Journaling My Way Home

My journals are filled with strong words and strong feelings. 

They are also filled with, what I believe, God spoke to my heart in response. 

Sometimes it was in the form of a Bible verse, sometimes a memory, sometimes song lyrics or a prayer.  And sometimes the pages are simply a record of how my Shepherd gently led me through a particular hard moment or day or week.

So if you are struggling with doubt-let yourself off the hook. 

You can’t deny it. 

And you don’t have to. 

You’re in good company.

Read the rest here: Doubt Is Not Denial: Journaling My Way Home

Ten Grief Quotes That Speak To My Heart

When I find words for my feelings it helps.

So I collect quotes, copying them down in my journal and sometimes hanging them where I can see them throughout the day.

Here are a few that speak to my heart. I hope they speak to yours. ❤

I wish there WERE a secret to surviving this journey. But there isn’t. There is just one moment, one breath, one step at a time. I do the best I can each day.

Over time I’ve grown stronger and better able to carry the load. Over time I’ve learned how to shift my focus from my son’s death to his life.

Death ends so many things.

But it does not end the influence of my son’s life on my heart and it can’t steal the moments I shared with him.

As long as I hum the tune of his unique song I can still hear him.

Before I was the one in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I didn’t realize it’s a lifelong journey. I acknowledged that loss changed a person but I didn’t know that it keeps changing you. Grief influences how I experience the present not just how I view the past.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it instantly changed the landscape of my life. The future I thought I’d have was shattered and I was thrust into unfamiliar and often frightening territory with no road map. It has taken a long time to learn how to walk in this uncertain world and I still stumble.

There are no set standards for how or how long a heart grieves. Everyone brings his or her own personality and experience to the process.

It’s tempting to look for a structured guide to measure my progress.

Others can share how they are walking this road but ultimately I have to forge my own trail through the wilderness.

This is one of my very favorite quotes. Great love, great grief. How could it be any different?

When a child is born into a family, no one finds it strange that the addition changes everything. When that child leaves too soon they shouldn’t find it strange that it changes everything once again.

I didn’t just lose my son, I lost the family I used to have.

The place he should be but isn’t looms large every time we sit at the table, gather for celebrations or just line up for a group photo.

Part of the work grief requires is learning to hold onto the love and influence my son poured into my own life. I have had to redefine my relationship with Dominic-figuring out how I to mother a child I can no longer see or hold.

There’s a lot of pressure on grieving hearts to “get better” based on the medical model of illness, treatment, recovery. But grief is not a disease. It truly is the price you pay for love. I have experienced healing in the six years since Dominic left for Heaven but I won’t be fully healed until I join him in eternity.

Every single child is a unique gift to the world.

When death steals their presence, the light and love they shared with others lives on.

As long as we remember, as long as we speak their names, they continue to be a gift to those who love them . ❤

Scripture Journal Challenge 2020: Week Four

Last year during the month of August I joined with others and participated in a Scripture Writing Challenge.

We committed together to read and write out short passages on grief every day.

I wrote companion posts and shared them.

Circumstances have prevented me from doing another in-depth study again this year but I thought it would be nice to collect the entries from last August in a weekly bundle and put them out there for anyone who might want to revisit them or try it for the first time.

So here’s the fourth week’s links (including how to set up a journal):

Setting up your journal and link to all the verses: August Scripture Journal Challenge: Verses on Grief

Day 22: Scripture Journal Challenge: In The Very Presence of God

Day 23: Scripture Journal Challenge: Your Word Revives Me

Day 24: Scripture Journal Challenge: Everything Sad Will Come Untrue

Day 25: Scripture Journal Challenge: Incomparable Glory

Day 26: Scripture Journal Challenge: I’m Not The Only One Waiting

Day 27: Scripture Journal Challenge: Not Everything IS Good

Day 28: Scripture Journal Challenge: Closing Argument

Day 29: Scripture Journal Challenge: NOTHING Can Separate Us From the Love of Christ

Day 30: Scripture Journal Challenge: Grieving With Hope

It takes a bit of work and commitment to do this so I understand some hearts may not be in a place where that is possible.

But if you’ve missed feeding your soul with the Word of God this is an easy way to get back into the habit.

Scripture Journal Challenge 2020: Week Three

Last year during the month of August I joined with others and participated in a Scripture Writing Challenge.

We committed together to read and write out short passages on grief every day.

I wrote companion posts and shared them.

Circumstances have prevented me from doing another in-depth study again this year but I thought it would be nice to collect the entries from last August in a weekly bundle and put them out there for anyone who might want to revisit them or try it for the first time.

So here’s the third week’s links (including how to set up a journal):

Setting up your journal and link to all the verses: August Scripture Journal Challenge: Verses on Grief

Day 15: http://Scripture Journal Challenge: Distant Music

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Day 16: Scripture Journal Challenge: God Sees You. You Are Not Alone.

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Day 17: Scripture Journal Challenge: My Good Shepherd

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Day 18: Scripture Journal Challenge: Keep Me Near

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Day 19: Scripture Journal Challenge: Tears Won’t Last Forever

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Day 20: Scripture Journal Challenge: The God Who Comes Near

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Day 21: Scripture Journal Challenge: Perfect Peace

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It takes a bit of work and commitment to do this so I understand some hearts may not be in a place where that is possible.

But if you’ve missed feeding your soul with the Word of God this is an easy way to get back into the habit.

Day 15:

Scripture Journal Challenge 2020: Week Two

Last year during the month of August I joined with others and participated in a Scripture Writing Challenge.

We committed together to read and write out short passages on grief every day.

I wrote companion posts and shared them.

Circumstances have prevented me from doing another in-depth study again this year but I thought it would be nice to collect the entries from last August in a weekly bundle and put them out there for anyone who might want to revisit them or try it for the first time.

So here’s the first week’s links (including how to set up a journal):

Setting up your journal and link to all the verses: August Scripture Journal Challenge: Verses on Grief

Day 8: Scripture Journal Challenge: Earth Has No Sorrow That Heaven Can’t Heal

Day 9: Scripture Journal Challenge: When I Can’t Trace His Hand I Trust His Heart

Day 10: Scripture Journal Challenge: Worn Out and Weary? Jesus Understands.

Day 11: Scripture Journal Challenge: A Living Hope

Day 12: Scripture Journal Challenge: The One I Run To

Day 13: Scripture Journal Challenge: My Righteous, Raging King!

Day 14: Scripture Journal Challenge: Suffering and Safe Places

It takes a bit of work and commitment to do this so I understand some hearts may not be in a place where that is possible.

But if you’ve missed feeding your soul with the Word of God this is an easy way to get back into the habit.

Giving Sorrow Words


The morning Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, after I made the awful phone calls I reached for my journal. 
 

I knew if I didn’t start spilling the grief onto paper my heart would explode with sorrow.  

Since I learned to hold a pencil I’ve been writing. 

It’s how I sort my thoughts, figure out my feelings and express my heart. 

Read the rest here: Give Sorrow Words.

Memories, Milestones and Melancholy

I’m finding it hard to write these days.

Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.

So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.

Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.

I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.

Lately my trusty tool has let me down.

I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.

Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.

Dominic was so full of life, it’s impossible to think of him breathless and still.

Part of it is the time of year.

Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.

But I’m not.

Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.

Roosevelt, my faithful companion for over a decade. ❤

Last year’s Facebook post:

2:53 4/7/2019  ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.

I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.

So today, breathing is enough. 

2:53 April 7, 2019

And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.

Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.

How my heart hurts!

I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.

I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.

I wish the words would come.

I’m afraid if they don’t my heart will burst.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Battling Anxiety, Seeking Peace

Remember last August when we did a Scripture Journal Challenge on grief?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I need another one.

Television, social media news feeds and online searches scream one frightening headline after another and I need to be reminded Who is in control and to Whom I belong.

So this time we will focus on Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace.

Find a notebook, find some paper, get your pens and Bibles ready and let’s battle this monster together!

We will start tomorrow with a longer passage-Psalm 23. You may have memorized it as a child and think there aren’t any hidden gems inside the familiar words.

I think you’ll be surprised.

In case you need a refresher or weren’t following along last August here is the introductory post for that challenge to help you get started. (Just ignore the parts that are specific to that topic).

https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/07/31/august-scripture-journal-challenge-grief-verses/

Melanie

Journaling My Way Home: Doubt Is Not Disbelief

When I was asked several months ago to speak to a group of hospice care workers, I titled the presentation “Lifting the Veil on Grief”.

One of the topics I covered was how experiencing the death of a loved one-especially out-of-order or untimely death- can cause even the staunchest believer to doubt.

And the first thing I said was, “Doubt in the face of overwhelming sorrow and hard circumstances is absolutely normal.  But doubt is NOT disbelief.”

So often friends, family, clergy, social workers and others want to steer hearts away from doubt because they are afraid that entertaining questions or expressing disappointment in God will always lead to someone losing faith.

That is untrue.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/02/doubt-is-not-disbelief-journaling-my-way-home/

Scripture Journal Challenge: Grieving With Hope

I’ve shared often in this space that when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, one of the things I had to do was drag out everything I thought I knew about God, about how He works in the world and all the pat interpretations of familiar verses and hold them up to the cold, clear light of loss.

Today’s verses are some I had to think about carefully because they are so often tossed at grieving hearts like a magic cure for the pain of burying someone you love.

The church at Thessalonica was confused about some fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  They were frightened they had missed Christ’s second coming and they were concerned about loved ones that had preceded them in death.  

So Paul wrote this letter to remind them of truth and offer comfort in their emotional distress:

13-17 Now we don’t want you, my brothers, to be in any doubt about those who “fall asleep” in death, or to grieve over them like men who have no hope. After all, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again from death, then we can believe that God will just as surely bring with Jesus all who are “asleep” in him. Here we have a definite message from the Lord. It is that those who are still living when he comes will not in any way precede those who have previously fallen asleep. One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven! Those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then we who are still living on the earth will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And after that we shall be with him for ever.
18 God has given me this message on the matter, so by all means use it to encourage one another.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 PHILLIPS

This verse is quoted often to believers who have lost a loved one.  At first, gently, sweetly–as an invitation to remember that God is in control, that He has a plan, that the grave is not victorious and that burying the body is not the end.

And, in the early days and weeks after the funeral, it IS comforting–I chanted it to myself like a mantra and it drew my heart from the brink of despair.

But at some point, this verse begins to feel like a rebuke–the well-meaning friend says, “Don’t you know, that Jesus followers don’t grieve like those who have no hope!”

And I turn, dumbfounded, to the person saying this, and wonder, “Have you buried a child?”

Have you grieved the too-soon, unexpected, violent end of your hopes and dreams without a chance to say, “good-bye”?  Do you stand over the patch of dirt that now covers the buried body of your son and wonder how this happened?  How can this be your life?

Do you wake up every morning and have that fraction of a moment where all is right with the world before your mind joins your eyes and reminds you that he is still gone?

  • Yes, I firmly believe that my son is now with Jesus.
  • Yes, I stand convinced that there will be a day when all tears are wiped away and I will be reunited with him.
  • Yes, I feed the hope in my heart with truth from Scripture and remind myself daily that the grave is not the end.

But I am made of dust.

I am human.  I am full of the emotions that God placed in my heart.

He gave me the capacity to embrace and love the tiny life growing inside me before I could see it or feel it.  He made my child leap in my womb when I listened to praise music.  He positioned Dominic as the third-born child in our family and gave him unique gifts and abilities.

And now He knows that as long as I live, I will grieve the son that I lost.  I will sorrow anew when others his age reach milestones–get married, have children–because not only did I lose the Dominic that WAS, I have lost the Dominic THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN.

I do “grieve with hope”–I breathe in the life-affirming and spirit-filling promise that the reality I am living is not the only reality there is.  I lean into the Word of God and trust in, rely on and affirm the victory of Jesus Christ.

But I still GRIEVE.  I cannot force my heart to ignore the pain and sorrow that has been laid upon it.

So I continue to live each day, doing the work that God has left for me to do, but walking a little slower, a little more bowed down.

For those of us carrying this burden of grief, the greatest gift is grace and mercy and kindness–we are doing the best we can.

Encouragement (lending courage to) must include acknowledging our daily struggle and the lifelong commitment we have made to battle on.

Ask us, listen to the answers and then hold our hand or dry our tears.

But don’t expect us not to cry.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do these verses help your heart? Why or why not?
  • What do you think it means to “grieve with hope”? Before your child left for Heaven did you have a different understanding of these verses?
  • Yesterday’s verses were all about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. Consider those and these together. One of the amazing benefits of studying the Word is that it feeds our souls and strengthens our faith. What insights have you received from this study?
  • Christian cemeteries are traditionally oriented toward the east in anticipation of this glorious event. I drive by where my son’s body is waiting for resurrection often since it’s just a mile from my home. I always speak this promise to my heart when I do. It’s a small way of affirming truth that helps me wait more patiently. Do you think about the cemetery as a final resting place or as a future resurrection site? What difference might reframing your thoughts make to your heart?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Thank You that we can grieve with hope. Thank You that we have assurance Your promises are true. Thank You that death for believers in Jesus is NOT the end.

My child’s grave is not his or her final resting place. It’s his or her future resurrection site. On that glorious Day when Christ returns, death will be defeated forever. What a reunion that will be!

When I am deep in despair, sorrowing at this temporary separation, help me hold onto that truth. Give me strength to endure and grace to finish well. Eternity awaits! Come Lord Jesus!

Amen