Repost: Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

How do you speak of the unspeakable?

How do you constrain the earth-shattering reality of child loss to a few syllables?

How do you SAY what must be said?

I remember the first hour after the news.  I had to make phone calls.  Had to confirm my son’s identity and let family know what had happened.

I used the only words I had at the time, “I have to tell you something terrible. Dominic is dead.”

Read the rest here:  Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

Repost: Why Do We Turn Away?

No one chooses pain. No one chooses to bury a child or live with chronic disease or the after effects of stroke.

But others get to choose whether they come alongside, practice compassion, serve as witness and call out courage or just walk away-thankful it’s not them that suffer.

THAT’S a choice.

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?

It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?

This came up in a bereaved parents’ support group and I thought it was a great question:  When you meet someone for the first time, do you tell them about your missing child?”

It’s one of those practical life skills bereaved parents have to figure out.

I remember when it dawned on me a few months after Dominic left us that I would meet people who wouldn’t know he was part of my story unless I told them.

It was a devastating thought.  

I had no idea how I would face the first time it happened.  

Since then I’ve developed a script and guidelines, but it can still be awkward.

If the person I meet is going to be part of a ongoing relationship or partnership then I tell them fairly soon about Dominic.    Depending on who they are, how I sense they may be able to deal with it and if I feel comfortable enough I may give more or fewer details.  The main thing I try to communicate in sharing is that I will behave in ways they might not understand without the context of child loss.  I’m not looking for sympathy or special consideration but “bereaved parent” is as much a part of my identity as “married”.

If I am attending a social function and it’s a casual “meet and greet” then I won’t mention Dominic in terms of his death unless the conversation lends itself to that revelation.  No need to burden acquaintances with my story or run the risk of changing a celebratory mood to a sad one.

I always say I have four children-because I do.  But I don’t have to give details.  If the person insists I tell them more about my children it’s fairly easy to steer the conversation toward a detail or two about my living children without the person noticing it doesn’t add up to four.

I make sure to tell health professionals about Dominic because the stress, physical, emotional and mental changes grief has wrought are integral to my treatment plan.  I’ve had a couple of new doctors since Dom ran ahead and received different responses from them when I shared.  One seemed to understand the impact of child loss while another just continued typing without any acknowledgement of what I revealed.

My son’s death is not a dirty secret.

I don’t have to hide it to protect others.

But it is also not a “poor me” card that I fling on the table of relationships trying to manipulate others into showing me special consideration.

I want people to know Dominic.

dominic at gray haven

So I share.

I don’t want people to only think of him in terms of his death.

So sometimes I don’t.

It depends.



Why Friends Abandon Grievers

It happens in all kinds of ways.  One friend just slowly backs off from liking posts on Facebook, waves at a distance from across the sanctuary, stops texting to check up on me.

Another observes complete radio silence as soon as she walks away from the graveside. 

Still another hangs in for a few weeks-calls, texts, even invites me to lunch until I can see in her eyes that my lack of “progress” is making her uneasy.  Then she, too, falls off the grid.

Why do people do that? 

Why is it, when we need them most, many friends-and I mean really, truly FRIENDSjust can’t hang in and hold on?

I admit in the early days I didn’t care WHY they did it. 

It broke my heart and enraged me all at the same time.  I felt abandoned, judged, forgotten, pressured to conform to some unwritten standard of how I was “supposed” to do grief and utterly, completely forsaken.

It took me months to begin to even consider their perspective and years to come to a place where I could forgive them.

butterfly away from hand

Here’s what I’ve figured out this side of devastating, overwhelming, heart-shattering pain about why some friends run away:

  • I represent their greatest fear.  I am a billboard for loss.  My life screams, “We are NOT in control!” And that is scary.  Most folks run away from scary if they can.
  • I remind them that faith is a living thing, tender and vulnerable to trials and testing.  We love to tout Sunday School answers that follow like the tag lines on Aesop’s fables when asked about anything to do with Jesus or how God works in the world.  But it’s just not that simple.  The Bible is full (FULL!) of untidy stories where even the giants of faith got it wrong for a season.  I think people are afraid that if they follow me down the rabbit hole of questions they might never come back out.  Better to stand outside and hope I emerge safe and sound without risking themselves.
  • My situation is messy and they don’t want to get involved.  I will need ongoing, intense investments of emotional energy and time. Who knows where it might lead?  Who knows how many hours might have to be given to come alongside and support someone whose journey looks more like slogging through a swamp than a walk in the park?  These folks are just not going to risk entanglement.
  • Some friends and family are genuinely afraid of doing harm.  They feel my pain so deeply that they are frozen, unable to do or say anything because they fear they will make things worse.  These are the hearts most easy to forgive and the ones most likely to jump back in when I assure them they cannot make it worse but their support can make it better.
  • Some people were going to disappear anyway.  We don’t like to admit it but many friendships are only for a season-we go to the same church, live in the same neighborhood, our kids go to the same school-and as soon as circumstances change these people fade away.  Well, circumstances certainly changed!  They leave because our differences outweigh our similarities and it requires too much effort to maintain the friendship.

Understanding why people run away has helped my heart. 

It doesn’t undo the pain inflicted by abandonment of those I felt sure would stay close by my side, but it puts it in perspective.

Truth is, I’m not sure how many people I would have stalwartly supported for the long haul either before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  

None of us possess infinite emotional, mental, physical and relational resources.  It’s only natural that we portion them out according to our own priorities-even when that means abandoning friends who really need us.

Rehearsing offense only ties me in knots. 

It changes nothing.

I have limits as well. 

Forgiving those that chose to walk away frees me to use my resources in more fruitful ways that help me heal.  


Different is Just Different

We all have at least one.

That friend or family member who knows the “right” way to do EVERYTHING.

And they cannot tolerate any one else’s method or opinion or idea if it doesn’t mesh with theirs.

He or she is often very good at what they do.  But the problem arises when being good at SOME things is interpreted as being good at EVERYTHING.

No one is good at everything.

Including me.

It has been a steep learning curve (and 54 years!) for this “A” student to figure out that my way is not always the best way.  My viewpoint is not always the right one.

I have a log in my eye as big as the log in the next person’s and I am just as incapable of pulling it out on my own as they are.

Truth is, different is just different.  It’s not better or worse.

You may be a night owl.  I am an early bird.

You may need to dirty every dish in the kitchen to make that favorite recipe.  I like to minimize mess and clean as I go.

Are you a social butterfly?  I’m almost a hermit.

I’m often judgmental about other people’s methods and choices when they are not the ones I would use or make. 

I need to stop doing that.

God made each one of us for His purpose in the world and for His purpose in the Body.

How very boring and awful if we were all made alike!

When I’m tempted to forget, I remind my heart with this verse:

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

God has work that He planned JUST FOR ME.  And He has work that He planned JUST FOR YOU. 

You can’t do mine and I can’t do yours.

So let’s appreciate our differences and make room for one another to walk the path God has made for each of us.




Love in Action: Being a Friend

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.

I wanted to help.

I wanted to say the “right thing”.  I wanted to express how very much my heart hurt for them and that I badly wished I could carry some of their load.

Sometimes I think I did a pretty good job of reaching out and touching the wound and offering a little bit of comfort.  But other times, I would say nothing because I didn’t know what to say.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: Being a Friend

Love in Action: Relational Acts of Kindness

I have two very special friends.

After Dominic died and the meals and visits and cards had dwindled and the silence and heartbreak had become oh-so-overwhelming, they came out to spend the day with me.

The whole day.

With me.

With this crying, couldn’t hold it together, didn’t know what to say mama who had buried her son just weeks ago.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: Relational Acts of Kindness