And The Gap Grows: Trying To Remember In a World That Forgets

I’ve written before about how I choose to leave some things just as Dominic left them-even over five years later.

It’s my way of maintaining physical space in our home that represents the space in my heart where only he can fit.

It’s also more than that.

As time progresses, nearly every other tangible evidence that Dominic existed is being worn away.

Sure there are photographs-but even they are growing old while he is not. No fresh adventures captured on phone or film. No new Facebook or Twitter posts. No new anything.

And as he becomes less relevant to other people’s lives, the gap between my experience and their’s grows ever larger.

Because he is just as relevant to my life as he ever was.

I have four children. Dominic is third of four, second of three boys. He is Uncle Dominic to my new grandson although Ryker won’t meet him in this life. He is my encouragement to keep doing hard things because he never allowed difficulty or pain to stop him from doing them.

His absence looms large. Every. single. day.

And sometimes, when it seems the world has forgotten him, when all the bits and pieces of who he was in life and how he touched others are floating away in the ocean of human activity, it looms larger.

So on those days I’m a little weepy.

On those days I may talk of him more.

On those days I might have to pull out the old photos and post them online.

Bear with me, please.

I need others to remember too.

Managing Expectations: Grief Makes Everything Harder

Trust me, I WANT to do all the things I used to be able to do.

I want to live up to every commitment, be at every event or celebration, make myself available and remain flexible and always say the right thing.

But I can’t.

I couldn’t before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven (although I had more energy to try) and I definitely can’t now.

Often I disappoint myself or those I love and I hate that.

No one can be as upset with me as I am with myself. No one can condemn me with a longer list than the list I keep in my own heart. No one can say anything to me that I haven’t already said to myself.

I have no illusion that I’m perfect. I don’t think I’m even close to perfect.

But I do have high expectations of myself and when I fall short, it’s a hard fall that ends with a THUD! and it takes days to mend.

I need to manage my expectations.

I need to be more realistic about what I can and can’t do.

Grief makes everything harder.

Even after five years.

November: Four Years of Sharing And Counting

This month marks the beginning of the fifth year since I committed to write every single day in this space.

No one could be as surprised as I am that I’m still here.

I honestly don’t know what response I anticipated when I showed up and started sharing. I just knew that I could not let this heartache go to waste.

Dominic’s death had to count for something.

I had five goals in mind when I started the blog:

  • To be as honest and transparent as possible;
  • To encourage others and help them hold onto hope;
  • To provide a voice for the child loss community in a format that was easy to share;
  • To acknowledge and admit that faith did not make child loss any less painful, only more bearable; and
  • To chronicle my own progress toward healing.

Of course, I am a biased source, but I feel like I have met those goals in one form or another.

As I continue to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I find there are always new things to say. I am bombarded daily with queries or comments from other bereaved parents that raise a new issue, offer a different perspective or beg for an advocate along this lonesome road.

I’ve discovered that there are many ways life breaks a heart, many ways sorrow enters a soul.

Life is hard.

Love often ends in heartache.

Sorrow can overwhelm a soul so fast there’s no time to grab hold of a lifeline.

But reaching out, reaching back, choosing to be a lighthouse and beacon for the ones so lost they’ve forgotten that light exists, is as much a balm for MY heart as it is for theirs.

Every story matters.

You don’t have to write a blog to share yours.

Speak up. Speak out. Share the hope and strength that has helped you hold on.

You may be the lifeline the next heart needs to choose endurance instead of ending it all.

I Need To Tell The Story (Even If You’ve Heard It Before)

I have so much more empathy for older folks since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I’ve always tried to be a patient listener when hearing that same story over and over and over but have to admit that sometimes I’d drift off or internally mock an elder because I was tired of hearing it.

Not anymore.

Because I understand now that it’s in the telling that one both commemorates and honors people as well as the past.

Me and Aunt Mattie Lou at her 99th birthday.

Stories are how we weave facts into narrative and give them meaning. It’s why so many of us love historical fiction or period dramas that not only reference actual people and events but also peek at emotions, motivation and draw conclusions.

I could hand you my daily calendar and you’d understand the outline of where I was and what I did.

But you wouldn’t know what I thought or felt that day unless I filled it in.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I was forced at first to deliver the most basic message to others who needed to know. I repeated it over and over, “I have to tell you something awful. Dominic is dead.”

I didn’t really know much more than that.

Details were added by friends and first responders in the days to come.

The story broadened to include how we reassembled our family from across the country, who showed up to help us through the first hours, where we chose to bury him, what the funeral service looked like and on and on and on.

For months afterward I found myself compelled to repeat the story of those days.

Compelled to rewind and play again the details, each time teasing out additional insights, questions and feelings.

It was an important part of unspooling and exploring what, exactly, it meant to live in a world that no longer included one of my children.

I know sometimes folks get tired of me telling the story. For them, it is a reminder of some awful event that is tucked neatly in the past. A date on a calendar somewhere that might occasionally tickle the back of their brain and evoke a, “that’s so sad” response but not something they live with every. single. day.

But for me, Dominic’s death is an ongoing experience.

Every day I have to fit his absence into my world. I have to find a way to live around the giant void where he SHOULD be but ISN’T.

So the story grows.

It’s not only what happened on the day he left, it’s what has happened since and is still happening now.

When you make space for me to tell, you make space for me to feel.

And that helps my heart hold on.

There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

This past week has been both hard and wonderful.

Some things happened that mean the next few months are going to be extra painful, extra stressful and extra challenging.

But I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

When I was forced unwillingly on this long, hard journey, everything was dark. Nothing sparked joy. The whole world became a grainy black and white image on an ancient TV and it was fuzzy, flat and utterly uninteresting.

What’s worse, my heart could only REALLY feel two things-pain and love-and they were so inextricably intertwined I was no longer sure which was which.

I couldn’t run fast enough or far enough to escape the darkness or the pain.

I had to face all the awful of child loss, embrace it, feel it, work through it, talk about it in safe spaces with safe people and sit quietly for hours with my thoughts and uncomfortable emotions. I had to let time do the work that only time can do.

There are no shortcuts on this journey.

And then there was a moment when I saw something beautiful and felt something wonderful and I didn’t have to TELL my heart it was beautiful and wonderful.

I just KNEW and I could FEEL it.

At first, these moments didn’t last long and were isolated. But eventually the moments came faster, lasted longer and were closer together. I learned to embrace them, hold onto them, build upon them and look for them.

Now, the moments of light, life and color make up most of my days.

I have not forgotten Dominic. My heart aches to see him again, hold him again, share life with him again. But I’ve learned to hold that yearning for the life I used to have and gratitude for the life I live now in the same heart. I’ve found that allowing joy to fill my soul doesn’t push him away or to the side as if he doesn’t matter.

So if you think there is no way you can survive this awful, awful journey, keep going.

If you are still in the dark days and fearful light will never penetrate the depth of your pain and despair, hold on.

If your world has gone colorless, don’t give up.

Look for your moment, it’s coming.

And when it does, grab it.

There’s more where that came from.

Holiday Help For Grieving Hearts: Thanksgiving Plan

Dominic’s leaving for Heaven coincided with big changes in our family.

College graduations, new jobs, a marriage and moves meant that even if Dominic were still here things wouldn’t have been “business as usual”.

Tossing the heartache of child loss into the mix made it nearly impossible to make decisions and juggle schedules and even think about pulling together a big meal.

That was over five years ago. And while I have yet to find a rhythm for any holiday I have learned how to approach and find a way through.

But THIS year, my mother’s sudden and unexpected journey to join Dominic and Jesus has us off-balance again.

So I’m back to trying to follow my own good advice.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/11/08/holidays-and-grief-thanksgiving-plan/

Holiday Help For Grieving Hearts

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. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/10/21/grief-and-holidays-how-can-i-make-it-through/