The Healing Power of Fellowship

I spent last weekend with eleven other bereaved moms.

And lest you think, “How sad!”, let me just tell you we had a beautiful time together.

Sure there were tears-how can there not be when talking about the precious children we miss-but there was fun too.

Of course we had somber moments. 

Especially as we lit candles in honor of each child whose light lives on even as their physical presence is denied us.

anchor retreat lit candle

In between Bible study sessions we ate, talked, walked outside and got to know one another.

A game of “Two Truths and a Lie” revealed all kinds of surprises that had us practically falling off our chairs with uproarious laughter.

Even though most of us had never met before, knowing we shared the heartache of child loss drew us together and opened the door to meaningful conversation.

anchor retreat hope

For 72 hours we didn’t have to put our masks on or walk with one foot in the world of the spared and one foot in the world of the deeply wounded. 

We were free-gloriously free-to be real and unguarded.

One of the fun things we did was have a Mary Kay consultant come and do facials and makeup.  I think we kind of shocked her when she went around the circle asking, “So what are you primary make up concerns?” and over half of us said, “I don’t wear make up.”

Poor woman.

anchor retreat mary kay lady (2)

She had no idea that we had long passed the point of faking feelings or saying what someone expects just because they expect it.

I know it was a stretch for some of the moms to make their way to this place they’d never been to and walk into a room full of women they’d never met.

It was a stretch for me to facilitate discussions when I felt I had reached my limit for anything besides staying home for the rest of this year.

But it was worth it.

There is nothing as beautiful as broken hearts gathering together to love, uplift, encourage and listen to one another.

If you have the opportunity and are afraid, please step out. 

Take a chance and link arms with fellow grievers.

I promise you will be glad you did.

circle-of-women

 

Holidays and Grief: Having Hard Conversations

You don’t have to bury a child to know that changing long-standing family traditions around holidays is a hard, hard thing.

Just ask a parent trying to work out Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time after an adult child marries.  Suddenly the way things have “always been” are no longer the way things are.

If you’ve decided to try to do things differently this year, you know that means telling other folks who might not like it.

And that’s really hard.  

But the sooner you have those conversations, the better. 

Because the only thing that makes it worse is procrastinating until it feels like an ambush to your extended family and friends.  

Read the rest here:  Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

 

 

 

Grief and Holidays: Some Practical Ideas After Loss

I wish I had found some of these ideas before we headed into our first set of holidays after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

It would have helped so very much.  

So I’m sending these out early enough so that someone else may be both validated and liberated in planning how to approach one of the most difficult times of year for bereaved parents.  

I pray they reach the heart that needs them.  ❤

It cannot be overstated:  holidays are extremely hard after loss.  Every family gathering highlights the hole where my son SHOULD be, but ISN’T.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to handle the holidays after losing a child.

For many, there is only survival-especially the very first year.

These days also stir great internal conflict:  I want to enjoy and celebrate my living children and my family still here while missing my son that isn’t. Emotions run high and are, oh so difficult to manage.

Read the rest here:  Practical Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays after Child Loss

What the Bereaved Need from Friends and Family (But Might Not Tell You)

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:  Grief and Holidays:What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Grief and Holidays: How Can I Make It Through?

The calendar is tricky for grieving hearts.

It’s not just a way to plan events or remember doctor appointments.

It’s full of milestone dates and commitments that loom large and awful like an oncoming train in a dark tunnel.

Sometimes I just want to fall asleep sometime around the end of October and wake up in January after all the hoopla is over.  

But I can’t.

It’s not because I’m a Scrooge-I actually love making and giving gifts, I like baking cookies and breads, I enjoy cozy evenings with family in front of the fireplace.

What I don’t like is the busyness, the crowds, the push to be hap-hap-happy all the time and the crazy consumerism that crowds out the quiet peace of the promise of Light in the darkness.

I also struggle with meeting expectations-my own and those of others’-as well as enduring loud and slightly chaotic gatherings.

This will be the fifth set of holidays since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and we have yet to settle on a pattern for how to approach them.  Each year has been different and each year has presented new challenges.

I think the two things I’ve learned so far are this:  (1) It’s OK to do things differently or to skip some things altogether; and (2) It’s important to communicate my needs and limitations to those around me.  

Timing matters too.

I need to prepare family and friends NOW for the changes coming to holiday plans.  

So for the next few days I’m going to repost some of the articles I’ve written about how to survive the holidays with a grieving heart.

They are not a “how-to” manual-just some observations and suggestions.

Take what is helpful and leave the rest.  

In the end, each heart needs to find its own path.  

I pray you find yours.  ❤

 

Blaming is Just So Easy

Dominic’s death has made me angry at times.  

And I really don’t have anyone on whom to focus that anger. 

I can blame Dom, but what will that do for my heart?

I can be angry at God, but the truth is, I have too long a history with Him to think that He is punishing me or that He isn’t the loving Father I know Him to be.

So often I end up casting blame on those who don’t live up to my standards of how they SHOULD be walking alongside me in this Valley.

Because all that anger has to go somewhere, right?

Businessman points his finger at you

Sad thing is, right when I need friends most, if I’m spending my time picking them apart because they aren’t approaching me in the most helpful ways or, worse-avoiding me altogether-then I am guaranteeing I’ll be alone and lonely.

It does hurt when folks say the wrong thing, don’t say anything or let mention of my missing son fall like a lead ball between us.  

But most often it isn’t because they MEAN to hurt me, it’s because they don’t know what to say or how to act.

helpful advice what not to say to a bereaved parent

Child loss and its lifelong aftermath is largely a secret in Western society.  

Even many mental health professionals don’t recognize its ongoing impact on a heart and life.  

I’m beginning to suspect that most of the people I know have been and are doing the best they can to walk alongside me in this Valley.  And, well, if it looks a little awkward or is kind of an on again/off again thing-I’ll give grace.  

Blaming is easy.  

But it pushes hearts apart. 

Right when I need them to come closer.  

says something small but fits into the empty space in your heart

Repost: 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.

Read the rest here:  Being There: No Substitute For Showing Up