Important Reminder

It can get lonely in this life.  Social media aside, most of us wonder if who we are really makes a difference at all.

But it does.

You are unique-created to make a difference only YOU can make.

The edges of your life touch the edges of others’ lives in places no one else can reach.

Don’t give up.  

Don’t give in.  

in case no one told you better picture

The Problem With Microwave Presets: Struggling with Others’ Expectations in Grief

I hate microwaves that have the “quick minute” presets! 

It takes MORE time for me to undo that feature and tap in how long I want to nuke my food than it would if it weren’t set up that way.

And sometimes I feel as if “undoing” is a great deal of what I do as a griever.

I have to dispel others’ expectations of what I should be feeling, doing or thinking.

I have to help them understand that unless you have been here, you CAN’T understand.

I pray they never understand.

dont expect everyone to understand

But in the meantime, here we are, walking the same road but experiencing discord in communication, relationship, expectations and outlook.

Sometimes it’s ME.  I’ll admit that up front. 

Sometimes I am feeling so vulnerable and broken that the slightest misplaced syllable, the tiniest hint of disapproval, the merest whiff of impatience sends me down the rabbit hole of darkest night and endless grief.  I receive things not as they are MEANT but as they FEEL filtered through my own pain.

But sometimes it IS the other person. 

Sometimes they are thoughtless, heartless and unsympathetic.  Sometimes they think that time has healed all wounds and that I should be “over this”-whatever THAT means.  Sometimes it’s inconvenient for them to continue extending grace when what they need is a spot filled on the roster, a hand to help or a quick fix to one of their problems.

I have better days now at over three years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  I even have better weeks every now and again.  But what a given day or week will be like is still not mine to decide.  Although I steel my mind and heart against the sorrow and missing, one word can pierce the armor I so carefully arrange and I am felled.

So I try to help my friends and family understand that.  I spend time (especially when I am less emotional) explaining what it feels like to continue to miss my son. I hunt down examples to share that may speak to their hearts and circumstances. I write this blog.  I’m honest when making plans to say that I may have to back out at the last minute or only stay for a portion of an event.

In many ways it’s like having an infant again.  When I was nursing my babies there were always things I had to say “no” to or situations that had to be adapted to accommodate the baby.  Feeding schedules and nap times dictated my life.

No one seemed to mind then. 

My current life is equally hemmed in by what I can’t control.  

Try as I might, it’s impossible for me to meet the expectations of others.  I’m not a microwave.

please be aware i am trying

Spoon Theory Applied to Bereavement

I thought I would follow up yesterday’s post with another one to help folks recognize when they NEED to rest.

I don’t know about you but I have a hard time figuring that out sometimes.

One approach that has helped me is something called “Spoon Theory”.

Spoon Theory was first described (as far as I know) by Christine Miserandino of butyoudontlooksick.com.

The original article pertains to chronic illness.  But when I stumbled across it a couple years ago it really clicked with me.

The basic idea is that everyone starts with a finite number of “spoons” representing the energy, attention and stamina that can be accessed for any given day. When you do something, you remove a spoon (or two or three) based on the effort required.  When you have used up all your spoons, you are operating at a deficit. 

Like a budget, you can only do that so long before you are in big trouble.

The only change I would make is to say that in the first months and years, most bereaved parents have far fewer than 12 spoons. 

Grief uses at least half of them by itself.

But it’s helpful for me to recognize that I do not have an infinite supply of energy and stamina regardless of what I think has to be done or how many more hours there are in a day.  I’ve written about that in this earlier post:   Emotional Bankruptcy: I Can’t Spend the Same Energy Twice

And I think it’s a great graphic to show to family and friends so they can understand why we simply CAN’T do everything we used to do.

spoon theory

 

Being There: No Substitute For Showing Up

I totally get itwe are ALL so busy.

Calendars crammed weeks and months in advance and no white space left over to pencil in lunch with a friend even though we desperately NEED it.

It seems impossible to make that call, write that note or stop by and visit a few minutes.

How can I meet my obligations if I use precious time doing the optional?

But when the unexpected, unimaginable and awful happens, suddenly that calendar and all those appointments don’t matter.  Balls drop everywhere and I don’t care.

Because when your family or best friend needs you, you come-no questions asked.

You toss a few necessities in your carry-on, lock the door, unplug the coffee pot and RUN.

You connect that phone to the car charger and dial away as you drive down the road.

And you show up.

Because when someone needs you, REALLY needs you, there is NO SUBSTITUTE for presence.

And the world keeps spinning.

All those “important” commitments cluttering my calendar are still there.  But a few phone calls later and they are easily rearranged. Medicine refills can be sent almost anywhere.  Church responsibilities can be shouldered by someone else.  Social dates can be rescheduled.

The only thing that matters is being exactly where your heart tells you it needs to be for exactly as long as you need to be there.

But you don’t have to wait until it’s an emergency to show up.

If it can wait if it HAD to, then it can wait.

You will not be going over a “to do” list with your last breath.

Choose to make people a priority right now-you might not get a second chance,

cant change the beginning but can change the ending

 

 

 

NOBODY Does it Alone

Even if you think you are the Lone Ranger-riding the hills and vanquishing enemies all by yourself, you aren’t.  Heck, HE wasn’t alone either (thus my confusion over his name).

Lone_ranger_silver_1965

Every single one of us has people in the background making life as we know it possible.

And when life as we know it takes a sudden left turn, all those “invisible” people become oh, so important.

It happened when Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  The eleven days between the knock on the door and his funeral were filled with friends, family and even strangers who came by, brought meals, cleaned my house, made phone calls, and did all the things I just. couldn’t. do.

These last weeks have been the hardest season since Dom left us.  When I got the phone call Mama was being life-flighted my heart dropped to the floor.  Having been there once before, I was not at all ready to revisit the awful pain of loss.

So I gathered what I needed, made a few phone calls of my own and my children and I raced down to be with her and my father.

Thankfully, the ending to THIS story, though hard, isn’t tragic.

After the first eleven days in hospital and only a few at home before a second hospital admission, Mama is back at home getting stronger.

mama and me at beauty shop

Things are different.  Changes are required. 

But she is smiling and beautiful.  Still with us. 

Hallelujah!

But in order for me to stay with my folks for 27 of the past 31 days I have had to call on and depend on the help of others.

For me to leave MY responsibilities at home, someone else had to pick them up.  Horses and goats and dogs and chickens don’t feed themselves.  The church deposit has to be made each week.

My husband has graciously accepted that our communication is limited and sporadic.  What used to be long phone calls every day turned into short bursts and quick texts that let him know I was OK and still breathing.

My youngest son, Julian, laid aside his own project of remodeling his first home to pick up all the things I normally do around the farm-no complaints and no questions asked.  He is patient with me when my tired brain can’t think of words while trying to give him yet another chore that needs done.

My daughter, Fiona, finishing a tough last semester in RN school, as well as working and putting in required clinical hours, has called to check on me and her grandmother, offered excellent medical tips and helped me ask for the things we need for Mama.  She shoots me funny memes and encouraging texts that provide laughs to boost my immune system and bolster my courage.

My eldest son, James Michael, has squeezed in a weekend visit to my parents’ house in between helping his AF base recover from Hurricane Irma and a hundred other responsibilities as the Public Health Officer for a large command.  He drove the tractor and helped bale hay.  He brought flowers for Mama and BBQ ribs and sweet tea for me. 

My friends at church have graciously given me space and taken up slack so that I didn’t have to worry about my duties as treasurer.  No pressure and no tacky comments-only love and understanding from folks who KNOW how important family is.

My very special friend, Laura, sent me back from my brief three day stint at home a couple weeks ago with helpful herbal tinctures to brace my body for stress and hard work.  And she always listens without trying to fix me.

Dominic’s example as a strong advocate gave me the backbone to stand and insist that Mama get the care she needed when in hospital and at home.  I could hear him say, “Don’t let them get by with that!” to my often trembling heart.

And many, many of my parents’ friends and our extended family have phoned, sent notes and stopped by to encourage my heart and theirs.

People keep saying, “You are doing a good thing for your parents”.

I appreciate that.  But I want them to know that I am not doing it alone.  It goes back in a long chain to those who choose to take up the slack I leave behind when I drive out my lane.

I would not be free to help if others didn’t choose to help ME be free.

So I want to give a loud and public shout out to each one that has done this hard and necessary work in the shadows.

You are amazing.

I love you.

heart stone

 

HELP WANTED: Why Grievers Need Faithful Friends

We all know how it is-you move, you lose an address or phone number, you lose touch. 

But sometimes friendships end more abruptly-not because lives drifted apart but because one person became so uncomfortable she chose to walk the other way.

That’s what happens so often the other side of child loss.  Friends disappear because loss makes them profoundly uncomfortable.  

I get it-I’m a walking reminder that if it happened to me, it can happen to you.  

You don’t know what to say when the tears flow.  You feel helpless in the face of my helplessness.  You are afraid my questions might weaken your faith.

And after months of avoiding me you feel guilty.  

But may I tell you something?  I still need you.  

It doesn’t matter if you have the perfect words.  Your presence is what lifts my spirits.  

I won’t chastise you for your absence.

fluent in silence

 

 

Boundaries: I’m Not a Punching Bag

Last week I wrote a post titled They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know and made the case that often folks say insensitive things but truly don’t mean harm.  Many are walking in the dark and step on our toes because they can’t see.

But there are some people who make it a habit to be insensitive.

They are the ones who delight in speaking their mind regardless of how it hurts another heart.  They pride themselves on “telling it like it is” and justify the fallout as a necessary consequence of “opening the eyes” of people they consider “blind to the truth”.

And while I believe that it is my duty as a Christ follower to forgive these folks when they hurt my feelings, I do not believe that I am required to continue to offer my heart to them to be tossed to the ground and trampled.

boundary yellow line

I do not have to welcome them with open arms and invite their untimely and unkind comments.  

I do not have to engage with them on social media-I can unfollow, unfriend or simply ignore their posts.  I can delete inappropriate comments made on my own posts and untag myself when they try to draw my attention to an article or meme that they think “helps” when it only wounds me.

If the person is a family member, I can choose to be polite when we meet at gatherings but I do not have to sit next to them at the table.  I can excuse myself early from birthday parties, Sunday dinners or holiday meals.  I can simply refuse an invitation and stay home instead.

If the person is someone tightly woven into the fabric of my friendships, I can do the same thing-choosing not to be alone with them so I’m not an easy target for their “helpful” monologues.

If the person is a casual acquaintance then I can choose not to engage them at all. It’s OK to scoot around the next aisle in the grocery store so that I’m not caught like a deer in headlights when they see me and exclaim, “How ARE you???”

In other words, it is perfectly acceptable to have boundaries around my heart so I can survive this journey.

It is healthy.

It is necessary.

I’m not required to be someone else’s punching bag.

punching bag