Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Friends and Family Can Anchor a Heart


Child loss rips through a life like a tornado-wild, unpredictable, viciously destructive.

It drops from the sky like a meteorite-no warning, no defense, just crushing weight.

It wrecks havoc in absolutely every corner of a bereaved parents’ heart and life.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Friends and Family Can Anchor a Heart

Thirty-Six Years and Counting: Marriage and Child Loss

Today is thirty-six years since we said, “I do” and had absolutely NO idea what that would look like.

I first shared this a few years ago on our anniversary because I wanted other bereaved parents to know that while it is hard (and isn’t marriage always hard?), it is not impossible for a marriage to survive child loss.

We are definitely not the perfect couple. We fuss and we struggle. We sometimes retreat into our own separate worlds as we process some new aspect of living this earthly life without one of our children.

But we have learned that we are stronger together and that we are willing to do the work necessary to stay that way.

Today my husband and I celebrate 33 years of marriage.  

Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.

Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far:

hector and me 29 anniversary

Read the rest here: Dispelling Marriage Myths Surrounding Child Loss.

Repost: Not Funny Anymore

I got my dad to take this picture on Father’s Day 2013 as a joke.

Dominic had a habit of being out of town for both his birthday and Father’s Day most years and he was studying abroad that summer.

It was meant to poke fun at him being absent yet again for a family gathering. It was meant to be funny.

It’s not funny anymore.


Dominic had a habit of managing to travel on his birthday and often into the summer months.  

He’d jump at every opportunity to go here, there and everywhere.

He had the heart of an adventurer and life on our little farm in the middle of rural Alabama didn’t often offer the excitement his heart craved.

Read the rest here: Not Funny Anymore

Standing At The Crossroads: Celebrations After Child Loss

I want to be everything my living children need me to be.  

I try hard to celebrate them, be available, listen closely and love them well.  

I never, ever want them to feel they are competing with their missing brother for my affection or my attention.  

But I’d be lying if I said it was always easy. 

Read the rest here: Crossroads: Celebrations After Child Loss

These Are My People

In the South I called lots of people “Aunt” and “Uncle” who weren’t related to our family by blood.

It is a beautiful custom that designates what some today call “framily”-those with whom one shares life and love and intimacy but not DNA.

Life: Friends + Family = Framily | Family love quotes, Family ...

It’s a wonderful gift.

Children are surrounded by adults that speak wisdom and show support and cheer them on. I was blessed to have many of these special people growing up.

Early Sunday morning one of my uncles-Uncle Ed- left this world and stepped into Heaven.

And while I know he is in a better place, healed and whole, it hurts my heart to know that another person who helped shape me is now out of reach.

George Ewing

I hope that after he was welcomed by Jesus he found Mama and Dominic and hugged their necks.

It brings me great pleasure to think of all the people I love that are waiting on me just as I am waiting to be with them again.

I don’t go to many funerals. It’s just too hard since looking at my own son’s body lying motionless in a casket.

But I will be at his tomorrow morning. So will my daddy and my brother.

Because these are my people.

The Good Stuff

I am not sticking my head in the sand.

My family has regular discussions about current events and while I don’t watch televised news, I read widely each day about what’s going on in the world.

Even still, a steady diet of nothing but dire reports is anything but good for a heart.

So each day I try to focus on some happy moments as well.

Let me share a few with you.

This past week I’ve gotten a good bit of outdoor work done, sweated tons and walked farther and longer than usual.

Our weather turned from rainy and excessively humid to sunny and actually pretty dry (for Alabama!).

My chickens are laying well and our little local produce man had watermelons and peaches.

This afternoon I’ll hop in my not-very-big above ground pool and cool off between chores while Frodo the goat watches me.

Frodo the goat who loves to be where he shouldn’t be and my pool.

Black-eyed Susans are blooming by my mailbox.

I had lunch with a friend.

Easy Grilled Burger Recipe | Kingsford®
Burgers with fresh tomatoes, lettuce and peaches for dessert.

And I had a video chat with four other amazing bereaved mamas.

Finding at least one thing each day for which to be thankful helps my heart hold onto hope.

I make a conscious effort to breathe in beauty and enjoy those moments.

When I was fresh on this journey it was hard to receive anything as “good”. Everything was filtered through the lens of loss. So I understand if you think this is a futile exercise.

But eventually I was able to see more than my son’s absence and feel more than pain and sorrow.

What we have enjoyed, we can never lose... all that we 
love deeply becomes a part of us. - Helen Keller

Life is still life and there are still beautiful moments. Sunlight through the trees, a baby’s laugh, friends and family around the table, flowers, furry friends, a favorite meal, or the perfect cup of coffee are all things I enjoy. They don’t take away the sorrow of missing my son but they are worth celebrating.

I’m learning to hang onto them with both hands and to cherish them as a gift.

Think about it.

What made you smile this week?

Wanna share?

If It Happened Once, It Could Happen Again

I was reminded today how close fear sits to the door of my heart and to the door of the hearts of many bereaved parents.

Once again a mom shared an experience of not being able to get in touch with a surviving child and how that quickly spiraled downward to a frenzy of fear.

To some it may seem like an overreaction. But to those of us for whom the one thing you think won’t happen, HAS happened, it made perfect sense.

Before Dominic was killed on his motorcycle I had the normal parental misgivings about my kids driving here, there and everywhere. I always prayed for them and tossed a, “Be safe!” as they walked out the door with keys in hand.

I shook my head sadly, teared up and felt awful when I saw an accident report on the news.

But I lived in the protective bubble of never having actually experienced sudden, tragic loss and I was blissfully unaware of how quickly and how completely life could change.

Now I know.

And fear creeps up my back and takes hold of my heart in an instant if anything unusual prevents a loved one from answering his or her phone when I think they should.

In the first couple of years I could not stop it. I was at the mercy of my feelings and my mind was quickly overwhelmed with all the “what ifs” and would imagine every possible awful outcome.

Knowing Fear. | Still Standing Magazine

So our family put some simple protocols in place to help everyone’s heart.

We text or call when we arrive safely somewhere; we offer alternative phone numbers if traveling with others so there’s a second means of contact; we know that if one of us calls another repeatedly it’s important and regardless of where we are or what we are doing, we need to pick up; and if we are on a longer trip with multiple stops we provide an itinerary.

Now I’ve learned a bit better how to push irrational thoughts away, to focus on the probable and to allow a little time and space for someone to get back in touch with me.

It’s hard and requires great effort.

But I was reminded just the other day that no matter how hard you try or how much you work to push those feelings away, they can threaten to overtake you regardless.

My dad and I talk every morning. He texts me when he’s up and I call him when I’m done with morning chores. On his end, two texts, one hour apart, had gone through to my phone with no response. He finally called me because he was afraid something was wrong.

The same day, I began a conversation with my daughter by saying, “Your brother called…” at which point she immediately asked what happened. I realized my mistake for starting with those words and quickly assured her everything was just fine.

You never forget making or receiving that phone call delivering the unchangeable and unbelievable awful news.

I am still prone to jump to conclusions.

If it happened once, it can happen again.

But I’m trying hard to learn to live in a less friendly, less safe world than I once depended upon. So I aim my heart and mind in the direction of the most likely instead of the most awful.

On the best days, it works.

Child Loss: Mourning The Family I Thought I Would Have


I miss a lot of things since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

I miss HIM-his deep voice, his perspective and his thump-thump-thumping down the stairs and the rhythm of who he is.

And I miss how his absence has reshaped the family I thought I’d have.  

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Missing The Family I Thought I’d Have

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.