The Healing Power of Fellowship

I spent last weekend with eleven other bereaved moms.

And lest you think, “How sad!”, let me just tell you we had a beautiful time together.

Sure there were tears-how can there not be when talking about the precious children we miss-but there was fun too.

Of course we had somber moments. 

Especially as we lit candles in honor of each child whose light lives on even as their physical presence is denied us.

anchor retreat lit candle

In between Bible study sessions we ate, talked, walked outside and got to know one another.

A game of “Two Truths and a Lie” revealed all kinds of surprises that had us practically falling off our chairs with uproarious laughter.

Even though most of us had never met before, knowing we shared the heartache of child loss drew us together and opened the door to meaningful conversation.

anchor retreat hope

For 72 hours we didn’t have to put our masks on or walk with one foot in the world of the spared and one foot in the world of the deeply wounded. 

We were free-gloriously free-to be real and unguarded.

One of the fun things we did was have a Mary Kay consultant come and do facials and makeup.  I think we kind of shocked her when she went around the circle asking, “So what are you primary make up concerns?” and over half of us said, “I don’t wear make up.”

Poor woman.

anchor retreat mary kay lady (2)

She had no idea that we had long passed the point of faking feelings or saying what someone expects just because they expect it.

I know it was a stretch for some of the moms to make their way to this place they’d never been to and walk into a room full of women they’d never met.

It was a stretch for me to facilitate discussions when I felt I had reached my limit for anything besides staying home for the rest of this year.

But it was worth it.

There is nothing as beautiful as broken hearts gathering together to love, uplift, encourage and listen to one another.

If you have the opportunity and are afraid, please step out. 

Take a chance and link arms with fellow grievers.

I promise you will be glad you did.

circle-of-women

 

Repost: Today’s Gift

I wrote this less than six months after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  

My heart had not yet fully grasped his absence and there was a lovely moment each morning when my sleepy eyes opened to a world where he was still in it.  

Read the rest here:  Today’s Gift

Why Can’t I Remember? It’s Grief Brain.

I repost this every so often because nearly every bereaved parent I know wonders, at some point, if they are going crazy.

Things that used to be second nature escape us. We can’t remember words, names, dates, how to write a check or address an envelope. Sometimes we get lost in our own neighborhood. 

It’s not early-onset dementia (for the majority of us, anyway)-it’s grief brain.  

Read the rest here:  Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing!

“Don’t Dwell on That!”

Why is it “dwelling” in one instance and “remembering” in another?

Who gets to decide whether I’m taking out a cherished memory, holding it, stroking it and reliving it because it’s all I have left or I’m clutching the past, refusing to let go?

I will be the first to admit that mulling over past offenses is probably the last thing I need to do.  Especially if I’m trying to forgive them.  That’s not helpful nor is it healthy.

But there’s a difference between THAT kind of thinking and the kind of thinking every bereaved parent does about his or her missing child.

When Dominic ran ahead to heaven, there was a sudden, horrible and unchangeable end to new experiences, to making any more memories, to another conversation, picture or text.

All I have of my son is whatever I had saved up to the moment of his accident.  

And it is not enough. 

It will never be enough to fill up the spaces of what my heart wishes I had.

He lived for nearly 24 years.  But I can’t withdraw those memories like cash and “spend” them, day for day, for the next 24 years.

It doesn’t work that way.

So I have favorite moments, like we all do, that I pull out over and over.  I cherish them like precious stones or rare coins.  I hold them, stroke them, tell the stories behind them and hug them close.

Not because I can’t “move forward”.

Goodness! 

Here I am nearly four years later living, breathing and fully connected to the people and events in my present!

I do it because memories are a way to remain connected to Dominic.  

He is as much a part of my life-unseen by others, unheard by others, often forgotten by others-as the living, breathing children that are still here with me.  

So I am not DWELLING on these memories.

I am hanging on with both hands because I refuse to let one-quarter of my heart be relegated to darkness and silence because of other people’s discomfort.  

I will remember.  

As long as I have breath I will speak my remembrance.

I will never, ever, ever let go.  

handprint on my heart

Love in Action: Just Say His Name

I’m convinced that many of our friends and family DO want to talk about our missing child but they need permission to do so.

They just aren’t sure if it will make things better or worse.

And if we cry, they feel responsible.  They don’t realize that many times they are tears of joy that our precious child is still remembered. ❤

I know you are afraid.

You think that speaking his name or sharing a memory or sending me a photo will add to my sorrow.

I understand.

But even when it costs me a split second of sharp pain, it is truly a gift to know that Dominic lives on in the hearts and minds of others.  It gives me courage to speak too.  It creates space where I can honor my son.

It helps keep him alive.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: Just Say His Name

 

Repost: The Silent Joy of Memory

There is something about winter mornings that invite me to linger long in my rocking chair with my cup of coffee.  It’s cold and outside chores can wait a bit.

When I sit here, my mind wanders to many things-mostly days gone by when my busy household would have made these long, slow mornings impossible.

And I miss it.  All of it.

Especially the beauty of an unbroken family circle.

I try to hold onto the precious moments as long as I can.

We live in a noisy world.

Music, television, voices and the hum of electricity tunnel into our brains and distract us from hard questions and painful circumstances.

We live in a busy world.

If I’m not in motion, I am getting ready to be.

It is tempting in my grief to try to stuff life full of noise and busyness so I can ignore the pain and emptiness of missing my son.

Read the rest here:  The Silent Joy of Memory

Time and Time Again

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven we have celebrated four graduations and a wedding.

Wednesday night was another one.  My daughter, Fiona, graduated nursing school.

We are so excited for her!

fiona grad jumping

And, as usual, our family rallied round, pitched in, showed up and made a great fuss over the accomplishment.

It was beautiful and hard all at the same time.

Because time and time again we join hands and hearts to celebrate an achievement, a milestone, a special moment or a holiday and there is always, always, always one missing.

Every photo is just slightly askew- one daughter, three two sons.

family fionas grad (2)

We’ve gotten good at closing ranks, squeezing out the space where he should be standing.  But our hearts mark the gap.

Our hearts will always mark the gap.

I am much better now at actually enjoying these things-I love the way my daughter’s friends surround and encourage her, I laughed at the antics of the children that enjoyed running from adult to adult, getting more attention than they knew what to do with.  I sat and listened with great pride as Fiona gave the closing remarks to her graduating class, drawing from a deep well of wisdom that includes heartache as well as hallelujahs.

And it was all good.  Really, truly  good.

But you have to go home eventually.

Hugging necks and saying “good-bye” is when it always hits me-I hug harder, cling longer, make sure to whisper not only “I love you” but everything I need to say-just in case.

And grown children text their mama so she knows they are safely home.

Dominic’s legacy is this:  We never miss a chance to celebrate one another.

We cling to the good and try to let go of the bad.

We love fiercely and openly and are not ashamed for one minute of our tears or our laughter.

Because you never know.

love the ones god gave you