Choosing To Be Seen

It’s tempting to hide.

All I have to do is stay home or plaster on the “I’m fine” mask before I leave my driveway and venture out into the world.

Because, frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to explain why I’m crying again, struggling still, walking wounded and not “healed”.

But it’s not healthy.

I cannot selectively numb my emotions.  When I push down the painful, I slam the lid on all of it-joy and love included.

cannot selectively numb emotion brene brown

It takes courage to choose to be seen.

It’s hard to choose to walk honestly and openly in the world.

It’s risky to offer my authentic self up to an often inattentive, insensitive and critical audience.  
vulnerability brene brown

But if I am to be truly known then I must choose to let others see my struggle and allow them to witness my failures and heartache.  

courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen brene brown

Truth is, when I hide I forfeit real connection. 

There’s no authentic relationship without vulnerability.  

connection brene brown

I want deep and authentic bonds with family and friends.  

I don’t want to hide.  

I want to be seen.

 

Can I Get A Witness?

What, exactly, is the value of believers in Jesus plastering an “Everything is fine” mask across our faces?

Are we afraid that if we allow someone to see our pain we are letting God down?

And how could that be?

Did not Christ Himself beg the Father in the Garden to take the cup from Him?

jesus in the garden

Yet we smile and wave and chat our way through encounters with people around us, pretending, pretending, pretending that life is easy when it most certainly is not.

all broken trees

Denying the dark and refusing to acknowledge the depth of our pain diminishes the value of the comfort of Christ.

When David wrote that, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me” he understood both the desperate need for and the great assurance of Christ’s Presence.

When we allow others to see our broken hearts, we also bear testimony to the sustaining grace of Jesus.

heals the broken hearted

And we extend an invitation for them to meet this Savior that gives strength and comfort even in the darkest hours and hardest journeys.

walk with the broken toby mac

 

 

Can I Just Be Me?

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

And here-almost four years later-I still feel like I need to lead the way in conversations and social encounters.

If I don’t mention Dominic, no one else does and that disappoints me.

If I do mention Dominic, the response is often sympathy or rushing to another topic.

Which is also disappointing.

If I smile, then I’m “so much better’.

If I tear up, then I’m “not over it yet”.

The entire time I’m in the company of others (besides my family and a couple close friends) I am editing myself.  Everything I say or don’t say is filtered through a grid based on how others may receive it.

No off the cuff responses here.

Past experience has taught me that what most folks want from the bereaved (after the first few months or maybe a year) is evidence that they are “moving on”, “healing”, “trusting Jesus”, “getting better” or “finding the silver lining”.

Part of me would like to participate in this ruse because it’s so much easier than trying to push, pull or drag them into the reality that bereaved parents face.

But another part of me wants to rip the blinders off and let them see that this is a lifelong journey that is bumpy, hard and doesn’t look like victory.

It looks like perseverance.

Sometimes I laugh.  Sometimes I cry.  Some days are good.  Some days are awful.

I’m stronger than I was but I’m not “better”.

I’m able to greet most days but I still struggle some mornings to get out of bed.

I enjoy my family and friends but I miss my son.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could be only me.  

Not a “me” curated for public consumption.

But just me.

days-i-cant-participate

 

Did She REALLY Mean It That Way?

Most of us are used to them by now-those photo filters that can turn an awful picture into a dreamy masterpiece.

The same filters can take a perfectly lovely photo and distort it into something comical or worse.

Our minds are like that.

When we see things, hear things, experience things-we are filtering them through our own experience, emotional state, physical condition and biases.

As a bereaved parent, I’ve got to be very, very careful I don’t misinterpret other people’s words, actions and intentions.

It’s easy sometimes for me to feel like someone is purposefully seeking to harm me when all they are doing is acting in ignorance.

I can be quick to assume that a person’s absence is avoidance instead of simply a function of an overbusy schedule.

I can take words and twist them to mean something very different than what was intended because my heart hears everything through the filter of loss.

If I don’t constantly remind myself, I forget that if someone else hasn’t experienced child loss they really, truly HAVE NO CLUE what it feels like to walk in my shoes.

Because if I don’t, I spend most of my time hurt, licking my wounds in the corner and avoiding the very people that can help my heart heal.

Do other people have a responsibility to try to understand?

Of course they do!

But I also have a responsibility to try to see their hearts and not only their actions.

I need to check my own filters to make sure I’m not placing blame where there is none.

I should give them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.

never assume

 

 

 

How Transparent Should I Be When Sharing?

I am committed to authenticity but I am also committed to my own privacy and the privacy of my family.

So while I share freely here and in other places, I don’t share everything.

Sometimes I withhold because it’s not my story to tell.  Sometimes it’s because I can’t tell it without harming or defaming others.  And sometimes I don’t bare all because I just can’t weather other people’s reactions to what I have to say.

But for the most part, I’m pretty transparent.  Because secrets don’t serve anyone well.  

If I pretend to be stronger than I really am, I hide the truth that it is Christ in me that gives me strength.

If I don’t admit that certain words or actions hurt my heart, I enable thoughtless behavior.

If I only parrot “Sunday School” answers when someone asks about my faith in relation to my loss, then I silence other hearts wrestling with questions and pain in light of God’s sovereignty and love.

If I hide my tears, my pain, the missing then I minimize this great loss, And I will not make losing Dominic small.

business-authenticity

 

But if I am honest about my feelings,

honest about my weakness,

honest about what helps and what hurts,

then I can redeem part of this pain.

I can use it to make space for other hurting hearts.

 

Transparent is hard because it makes me vulnerable.  

But transparent is good because it makes my pain useful.

I didn’t choose this life, but I won’t waste it.  

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth

 

Gratitude and Grieving: The Truth Will Set You Free

How much energy do we spend dancing around the truth?  How many times do we gather with family or friends and cast our eyes downward so we can ignore the elephant in the room?  How many shackles would fall away if just one person stood up and said what everyone else was thinking but was afraid to whisper aloud?

As family gathers around the table for Thanksgiving, we all have those subjects no one will touch.  And often they are the very ones that need to be laid bare, talked about and shared.  They are what keep hearts apart even while bodies sit closer than any other time of year.

courage is turning toward hard truth not away

Now I’m no advocate of random outbursts intended to shock and raise a ruckus but I am a firm believer in speaking truth in love.

It’s hard.

In fact, next to carrying this burden of missing, it is the hardest thing I do.

And I am often unsuccessful.

I screw up my courage, practice my speech, lay out the strategy and then crumble, last minute, under dozens of potentially awful outcomes.

What if they get mad?  What if they think I’m crazy, or selfish, or wrong?

Or I DO share and it falls flat because the words I thought would communicate love are misunderstood or misdirected or misapplied.

So instead of helping, I hurt.

But the alternative is this:  we all remain imprisoned behind a wall where freedom is clearly visible on the other side.  We can smell it, almost taste it but not quite touch it.

truth and courage are not always comfortable brene brown

And that is not how I want to live. 

I want to claim the freedom that truth offers.

So this Thanksgiving I will try again:  truth in love. 

Lots and lots of love with truth sprinkled in.  Maybe the sugar in the pie will help. 

I’ll never know if I don’t give it a shot. 

laughter and truth telling

 

 

Gratitude and Grieving: Appreciating What I Have, Acknowledging What I Miss

Gratitude does not undo grief.  

There, I said it.

Gratitude is important.  It is (in my opinion) a necessary ingredient for a healthy and hope-filled and useful life.  It is the key to any real happiness a heart might find on this broken road.

But it cannot fill up the empty place where Dominic used to be.  

Grief does not preclude gratitude.  

Although some broken hearts swear it does.  They have convinced themselves that if they cannot have the one thing they really want, then nothing else matters. 

That’s a lie as well.

Grief is hard.  I am grieved because I no longer have the earthly companionship of one of my children.  But I refuse to dishonor Dominic’s memory and the life he lived by holding onto grief so hard that I squeeze out the love and life that is still available.

I am grateful AND grief-filled. 

I appreciate what I have: 

  • Three amazing children here and one in heaven.
  • A husband who loves me and works hard to provide for me.
  • Family and friends who care about me and love me well.
  • Food.
  • Shelter.
  • A home where animals (wild and otherwise!) bring me great comfort and pleasure.
  • Strength and relatively good health.

I acknowledge what I have lost: 

  • The earthly companionship of my son.
  • The family I once had-we are no longer an unbroken circle.
  • Secure confidence in the future.
  • Sense of who I am.
  • Unbridled joy.

These things are not mutually exclusive.  

Dark and light add contrast.  You need both to see the whole picture.

walked a mile robert browning

If you are struggling and believing either of the lies-that gratitude undoes grief OR that grief precludes gratitude-may I ask you to try something?

Make a list of BOTH.  

Give your heart permission to appreciate what you have AND acknowledge what you’ve lost.  

I truly believe that is the healing path.