All Kinds of Medicine

I’ve never understood the *wisdom* in refusing appropriate treatment for what ails you.

Sure, no one wants to take a handful of pills every morning and every night but for some the magic of medicine has given us more years than we’d have otherwise.

But pharmaceuticals aren’t the only kind of medicine out there and if we availed ourselves more often of easy-to-access lifestyle choices and built in better habits we might all be happier and healthier!

There truly ARE all kinds of medicine.

Why Don’t I Feel A Thing? Sometimes Grief = Numb.

Many bereaved parents will tell you that after the initial shock of loss hits hard, a blessed numbness falls over a heart.

It happened to me.

The pain was still there, of course, but a fog descended that allowed me to maintain some distance between what I was feeling deep down and what I had to do in order to get through the decisions and days that follow death.

Nighttime was still hard because when the house went dark and quiet, all the emotion I’d managed to push away in the daylight came flooding back. I spent months falling into fitful sleep with tears on my pillow.

And then the fog lifted.

I’m not sure how long it was that I sobbed uncontrollably for some portion of every day and some days all day long.

A whiff of fresh air reminded me Dominic no longer drew breath into his lungs. A random sound upstairs or outside jolted my heart into hoping maybe, just maybe, he was coming home. Everywhere my eyes landed held a memory that screamed, “He was here! Where is he now?”

I felt everything. All the time. No respite.

It was exhausting.

But at some point-maybe in the middle or toward the end of the second year-a blanket of profound emotional silence wrapped itself around my heart and I could not feel a thing.

Really.

Not one single thing.

I could conjure up appropriate facial expressions so those around me didn’t have a clue. I could remember what I was supposed to feel. I could almost-almost-touch a spot deep inside that used to feel. But if there had been a meter on my heart it would have displayed a flat line.

This was more frightening than the prospect of living with overwhelming sorrow and pain for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to hurt like that forever but I didn’t want to give up feeling love and happiness and excitement and awe either.

I don’t really know how long that lasted.

Maybe most of a year, I think.

And then one day I realized some color had crept back into my daily life.

I was beginning to look forward just a bit to a date on the calendar. A smile crossed my lips without effort in response to a joke. Sadness once again took up residence in my heart next to the place Dominic always lived. But joy eased its way in around the edges.

I’ve thought long and hard about that season of “un-feeling”.

Why did my heart shut down? Why the long silence when no emotion pierced my soul?

I think it was necessary.

I think a body and mind and heart can’t operate for too long at warp speed. I think that just like fainting is a response to the brain needing oxygen, numbness is a response to the soul’s need for respite and time to heal.

So if you are in the season of numb, you’re neither crazy nor alone.

It, too, will pass.

Feeling will find its way once again to your heart. Pain, yes, but also joy.

When you are ready.

Healing Is Not Linear

I remember thinking in the early days, weeks and months of this journey that healing was impossible.

The wound was too great, too deep and too devastating to allow for that.

No amount of work or help or wishful thinking could undo the damage.

But I was wrong.

Little by little the shattered pieces of my heart began to reassemble themselves into a very fragile, not-quite-the-same, semblance of the old shape.

When life knocks me around (as it still does quite often) a bit falls off here and there and I have to begin again to put my heart back together.

It’s not simple.

It’s not a straight line.

It’s not a once and done thing.

But it’s possible.

A Walking Nerve

It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t walked this path.

Deep pain and unfathomable sorrow stripped me of any reserve, any defense, any padding between the wider world and my oh-so-fragile heart.

I was a walking nerve.

Every awkward and less-than-thoughtful word or deed by friends, family and acquaintances rubbed me raw. I was utterly incapable of extending grace even as I knew I should and understood that most often their intentions were kind.

I had suffered a grievous wound and spent most of my energy just trying to protect what was left of my heart.

All I wanted to do was retreat to the safe cocoon of my own home. I unfollowed people on social media, I screened telephone calls, I rarely ventured out for anything but the most necessary supplies. It was the only way I could provide the space and time needed for my heart to heal enough to bear even the slightest brush with folks who might say or do the wrong thing.

It helped.

Eventually I found the strength to venture beyond the safety of home, family and the few friends with whom I felt comfortable and secure.

I could scroll through Facebook once again without reacting to every single post.

I went back to church and even showed up for covered dish socials where I couldn’t be certain which way the conversation would flow or who might get me blocked into a corner and ply me with questions.

I attended a few large gatherings: graduations, weddings and a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert.

So if you are in the early days of this hard, hard journey, do what you have to and find the safe circle that gives you time, space and grace to help your heart toward healing.

It may take longer than you’d like, but resting from the constant pressure of trying to protect yourself from the hustle and bustle in a world where child loss is misunderstood and frequently ignored will make a difference.

And one day, like me, you might well wake up and realize that what once felt like personal attacks are simply folks saying and doing foolish things because they haven’t been forced to learn the wisdom of compassion through unfathomable loss.

I’m still more sensitive than I used to be.

There are times I just can’t take crowds, unpredictable settings, offhand comments about death, dying, grief and heartache.

But I’m finally able to walk in the world without feeling I have to protect my heart at every turn.

It’s liberating and I’m thankful.

You Just Can’t Run Away (Even When You Want To)

You know that scene in Forrest Gump where he starts running and just can’t stop?

I thought that was a funny way to deal with grief when I first saw the movie.

But now I understand it perfectly.  

run forrest run

If I could have started running, walking or even crawling away from the heartache in those first days and weeks I would have.  

Truth is, though, you can’t.  

Read the rest here: Can’t Run Away

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Child Loss

I’ve had awhile to think about this. Six years is a long time to live with loss, to live without the child I carried, raised and sent off in the world.

So I’ve considered carefully what my “top ten” might be.

Here’s MY list (yours might be very different):

There is absolutely no way to prepare your heart for the death of a child. I have always been an avid reader. Over the years I’ve read dozens of accounts both real and imagined centered around child loss. I’ve seen well-scripted movies and television shows depicting it as well. And, like many parents, I had my moments when I imagined what it might be like for one of my children to leave the house and not return. But nothing-NOTHINGI read, saw or imagined was remotely as devastating as the experience of child loss. In the space of a few words, a few seconds, a single awful door knock, my world was utterly and completely shattered. It’s really no wonder that it takes a lifetime to even begin to put the pieces together.

Most people are doing the best they can to respond to our pain. When Dominic first left us, I was a walking nerve. Anything someone said or didn’t say, a look, a social media post or dozens of other things provoked a reaction: “How could they!?” But eventually, when I was able to think more clearly I recognized they were wrapped in the same protective bubble of “hasn’t experienced child loss” I once enjoyed. How could I expect them to know what to say or do when truth is, I still (to this day) stumble over my tongue when confronted with a parent who joins our ranks. Now I try to receive even the most bumbling efforts as grace gifts offered in hope of encouraging my heart.

Grief lasts longer than sympathy. I’ve written before about the cost of compassion. It’s so much easier to send a card, send a meal, show up at the house or funeral than to walk beside someone for a month or year as they try to pick up and reassemble the fragments of a shattered heart and life. Grief is not the same as mourning. Mourning is a shorter period with lots of outward symbols and rituals that warn others of our broken hearts. Grief is the burden of loss, sorrow, missing and pain that is left behind after everyone else goes home. Grief is lonely.

The circle that will walk with you for the long haul is going to be smaller than you expect and will be comprised of some folks you’d never have imagined. We all have an image of which people will run toward us instead of running away should disaster strike. I did. And some of those folks were there. But others weren’t. After decades of pouring our time, energy, effort, love and lives into more than one church family, I was surprised at who showed up, who stayed away and who was willing to go the extra mile. Of course at the beginning there were hordes of folks and we were very appreciative. But one by one or in groups they quit calling, coming or even texting. The tiny band that has stuck it out is precious. I am so, so thankful for them.

Life goes on without our permission. At first, I just wanted the world to STOP. I wanted every single soul on this planet to realize-at least for a second-that my son was no longer among the living. But of course it didn’t. Not only did the world not stop, it seemed to race ahead. I’ve written before about our family’s busy, busy two months (Graduations and Weddings and Trips, Oh My!) after Dom ran ahead to Heaven. That was just the beginning. In the six years since he’s been gone, there have been all kinds of large and small crises that have rocked our world. I don’t have a pass to slip through my remaining years without trouble or trial.

Loss keeps happening and comes in many forms. Life is risky. If you dare to love, you risk loss. I made a decision early on that I would not cut myself off from those I love in hopes of saving my heart more sorrow. Friendships melt away under the burden of grief. Life circumstances change in unpleasant and unexpected ways. Health deteriorates. Loved ones die. I’ve experienced all these things in the last six years and will experience them until I join Dominic in Heaven. I won’t rail against every one as an injustice or act surprised.

Laughter and joy return if you make space for them. I remember the first time a small chuckle escaped my lips after Dominic left us. It felt like betrayal. How could I laugh when my heart was utterly shattered? Where did that come from? But I learned, over time, that laughing was not dishonoring my son. Laughter is a gift. It’s a way of knitting together some of those broken pieces. It’s a means of allowing light back into a darkened soul. I also learned that joy and sorrow are not opposing feelings. You don’t have to shove one aside to feel the other. You simply have to expand your heart to make room for both. But it IS a choice. I can refuse laughter, joy and light and hunker down with my sadness, sorrow and despair. I have to decide.

The missing never ends. You never reach a moment (as shared by many bereaved parents further along this path than me!) when you won’t miss your child. A parent’s heart carries his or her child as long as it’s still beating. It takes time to learn to live with the ache. It was several years before I could see past Dominic’s absence. When the family gathered the gaping hole where he SHOULD be but WASN’T filled my vision and made it hard to focus on who and what I still possessed. Over time the missing has grown softer. Now, missing Dominic is the background music to everything.  A quiet tune I hum in my head that keeps me company all day and invades my dreams at night. .

You will survive if you keep taking the next breath and making the next step. That first day when the house filled with people coming to support our family after the awful news, I kept asking the women sitting with me, “Am I breathing?”. It felt as if the breath had left my body when the life-shattering words fell on my ears and I couldn’t get it back. But I soon learned that broken hearts still beat. The first anniversary of his death I was horrified to realize I had survived 365 days when I was certain I wouldn’t survive the first 24 hours. Grief  is work. But if you choose to face the feelings, spend time dealing with them and allow your heart space and grace to begin putting the pieces back together you will make progress. I have. It has often been slower and more painstaking than I like, but it’s happened.

I’m still learning.

Almost every day I find another place grief is changing my life, my family’s life and my heart ever so slightly. In a few more years this list may be different.

For now, it’s my top ten.

I hope it helps another parent who might be wondering what to expect in this Life [We] Didn’t Choose.

What’s Changed, What’s The Same Six Years Down The Road Of Child Loss?

What’s changed and what is still the same six years down the road of child loss?

I’ve thought about this a lot in the past few months as I prepared for, greeted and marked another year of unwelcome milestones since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Some things are exactly the same:

  • Whenever I focus solely on his absence, my heart still cries, “Can he REALLY be gone?” I am STILL A Mess Some Days….
  • The pain is precisely as painful as the moment I got the news.
  • It’s just as horrific today to dwell on the manner of his leaving.
  • I miss him, I miss him, I miss him. I live every day with his Tangible Absence.
  • I am thankful for his life, for the opportunity to be his mama and for the part of me shaped by who he was.
  • The absolute weight of grief has not changed. The burden remains a heavy one.
  • Daily choices are the difference between giving up and going on. I have to make Wise Choices in Grief.
  • My faith in Christ and my confidence that His promises are sure is the strength on which I rely. I have been Knocked Down But Not Destroyed.
  • I passionately look forward to the culmination of all history when every sad thing will come untrue.

Some things are very different:

  • Dominic’s absence is no longer all I see.
  • Sorrow and pain are no longer all I feel.
  • I’ve learned to live in spite of the hole in my heart-his unique place isn’t threatened by allowing myself to love others and pouring my life into the people I have left.
  • Joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive. They live together in my heart and I can smile and laugh again while still pining for a time when things were different and easier.
  • I am Stronger because I’ve carried this burden for years. I’ve learned to shift it from side to side.
  • The darkness has receded so that I see light once more. I’m not as prone to fall as fast down the dark hole of despair.
  • My heart longs for reunion but has also learned to treasure the time I have left here on earth.

I’ve never hidden the struggle and pain of this journey.

But I don’t want those who are fresh in grief to think that how they are feeling TODAY is the way they will feel FOREVER.

By doing the work grief requires, making wise choices and holding onto hope a heart does begin to heal.

I am not as fragile today as I was on the first day.

And I am so, so thankful for that.

Every Minute, Every Moment There Was Jesus

In the waiting, in the searching

In the healing and the hurting

Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces

Every minute, every moment

Where I’ve been and where I’m going

Even when I didn’t know it or couldn’t see it

There was Jesus

Jonathan Smith/ Casey Beathard/ Zach Williams -“There Was Jesus”

Songs reach places in my heart that words alone can never touch.

There is so much truth in this one.

When I couldn’t see Him, couldn’t feel Him, had no evidence of His Presence-Jesus was there.

His strength sustained me, His love protected my heart from bitterness, His grace was enough-is enough-for each day.

In the waiting, in the searching.

There was Jesus.

In the healing and the hurting.

There was Jesus.

There is a blessing buried in the broken pieces.

He is Jesus.

Is There A Cure For Our Broken Hearts?

Healing and curing are not the same thing.

Healing is a process that takes as long as it takes and may never be complete this side of eternity.  It’s a folding in of the hard parts of my story, an acknowledgement of the way I am changed because of the wounds I’ve received.  It involves scar tissue and sore spots and ongoing pain.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/04/08/healing-curing-same-thing/

Lost Spring: Social Distancing Before It Was Cool

It really is possible to stay home.

Our family proved it more than 25 years ago.

Four kids, seven and under, one mama and a tiny house survived one solid month of alone time.

Photo taken that same year. ❤

The chicken pox made its rounds in our local weekly Bible study and pretty much every kid that hadn’t had it got it. So it wasn’t long until more than half the class was home riding out the wave of itchy, blotchy skin, fever and discomfort.

We couldn’t get it all at once. Oh no!

It went through my four one at a time with a bit of overlap so we were slathering on calamine lotion by the quart, taking baking soda and oatmeal baths several times a day and watching waaaayyyy more television than any of my children had seen so far in their lives.

It took slightly over a month for us to finally be free of it and I’ll admit it tried my patience. I spent a lot of time looking through the windows at a busy world outside, longing to be part of it.

There was a wisteria vine in my across-the-street neighbor’s yard that crept up the telephone poll outside the living room window.

Image result for wisteria images

I watched as it went from brown twig to wisps of green and finally dripping purple in all its glory while I was stuck inside trying to keep unwell children happy and stop them scratching themselves into infection.

I lost that spring. We all did.

But we came out the other side just fine.

I lost another spring in 2014.

And this time it was absolutely, positively NOT fine.

It’s still not fine.

April 12, 2014 Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Because of both springs, I will tell you this: If staying home means I can be part of the solution to the spread of Covid 19 and perhaps spare another family a lost spring, a lost loved one, a frightening brush with death-I’m happy to do it.

My personal comfort, sense of freedom, arrogant assumption that I am the exception to the well-intentioned and common sense advice of healthcare professionals is a tiny, tiny price to pay in order to slow down the pace of this disease so those who need extra attention, hospitalization and intervention get it.

Image result for slowing the spread of coronavirus

Losing a spring is an unfortunate happenstance.

Losing a son, a daughter, a brother, sister, mother or father is a tragedy.

Hey-I survived over a month with four itchy, irritable children and no internet, no food delivery, no grocery pick up, no online buddies-you can manage a couple weeks.

I promise.

Image result for stop spreading germs