In the years since I started sharing in this space I’ve had many challenges in addition to the ongoing burden of missing Dominic.
Our family has gained members, lost members, my health has declined, my husband has retired and all my earthbound children have experienced lots of important and sometimes uncomfortable or unwelcome life changes.
For some reason the past two and a half years have been more difficult to navigate in certain ways since the first two years after Dominic’s death. In fact, the past six months have been particularly hard but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.
Maybe it’s fatigue-emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational-or maybe it’s what marathoners know as “the wall”. That place when you’re fully committed to running the race but suddenly wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into.
I don’t run marathons (just look at me and you’ll know that!) but I do tend to push through pain and discouragement and what others consider unbeatable odds to reach whatever goal I’ve set for myself. I haven’t been able to employ the usual pep talks or psychological tricks or external cues to do that of late.
I’m spending too much time thinking about what I need to get done and not enough time doing it.
I’ve got tons of half-written blog posts in my draft folder and too few finished ones lined up to publish.
I remember feeling a bit like this when I graduated from college three months pregnant with my daughter. One giant task was accomplished but one, largely unknown, task was staring me in the face.
That summer is a blur.
I know I did some practical and predictable things to get ready for Fiona’s arrival but I’m not sure I really had much of a plan.
I’ve been walking the road of child loss for more than eight years now. I’m committed to sharing the journey with whomever it might help. I have a basic daily routine that at least includes finding old posts to re-share if not carving out time to create new ones.
The other hours of my day are spent talking or messaging with family and friends, moderating an online bereaved parent community, trying to keep my house relatively clean (no white gloves allowed!), walking two miles each morning, doing research, cooking meals and handling five or six (typically) other random and/or pressing issues along with caring for our menagerie of pets and livestock.
And while my life is good, I’m definitely experiencing dissonance between what I thought it would be like at 58 and what it actually IS.
I thought I’d be writing books or making quilts or teaching craft or cooking classes in my local church.
I absolutely, positively didn’t think my story would include child loss! I couldn’t have imagined that fused bones in my hands and wrists would keep me from doing so many of the things I love to do.
I’m not complaining (well, I’d complain to anyone who’d listen about Dominic not being here) but I am just being honest.
I know the saying, “Grieve the life you thought you’d have and then move on with the life you actually have and be grateful for it”.
Trust me, I have and I am.
I am so, so grateful for each day’s beauty, blessings and the grace and strength to appreciate them.
I am beyond grateful for a loving family, my precious grandsons, the gift of modern medicine and compassionate companionship of friends who help make my burdens easier to carry!
I do wake every morning thankful for the breath in my body and the promise that this body is not the only one I’ll ever have.
I look forward to the final and complete redemption of every pain, every tear, every sad and awful thing, and the restoration of all that has been stolen.
This life continues to be one I didn’t choose but one I choose to make as joy-filled and as productive as possible.
I’d like to encourage my fellow travelers in this Valley today.
Often I write about and share the hardest parts of this journey. Because there are so, so many hard parts!
And they are rarely spoken about above a whisper (if at all!) in greater society. I am determined to be as honest as possible lest I know of a hidden danger along the way and fail to warn you.
But there are also precious joys tucked away along the difficult path.
The trick is to train your eye to see them and your heart to receive them.
I’ll be the first to admit that for months (probably two years) despair and sorrow and loss were all I could truly feel.
Bereft is the word I’d choose if forced to choose only one.
I became so adept at finding the sad in every situation I fell out of practice in finding anything else.
To be honest, it didn’t take much to find the sad. Holidays were duller, celebrations were always missing one, even a sunrise didn’t shine as brightly knowing Dominic was never going to set eyes on that day’s bright glow.
At some point, unbidden, a tiny spark of gratitude-like a wildflower among weeds-drew my heart to joy. Even if I tried, I couldn’t help responding to the fact that not every moment of every day was clad in mourning clothes.
Little by little color seeped back into my life.
I found that if I grabbed those bits, held them close and meditated upon them, they soon came closer and closer together. They grew to fill not just moments but sometimes hours.
Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I become so mired in yesterday’s hurts, that I miss entirely the living gifts this day might hold.
“Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow” from Every Moment Holy Vol. II: Death, Grief & Hope
I can’t weigh all my blessings on a giant cosmic scale against the bruising of child loss and make it balance. But I have also realized that I don’t have to live in a constant state of bitter sadness just to prove I love my son.
It brings good things, hard things, beautiful blessings and awful bruising. I have-in the years since Dom left us-had challenges and triumphs.
I’m learning that if I pluck the flowers of joy when I see them, I’m better able to survive the moments of despair when they overtake me.
For a long, long time I couldn’t bear to see a monthly calendar.
I didn’t want to be reminded that time refused to stand still for my broken heart and I hated there were no more “Dominic” events to scribble in on the blank squares.
Around the third year I was able to once again mark major events like birthdays, holidays and short family trips. But it was even longer before I was able to truly look forward with excitement to those things.
Seven plus years, multiple family changes, a pandemic, retirement and a grandchild have reshaped my heart so that I’m genuinely thrilled to prepare and participate in most things from family meals to “Granny Camp” (which I get to host next week!).
I’m not forgetting nor minimizing Dominic by diving into these events with gusto. In fact, I’m sure he would approve.
So I’m entering a new season of grief-one which makes room for current joys and celebrations while still holding space for Dominic.
I can be present and participate without reserve.
I am making memories with those who are still here.