Don’t Be Shackled By Shame!

Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.  

And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.

Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons:

  • Circumstances surrounding the death of their child-suicide, alcohol, drug abuse;
  • Inability to provide the funeral or burial they want due to financial constraints;
  • Missing signs or symptoms of an illness that may have led to death;
  • Family dynamics that pushed a child away from home or relationship.

The list could be endless-on the other side of child loss our brains pick apart every interaction, every choice, every moment that could have gone one way but went another.

Read the rest here: Shake Off the Shame

Take A Minute To Remember How Far You’ve Come

It’s so easy to focus on the miles left to travel and forget how far I’ve come.

Life has a habit of reminding me that there are hills yet to climb, emotional hurdles still to come and (the ever looming threat) gray hair, wrinkles and an aging body with which to tackle them.

But every now and then I remember to take stock of just how many miles I’ve already traveled.

I pause, sometimes with pad and paper, and recount the bends, twists, devastating events and challenging circumstances I’ve already navigated (some by the skin of my teeth and ALL by the grace of God!).

Doing that helps my heart hold on to hope.

It helps me take one more step, one more breath, last one more sunrise to sunset. It’s a way of speaking courage to myself when I’m afraid I won’t be able to endure and might give up before I complete my course.

So if you are, like me on some days, feeling undone by long years stretching ahead or a particularly hard season already upon you, may I ask you to think back, to take stock, to answer a few basic questions?

  • Are you getting up each morning and caring for yourself and/or others?
  • Are you fulfilling job obligations (if you’re employed outside your home)?
  • Have you lost a job, changed jobs, found a job, retired or relocated?
  • Are you sending birthday greetings to friends, family and children or grandchildren (even if they are belated!)?
  • Have you celebrated important milestones with those you love (even if you cried before, during or after)?
  • Have you planned a wedding, baby shower, birthday party or other public event?
  • Do you pay your bills?
  • Have you resisted the urge to turn to food, alcohol, drugs or any other destructive habit or behavior in an attempt to numb your pain?
  • Do you take the garbage out?
  • Have you taken a shower recently?
  • Are you connected to a faith community/bereaved parent group/small group of some kind?
  • Are you still married or with a long term partner even though grief may have strained the relationship?
  • Have you or are you caring for an ailing family member?
  • Are you buying groceries/preparing meals/or otherwise feeding yourself and others in your household?
  • Do you practice self-care (exercise, journaling, prayer/meditation, rest and proper nutrition)?
  • Has your home life shifted significantly (empty nest, boomerang kids, elderly parents moving in)?
  • Do you/have you addressed health concerns and are you following recommended and prescribed treatments?
  • Do you maintain contact with those you care about (even with coronavirus limitations)?
  • Is there at least one thing you pursue that feels like a break from responsibility (reading, a hobby, pets, watching old movies…)?

Then you’ve covered miles, my friend.

You are making progress.

No matter how much is left to travel, you have it in you to make it!

Winnie the Pooh Braver Than you Believe and Stronger Than You | Etsy

Grief And Self Care


Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.

I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.

And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.

Read the rest here: Self Care in Grief

When The Big Things Feel Out Of Control…

It’s a lesson I learned decades ago and have honed over the years.

When the big things feel out of control, focus on the small ones right in front of your face.

It has served me well since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Right now there are so, so many big things outside my control-not just the ones all of us are facing like the pandemic, or job loss, or trying to figure out how to navigate a world where you can’t hug your friends or even see their smiles-but many in my own family.

So I’m getting up every morning and looking for the one or two or twenty (if they are small!) things I love and can do something about.

In practice (for me) it looks like this: taking a morning walk along with feeding my critters (stopping to notice butterflies, lovely flowers, falling leaves, sunlight through the trees and sticking my nose in my horses’ manes); sweeping off the front porch and tidying the kitchen so my eyes can rest happy on clear spaces (even though the rest of the house is out of order due to major reorganization/moving rooms); putting my hair up and washing my face; writing (obviously); choosing one corner to clean well and declare “finished”; taking an afternoon walk with my son’s little dog and laughing silently as her tiny legs churn away keeping up with me; smelling hay as I toss it to the donkeys; reading bits of books (my attention span still isn’t what it used to be); chatting with friends and family online or on the phone; resting after a long day’s work by watching old British mysteries with lots of interesting characters and no bloody violence; embroidering or crocheting until bedtime and sleeping with open windows.

It will undoubtedly look different for you.

And my list has taken years to develop-when Dom first left us I most often only managed a walk and maybe a little reading or journaling.

But you can begin by jotting down things that used to bring you pleasure or feed your passion.

Then just do something.

Anything.

Just one tiny little thing you love.

A Walking Nerve

It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t walked this path.

Deep pain and unfathomable sorrow stripped me of any reserve, any defense, any padding between the wider world and my oh-so-fragile heart.

I was a walking nerve.

Every awkward and less-than-thoughtful word or deed by friends, family and acquaintances rubbed me raw. I was utterly incapable of extending grace even as I knew I should and understood that most often their intentions were kind.

I had suffered a grievous wound and spent most of my energy just trying to protect what was left of my heart.

All I wanted to do was retreat to the safe cocoon of my own home. I unfollowed people on social media, I screened telephone calls, I rarely ventured out for anything but the most necessary supplies. It was the only way I could provide the space and time needed for my heart to heal enough to bear even the slightest brush with folks who might say or do the wrong thing.

It helped.

Eventually I found the strength to venture beyond the safety of home, family and the few friends with whom I felt comfortable and secure.

I could scroll through Facebook once again without reacting to every single post.

I went back to church and even showed up for covered dish socials where I couldn’t be certain which way the conversation would flow or who might get me blocked into a corner and ply me with questions.

I attended a few large gatherings: graduations, weddings and a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert.

So if you are in the early days of this hard, hard journey, do what you have to and find the safe circle that gives you time, space and grace to help your heart toward healing.

It may take longer than you’d like, but resting from the constant pressure of trying to protect yourself from the hustle and bustle in a world where child loss is misunderstood and frequently ignored will make a difference.

And one day, like me, you might well wake up and realize that what once felt like personal attacks are simply folks saying and doing foolish things because they haven’t been forced to learn the wisdom of compassion through unfathomable loss.

I’m still more sensitive than I used to be.

There are times I just can’t take crowds, unpredictable settings, offhand comments about death, dying, grief and heartache.

But I’m finally able to walk in the world without feeling I have to protect my heart at every turn.

It’s liberating and I’m thankful.

Grief’s Physical Toll

I don’t know about you but my face and my body tell the tale.

It’s a story of stress and strife and it’s not pretty.

I look at photos before and after and see grief written all over the pictures taken since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

There’s an old saying in the South when you see someone who looks exhausted and unwell: “She’s been rode hard and put up wet.” My horse loving friends will get it right away.

For the rest of you this is what it means: When a horse is ridden hard or worked long, it sweats. The kind and appropriate thing to do is to walk the animal until it dries off and then stable it. Doing so means the horse’s muscles have time to recover from the exertion and helps prevent injury or lameness. If a horse is repeatedly “rode hard and put up wet” it begins to show in her performance, resilience and ultimately, in longevity.

Living with child loss is definitely a hard slog through difficult terrain.

While my burden is not nearly as hard to carry TODAY as it was in the beginning (six years ago) it still adds significant resistance and requires more effort when doing everyday tasks or facing new challenges.

And I rarely have the ability or capacity to treat myself to a “cool down” period because my to do list is long and the days seem short. Life just doesn’t let up.

It has taken a physical toll.

I tire more easily-physically, emotionally and mentally. I am less resistant to illness. My chronic disease has progressed more in these six years despite aggressive treatment than the decade previous to Dom’s leaving. I don’t handle change well. I am more prone to call it quits, give up and give in when things get tough instead of powering through. I have a drastically shortened attention span. It’s hard to remember details and words-I write things down so I won’t forget. The lines in my face have deepened and multiplied. Sometimes getting out of bed is the bravest thing I do all day.

I could list at least a dozen more ways grief impacts my body but you get the idea.

Dealing With Physical Grief Symptoms Whats your Grief

Grief isn’t *just* an emotional response to loss.

It’s physical too.

So if you are noticing your body doesn’t act like it used to, you’re not alone.

Oh My! Anxiety Is Awful!

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Read the rest here: Anxiety is Awful!

Wondering If All These Crazy Emotions Are Normal In Grief? Yes. Absolutely.

You’d think that the depths of despair, the breath pressed out of your lungs would stop a brain from wondering if even here, I’m “normal”.

I’m not sure it’s the same need for affirmation junior high girls crave-am I doing/saying/being the things that will guarantee I fit in-but it’s a close cousin.

The human heart longs to know that what it feels is something other hearts feel.

I was desperate for assurance that what I was going through fell well within the range of “normal”.

So let me assure you.

If you wonder if all these crazy emotions are normal in grief, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”.

Grief is a ball of emotions any one of which may demand more or less of your attention on a given day. It’s not just sadness or missing or sorrow or even pain.

It’s anger, frustration, rage, relief, abandonment, jealousy, rejection, inadequacy, guilt, denial, dismay, apathy, bitterness, longing, anxiety, woe, depression, vindictiveness, despair, confusion, depression, yearning and more.

Just like loving a living child is complex and complicated, loving a child that has run ahead to Heaven is just as complex.

So don’t make your journey harder by worrying that what you’re feeling is outside the range of normal.

It isn’t.

I promise.

You Just Can’t Run Away (Even When You Want To)

You know that scene in Forrest Gump where he starts running and just can’t stop?

I thought that was a funny way to deal with grief when I first saw the movie.

But now I understand it perfectly.  

run forrest run

If I could have started running, walking or even crawling away from the heartache in those first days and weeks I would have.  

Truth is, though, you can’t.  

Read the rest here: Can’t Run Away

Bereaved Parents Month Post 2020: Who Gets to Decide If I’m Stuck in Grief?

“Stuck in grief”-it’s a theme of blog posts, psychology papers and magazine articles.  The author usually lists either a variety of “symptoms” or relates anecdotes of people who do truly odd things after a loved one dies.  “Complicated grief” is a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis.

But who gets to decide?  

What objective criteria can be applied to every situation, every person, every death to determine whether someone is truly stuck in grief? 

Read the rest here: Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?