I Need To Tell The Story (Even If You’ve Heard It Before)

I have so much more empathy for older folks since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I’ve always tried to be a patient listener when hearing that same story over and over and over but have to admit that sometimes I’d drift off or internally mock an elder because I was tired of hearing it.

Not anymore.

Because I understand now that it’s in the telling that one both commemorates and honors people as well as the past.

Me and Aunt Mattie Lou at her 99th birthday.

Stories are how we weave facts into narrative and give them meaning. It’s why so many of us love historical fiction or period dramas that not only reference actual people and events but also peek at emotions, motivation and draw conclusions.

I could hand you my daily calendar and you’d understand the outline of where I was and what I did.

But you wouldn’t know what I thought or felt that day unless I filled it in.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I was forced at first to deliver the most basic message to others who needed to know. I repeated it over and over, “I have to tell you something awful. Dominic is dead.”

I didn’t really know much more than that.

Details were added by friends and first responders in the days to come.

The story broadened to include how we reassembled our family from across the country, who showed up to help us through the first hours, where we chose to bury him, what the funeral service looked like and on and on and on.

For months afterward I found myself compelled to repeat the story of those days.

Compelled to rewind and play again the details, each time teasing out additional insights, questions and feelings.

It was an important part of unspooling and exploring what, exactly, it meant to live in a world that no longer included one of my children.

I know sometimes folks get tired of me telling the story. For them, it is a reminder of some awful event that is tucked neatly in the past. A date on a calendar somewhere that might occasionally tickle the back of their brain and evoke a, “that’s so sad” response but not something they live with every. single. day.

But for me, Dominic’s death is an ongoing experience.

Every day I have to fit his absence into my world. I have to find a way to live around the giant void where he SHOULD be but ISN’T.

So the story grows.

It’s not only what happened on the day he left, it’s what has happened since and is still happening now.

When you make space for me to tell, you make space for me to feel.

And that helps my heart hold on.

There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

This past week has been both hard and wonderful.

Some things happened that mean the next few months are going to be extra painful, extra stressful and extra challenging.

But I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

When I was forced unwillingly on this long, hard journey, everything was dark. Nothing sparked joy. The whole world became a grainy black and white image on an ancient TV and it was fuzzy, flat and utterly uninteresting.

What’s worse, my heart could only REALLY feel two things-pain and love-and they were so inextricably intertwined I was no longer sure which was which.

I couldn’t run fast enough or far enough to escape the darkness or the pain.

I had to face all the awful of child loss, embrace it, feel it, work through it, talk about it in safe spaces with safe people and sit quietly for hours with my thoughts and uncomfortable emotions. I had to let time do the work that only time can do.

There are no shortcuts on this journey.

And then there was a moment when I saw something beautiful and felt something wonderful and I didn’t have to TELL my heart it was beautiful and wonderful.

I just KNEW and I could FEEL it.

At first, these moments didn’t last long and were isolated. But eventually the moments came faster, lasted longer and were closer together. I learned to embrace them, hold onto them, build upon them and look for them.

Now, the moments of light, life and color make up most of my days.

I have not forgotten Dominic. My heart aches to see him again, hold him again, share life with him again. But I’ve learned to hold that yearning for the life I used to have and gratitude for the life I live now in the same heart. I’ve found that allowing joy to fill my soul doesn’t push him away or to the side as if he doesn’t matter.

So if you think there is no way you can survive this awful, awful journey, keep going.

If you are still in the dark days and fearful light will never penetrate the depth of your pain and despair, hold on.

If your world has gone colorless, don’t give up.

Look for your moment, it’s coming.

And when it does, grab it.

There’s more where that came from.

Holiday Helps For Grieving Hearts: What The Bereaved Need From Friends And Family


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: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/03/grief-and-holidayswhat-the-bereaved-need-from-friends-and-family/

Holiday Help For Grieving Hearts: Thanksgiving Plan

Dominic’s leaving for Heaven coincided with big changes in our family.

College graduations, new jobs, a marriage and moves meant that even if Dominic were still here things wouldn’t have been “business as usual”.

Tossing the heartache of child loss into the mix made it nearly impossible to make decisions and juggle schedules and even think about pulling together a big meal.

That was over five years ago. And while I have yet to find a rhythm for any holiday I have learned how to approach and find a way through.

But THIS year, my mother’s sudden and unexpected journey to join Dominic and Jesus has us off-balance again.

So I’m back to trying to follow my own good advice.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/11/08/holidays-and-grief-thanksgiving-plan/

Thanks For The Lift Friends!

Thank you for the outpouring of encouragement, kindness and prayers.

You’ve breathed new life into this old and weary soul.

I can’t really walk away. Writing is what I do, it’s how I process life-the good, the bad, the sweet and the bitter.

But crafting posts is more than stream of consciousness journaling not meant to be read by another soul. It’s sitting with an idea long enough to be able to present it to others in a form they can understand, appropriate and use in their own lives.

It takes time.

So for the next two weeks (maybe longer) I’m going to recycle old posts and give my heart space to do some of its own processing and healing.

For many of you, they will still feel new because you joined us recently.

For some of you, they will be old and tired and not worth your time. Feel free to skip them.

I promise to alert you when I’m writing new things again.

~Melanie

P.S. If anyone has ideas on which topics might be interesting to gather and repost all in a row, add them in the comments. I did this once with *Prayer* and folks enjoyed it.

Five Minutes Or Less Is All It Takes To Encourage a Broken Heart

I have to admit that I’m not nearly in the fog as much with my mama’s death as I was with Dominic’s death.

I’ve found this time around I can kind of stand a little apart and be a little more objective.

It’s no less horrific or painful or sad, but it IS an orderly death (parents before children) and gives me space to take a step back and observe some things instead of having to filter every single interaction through my emotions.

So can I share a little secret?

It literally takes five minutes or less to encourage a broken heart.

I know people often think that if they don’t have the perfect words or lots of time it’s better to do or say nothing.

That’s just not true.

Send a text, a private message, an email, a card. Make a quick phone call (believe me, the bereaved will not keep you on the line!) or leave a voicemail.

What grieving hearts want to know is that someone sees their pain, someone has taken notice of the drastic and unwelcome change that’s been thrust upon them.

We don’t want to feel invisible. We don’t want to be overlooked because it makes you uncomfortable.

Be brave!

Face your own discomfort (which is microscopic compared to the heartache of the bereaved!) and make the call, send the message, write the email or card.

I promise you will waste more than five minutes today.

So take that tiny bit of time and focus your efforts on speaking courage to a hurting heart.

You don’t have to have the perfect words- “I’m so sorry” is just fine.

Then your head can hit the pillow tonight knowing you helped a heart hold onto hope.

You made a difference between someone giving up or going on.

So What SHOULD I Say or Do For My Grieving Friends or Family?

I have learned so much since that day when Dominic left us suddenly for Heaven.

Some of the things I know now are things I wish I didn’t know at all.

I’ve learned some things that serve me well-not only in how I respond to my own pain and loss-but also how I respond to the pain and loss in the lives of those I love.

I’ve had to practice them this week since my mama was desperately ill and then joined Dominic and Jesus.

It reminded me how hard it is for those who have not walked this Valley of the Shadow of Death to really comprehend how their words and actions either truly support or subtly (or not so subtly!) wound already hurting hearts.

So here’s a short list of things things to say and do that actually HELP grieving friends and family:

  • Not everyone leaves earth quickly. Some are ill for a long time. It’s natural for friends to want to stop by home or hospital to see a sick loved one and show support for the family. Please call ahead to see if it’s convenient. If it’s not, then don’t come. Respect that while it may feel like a reunion to you and others gathered in the living room or the waiting room it’s a very sober and frightening and stress-filled time for the family. Loud laughing and back-slapping are unwelcome reminders that the person in the bed can do neither.
  • Please don’t impose your desire to help on the family’s unwillingness to accept it. Offer-that’s wonderful and appreciated-but there may be circumstances you don’t know about that just make it hard or impossible for them to let you do what you would like to do. It’s really, really hard to use the limited energy available to politely turn down an offer.
  • When you stop by to pay respects, don’t overstay your welcome. You’ll probably never notice that the family is working hard to extend hospitality and make small talk. It’s exhausting. You are not the only people “stopping by for a minute” while the family is trying to take care of funeral details. They are deciding on what clothes their loved one will be buried in, what photos to include in a memorial slide show, what will be served at dinner after the service, who will sing or speak or play a piano solo. There’s just no energy left for small talk. Express condolences, leave the dessert or congealed salad and leave them to the little bit of quiet they may enjoy before the next few days of crazy.
  • Take time to write notes of remembrance if you can. Facebook comments, text messages, emails, written notes or cards are wonderful! These can be gathered together, printed and saved as a beautiful tribute.
  • If you haven’t played an active role in the deceased’s life or the life of their family recently, don’t show up and insist on “inner circle” privileges now that they are gone. This is not the time to force reconciliation or expect a family reunion type celebration. While that may be the ultimate outcome of this traumatic and life-altering event, respect those that have maintained relationship over the years.
  • Instead of asking, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”, instead say, “How may I serve you in the weeks and months to come?”. Grievers may not have an immediate answer, but ask again in a week or so after others have drifted away. Also consider asking if specific things may be helpful.
  • Don’t wander around the house. Respect the family’s privacy.
  • Don’t ask personal questions such as “How did he die?” or “What happened?”. If the bereaved want you to know, they will tell you.

Be attentive to body language.

Allow grievers to lead.

Don’t ignore comments that indicate it’s time to go.

Accept that what you may want to do and what is truly helpful may be two different things.

Fewer words are almost always better than idle chatter.

Give grace.