What IS “Grief Work”?

I have used the term for years and only recently has someone asked me to define it.

I guess I never realized that in all the writing about it, I’d never really explained what it meant.

So here goes.

Read the rest here: What, Exactly, IS “Grief Work”?

How Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

I’ve just had the privilege of a house full of family for the first time in over a year. My son, wife and his son (our only grandchild!) came for an extended visit and it has been wonderful!

But after such a long stretch of only us older, predictable (read boring) and relatively quiet folks rattling around this place, the vibrant, noisy, slightly chaotic frenzy of a nearly two-year-old has been a little challenging.

I’ve really had to work hard on centering my focus and being present in the moment. And I don’t mind telling you, I’ve missed the mark several times now.

I know better-I know I have absolutely, positively GOT to set aside some quiet time each day but I’ve let my “to do” list rob me of it.

So here I am, preaching to myself. Again.

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

Grief: “Acceptance” Isn’t A Stage, It’s a Lifetime

In all fairness, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had no idea her research would be taken out of context and plastered across professional literature and media outlets as a definitive explanation for the grief experience.

But she didn’t mind the notoriety.

And ever since, counselors, pastors, laypersons and the general public have come to expect folks to politely follow the five (sometimes described as six) stages of grief up and out of brokenness like a ladder to success.

It doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes those that walk alongside the bereaved are biding time, waiting for that “final” stage of grief: Acceptance.

And some therapists, counselors and armchair psychiatrists are certain that if the grieving mother can simply accept the death of her child, she can move on–that she can get back to a more “normal” life.

But this notion is as ridiculous as imagining that welcoming a new baby into a household doesn’t change everything.

And new parents have months to prepare.

Read the rest here: Loving well: Understanding “Acceptance”

Secondary Losses And Child Loss

While I certainly had no real idea in the first hours or even weeks what losing a child entailed, I understood plainly that it meant I would not have Dominic to see, hold or talk to.

I wouldn’t be able to hug his neck or telephone him.  

He wouldn’t be sitting at my table any more.

But the death of a child or other loved one has a ripple effect.  It impacts parts of life you might not expect.  As time went on, I was introduced to a whole list of losses commonly called “secondary losses”.

Read the rest here: Child Loss and Secondary Losses

Why Anxiety is Often Part of Child Loss


It surprised me when I felt anxious after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Not that the doorbell startled me, or that passing the place of the accident was hard nor that hearing motorcycles made my skin crawl.

But that every single day for many, many months anxiety crept up my backbone and made a knot in my neck.

It surprised me that I felt like I was literally going to explode. 

Read the rest here: Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?

Does It Ever Get Better?


I know that when I first stumbled onto a bereaved parent group, it was one of the things I was looking for: 
evidence that the overwhelming pain of child loss would not last forever.  

Some days I was encouraged as those who had traveled farther down this path posted comments affirming that they could feel something other than sorrow.

Some days I was devastated to read comments from parents who buried a child decades ago asserting that “it never gets better”.

Who is right?  

What’s the difference?

Do I have any control over whether or not this burden gets lighter?

Read the rest here: Will It Ever Get Better?

Finding Me Again

There is so much work to do in grief!

So many chores that demand time, energy, effort and sheer determination.

Finding me again is one of them.

I think it’s hard for anyone whose family and close friend circle is complete to understand that I didn’t *just* lose Dominic when death claimed him, I lost the unique part of me that was reflected back from him. There is a “me” only he could draw out, make laugh a certain way, frustrate and tease over very specific issues.

Some memories were held between just the two of us. Now half the experience is buried with him. No matter how hard I try I can’t recall some of the details and even if I do they are only from my perspective.

Before child loss I was a mom who couldn’t imagine living without one of her children. Now I’m a mom who lives without one of her children. I still haven’t figured out all the ways that’s changed who I am and how I walk in the world.

Mirrors and photographs surprise me.

I know it’s my own face staring back but I barely recognize it.

I’m still searching for me.

You Don’t Need Permission To Grieve

You wouldn’t think we need permission from total strangers, friends and extended family to grieve but many times it feels like we do.

Odd looks, questioning stares and wagging tongues can make a heart doubt whether it’s really OK to do this or that while trying not to fall apart.

Well I’m here to tell you-ignore all that!

Read the rest here: Permission To Grieve

The Gift Of Silence

It can be tempting, when trying to do the work grief requires to chase away the sorrow and pain with noise.

But that’s unhelpful.

Because you can’t really chase grief anywhere.  It’s inside you, part of you, with you wherever you go.

Read the rest here: Silence is a Gift

What I’d Like You To Know About Grief

There are some things I’d like you to know about grief.

Things I didn’t know until I was the one walking the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Things that can help you companion me and others compassionately, wisely and graciously.

My grief is here-get used to it (please and thank you). Grief has entered my life and while it may be an unwelcome guest, it’s here to stay. I won’t be getting over it or moving on. Grief is the price you pay for love. I will love and miss my child as long as I live, so I will grieve him until my last breath.

The goal of grief isn’t to forget. In fact, the goal of grief work (facing and working through my feelings, my fears and finding a way forward) is to remember and remain connected. I no longer have a physical relationship with my child. I’m trying to figure out how to have one with him in his absence.

I have to do grief my own way. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Who I am, who my child is, what my family looks like, circumstances surrounding my loss, previous life experience all inform how I face this challenge. There is no “right way” to grieve. As long as I am not harming myself or others, there’s only “my way” to grieve.

I am the same person, but I’ve also changed. I know you are trying to figure me out post-child loss. I’m trying to figure me out too. I didn’t get a how-to manual when I buried my son. Even six years into this journey I’m still finding ways in which I am profoundly changed. But I’m also still the same person that needs your friendship and longs for compassionate connection. It’s work for both of us but I don’t want to be alone in my grief.

Even when I’m OK, I’m still grieving. It’s normal for friends and family to look for signs I’m “better”. The early days of sobbing and unceasing pain do (usually) morph into a more gentle, quiet and manageable burden. But even when I’m laughing, participating and gathering new, joy-filled memories I’m grieving. My son’s absence is background music to every moment. I’m never free from the feeling he should be here but isn’t.

I may stay connected to my loved one in ways you don’t understand, but trust me, they’re normal. There are SO many ways hearts work hard to stay connected to their missing child! Dominic’s jacket is hung on a peg in our mudroom right where he left it the last time he was home. I see it every day and touch it often. There are other little mementos here and there that keep his presence part of daily life. I have tokens I carry in a pocket that help me take him with me. Other parents sleep with a favorite stuffed toy or their child’s pillow. Some make blankets of old t-shirts or clothing. It’s all normal.

Grief will visit every heart eventually.

If it hasn’t come to rest in yours yet, consider yourself blessed.

I’m sure you have at least one friend carrying this burden.

When you take time to try to understand even a little how they feel, you help them bear the load.