The Weird, Weird Thing About Devastating Loss

My mother’s death has forced me to relive the early days after Dominic’s death.

While her leaving was not completely unexpected (she had many health issues and was not strong) it was still sudden.

And one of the things I’m reliving is that while this giant life-altering event has turned MY world upside down and inside out, it really hasn’t changed anything for those outside a very small inner circle of grievers.

The weird, weird thing about devastating loss is that life actually goes on. When you’re faced with a tragedy, a loss so huge that you have no idea how you can live through it, somehow, the world keeps turning, the seconds keep ticking.

James Patterson

Life DOES go on.

I had someone ask me a question in church Sunday about a decision that was made a week or two before my mom went into the hospital for the last time. It took me at least a full minute to orient my brain to the question and longer to answer it because I could barely remember anything that happened in the past weeks before Mama died.

It was like that after Dominic left us.

I felt like I was living in a low-budget foreign feature film (think ancient Godzilla movies) where English was simply dubbed over the Asian actors original dialogue and everything was slightly “off”. Words were being said that I SHOULD understand but they didn’t match what my eyes were seeing. It took tremendous effort to comprehend what people said to me and an even greater effort to comprehend the context of what they were saying.

It is a weird, weird thing that time moves on regardless of my shattered world.

It is a weird, weird thing that people keep doing routine stuff like watching favorite TV shows, going to football games, celebrating birthdays, checking the value of their portfolio, chiming in on social media and buying groceries.

It is a weird, weird thing that I grow older while Dominic stays twenty-three-almost-twenty-four. It’s even weirder that his once younger brother is now twenty-seven.

Julian, Jame Michael, Dominic

I used to think I had a pretty good imagination. But now I’m not so sure.

I can’t scale Dominic up to what he might be doing now, who he might be dating or married to, where he might have chosen to pursue a career or if he might have done something entirely different than anything he’d done before.

Time really DOES march on.

It doesn’t require my permission.

It doesn’t even notice me at all.

That’s a weird, weird thing.

Grief: In The Words of Others

I’ve collected quotes all my life.

I think it was second grade when I started a notebook dedicated to them-carefully copying out the words of others that spoke the truths of my own heart. Although the topics which draw me are different now, I’m still collecting them.

So here are fifteen quotes on grief that I hope will help another heart:

I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache and about lying awake.’

That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.

I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.

C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over.

Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it… Every lament is a love-song.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

Anne Lamott

They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite

Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

What an awful thing then, being there in our house together with our daughter gone, trying to be equal to so many sudden orders of sorrow, any one of which alone would have wrenched us from our fragile orbits around each other.

Paul Harding, Enon

This was how to help a family who has just lost their child. Wash the clothes, make soup. Don’t ask them what they need, bring them what they need. Keep them warm. Listen to them rant, and cry, and tell their story over and over.

Ann Hood, The Obituary Writer

I guess I always thought it would be bigger, when a terrible thing happened. Didn’t you think so? Doesn’t it seem like houses ought to be caving in, and lightning and thunder, and people tearing their hair in the street? I never – I never thought it would be this small, did you?

Dan Chaon, Stay Awake

There are no words, not in English, Spanish, Arabic, or Hebrew, that have been invented to explain what it’s like to lose a child. The nightmarish heartache of it. The unexplainable trepidation that follows. No mother loses a child without believing she failed as a parent. No father loses a child without believing he failed to protect his family from pain. The child may be gone, but the years the child were meant to live remain behind, solid in the mind like an aging ghost. The birthdays, the holidays, the last days of school—they all remain, circled in red lipstick on a calendar nailed to the wall. A constant shadow that grows, even in the dark. As I was saying…there are no words.

D.E. Eliot, Ruined

Broken Circle, Unbroken Chain of Love

I started writing because of Dominic and my family. I keep writing because of Dominic and my family and all the beautiful souls I’ve met along this journey-many who have never lost a child but whose hearts grieve for someone or something else.

I thought I’d share what I read at my sweet mama’s funeral yesterday-it was made easier and richer by all those who have walked with me so far in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Your comments, your messages, your thoughts and insights helped me express the most important lesson I’m learning in grief: Love Lives Forever.

When we walk through the graveyard or read an obituary, we almost always look for those two dates that bookend a life-for Mama it is September 23, 1938 and September 27, 2019. 

Lots of sermons have been preached about that dash in between-about that what we do or don’t do, who we love or don’t love, how we use the years we are given as either a blessing or something else. 

And that is very, very true. 

We tend to think that the last date-the date when breath leaves the body and the soul escapes the trials of this world to enter the glory of Heaven-as the end. We can hardly help it because our relationship to the one we love changes so dramatically. 

I can’t hug Mama anymore, I can’t hear her laugh, I can’t call her up and tell her, “I love you” or greet her in the morning with a “Hi Girlie!”. 

That’s hard. 

It creates a giant void for me and an unfathomably huge void for Papa.  We are going to have to find a way to live with that empty space in our hearts and in our lives. 

It takes lots and lots of work, lots and lots of tears and lots and lots of time.  There’s no shortcut through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

My Mama lost HER mother suddenly, to a stroke, when she was just ten years old.  So she lived with that giant hole in her heart for over 71 years.  She could have allowed the pain to make her cold and bitter, closed off and unavailable.  It certainly would have been an understandable response to a traumatic loss. 

But she didn’t. 

Without exception, every person who has called, written or come by to pay respects to Patty Hart describes her as gracious, lovely, kind, generous, welcoming, cheerful and bright. 

Mama chose love.

Mam and all my children, 1994

In just the past few weeks, before this last hospitalization, I got to see Mama begin to pour that love into a new generation.  She had two visits from her great-grandson.  One due to Hurricane Dorian (they had to evacuate) and one that was scheduled to give her the chance to meet him. 

I won’t fib and say that having overnight visitors in the house was easy for her or Papa with all her medical conditions, but you’d never know it by the grin on her face when I put that chubby little stinker in her lap. 

For a few minutes, she was Nanny again-singing, cooing, laughing and making eyes at him.  She even got to be the first one to see him turn over.  That tickled her! 

All the Grandmas and Captain Ryker

Truth is, that last date isn’t the end.  There’s no period after Patricia Ann Landrum Hart’s life.  Of course she lives on in Heaven with Jesus, her mama and my Dominic. 

But even here, on earth, love lives forever. 

It lives in the lives she touched and will continue to touch through her friends and family as they honor her legacy of love. 

Our circle is broken today.  Death is awful and it’s hard.  It’s a reminder the world is not as God intended it to be and we walk a broken road toward the promises of redemption and restoration. 

But the chains of love forged in our hearts are never severed.

I love you, Mama. 

Say “hi” to Dom for me.

It’s Been Years-What’s Wrong With You?

If you think that time makes a difference to a mama’s heart that’s missing a child who ran ahead to Heaven without her, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

Time does not heal all wounds-especially the kind that shatter a heart into a million pieces.

It takes time for the wound to scar over, but it doesn’t undo the damage.

So if you are wondering why your coworker still takes the day off on his child’s birthday or the anniversary of her child’s homegoing, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Years disappear when those milestones loom large.

It’s just as painful today as it was on THAT day when a bereaved parent has to face an unavoidable reminder that his or her child is gone, gone, gone.

I’m not diminishing anyone’s loss when I say this but child loss is unique.

If we lose a spouse, we cannot replace that person, but we can enjoy the same type of relationship with another one.

When we lose a parent, we cannot replace that individual or that relationship, but we all know age eventually makes a claim on every life. We anticipate (even if subconsciously) that younger folks will outlive the older ones.

A parent’s heart is not equipped to outlive their child.

And yet, some of us do.

“IT’S so WRONG, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before its parents. It’s hard enough to bury our parents. But that we expect. Our parents belong to our past, our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. How can I bury my son, my future, one of the next in line? He was meant to bury me!”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

So if the bereaved parents in your life need extra space, extra grace, extra accommodation on those days when the loss is unavoidable don’t be surprised.

What SHOULD astonish folks is that we are able to function as well as we do on all the other days of the year without additional help.

We get up.

We go on.

That’s the real surprise.

Repost: Bit By Bit-We Don’t Lose Them All At Once


I cannot speak for others but in my case, it seems that I did not lose Dominic all at once.

In fact, I’m still losing him.

Bit by bit, a little at a time, nearly molecule by molecule, his mark on my life, my walls, my world grows smaller.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/09/04/bit-by-bit-we-dont-lose-them-all-at-once/

Why Am I Still Writing About Loss Five Years Out?

I was one of those people years ago who set her sights on starting and maintaining a blog.  

I thought I would post a few times a week and share anecdotes about my family and critters, insight into daily living and inspiration from Scripture and interesting quotes. 

No, not THIS blog-the other two I started and quickly abandoned to who-knows-where in cyberspace.

Trouble was that the subject matter, while near and dear to my heart, wasn’t personally compelling enough to keep me disciplined and actively writing. 

If someone had said, “Pick any topic to write about”, child loss wouldn’t have been in the first million choices.

No one CHOOSES child loss (Thus the name of the blog:  The Life I Didn’t Choose).

But untold numbers of parents EXPERIENCE it every year.  This very day,  parents somewhere got a knock on the door or a phone call or sat next to a hospital bed as life slipped slowly from their child’s tired body.

Since I was already journaling and had walked this Valley for nearly a year and a half, it dawned on me that the ramblings I’d put down might be helpful to another heart.  So I started THIS blog in September, 2015.

And I’ve been here ever since.  

I’m not in the raw, breathless place I once was.  But grief and loss are part of every breath I take, part of every moment I experience.

whole in my heart mama

I miss Dominic.  I still consider death an enemy.  Every day I hate what was stolen and long for what was.  I mourn the changes grief has wrought in my family.  I wish things were different.  I discover new ways loss impacts my life and new ways of coping with it.

So I keep writing.  

I don’t want anyone to feel alone in this journey.  I don’t want anyone to think there’s no way to survive.   I don’t want a single broken heart to doubt that God is here and that He will help you hold onto hope. 

me too sharing the path

I’ll spill my heart out in words until the words are exhausted. 

It helps me.

I pray it helps others too. 

hope holds a breaking heart together

 

Give 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. 

i-write-because-i-dont-know

A few months after and I found several online support groups. 

There I learned a whole other  Language of Grief and Loss.  The more I read what others shared, the better I understood my own experience and understood how to communicate that truth to others.

You might not keep a journal or write poetry or craft lengthy essays about your pain and that’s just fine.  There’s no magic in written words.

Find a safe space or person and speak it aloud.  

Sorrow unspoken swells. 

It can’t be contained.  

It will absolutely consume you.  

Give-sorrow-words shakespeare