Stick Around: Help Another Heart Hold Onto Hope

When grief was fresh, the pain was raw and my heart was oh, so tender, I desperately needed a safe space to talk about the nitty-gritty of child loss.

And I found it in online bereaved parents’ groups.  

I’m so thankful that they exist, that they are maintained by people who give time and energy to keeping them safe and that-for the most part-participants are kind, compassionate and encouraging.

There is something I’ve noticed now that I’ve been here awhile.  Many parents tend to drop out of active participation when they get a little further along in their journey. 

I understand completely that time, plus the work grief requires, often means a heart has less need for these groups.  It’s not that grief dissipates, it’s simply that we get stronger and learn to carry it a little better.

I also know that grief groups can become  Echo Chambers and wear on a heart after a time.

We all need a break.

But can I take a moment to encourage those among us who have learned a little, lived a little and walked longer in the path of child loss to stick around?

Newly bereaved parents need to know that they CAN survive.

Your presence-even if you don’t have wonderful words of wisdom-speaks volumes. 

When someone comments and shares that her loss was 5, 7, 10 years ago, it helps my heart hold onto hope. 

Because if YOU can make it, maybe I can too.  

buckets to put out flames

Accepting My Limitations

I’m no quitter.

I grew up with the mantra, “You can be anything you want to be if you want to be it badly enough” ringing through my childhood.

I added this one for my kids:  “Failure is not an option.”

But I’ve got to admit, while both are great motivators when motivation is the missing ingredient, they are lies.

I cannot be “anything I want to be”.  I can be the best me possible, but I cannot be anyone but me.

authenticity embracing who we are daily practice

And failure-well, how do you want to define that?  Is it failure when you have poured every ounce of energy into a person or a project and things just don’t work like you hoped they would?  Is it failure when despite all the planning, pursuing and perseverance a heart can muster life takes a giant left turn you never expected?

One of my favorite but most exasperating memories of Dominic is when he was about six months old and would wake every morning close to 3 a.m. and refuse to go back to sleep.  Now, judge me if you want to, but this whole “let them cry it out” thing was not in my parenting wheelhouse.  With two other siblings and a small house, if he was crying for hours, it meant soon everyone would be awake.

So after nursing him and trying to get him to go back to sleep, I finally gave up and just went into the living room and let him play.

This went on for weeks-my body was so, so tired and I was frustrated beyond imagination.

Until I realized that I was burning more energy being upset over the inevitable than I was in just getting up and enjoying the one on one time with my baby.

So instead of fussing every early morning, I started getting up, making coffee, playing with him and then doing necessary chores while he prattled on with his toys.

I accepted what was out of my control and made the best of it.

That’s how I feel this side of Dominic running ahead to heaven.

I am not the person I used to be.

I cannot do all the things I used to do.

I need to acknowledge that.  I need to let go of unrealistic expectations that only drive me to distraction and despair. 

courage starts with showing up water

I’m freeing myself to lean into the life I have NOW by admitting it’s not the life I USED to have.

I’m not giving up. 

I am letting go of excess emotional baggage.

But I’m holding onto hope with both hands. 

holding onto hope dandilion

Hard Stops: When You Can’t Ignore the Missing

Most of the time I’m just kind of rolling along.

There are things to do, places to go, people to see, animals to feed.

I get up, get going and get on with it.

But there are some days that are what I call “Hard Stops” on this journey.  They are the days that force my heart to take special notice of the fact that Dominic isn’t here.

Sometimes they are milestone days like birthdays or holidays or the anniversary of that awful knock on the door.

Sometimes they are events where he should be there-like seeing his brother one more time before he deploys half-way around the world.

These days make my heart measure the time since I last hugged his neck, heard his voice, saw his strong, square hands reach across the table for the salt shaker-and I am overcome with how long it has been!

Then my heart shifts to the months and likely years I will have to live with this aching empty place where he should be but isn’t and I fear I just can’t do it!

Many days I’m able to distract myself from the sorrow and to live with the missing.

But these “hard stop” days force me to face it head on. and it is overwhelming. 

Every. Time.

So what do I do? 

When my heart is overwhelmed, I take it to the Rock that is higher than I.  

rock that is higher than i

I run to the Refuge of my Faithful Father.  

sing of strength you are my refuge

I turn my eyes to my Savior Who will redeem and restore.

restore after season of suffering

I put my hand firmly in the hand of my Shepherd Who will not leave me in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

And I pray for myself-and every heart having a hard time holding onto hope today-that we will feel the Father’s loving arms around us and that He will give us strength to stand.  ❤

Oh, Glorious Day!

The body, the casket of this immortal jewel, is left for a season to the dishonors of the tomb. But it is only for a brief ‘night-watch.’ That dust is precious, because redeemed. Body as well as soul was purchased by the life-blood of Immanuel.

~George S. McGuinness, The Bow In the Cloud,

I have to pass the church cemetery where my son’s body waits every time I leave my home since it’s right down the road.

I always remind myself that he is facing east,

waiting for the trumpet,

and will rise, whole, healed and joy-filled

If you know that this is not the only world, the only body, the only life — that one day you will have a perfect life — you will be able to persevere through any type of adversity. There is hope on the other side, and there will be calm after the storm.

Paul writes: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).”

The resurrection gives us hope. It confirms that this life isn’t the end of our story

~Dave Furman, Kiss the Wave

if we died with christ we will be raised with him

Something to Hold On To When You Feel Like Letting Go

I have to talk to myself all the time.

Literally.

There are some mornings I open my eyes and would do just about anything to be able to stay in bed, hide under the covers and wish the day away.

But I can’t.

So I recite truth until my heart can hear it.  I speak courage to my own spirit.

If you are feeling weak and weary today, may I share a few of my favorites?

 

blessed is the one who perseveres

I don’t have to arrive at the finish line cute and perky, I only have to complete the course even if I’m barely crawling or dragging myself the last few feet.

Endurance IS the victory and perseverance IS faith.

 

my grace is sufficient

God’s grace is enough.  Sometimes I don’t believe it but that doesn’t make it untrue.  God promises to provide the strength I need when I need it.  When I am weak, He is strong.

lamentations-3-22-23

Even the very WORST day of my life only lasted 24 hours.  All I have to do is live this moment, this hour and this day.  Every morning is a new beginning with new mercy and sufficient grace.  Every sunrise is a reminder that God is still on the throne and still in control.

you keep track of all my tears

What a precious promise that the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things, the God of Heaven is keeping track of MY tears!  Not a single drop hits the ground but that He scoops it up and saves it.  One day every one will be redeemed.

began a good work

God isn’t finished with me yet.  He is working in and through me to conform me to the likeness of Christ.  That work is often painful.  But He is going to use even this most awful, heartbreaking thing.

revelation-21_4

When all else fails and a day is full of tears and sorrow, I remember that there will be a Day-a glorious Day!-when every single tear will be wiped away and, in the words of the Jesus Storybook Bible, “Every bad thing will come untrue.”

Hallelujah!

Amen!

no evil can conquer grace forever

 

Only A Horizon

We enter this world when we leave our mother’s womb.

That is the beginning.

But our lives never end.  We are eternal beings, created in the image of God, destined to spend forever with Him-IF we receive the gift of redemption made possible by the blood of Christ Jesus.

Love is immortal-it stretches like a golden cord between those that remain and those that go before.

God Himself has guaranteed its supremacy.

Love wins.

Death is awful for those of us left to remember and miss and sorrow over the absence of a loved one.

But it is not the end.

Hallelujah.

Amen.

life is eternal and death a horizon

*Graphic by fellow Waiting Mom Jennifer Coleman*

Helping Hearts Hold Onto Hope

I’ve always been a bit of a cheerleader.

cheerleadere

Not THAT kind of cheerleader!

But the kind that stands alongside the road handing cups of water to the struggling stragglers in the far back of a marathon.

handing water

Because I believe in doing your best and finishing the race, even if it’s hard and even if it’s not pretty.

hobbling-runner

I also think that often the difference between giving up and giving in or going on and getting done is courage.

Not the “in your face I’m gonna fight you” courage of action movies but the quiet, everyday courage of simply carrying on when you’re tired, worn down and empty of hope.

And the thing about courage is this:  I can lend you some of mine.

That’s really what cheer leading is all about-calling courage to another heart, lending courage from the sidelines.

So many wounded hearts are walking around, barely holding onto hope, and all it takes is a few minutes, a few words, an outstretched hand, a smile, an open door or a pat on the back to strengthen their grip.

So when you see that downcast face, that defeated stooping shoulder, that exasperated mama toting three kids into the grocery store-don’t turn away.

Reach out. 

Hand a cup of kind words in the name of Jesus.

Help a heart hold onto hope.

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope