Repost: Grief is a Family Affair

One of the things I absolutely LOVED about having four kids was the way they pinged off one another.  There were evenings when the comments were flying so fast I could barely keep up.  Sly looks, secret texts, funny faces and friendly punches made up most of our times together.

That’s how families are-each person is just a little “more” when surrounded by folks that love and understand him or her.  

When Dominic left us, we didn’t only lose HIS companionship, we also lost the part of each of us that was reflected back from him.

Read the rest here:  Grief is a Family Affair

A Phone Call a Day [Almost] Keeps the Panic Away

A few days ago I wrote about how panic is always just a breath away for those of us who have suffered loss.  

Like a friend of mine recently said, “We are branded.  GRIEF is burned into our hearts and we are never the same.”

So how to live this altered life?  

How can I manage that emotional tension that saps energy and strength from my heart, mind and body?

Our family has adopted some practical protocols that help.  Sometimes they fail (as they did that night) but for the most part, they give all of us a margin of assurance that keeps panic to a minimum.

We carry our phones, all the time.  I was never THAT person before Dominic left us.  I used my phone mainly when away from the house or traveling.  Otherwise it might be left charging in the kitchen or tucked inside my purse from my last outing.

Not anymore.  When I wake up in the morning I grab it and my glasses from the bedside table and my phone is in my hand, in plain view or in my pocket until it is put back there at night.  I make sure it’s charged and if traveling or going somewhere a plug may not be available I carry a small power cell to charge on the go.

cell phone in hand huffpost

We tell one another of our plans and, if appropriate, of our route.  My kids are grown.  I’m not interested in supervising their lives.  But they understand my mama heart and graciously give me at least a general idea of where they are and what they are doing.  They text when they get back home no matter how late it is.

I don’t stay awake waiting for it, but when I wake in the wee hours or in the morning, I have the reassuring message to greet me. 

We answer texts/calls ASAP.  Obviously we don’t encourage texting and driving but each of us has learned to give a “thumbs up” icon quickly in response to a text message just so the person sending it can be reassured.  Then, when it’s convenient and/or safe, we respond more fully.

We keep each other informed when traveling.  We distribute itineraries and give periodic updates on flight status, traffic or other appropriate information so family members not only know where we are but also if our time of arrival has been altered due to flight or weather delays or traffic conditions.

road-maps

We share phone numbers of friends and coworkers which gives us alternate forms of communication should there be an emergency.  Family phone numbers are in “favorites” in our phones so if we are unable to call for ourselves, emergency personnel would know who to call.

Truth is, we can’t stop bad things from happening and we know that.  

But there’s no reason to create fear and panic when a quick phone call or text can avert it.  

Our hearts bear enough already.  ❤

wounded_heart-960x600

 

Enough or Not Enough?

I already struggled with the sense that I was rarely able to meet everyone’s expectations before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. 

That’s been multiplied by a factor of at least 100 since then.

For those of you who are so self-confident or blissfully unaware, it won’t make sense but for those of you who are firstborns or “Type A” personalities you know exactly what I mean.

I cannot ignore the gap between what people need from me and what I’m able to give.  

My internal dialogue is a combination of self-condemnation and pep talks to “do better”, “try harder” and “don’t give up or give in”.

But no matter how hard I try, it’s never enough.  

And I need to let go of that.  I need to let myself off the hook.  I need to admit that some people’s expectations are unrealistic or self-serving.  

But it is so. very. hard.  

I have had an invisible disease for a decade that saps my energy, circumscribes my ability to do daily tasks and gifts me with chronic pain.  Yet I tend to discount the impact it has on my life and try to ignore the fact it makes every. single thing more difficult.

It will be five years in April that Dominic left us.  FIVE YEARS!  I can barely type that.  I don’t even know what to do with it.

A lifetime ago and a breath away all at the same time.  

I feel like I am giving everything  I have to my family, to my friends and to other folks that count on me to show up.  So often it’s not enough.  So often I fall short.  So often I go to bed shaking my head and hoping that tomorrow is a better day and I’m a better person.

I try so hard to be brave.  

Sometimes I simply can’t conjure courage.

But I keep showing up. ❤

love is courage

 

 

When Your First Thought Is, “Oh No, Not Again!”

Last night I woke to my youngest son’s ringtone at nearly midnight.

I missed the call but when I looked, realized it was the third time he’d tried.  

My heart skipped several beats as I dialed him back only to have it go directly to voicemail.  I tried again and a second later, he answered.

“What’s wrong??!!!”

(Because he never calls me late at night unless something is wrong!)

Julian was downstairs at the front door and needed me to let him in because he’d received some odd texts from his dad- a series of random letters and emojis scrolled across his screen.

He’d tried to call him.  No answer. 

Tried texting him back.  No message except more of the same random letters and images.  

So he drove over from his house just a few miles away, the whole time running a dozen scenarios through his head.

  • “Is dad having a stroke? Mom is asleep upstairs and won’t know.”
  • “Is someone in the house and dad’s only able to randomly swipe his thumb on the screen trying to ask for help?”
  • “Why won’t mom answer her phone?  Do they have her too?”

Five miles and ten minutes is a lifetime when all you can think of is another family member needing help- or worse.  

As I was coming downstairs to let Julian inside, my husband woke up and asked me what was wrong.  We got to the door at the same moment and let our big, burly bear of a son inside.

It took him a split second to realize that all was well and then it poured outthe fear, the panic, the intense self-control necessary not to simply break down the door and barge in, the pent up grief that lives inside each one of us since Dominic left and is always about to spill out and over when we think of another loss.  

He melted into his dad’s arms.  

This is how our hearts are wired since that morning nearly five years ago. 

When the thing you never think will happen, happens, it becomes the first thing you think of when you can’t get in touch with someone. 

Panic is always a breath away.  

family never gets over the death of a loved one

 

Another Year, Another Christmas: 25 Practical Ways to Give Holiday Hope to the Grieving

This is the fifth Christmas without Dominic. There really are no words to describe the intersection of holiday cheer and another milestone in this journey of child loss.

I’m not sad all the time-far from it. Often I am very, very happy.

But I will never stop missing him, missing the family we used to be and missing our blissful ignorance of how quickly and utterly life can change in an instant.

And I will never outgrow the need to have others remember him as well, to encourage my heart and the hearts of my family members and to help us make it through another year, another Christmas.  ❤

Here are some great ways to do it:  25 Ways to Give Holiday Hope to the Grieving

Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions

I was utterly amazed at the questions people plied me with not long after Dominic’s accident.

They ranged from digging for details about what happened (when we ourselves were still unsure) to ridiculous requests for when I’d be returning to my previous responsibilities in a local ministry.

Since then, many of my bereaved parent friends have shared even more questions that have been lobbed at them across tables, across rooms and in the grocery store.

Recently there was a post in our group that generated so many excellent answers to these kinds of questions, I asked permission to reprint them here (without names, of course!).

So here they are, good answers to hard (or inappropriate or just plain ridiculous) questions:

When asked to do something the week or month or even year after your child left:

  • No.  (It’s a complete sentence.  You do not have to give an explanation.)
  • Thank you for asking me.  I won’t be able to participate this time.
  • I’m so sorry.  This is a hard time of year for me and I just can’t do it.
  • Since my son’s accident, I don’t do well at holidays (or summer, or birthday month).  I can’t take on any extra responsibilities right now.
  • I’m sorry, we will be out of town. (If you really WILL be out of town.)

When asked about the details of your child’s death:

  • Why do you ask? (Stops them nearly every time.)
  • That’s an uncomfortable question that I’d rather not answer.
  • Does it matter?
  • We choose not to talk about his/her death and prefer to talk about his/her life.  Would you like to know something about him/her?
  • I prefer not to relive that trauma, thank you.

When asked, “How are you?”:

  • About as you would imagine given the circumstances.
  • Managing to do what must be done but very sad my son (or daughter) is no longer here with me.
  • Trying hard to put the pieces back together.  It’s a struggle every day.
  • Our family is loving one another through the hardest thing we’ve ever experienced.
  • How are YOU?  (Most won’t even notice you didn’t answer and will launch into their own discourse.)

When asked if you think you’re “back to normal” or “over it”:

  • No.  (It’s a complete sentence, see above.)
  • I’ll never be over my child. I’m not over any of my children.  How could I be?
  • My life has been shattered.  I can’t even find all the pieces much less assemble them into whatever normal used to be.
  • I don’t remember what “normal” is.
  • It’s a daily adjustment that I will be making for the rest of my life.

When asked anything at all that seems insensitive, inappropriate or just downright nosey:

  • I’m so sorry, I need to go.  Bye!
  • I can’t talk about that now.
  • Say nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Until they change the subject for you.
  • How are you?  Your children?  (Or any other question back at them-ignoring theirs)

I am obligated (by my profession of faith) to be as kind and polite as I can be but I am not obligated to answer every question someone asks.  

I’ve found that having some of these pat answers in my pocket helps.  Many of them are good for just about any question that may come my way.  

I try to deflect, demur or redirect.  

But when that fails I’m just as likely to tell the truth, which is often not at all what the person really wants to hear.  

And then they are left scrambling for a way out of a conversation I never wanted to have in the first place. 

Which is fine with me.  

silent with heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

All The Glory on the Ground

Fall doesn’t last long here in Alabama.  

We have summer right through September most years and even into October on occasion.

This year was even shorter-hot, hot, hot, hot, cold!

But no matter how long or short the temperate days I have two or three trees I look for when the cold nights work their magic and the leaves turn bright.

I know I have to drink in their beauty as much as possible because it won’t last for more than a week.  And that makes it all the more precious to me.

So I don’t rush by as I’m wont to other times of year.  I slow down as I round the curve and gasp again at translucent gold lit bright against a pale blue sky. 

yellow ginkgo tree

One, two, three passes and then one day they’re gone. 

A windy rain knocked every one to the earth.  

All the glory on the ground.  

And my heart notes once again that nothing in this life is forever.

Even the most beautiful and highly treasured things will fade and fall.

People too. 

So don’t rush by. 

Slow down and drink in the glory of family around the table, coffee with a friend, walks in your neighborhood, cuddles with the kids, hot chocolate around a campfire or the kitchen stove.  

Nothing in this life is forever.  

time with those you love