EVERY Child Matters

Today I want to take a moment to provide a public forum for anyone who wishes to take advantage of it.

Your child matters.

His or her story matters.

Your pain matters.

If you are so inclined, please “speak” your child(ren)’s name in the comments section. 

Read the rest here: Your Child Matters

Be Brave. Ask A Hurting Heart What It Needs.

I think Dominic’s death has made me brave in this one tiny place:  I say things I might not have said before.  I risk pain in relationships where I might not have been willing to risk before.  I assume that if I don’t speak important truths RIGHT NOW I might not get another chance.

I long to be a burden bearer for my friends and family because I know what it is to bear a burden.

So I ask and don’t assume.  

If someone wants to be left alone, then they are free to tell me.

But I will not stay silent or keep away simply for my own comfort.  

Read the rest here: Ask Me, Please.

Baking Hope

I’m a “dash of this” and a “bit of that” kind of cook.

Nearly forty years of prepping meals for a large family and literally hundreds of guests has provided confidence when making a roast or stew or casserole.

But baking is another matter entirely.

Baking is science (as my high school chemistry teacher pointed out) so the proportions need to be precise and measurements matter.

It’s much the same when it comes to feeding my heart and mind in the “after” of child loss.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it wasn’t as critical if I paid attention to how much negative information or opinions I consumed. I could brush them off and focus instead on all the blessings I enjoyed.

But after-well the equation changed.

I was already so weighted toward sorrow and despair, adding even a dash of additional negativity could push me right over the edge.

I learned to limit my exposure to generally unhelpful sources (like social media from some folks, clickbait websites, negative Nellies who only rant and rave). I learned to shut down my own tendency to rehearse slights, sad memories and internal dialogue that said I was a failure because one of my children died.

I work hard to find something for which to be thankful each day. I try to get outside and breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sunshine.

And when I have a rainy day-whether it is literally dripping water from the sky or simply dripping tears from my eyes-I try to do something that will help my heart hold on.

Often I turn to baking.

There is hardly a more satisfying moment than when I pull a perfectly formed loaf of bread or cake or muffins from the oven.

I never get tired of the magic that occurs when you mix the right amount of flour, eggs, sugar and leavening to produce a beautiful edible gift of love.

If you want to find me after a stress-filled day or week, join me in the kitchen.

It’s where I do my best work.

It’s where my heart heals as my hands knead dough or I scrape the mixer bowl.

Baking hope is what I do.

In case you want to join me:

*MAMA D’S POUND CAKE*

  • 2 cups quality flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter (not margarine) OR 1 stick butter and 4 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla
  • 5 eggs

Cream butter and sugar until fully blended and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add vanilla. Finally, add flour a bit at a time and beat until blended. Then continue to beat for 2-3 minutes until batter reaches a shiny smooth consistency.

Pour batter into a prepared (greased and floured OR use quality baking spray) Bundt pan or tube pan.

Bake 10 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 45-60 minutes (pans and ovens vary).

Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve with fresh berries, ice cream or toast for a yummy breakfast treat.

Sometimes People Just Don’t Listen!

This incident happened awhile ago but it still rankles me.

I’m not one to insist we need to self-censor everything we say or share because it *might* offend someone else. That’s just exhausting!

But…BUT…when someone makes me aware that I’m adding to their burden with my words I’m quick to shut up.

Laying down idle conversation is a small price to pay to love a friend well.

I had a very uncomfortable exchange with someone at church Wednesday night.  

We have a light potluck dinner each Wednesday before Bible Study and I’m on kitchen duty.  So I was uncovering dishes, adding spoons and getting things ready when conversation erupted around me about a “horrible wreck just up the road.”

I kept silent and tried to focus on the plastic wrap and aluminum foil but couldn’t help hearing the animated relaying of detail after detail until it reached a crescendo ending in someone declaring that, “Well, those people just drive too fast.  They don’t even care about themselves.”  

You might guess where this is going.  

Read the rest here: When People Just Don’t Listen

Challenge Accepted: Why Am I Still Here?

Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.

They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.

They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.

So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).

It was an excellent exercise.

I looked back over social media posts and blog posts from the half-decade and more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I could trace progress from breath-robbing, body-wracking, all-consuming sorrow to a gentler, muted and tender missing that made room for joy and beauty alongside the ever-present tangible absence of one of my children.

I also noted a transition from “spilling my guts” to “trail guide”.

I’m no longer primarily using this space to release feelings and thoughts I’m not comfortable tossing out in day-to-day conversation. Instead, I’m mostly thinking about and sharing what I’ve learned along the way-pointing out the pitfalls and (hopefully!) encouraging hearts to keep on keeping on.

I’ve given myself permission to repost earlier entries (please note dates when you click through) that represent more raw emotions without making apology for either the lack of time or energy to write something new or the angst I once felt.

I’m also choosing to limit my online interaction to an hour in the morning and maybe an hour in the evening.

I absolutely desire to speak encouragement, grace and hope to hearts that are struggling but still need to guard my own from overload.

And as for friends, family or strangers who think, “Goodness, gracious! She needs to MOVE ON!”.

I say, “How can I hide or hoard this hard-won wisdom and experience?”

This is my ministry.

I didn’t ask for it, but it’s mine.

I won’t run away.

So until the Lord tells me definitively He has another path for my life I’ll be here.

Every morning.

My Eighth Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

When it first happened all I could think about was getting through a minute, then a day and then all the decisions and days leading up to a funeral or memorial service.  

There’s no road map.  

Even when others come alongside (and many, many did!) there’s just no easy way to navigate that part of the journey.

And then I realized that in addition to all the “regular” days that absolutely, positively  break your heart, I had to forge a path through “special” days.

It was overwhelming!

Read the rest here: My Seventh Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

Mother’s Day 2021: A Letter From the Child Not Here

I post this around Mother’s Day every year since my daughter, Fiona, wrote it in the voice of her brother who is in Heaven.

It helps my heart sort the mixed emotions that this day stirs up.

I’m not ONLY a bereaved mother. I’m a mother and grandmother of earthbound children too.

I’m grateful for all of them. So very, very grateful.

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this several years ago, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day.

Leave Nothing Unsaid

I happened to be traveling recently and saw that Anderson Cooper, son of Gloria Vanderbilt, has filmed a documentary about his mother titled Nothing Left Unsaid.  I don’t know much about him or the film, but the title immediately struck a chord in my heart.

I am learning so much through grieving my son.

I am learning by hard experience that we may not have tomorrow.

And I am learning that what weighs most heavily on my heart is not the things I said or did but the things I didn’t say or didn’t do.  

Read the rest here: Nothing Left Unsaid

Learning to Listen: A Lesson From Loss

I admit it: I’m a fixer. 

But there are some things you just can’t fix.

I knew that before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven but I mostly ignored it.

I can’t do that anymore.

So I’m learning to listen better.  Learning to let others express the hard things that can’t be fixed so that their burden is a bit lighter for the sharing.  

Read the rest here: Lessons in Grief: Learning to Listen

Seven Years. Sigh…

When the numbness wore off (maybe around six months) I remember vaguely wondering what years down the road would feel like.

I tried to project the “me” of that moment into the future and imagine how I might deal with life changes, new circumstances, an empty nest, grandchildren (if there were any) and growing older alongside the heartache of burying a child.

But just as it’s impossible to comprehend how the addition of a child utterly transforms a family, it’s impossible to understand how the subtraction of one changes everything just as much.

We are all so very different than we would have been if Dominic were still here.

Life most likely wouldn’t be any more perfect because we would each grow and change, find common ground and find points of conflict, make new memories and drag up old hurts.

Still, none of us would carry the deep wound and traumatic injury of sudden and out-of-order death.

THAT is impossible to ignore. Even seven years later it’s a red flag, a sticky note, an addendum to every family gathering and holiday.

So we carry on.

Like generations before us who have walked this world dragging loss behind them, we keep going. It shapes us but doesn’t limit us. It informs our views but isn’t the only thing that molds our opinions and frames our choices.

My faith in God’s larger and perfect plan helps me hold onto hope even as I continue to miss my son.

But today is a hard day and I don’t think that’s going to change as long as I live.

I’m getting better at remembering Dominic’s birthday in ways that honor who he is and the man he might have become. I can’t say I’ve figured out any good way to walk through the yearly unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of the day he left us.

I’m learning to allow the grief waves to simply wash over me without resisting them.

Eventually the hours tick away, the day is over and I find I’ve survived yet again.