Loving Bereaved Families: Helpful Tips


I firmly believe that our friends and extended family want to reach out, want to help, want to walk alongside as we grieve the death of our child

 I am also convinced that many of them don’t because they don’t know how.  

It may seem unfair that in addition to experiencing our loss, we also have to educate others on how to help us as we experience it, but that’s just how it is.

The alternative is to feel frustrated and abandoned or worse.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/02/13/child-loss-helpful-tips-for-interacting-with-bereaved-families/

Marking The Milestones After Child Loss: 16 Ideas

I’ve found myself in a bit of a writing funk these past weeks. Once January draws to a close (a short reprieve from surviving the holidays) the calendar barrels on to the anniversary of that fateful day.

This will be the sixth time I’ve weathered that period where I mark all the “lasts” and try to honor Dominic’s life and not only focus on his death.

For someone who used to be able to draw up a gameplan for any occasion, I am still out of my depth when it comes to commemorating the date of my son leaving for Heaven.

So I’m sharing this again-as much for me as for anyone else. It’s just plain hard. But I hope these ideas help another heart find a way through the minefield of remembering.

❤ Melanie

When your child is born you take notes.

You plan to mark this day as a special milestone for the rest of your life.

You absolutely, positively NEVER think you will have to mark another one:  the day he or she leaves this life and leaves you behind.

But some parents have to mark both.  The dash in the middle is shorter than we anticipated, and our child’s life ends before ours.

grieving mother at grave

So how do you do it?  How in the world do you observe the polar opposite of a birthday?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/30/child-loss-marking-the-milestones/

How I Long To Just Be Me!

I first shared this post two years ago when I was approaching the four year milestone of Dominic’s leaving for Heaven.

By that time most folks who knew me when he died had relegated that part of my story to some ancient past that surely I was over by now. I’d met others who had no clue my heart skipped a beat on a regular basis because one of my children was buried.

And even the closest ones-the ones I thought would understand forever-were sometimes impatient with my ongoing refusal to leave Dominic behind and be “healed” of my grief.

What I long for more than anything as the sixth anniversary of his departure draws near is simply this: Let me be me, whatever that looks like.

Don’t try to fit my journey into your mold.

Melanie ❤

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/01/26/can-i-just-be-me/

Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore-The Power of Presence

I’m not entirely sure this quote is an accurate one from the original Winnie the Pooh books but it is absolutely an accurate reflection of the characters.

And it’s a beautiful reminder to all of us how powerful presence can be.

May we all have Poohs and Piglets that come sit with us when we are Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around.

“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.

‘Hello Eeyore,’ said Pooh.

‘Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,’ said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.

‘We just thought we’d check in on you,’ said Piglet, ‘because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.’

“Eeyore was silent for a moment. ‘Am I okay?’ he asked, eventually. ‘Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.’

“Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.

Eeyore looked at them in surprise. ‘What are you doing?’

‘We’re sitting here with you,’ said Pooh, ‘because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.’

‘Oh,’ said Eeyore. ‘Oh.’

“And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.

“Because Pooh and Piglet were There.”

(A.A. Milne, E.H. Shepard)

No photo description available.

Solitude or Isolation? Which is it?

I’ve always loved my alone time.

As an introvert (who can, if pressed pretend not to be!) my energy is restored when I interact with one or two folks or no one at all.  A dream afternoon is writing while listening to nothing louder than the wind chimes outside my door.

I treasure solitude.

Since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I find I need even more alone time than before.

That quiet place is where I do my most effective grief work, undisturbed by interruptions and distractions.

But I need to be careful that solitude doesn’t shift into isolation. 

I have to remind my heart that spending time with others keeps me from falling so deeply down the well of despair that all I see is darkness.

I need human interaction to keep me connected to a world that, quite frankly, I might sometimes just as soon leave behind.

So how can I tell the difference between solitude and isolation?

Here are a few questions that help me figure that out:

  • Do I feel lonely, neglected or abandoned? If my alone time feels less like a gift and more like an unwelcome burden then it may be isolation rather than solitude.
  • Where are my thoughts taking me? Being alone is often the only way to “hear” my own thoughts without having to block out the noise and activity of other people. If I am sitting with myself, processing hard things or even beautiful things, resolving internal conflict, conjuring new ways to deal with difficult relationships or situations then solitude is doing its work. If, instead, I find my mind tangled up in fearful knots, filled with negative self-talk or unable to break a downward spiral into despair then I probably need to find someone to talk to.
  • Am I getting stronger or being drained? After the holidays or other hectic seasons I need time alone to recharge my batteries. Often it is almost a day-for-day exchange. I can feel tension melting away and strength returning. My mind begins to clear and life doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Solitude grants space for my body, mind and soul to be refreshed. When it slides into isolation I can feel the shift. Instead of waking refreshed and eager to greet a free day, I wake to dreading another long one alone. Instead of energy rising in my spirit, I can feel it draining away. Instead of thinking kindly of friends and family who choose to leave me be, I’m resentful no one has checked up on me.
  • Is there a helpful rhythm to my days alone or am I counting the hours until sundown? When I’m enjoying solitude, the hours feel like a welcome opportunity to do things (or not do things!) at my own pace and according to my own preferences. I sit with pen in hand and jot down a list knowing that if I complete it or if I don’t the only person I have to answer to is myself. No pressing appointments and no worrisome commitments. When I’m isolating, the hours feel like a long march through deep mud-every step tedious, treacherous and exhausting. I’m alone but I’m not getting any benefit from it. If I’m enduring instead of enjoying then I’m isolating.
  • Do I have an endpoint in mind? When I look ahead at a week on my calendar, I try to balance alone time with social commitments. A day or two alone (or with limited human interaction) is solitude. A week holed up in the house is isolation. If I find myself pushing off needed outings (to the grocery store, to run errands) then I ask myself, “why?”. Often it’s because I’ve drifted from solitude (helpful alone time) to isolation (unhelpful hiding).

I can shift myself out of isolation by choosing just one small social interaction.

I might text or message a friend, go to the grocery store and make a point of speaking to the clerk, call someone or show up at a church or community event even if I sit in the back and slip out early.

I’m never going to be that person who is up for every outing. That’s just not how I’m made and child loss has intensified my need for solitude.

But I don’t want to be alone and lonely, sinking deeper and deeper into a pit of my own making.

Some days it’s harder than others.

But I keep trying.

Broken Legs, Broken Hearts, Broken Lives

Sometimes I’m envious of folks hobbling along in those plastic boots designed to support an injured leg or ankle and aid healing.

Not because of the injuryI’m thankful I’ve never broken a bone-but because it’s an outward warning to anyone who might otherwise be impatient or insensitive that they just can’t go any faster.

I think there ought to be some kind of t-shirt, pin or banner that gives the same kind of warning for those of us walking around with broken hearts and broken lives.

But there isn’t.

Except for the first shell-shocked days immediately following Dominic’s death, I look pretty much the same as I always have.

Most of us do.

If you lined up a hundred parents and scattered ten in the group who had suffered child loss, very few people would be able to single them out.

The giant heart wound we bear is barely noticeable to the uninitiated.

Yet even years later, we need extra support, extra care, extra grace to help us continue to heal.

There’s no plastic boot to fit around a broken heart. But there are things friends and family can do to create safe spaces that protect it.

  • Remember my heart is tender and easily bruised.
  • Speak about my child in Heaven. When I hear his name it is music to my ears.
  • Allow me to graciously bow out of activities or gatherings that are noisy, busy or filled with people I don’t know.
  • Don’t change the subject when I become emotional because you are uncomfortable-acknowledge my pain as a perfectly acceptable response to an unfathomable loss or just hug me.
  • Help me carry the light and life of my missing child by sharing memories, photographs or mementos. It’s a great gift to know that my child is spoken about, remembered and loved by others.
  • Recognize that while I am stronger, the absolute weight of my burden isn’t lighter. On some days it’s heavier than others so don’t be surprised by tears that seem out of place or out of time.
  • Remember important dates like my child’s birthday or memorial service day or even when he or she would have graduated high school or college if denied that opportunity. My heart mark all those silent grief anniversaries even when no one else recognizes them. It can be awfully lonely. Compassionate companionship expressed in a note, text or call helps so very much.
  • Please don’t give up on me! There may be seasons when i isolate in an effort to protect my heart. I know it’s hard to continue to reach out to someone who won’t reach back, but sometimes I just don’t have the strength to do it even when the distance is short. Try again in a little while.

If you know someone whose child has run ahead to Heaven, don’t ignore the wound.

Reach out.

Don’t insist that they walk as fast or as unencumbered as you might.

Be willing to slow down and walk with them awhile.

Emotional Overload Means I Have to Be Careful With Those I Love

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/29/emotional-overload-and-t-m-i/

I’m Still A Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend


It would be helpful if the world could just stop for a day or a week (or a year!) when your heart is shattered by the news that one of the children you birthed into this world has suddenly left it.

But it doesn’t.

And immediately all the roles I have played for decades are overlaid by a new role:  bereaved mother.  Except instead of being definitive or even descriptive, this role is more like a foggy blanket that obscures and disorients me as I struggle to fulfill all the roles to which I’ve become accustomed.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/16/wife-mother-daughter-sister-friend/

Repost: Lessons Learned

I don’t believe for one minute that child loss is a test or curriculum or punishment.  

But I  do believe there are things I can learn from it. 

I absolutely believe there are things I HAVE learned and am learning in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

What are some of those lessons?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/03/lessons-learned/

Holidays 2019: Practical Ideas for Dealing With Holidays After Child Loss

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.

So I’m including some ideas from other bereaved parents on how they’ve handled the holidays.  Many of these suggestions could be adapted for any “special” day of the year.

Not all will appeal to everyone nor will they be appropriate for every family.  But they are a place to start.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/04/practical-ideas-for-dealing-with-the-holidays-after-child-loss/