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

Commanded to be Hospitable

the answer is still and again love

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Lord, when one of us hungers, make it our instinct to feed.

When one of us is displaced, make it our instinct to share our home.

– Common Prayer

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longer table

Through This Valley Conference for Bereaved Parents-Don’t Miss It!!

I admit I’m not much of a gatherer.

Oh, I love my Sunday School class and my church family.  I enjoy the occasional family reunion or wedding.  But, on the whole, I tend to stick to small groups instead of large crowds.

And that tendency has been amplified since Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

So I totally understand why a bereaved parent might be reluctant to come to a CONFERENCE full of STRANGERS.

But please listen to my heart, not just my words:  this is NOT your average gathering.

April Wendland (a bereaved mother herself) and a very special team of people have worked hard to put together a two-day event that will speak courage to broken hearts.

You won’t be surrounded by people who glance sideways when the tears roll.  You won’t feel out of place when the tears turn to sobs.

Because we’ve all been there-we are STILL there.

There is no substitute for hearing (perhaps for the first time), “Me too!  I feel that way too!”

me too sharing the path

If you have never had the blessing of sharing space with other hearts that know exactly how you feel, then please, please, please try to come!  

And it’s FREE!

Courage is going to flow through the building.  Love will overwhelm your heart.  Grace and mercy will spill forth like water from a fountain.

Come be encouraged, strengthened and filled with hope for this journey. ❤ ❤ ❤

Here’s the link:  Through This Valley Bereaved Parents’ Conference

Friday, October 6th-Saturday, October 7th

Legacy Church,  3540 Central Ave., Hot Springs, Arkansas

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

 

 

They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

I remember the first couple times I ventured out in public after Dominic left us and the flurry of activity surrounding his funeral was over.

I felt naked, afraid and oh, so vulnerable.  

The tiniest misplaced word or random glance could undo me and I burst into tears.  

And I remember the phone calls, cards, texts and Facebook messages from friends and family who truly wanted to encourage my heart but often chose the wrong words and pierced it instead.

I took offense.  Often.

But about a month or so into this journey, as I explored the edges of my pain and had time to think about how utterly different and unknowable it was without experiencing it, I realized that all those barbs were completely unintentional.

No one was aiming to hurt me.  They were walking in the dark and stepping on my toes because they couldn’t SEE, not because they desired to cause me pain.

I was just as clueless before it was ME who buried a child.

So I learned to extend grace-to look behind the words to the heart offering them.

Because they don’t know what they don’t know.  

And I hope to God they never do.

dont expect everyone to understand

Repost: Grace for Right Now

It’s funny-or maybe not-that God will weave a theme through a day or week or month.  

He will put the same word in front of me in multiple places, speak it through different people, sometimes even (literally) plaster it across a billboard.

This morning it is grace.

Abundant, sufficient, enduring grace.

Read the rest here:  Grace for Right Now

No Contest: There’s Enough Heartache to Go Around

I may get jeered by my fellow bereaved parents but I’m committed to honesty so here it is: there is no hierarchy of grief and loss.

Now, am I saying that losing a dog is the same as burying a child?  Absolutely not!  I’ve written about that here.

But what I am saying is that grief, sorrow, loss and heartbreak comes to us in all shapes and sizes.  And what may be small to me may be huge to someone else.

In the past weeks I’ve been exposed to a number of people who were waiting for those magic minutes of visitation allowed for intensive care units.

Each one had a story.  

Each one had a cross to bear and a complicated life they were trying to maintain outside the additional stress and strain of a loved one hooked up to tubes and heart monitors.

None of them revealed (to me at least) that they were bereaved parents.

But I could clearly see pain, sorrow, grief and weariness etched in their furrowed brows. I could hear exhaustion in their voices as they placed phone call after phone call to update people that wanted to know how things were going but couldn’t make it to the hospital.  I noticed hope spring to life in each heart when the clock ticked toward the assigned visitation window and how they leaned forward willing those last seconds to fly by faster.

heart and wood

I knew they were hurting.  It didn’t matter if they hurt as much or less than me. There’s enough pain to go around in this life.

It isn’t a contest.

And I realized that because of my great grief and sorrow, I had a gift to share.  I could reach out and take a hand, listen to a story, hug a weary shoulder empathetically, gently and without judgement.

I understand the weight of hard things.

I know by experience that life can change in a single breath.  I carry both the ongoing burden of missing my son and the traumatic memory of life changed instantly by a knock on the door.   It’s made me stronger in ways I would not have chosen.

I will not squander that strength.

I will put my shoulder to the harness alongside my fellow humans and offer to help carry some of their burden.  I will extend my hand to the stumbling, strengthen the heart of the hurting and offer a listening ear to the one who has no one to talk to.

yoke-of-oxen

I cannot undo what I know.  I cannot undo what has brought them here or may take them to places THEY don’t want to go.

But I can be present.

I can refuse to turn away because I think their grief is small in comparison to my own.   

I can choose love.  

hands-passing-heart

 

Bone Deep Grief

My fellow bereaved mother and blogger, Kathleen Duncan, recently wrote that she felt she was done writing about grief.

It’s been  a little over four years since her son Andrew ran ahead to heaven and, as she explains:

I think I’m done.

I think I’m done writing about death. Writing and thinking about death, grief, and pain doesn’t help me anymore. And it may be detrimental for me to spend time writing about those topics. ~ Kathleen B. Duncan

Both our sons were killed instantly in an accident (although the details are different) and both were vibrant young men pursuing what they loved when they left this life.

That got me to thinking since I’m only a few months behind her in my own grief journey.

Because my experience seems to be very different from hers.  

I still find writing not only helpful, but healing.  And while I think of many things in addition to grief, I still think about grief often-not only my own, but that of others.  Not only the grief of bereaved parents, but of all the suffering, broken people I meet or hear about each day.

The feeling is different, but it remains.  

At first my grief was so overwhelming and the sorrow loomed so large that it was constantly before my eyes.  Everything I saw, heard, experienced or felt was filtered through tears.  The world was a blurry place and life was unbearably hard.  Every day I labored to lift my head from the pillow and roll my body from the bed.  Every morning I remembered afresh that Dominic was not here, that my family circle was broken, that another 24 hours loomed large and lonely before me.

It’s definitely not like that anymore.

But, for me, what’s changed is the location of my sorrow and sadness, not the FACT of it.

Now, instead of being in front of me, my sorrow has bored its way into my bones.  It rests deep inside the core of who I am, woven into the fabric of me.

I think of it like I think of being a mother.  

My “baby” is 25 years old.  But if I hear a plaintive “Mama!” in a store, I instinctively turn to see where the desperate or needy child may be.  I can’t resist even when my head tells me that whoever it is, isn’t MY responsibility.

My heart responds because “Mama” is an unchangeable part of my identity.

I don’t cry every day.  I don’t only see, feel or hear things through a veil of tears anymore. But bereavement has changed me forever.  It remains part of the way I experience the world.

I appreciate Kathleen.  I hate that we are part of the same “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay but I love the precious community of loving parents who are willing to share their journeys through blogs, closed groups and published books.

And I am blessed by honesty, transparency and authenticity-whatever that looks like.

For me, that’s to continue writing about my grief journey.  For someone else, maybe not. 

There’s room for everyone because what calls courage to MY heart might not call courage to yours. 

I suspect that just as our children are unique, the circumstances surrounding their deaths unique and we are unique, so will be our grief experience. 

grief-is-as-individual-as-a-snowflake