Don’t Forget Dads!

Like it or not the stereotype often rings true: women emote and men clam up.

I see it play out every day in the online support groups to which I belong. If you check the member list there are quite a number of dads in the mix but it’s exceedingly rare that one of them posts or comments.

I get it. I’m a wife and mother to three boys (now men). All of them are better at compartmentalizing difficult situations and pushing down emotions than I am.

When I have something heavy on my heart it almost always spills out and splashes across everything else.

They, on the other hand, will sit on sadness or anxiety or the never-ending missing that makes up child loss/sibling loss until it finally becomes more than even their iron-clad emotional chests can hold.

Even then they often weep in private, mourn in secret.

That’s unfortunate because it means they are frequently forgotten in society’s rush to comfort parents whose children make it first to Heaven.

Much is made over bereaved moms and Mother’s Day. There is even an International Bereaved Mother’s Day on the Sunday before Mother’s Day (U.S.). I (and others) take that opportunity to have a separate day to think about, mourn and celebrate the life of my child gone too soon.

But dads kind of get short shrift.

While there IS an International Bereaved Father’s Day ( August 29, 2021), it’s nowhere near as well-recognized as that for moms.

I’ve written often about how important friends are to our grief journey. They can encourage, provide practical help and simply by their presence remind a heart that darkness and despair is not all there is.

Men need friends who will step up and step in. They need masculine examples of sharing and caring.

Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How : NPR

They need grace and space to unlock the chest of emotions that they sometimes keep tucked away and hidden from their family because they think it’s their job to “be strong”.

So if you know a dad whose child has left for Heaven, reach out in the next couple of weeks before Father’s Day.

Take him fishing. Go for a ride. Tackle a project together.

Be a safe place for them to let their guard down, to open up, to release pent up emotions and (possibly) frustration.

Dads grieve too.

Don’t forget them.

We All Need Sheltering Trees

If you’ve never been caught short in the midst of an unexpected downpour you might not know how important refuge under the boughs of a cedar or oak tree can be.

Living in the middle of woods, punctuated by open pastures, I’ve retreated more than once to the safety of thick boughs which limit the rain’s ability to soak me through.

I have memorized every safe haven between the road and the middle of my 34 acres.

Faithful friends are like those sheltering trees-offering respite to a weary heart, providing a safe space to take a breath, granting protection when we are pursued by the enemy of our souls.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was a mess.

Most folks that brushed shoulders with me in public might not have guessed but those who knew me well saw me devolve from “got it together” to “don’t even know what I should be getting together”.

I was utterly devastated.

Some people were repulsed. They either couldn’t handle my ongoing neediness (a week or a month on the prayer list ought to be enough according to them) or they simply found my presence too uncomfortable a reminder that bad things happen regardless of how “good” you are.

But there were a few…a precious, precious few who refused to go away. They showed up and stayed.

It didn’t matter if they had any remarkable insight or help or “solutions” to my heartache.

What mattered is that they bent over my broken heart and provided shelter.

We all need sheltering trees in the storms of life.

And I am beyond thankful for every single person who is brave enough to bear the brunt of evil winds to provide that shelter.

So Sorry I Haven’t Texted Back…

I remember the early days after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven when people were still checking in often on our family.

Some days there were a dozen or more messages that really, really needed an answer.

But I just couldn’t.

“How are you?” is often a more difficult question than you might think when your world is falling apart.

I wanted to tell the truth about how hard the days were and harder still the long dark nights but it felt too personal, too frightening and too likely to be misunderstood by a heart with no frame of reference.

So most of my responses looked something like this:

Read the rest here: Sorry I Haven’t Texted Back

Challenge Accepted: Why Am I Still Here?

Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.

They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.

They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.

So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).

It was an excellent exercise.

I looked back over social media posts and blog posts from the half-decade and more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I could trace progress from breath-robbing, body-wracking, all-consuming sorrow to a gentler, muted and tender missing that made room for joy and beauty alongside the ever-present tangible absence of one of my children.

I also noted a transition from “spilling my guts” to “trail guide”.

I’m no longer primarily using this space to release feelings and thoughts I’m not comfortable tossing out in day-to-day conversation. Instead, I’m mostly thinking about and sharing what I’ve learned along the way-pointing out the pitfalls and (hopefully!) encouraging hearts to keep on keeping on.

I’ve given myself permission to repost earlier entries (please note dates when you click through) that represent more raw emotions without making apology for either the lack of time or energy to write something new or the angst I once felt.

I’m also choosing to limit my online interaction to an hour in the morning and maybe an hour in the evening.

I absolutely desire to speak encouragement, grace and hope to hearts that are struggling but still need to guard my own from overload.

And as for friends, family or strangers who think, “Goodness, gracious! She needs to MOVE ON!”.

I say, “How can I hide or hoard this hard-won wisdom and experience?”

This is my ministry.

I didn’t ask for it, but it’s mine.

I won’t run away.

So until the Lord tells me definitively He has another path for my life I’ll be here.

Every morning.

It’s YOUR Story-Don’t Hold It In

We all have a story.

So often we try to hold it in lest someone think less of us for sharing. But that’s not helpful-for us or for them.

Everyone needs validation. Everyone needs to know they are not the only person on the planet that hurts in this particular way or thinks this specific thought.

Whenever I choose openness I nearly always find that another heart comes alongside to say, “me too”.

And isn’t that really what we all hope for? Compassionate companionship?

We CAN hold some of it in.

For awhile.

In certain circumstances.

Read the rest here: You Can’t Hold It In, So Let It Out

Five Helpful Ways To Support A Grieving Parent

It’s oh, so hard to know what to do when you are watching a heart break.

You want to reach out and make it better, make the pain go away, make a difference.  But it seems like nothing you can do will matter much in the face of such a huge loss.

While it’s true that you cannot “fix”  the brokenness in a bereaved parent’s life, there are some very important and practical ways you can support them in their grief-especially as the weeks turn into months and then to years.

Read the rest here: Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent

So What Can I DO? Show Up.

I absolutely understand how it feels to be frozen between “I want to DO something” and “I have no idea WHAT to do”.

It’s where most of us find ourselves when we hear of a loved one compelled to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It seems pushy to force help on a fragile heart and yet it feels cowardly to stand by while that same heart struggles to complete all the tasks necessary surrounding death.

So what can a caring friend or family member do? Start by showing up.

I remember the morning I got the news and as the sun was coming up, a truck pulled down our lane.  It was Robbie-our “adopted” son.  As soon as my oldest son (who was in WV at the time) got the call, he called Robbie.  Because he knew I would be able to bear Robbie’s presence and accept Robbie’s help.  

I cannot describe the relief I felt when he came to the door-another shoulder to help carry this burden until we could gather all our family together to lift it in unison.

And after him came a couple we had known since the kids were little. 

Both rushed to our doorstep to offer companionship, practical aid, listening ears and simple reassurance that though this was NOT a dream-oh, how I wanted it to be a dream!I was not going to walk this Valley alone. 

They stayed until my husband, son and parents had made it here.  I will never, ever, ever forget that gift of unconditional love and time offered just when I needed it most.

Read the rest here: What Can I DO? Start by Showing Up.

Why We Turn Away


The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

Read the rest here: Why Do We Turn Away?

Befriending A Grieving Heart Is Hard Work-But We Need You


I’ve thought a great deal about friendship since losing Dominic.  I’ve been blessed by those who have chosen to walk with me and dismayed by some who have walked away.

It takes great courage to sit in silence with those who suffer. We must fight the urge to ward off their pain with chatter.

Quiet companionship requires that we allow our hearts to suffer too.

For fifty years I was on the “other side”-the one where I looked on, sad and sometimes horror-stricken- at the pain and sorrow friends or family had to bear.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: Being a Friend

Please Say His Name!

It’s nearly impossible for anyone who has not lost the earthly companionship of a child to know how desperately I long to hear Dominic’s name spoken aloud.

There are days I walk around my home and think silently and even whisper quietly, “You existed! You exist!” just to remind my heart he is real.

You may hesitate to bring him up because you fear my tears. But any tears his name might evoke will be tears of gratitude as well as those of longing.

Please say his name!

I know you are afraid.

You think that speaking his name or sharing a memory or sending me a photo will add to my sorrow.

I understand.

But even when it costs me a split second of sharp pain, it is truly a gift to know that Dominic lives on in the hearts and minds of others.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: Just Say His Name