and out fights (not going to sugar coat it ) but we’ve also had some beautiful moments when we look at one another and recognize afresh what drew us together in the first place.

Laughter has ALWAYS been the glue in our relationship.

And let me just tell you that the combination of aging minds, bodies and an aging house has provided plenty of hilarious moments.

Woke up to this the other morning…Needless to say, I didn’t lift the lid!

We’ve searched for days looking for important documents only to find them barely hidden under some random sales ad on the kitchen table. We forget why we walk from one room to the next. We repeat the same question to one another at least two or three times a day and depending on how sassy we feel either answer again or question the other’s mental status.

Laughter lubricates life.

It makes otherwise frustrating and fear-inducing moments bearable.

We lose our glasses. We lose our phones.

But we try hard not to lose our sense of humor.

For My Fellow Grievers: Being Honest Is Not Always Being Rude

Honesty is not inherently rude. Even when what’s spoken doesn’t sit well with the person listening to it.

It took awhile for me to figure that out on this journey.

Tone matters, facial expression matters, words matter. But I don’t have to stuff truth in service to the comfort of others.

❤ Melanie

I never ask anyone to adjust the thermostat in a car or at home unless I’m suffocating or shivering.

It’s a point of personal pride that I can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than most people.

And for awhile, I carried that same prideful disdain for “weaker folks” into my grief journey.

I was determined to endure whatever blows might come my way via comments, behavior, subtle and not-so-subtle attempts by others to circumscribe, dictate or otherwise influence my loss experience. I didn’t want to abandon pride in my own strength by admitting I wasn’t as strong as I wished I could be.

Then one day I realized that being honest was not the same as being rude. Telling the truth was not the same as acting selfishly.

Read the rest here: Hey Fellow Griever-Being Honest Is NOT Being Rude

Holidays 2020: Some Practical Ideas

Our family has yet to settle into a routine for the holidays even six years after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I’m always looking for new ideas that might be suitable.

Pinterest just doesn’t cater to those trying to craft celebrations that make space for grief and empty chairs.

So here are a few ideas I’ve compiled from other bereaved parents. I hope those who read this post will add their own.

Maybe one or more will help your family make a plan.

❤ Melanie

It cannot be overstated:  holidays are extremely hard after loss.  Every family gathering highlights the hole where my son SHOULD be, but ISN’T.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to handle the holidays after losing a child.

For many, there is only survival-especially the very first year.

Read the rest here: Practical Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays after Child Loss

Holidays 2020: Surviving Siblings

Surviving siblings are often called “forgotten grievers”. It’s natural and understandable for folks to focus on parents who lose a child.

But many, many grieving families include siblings who are not only grieving their brother or sister but also the family they once knew.

Sometimes holiday traditions are comforting and siblings long for things to be as close to “normal” as possible. Sometimes they are an uncomfortable reminder of how very different things have become.

Either way, it’s important for parents to remember that surviving siblings need an opportunity to speak aloud whatever may be in their hearts.

❤ Melanie

I have never wanted to make my life journey with blinders on.  I realized young that MY perspective is not the only one.  I understand that more clearly now. 

So I try hard to think about, acknowledge and accommodate the feelings and needs of others.

But it’s especially challenging since Dominic left us.  And doubly so this time of year when every sight, smell and song screams, “It’s the holidays and HE IS NOT HERE!

I may not be as thoughtful to some in my circle as want to be, but I will expend every ounce of energy and effort I can muster to make space for my living children’s needs during this season. 

Read the rest here: Holidays and Grief: Surviving Siblings

Holidays 2020: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

This is the most shared post on the site.

When I wrote it, I was writing my personal feelings after a couple of years trying to fumble through holidays with friends and family. It was an honest expression of how hard it was and continues to be to navigate the stress-filled season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

I’m not sure I’ve grown any more skillful in fitting all the pieces together-especially as our family grows and moves in different directions-but I continue striving to keep the lines of communication open and to try to acknowledge and accommodate everyone’s needs as best I can.

❤ Melanie

“I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

Read the rest here: Grief and Holidays: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family