On The Struggle Bus

I weigh more today than I’ve weighed in ten years.  

Just before Dominic graduated high school in 2008, I decided that being “fluffy” was not good for my health, not good for my joints and for the first time in my married life I had the extra energy, time and attention to work on losing weight.  

I lost over fifty pounds.  

Still not skinny, but definitely a much smaller version of me than had existed since I started having children.

IMG_0744 (1)
June 2013

But after Dom left us,  a series of choices and out-of-my-control health issues combined to make it harder and harder to maintain the weight loss I had (fairly) effortlessly maintained for six years.

I’m scheduled to see my GP tomorrow and you know what makes me more nervous than all the bloodwork they will have to do?  Stepping on the scales!

Why is it more deplorable to be fat than to be mean?

Why is it considered a greater moral failure to lug around extra pounds than to lug around a hateful heart?

I feel more like a failure because I’ve allowed pounds to creep back up on my backside than for so many other things that are so much more important.  

Menopause, middle age and many sleepless nights which increase my cortisol levels have conspired to make it harder this time than last time to rid my body of excess weight.

family fionas grad (2)

I’m active, eat well and in limited amounts (no Twinkies or high fructose corn syrup!) but my hips refuse to get smaller.

I try hard not to blame everything on child loss. 

But I’m pretty sure a significant portion of responsibility sits squarely on the fact that my heart is broken.  I am exercising so much self-control every. single. day. that I don’t have any left over.

I rarely cry any more in public. 

Goodness!  I rarely cry any more in private.  

I can return a cheery, “Have a nice day!” to any and everyone I meet.  

But that means I am constantly running a tape in my head that goes something like this:  “Don’t take it out on her.  She has no idea. Keep smiling.  People don’t know that you were about to cry just a minute ago. Don’t let that person’s ugly attitude unleash the beast inside you.”  

Can I be honest here?  

I’m tired.  

I’m tired of everything being hard.  

please be aware i am trying

I don’t know if or when I’ll lose weight (please don’t inbox me with your latest, greatest sales pitch).

I’m trying most days.  

But sometimes I just don’t have it in me to try.  Sometimes I just want to be normal-whatever THAT is.  Sometimes I just want to have one corner of life where things are easy and don’t require constant vigilance or extreme restraint.  Sometimes I want to eat ALL the things and not give a hoot if it adds inches to my waist.

the struggle bus

I won’t do it.  

Because I know it’s not what’s best.  

But I want to.  

eat whatever you want

Speak, Don’t Stuff

As a counterweight to yesterday’s post, I wanted to share this one.

While I am a huge advocate for not flying off the handle (I repeat that here), I am also an advocate for speaking aloud things that need to be said.

I want to create a safe space where friends and family can share what’s on their hearts without fear of my reaction or recrimination.  ❤

Someone commented the other day on my post, Shadows and Celebrations, that they thought my child’s remark was selfish.

I countered that I didn’t think so. 

Instead, I thought it was honest.

Of course my heart hurts any time I’m unable to meet my family’s expectations, but that doesn’t mean they should refrain from sharing them with me.

One of the things I’m learning in this Valley is that I must make room for observations, for sharing, for venting and for genuine conversation.  It’s the only way any of us are going to survive.

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

I can’t pass judgement on every word spoken.

I needn’t assume responsibility for every unmet expectation.

I don’t have to fix every situation. 

I can’t.

Sometimes we just need to give voice to something.  Because when we name it, when we share it, when we speak it aloud, it often ceases to have power over us.

Secrets drive hearts apart.

Sharing draws them together.

Even when what’s shared is painful.

connection brene brown

This Is What I Want You To Know About A Grieving Parent’s Heart

I wrote this three years ago and it was probably one of the first posts where I was bold enough to bare it all.

I was afraid to hit “publish” because I was afraid it would be misunderstood or seem pushy or too raw.

But then something amazing happened-I was out shopping later that day and had an email come through from the Huffington Post.

I thought it was a joke.

It wasn’t-they wanted to publish this on their blogging website platform.   And they did.  (You can read it here.)

It’s still one of my favorite posts-not because it was picked up by them but because it’s been shared by many, many grieving parents in an attempt to open the door of the closet full of emotions we often keep hidden.

People say“I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

It isn’t nostalgia for a time when things were different or better or you talked more: it’s a gut-wrenching, breath-robbing, knee-buckling, aching groan that lives inside you begging to be released.

Read the rest What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know.

 

Speaking Truth

In the South, we tend to pussyfoot around hard truths because most of us grew up with the admonition, “Now just be nice!”

And while that makes for charming dinner table conversation, it makes for lousy long-term relationships.

Because we all know the longer you live with, work with and love another body, the more things that should be said but aren’t add up.

Pretty soon the pile is so big it obscures the love or fun or shared interests that should be holding hearts together and instead they drift apart.

I haven’t been all that good at following the southern tradition of code words and cute phrases that mask true intent. But I used to be guilty of it from time to time.

These past years of heartache and hardship have pretty much stripped all the veneer that was left off my tongue.

I doubt you will find a soul that would call me a silver-tongued devil.  They’re more likely to call me a brash something else.

But I have important things to say and I don’t want to waste time sugar-coating them.  I don’t want the meat of my message hidden inside a puff pastry of silly words.  I believe truth should be easy to swallow but not necessarily tasty.

Often the most efficacious medicine leaves a nasty aftertaste.

So I’m here to tell you:  don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.  

All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.  

If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.

It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable. 

But it’s worth it.  

And it’s really the only way to authentic and lasting relationships.  

business-authenticity

The Elephant in the Room

I’ve often been the person who refused to go along with some group’s plan to ignore a real issue and try to talk around it.  

I usually begin like this, “I know it’s hard to talk about, but let’s be honest and…”

I’m even more inclined in that direction now. If my son’s instant and untimely death has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s no use pretending.

So I’m not going to pretend:  Western society doesn’t do grief well.  

grief is often the elephant in the room

I’m not sure that was always the case but like so many other unpleasant, sad and/or uncomfortable aspects of life, we’ve sequestered grief to separate buildings and specialists. We’ve tried to clean it up and clear it away from the everyday.

Like they say, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If we can hide it, we don’t have to deal with it. 

But I’m here to tell you, you WILL have to deal with it.  One day, one way or another, death will come knocking at YOUR door.  No one gets out of here alive.  

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  

Let’s stop ignoring death and grief and how one person’s departure for Heaven leaves others behind trying to deal with the loss, the pain, and the hole that missing life leaves in their hearts.

I know it will take effort to learn the language of grief.  It’s a lost language and it will feel strange on your tongue.  

The more you use it, the more you will realize that it’s really just the language of love with a slight accent.  There are a few more pauses between words, a bit more emphasis in some places and less in others.

And when you don’t know what to say, it’s fine to admit that. 

Just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Because that means you see the elephant too.  

Repost: Can I Just Be Me?

It’s tough leading in a  dance you never wanted to learn, isn’t it?

Yet that’s what bereaved parents do every single day.

We carry our own burdens and also shoulder the burden of others in social encounters, working hard not to step on toes.

Sometimes, it’s just too much.

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”.

Read the rest here:  Can I Just Be Me?

Let’s Stop Hiding, Shall We?

You want to know a secret?

Everyone, EVERYONE, wonders if they are “normal”.

And we all try on different masks trying to hide the real us just in case we aren’t.

But none of them fit, none of them are comfortable and none of them really hide everything we wish they did.

So we go through life pretending to be someone we’re not, hoping the performance is adequate, making friends with people who are also wearing a mask and wondering why in the world it feels so false and unfulfilling.

I love, love, love this little poem by Shel Silverstein.  He had a way of distilling truth to a few memorable words:

blue mask by shel siverstein

One of the gifts grief has given me is that I just do not have the energy to keep my mask on straight.

So I’ve decided to take it off.

And I find that when I do, people aren’t horrified, they are relieved.

Because that means they can take theirs off too.

Speak Up, They Can’t Read Your Mind

I’ll admit it.  

I tend to be an emotional stuffer. 

It never seemed like it was worth the drama to expose my feelings to others.  It rarely resulted in changed behavior and often resulted in confrontation, retribution or worse.

So I learned to swallow tears, stuff pain and slink off into another room and lick my wounds.  

But that’s hardly healthy.  

And it cannot be sustained when a heart shatters into a million pieces.

Because trying to hide THAT pain is impossible.

It slips out eventually-usually in a way that is awful and untimely and creates more hurt and more drama than if I had simply owned up to it in the first place.  

It may be frustrating, not to mention exhausting, that you have to take the time to help others understand what you need. But this is part of living with grief. It’s part of the healing, coping process. Plus, if you don’t, you’re setting yourself up for more awkward, painful moments. Therefore, communicating with your comforters — be it through a spoken conversation, a letter, or an email — is wise. You won’t have a great deal of energy to reach out to others, but find a way that works for you. Let your comforters know:

* what helps
* what doesn’t help
* the truth about how you are feeling
* how thankful you are for their friendship.”

~Samuel J. Hodges and Kathy Leonard, Grieving With Hope

It IS frustrating AND exhausting.  

But I am learning (slowly, very slowly!) that it is oh, so much better!

Instead of energy spent on being wounded and trying to hide it, I’m learning to speak up, own the wounds and suggest ways to prevent them in the future.  

dont trade authenticity for approval

I’ll be honest, not everyone around me appreciates it.  I am sometimes met with exactly what I hate:  confrontation, opposition, accusations of selfishness and no more understanding than I had before I risked transparency.

But at least I’ve unburdened myself of what I could.  I’ve given them tools to use (if they want to) in helping my heart heal.  

There is so little I can control in this journey.

This is one place I can give it a shot.

what makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful

I Need A Little Help From My Friends

I’ve been asked to speak to a group of healthcare professionals and social workers employed by the hospice industry.

I plan to share a talk entitled “Lifting the Veil on Grief: the Ongoing Impact of Loss on Individuals, Families and Society”

But I need your help.  

Because Dominic left for heaven suddenly, in a motorcycle accident, I did not have any interaction with the healthcare system specific to his death.  And while I can speak about the grief that comes AFTER, I’d like to also speak a bit on what parents, siblings and other close family members need from these folks when a child goes to heaven in a hospital or hospice care facility.

So I have a few questions: 

  • What did a nurse, hospice worker, social worker or other professional do that blessed you around the time of your child’s death?
  • What did they do that was unhelpful or even detrimental?
  • Did any professional present offer grief counseling or recommend a grief support group?  If they did, did you take advantage of that resource?  Why or why not?
  • What do you want these folks to know about your family’s experience?
  • What would you say if you could speak to them today, in light of your experience?

Please note that comments left on the blog site are PUBLIC.   But you are welcome to comment in the closed Facebook groups where I post the blog everyday and those comments are PRIVATE.  

You can also use the “Contact” link to email me comments that will only be seen by me.

I will not use any identifying information when compiling your comments so please share freely and in complete confidence.  

I want to represent the bereaved parent community honestly, bravely and gracefully. 

Your participation will help me do that.  

Thanks in advance. 

I knew I could count on you!

Repost: Displaying Our Scars

What if, instead of hiding my pain, I allowed others to see it and offer it as a testimony of the power and grace of God in my life?

What if, instead of pretending that “everything is alright”, I admit that it’s not, but that God is still on the throne?

What if, instead of creating a gulf between myself and others by walling off parts of my life that I deem too messy, I throw open the door and invite folks inside-mess and all?

Read the rest here:  Displaying Our Scars