I’d like to encourage my fellow travelers in this Valley today.
Often I write about and share the hardest parts of this journey. Because there are so, so many hard parts!
And they are rarely spoken about above a whisper (if at all!) in greater society. I am determined to be as honest as possible lest I know of a hidden danger along the way and fail to warn you.
But there are also precious joys tucked away along the difficult path.
The trick is to train your eye to see them and your heart to receive them.
I’ll be the first to admit that for months (probably two years) despair and sorrow and loss were all I could truly feel.
Bereft is the word I’d choose if forced to choose only one.
I became so adept at finding the sad in every situation I fell out of practice in finding anything else.
To be honest, it didn’t take much to find the sad. Holidays were duller, celebrations were always missing one, even a sunrise didn’t shine as brightly knowing Dominic was never going to set eyes on that day’s bright glow.
At some point, unbidden, a tiny spark of gratitude-like a wildflower among weeds-drew my heart to joy. Even if I tried, I couldn’t help responding to the fact that not every moment of every day was clad in mourning clothes.
Little by little color seeped back into my life.
I found that if I grabbed those bits, held them close and meditated upon them, they soon came closer and closer together. They grew to fill not just moments but sometimes hours.
Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I become so mired in yesterday’s hurts, that I miss entirely the living gifts this day might hold.
“Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow” from Every Moment Holy Vol. II: Death, Grief & Hope
I can’t weigh all my blessings on a giant cosmic scale against the bruising of child loss and make it balance. But I have also realized that I don’t have to live in a constant state of bitter sadness just to prove I love my son.
It brings good things, hard things, beautiful blessings and awful bruising. I have-in the years since Dom left us-had challenges and triumphs.
I’m learning that if I pluck the flowers of joy when I see them, I’m better able to survive the moments of despair when they overtake me.
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.
One of the things I’m learning this side of burying my precious child is that there is no upper limit to the sorrow and pain I may have to carry in this life. And it’s no use comparing my burden to that of another-begging God to consider the differing weights and to make adjustments to lighten my load because it is heavier than that of another.
I do not get a pass on daily stress and strain.
I’m not guaranteed physical health.
I am just as likely as anyone else to get the grumpy cashier, to drop a dish or lose my keys.Or worse.
If you’ve joined me here for more than a minute you know I am a fierce advocate for bereaved parents in particular and all grievers in general.
But you’ve probably also noticed that, at least in my own life, I recognize how traumatic and/or difficult circumstances can make it hard to see past the hurt and the shattered world a broken heart inhabits. I can judge others harshly without meaning to.
A couple of recent incidents have reminded me how easy it is to interpret every offhand comment or heartfelt opinion as targeted at ME when, in fact, they are simply a reflection of that person’s experience in the world.
I can’t insist that others see the world through MY eyes if I’m not equally prepared to try to see it through THEIRS.
Look, I know how painful it is to scroll through social media posts and feel the darts land square in the center of my heart. Parents bemoaning their children leaving home (all the while I’m thinking, “yeah-but you can call, visit and still hug your child”); folks complaining about how hard it is to manage schedules and meals or trying to figure out family vacations with teens or young adults (“gee, I wish I had the privilege of including ALL my kids for holidays“); and then there are the “miraculous deliverance from a wreck” posts (I’m wondering why Dom wasn’t delivered).
ButNONEof those folks are posting or commenting with me in mind. They are simply sharing their thoughts and feelings just like I share my own.
I’ve learned to just scroll on past.
It’s neither healthy nor helpful for me to type some long (or short!) snarky comment trying to “correct” them. I’m not entirely sure they need correcting.
Before it was ME that sent a child to Heaven I had No. Idea.
They don’t either.
So save your energy for the work grief requires. Save it for the family you’ve got left. Save it for a rainy day when tears fall as fast as drops from the sky.