You Are Not Alone

Grief is isolating.

Even in our immediate family, differing grief styles, personalities and gender can separate us from one another in our sorrow.

And out in the world, well-THAT separation is as long and tall as the Great Wall of China.

But I’m here to tell you that you are NOT alone.

I felt so very alone after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  I only knew a couple of bereaved parents and their losses were many, many years prior to mine so they were at a different place.  Although they reached out, I didn’t have the courage or words to access their wisdom.

I live in a very small community and though I expanded my search to the nearby larger cities, there were only two grief groups I could find and neither exclusive to child loss.

In addition, I wanted a group founded on and looking toward the promises of God in Christ.  I was already discouraged, disheartened and on the verge of hopelessness-I couldn’t bear to have that part of my experience reinforced without the counterbalance of hope in Jesus.

I read, read, read.

And those books helped so much.  But they still lacked the give and take I needed.  I longed for a safe space to share my heart and have others share theirs.  I wanted to be able to ask questions and hear how other bereaved parents handled similar feelings, fears and situations.

I needed community.

It was 17 long months before I found it through While We’re Waiting support group for bereaved parents.

What a breath of fresh air!

Even though the closed group is peopled by broken hearts there is understanding and compassion and HOPE.  Those further along in this journey speak courage to the hearts freshly shattered.  Tender, vulnerable moms and dads know that HERE they are SAFE.

Last week I attended and spoke at the Through This Valley conference for bereaved parents held near the While We’re Waiting Refuge.

I got to meet some of the very special people who have helped me on this journey.  It was a preview of Heaven-hearts united in love for one another and love for our Savior.

Lots and lots of tears.  But lots and lots of hugs.  Lots and lots of sorrow over missing our children.  But lots and lots of joyful anticipation that we WILL be reunited.

You are NOT alone, dear heart.

There is a community of parents waiting to embrace you.

None of us would have chosen this painful path yet we choose to walk together on it.

Come, join hands with others who will speak courage to your heart.

while were waiting

Generations: Love Lasts

Today is my mama’s birthday.  

We won’t be celebrating with cake and ice cream, party streamers and funny hats.  But we will be celebrating that she is here with us for another turn of the calendar page.

Because 25 days ago she was taken by lifeflight to the hospital and we weren’t sure she would be.

I’ve been down here with my parents more than at my own home these past weeks.

I woke this morning in the house my great-grandmother lived in, my grandmother lived in and in which my parents now live.  I am the fourth generation to pad toward the kitchen in the dark, make the coffee and make my way toward the screened in front porch to talk to Jesus and watch the sunrise.

I’ve been thinking about not only the lives lived here, but the passing of time and those that have run ahead to heaven.

My great-grandfather was laid out in the living room.  As a curious three-year-old my daddy told me Papa Cox was “sleeping” when I asked, “why?”.

My great-grandmother buried two children -those tiny bodies are laid to rest in the churchyard next to the rest of my kin gone before.

My grandmother suffered a massive stroke standing at the kitchen counter making breakfast and never woke again.

I have buried a son and started a new plot in the churchyard near my own home in Alabama-the DeSimones will wait together for that glorious Day.

desimones uab family

Time doesn’t stop.  The world will turn and the sun will rise.  The years will pass and so, too, the generations.

It does no good to rail against the clock or the seasons.  

This is trite, but true:  Do not take the people you love for granted.  Do not assume that there will be a “next time” for saying the things that need to be said, for giving a hug, for speaking blessing.

Say it.

Do it.

Not because you are afraid of death, but because while you live, you choose LIFE, you choose LOVE.

So today I won’t worry that I haven’t had a chance to get Mama a present or that she doesn’t feel like eating cake.

I will focus instead on the fact that she is HERE-that I am HERE-and that we are together.

I will be thankful that I have had many opportunities these last weeks to make sure no words are left unsaid.  

I will rest assured that she knows she is loved.

IMG_2211

Gold Medal in Wrestling [Thoughts]

I’m driving down the highway listening to the morning news brief.  A quick mention that Paris is likely to get the bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics draws my attention.

I begin to do the math-when are the next Olympics? Oh, yes-2020.  Three years away.

Double the time I’ve been without Dominic.

How old will I be in 2024?  Sixty-one!  How many years will it be THEN since I last held my son’s hand, hugged his neck, heard his voice?

This happens in a flash. My heart goes from “just fine” to “I can’t believe this is my life” in sixty seconds.

But I can’t stay here.  If I do the day will be shot.  I won’t accomplish a thing because despair will drag me under and only a good night’s sleep will have hope of restoring me.

So I don’t.  I grab those thoughts and wrestle them to the ground.  I pin them with the truth that no matter how many years it is between when I last saw Dominic and when I join him in Heaven they will be short and swift in light of eternity.

I take comfort in accepting that my vantage point is limited to my handful of experiences in this life and to what I can see with my own eyes. But God sees the whole sweep of eternity, from beginning to end. I have found Him to be a relentlessly good and loving God. Because of my confidence in His character, I can rest in knowing that someday, someday, Katie’s [Dominic’s] short life and premature death will make sense to me. Someday God will scoop me, too, into His arms, and I will step into a world that until that moment I could only sense and never see. I will finally get it. And I will see Him face to face.

And you know who else I will see face-to-face on that day?

I will see Katie [Dominic].

Yes, God is merciful.

~September Vaudrey, Colors of Goodbye

I resist the pressure to give up and push back with the strength that comes from knowing that my opponent is no match for the Champion that fights for me.

the lord will fight for you

 

What Does Faith Really Look Like?

Is faith always a never-faltering, wild “Hallelujah!”?

I don’t think so.

I think faith is essentially this:  turning my face toward the God I love even when (especially when!) I’ve stopped expecting an answer and maybe even when my heart has despaired of help.

I would argue that faith is precisely that step forward into the dark unknown, onto the broken road, lifting  the unbearable heaviness as an offering and trusting that

God sees,

that He hears

and that He will not abandon me.

We’re all encouraged when we read through Psalms. But what did David endure to experience the depth of love he has for God? What kind of heart-shredding pain did he go through before understanding how real and present God was and just how much God loved him regardless of his brokenness?

Understanding the whole story of the Bible, it’s much easier to see that my brokenness has a purpose.”

~Laura Story, When God Doesn’t Fix It

faith-deliberate-trust

Grief Groups and Echo Chambers

I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.

I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family.  I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.

Sadly, there are new members added daily.  New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.

I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.

And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death.  It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.

But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.

Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again.  Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.

what is an echo chamber

Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:

No one understands,

everyone has abandoned me,

I am unloved, alone and hopeless.

That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.

But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.

hope holds a breaking heart togetherSo I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable.  I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.

Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.

let-yourself-rest

 

It’s Never Too Late to be a Friend!

We’ve all been there-something traumatic or earth-shattering happens to someone we know and we mean to get in touch.  

I put “write a note” or “call” on my list and then don’t do it.

Days, weeks months pass by.  Now I feel awkward.

And the need to let her know I care is overshadowed by my sense of shame at not doing it sooner.

But it is NEVER too late to be a friend!

friends hugging

I won’t let pride stand between me and someone I love.  I won’t allow fear to keep me away from a heart that needs help.

nothing on earth to be more prized than friendship

Who knows?

Maybe my outstretched hand will be exactly the hope someone needs to hold on to?

no act of kindness kitten

 

 

 

 

Wounded Healers

I’ve come to believe that my wounds and the grace God has provided in my woundedness are not my personal possession.

God did not cause my pain, but He is redeeming it.  He is molding me into a different person than I would have been if Dominic hadn’t run ahead to heaven.  And that person has more compassion and grace and mercy and patience than the person I was before.

If I hide my wounds then I am hiding the hope He has hidden in my heart.  

I won’t do that.  

“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG

Nobody escapes being wounded.  We all ar wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.  The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we  put our woundedness in the service of others?’  When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Jesus is God’s wounded healer:  through his wounds we are healed.  Jesus’suffering and death brought joy and life.  His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love.  As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.  ~ Henri Nouwen

brennan manning share our wounds

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 PHILLIPS

Sharing our wounds makes us vulnerable.

When we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we invite others to do the same.

But  in this community of mutual vulnerability, healing is possible.