Child Loss: Missing The Family I Thought I’d Have

I miss a lot of things since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

I miss HIM-his deep voice, his perspective and his thump-thump-thumping down the stairs and the rhythm of who he is.

And I miss how his absence has reshaped the family I thought I’d have.  

Raising four children, investing my time, heart and energy into who they were turning out to be, I naturally projected into the years ahead.  All that love poured into them would create a legacy we’d all enjoy.  Marriages, careers, grandchildren and experience would blend together into a (if not perfectly harmonious) at least a shared future.

desimones uab family

I never imagined turning a calendar page without one of my children to turn it with me.  

Dominic’s death has touched each one of us.  His missing is as powerful a force as his presence.  We are absolutely NOT THE SAME as we would have been if he were still here nor as we were when he was still here.

When Dom first left us, I was primarily mourning him.  I still miss him like crazy.  

But a lot of my mourning during the past twelve months has been for the family I thought I would have.  I see each of my surviving children are processing Dominic’s absence in ways that influence their decisions.

In some ways it’s beautiful-I see twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings making choices with wisdom way beyond their years.  In some ways it’s brutal-they set up safeguards because they know by experience that leaving the house doesn’t always mean you return.  They have back up plans for everything.

Which wasn’t something I even thought about when I was their age.  

My husband and I expected to drift into retirement years full of energy and vigor.  Much of that has been stolen from us by child loss too.  Oh, how we long to be the fun grandparents, the traveling duo, the footloose crazy pair but it’s much more effort than we anticipated.

Sometimes we can’t muster that energy at all.  

I know some changes were inevitable.  Dominic’s death coincided with a natural progression toward an empty nest.  I’m not a helicopter mama and I’ve always said my goal was to raise children who could function well without me so I think that as much as possible, I prepared my heart for them to grow up and grow apart.

But in addition to normal changes, there’s an utterly unnatural and unwelcome transformation from nuclear family to brokenhearted family.

I am so, so thankful that we have chosen the hard path of running toward one another instead of running away.  

I’m grateful that we have grown from five left behind to a table for eight-two new spouses and a precious grandchild. 

I do not take a single second for granted because I know that seconds are not guaranteed.  

But I sure wish Dominic were here to share it with us.  

dominic at olive garden

 

 

 

Book Review: Joy in the Mourning

My friend and fellow bereaved mom,  Leslie Lamm Harder, has published a book chronicling the first months after the sudden death of her son, William.

I’ve not met Leslie face-to-face but have had the blessing of her long distance friendship for over a year now and am constantly and consistently encouraged by her words.

I believe you will be too.

Leslie has written a memoir that takes an honest yet hope-filled look at life after child loss. I appreciate that she chose not to edit out the questions, the hard days, the words that reveal the struggle a heart has to go through when tragedy strikes.

While always clinging to and pointing the reader back to her hope in Christ, she doesn’t hide the truth that hope cannot take the pain away.

It makes it bearable, but it does not remove it.

faith says i will sit with you in the pain

Many books about child loss are written so long after the event that some authors’ words are inaccessible to the parent who has just started down this path.  The author has reached a point of healing that a freshly broken heart can’t comprehend.

Healing does happen.

But it is very slow and incremental and not without setbacks.

Leslie’s book is an excellent aid for any heart seeking to hold onto hope in the dark Valley of child loss. She walks us quietly, gently down the path without insisting on an early declaration of “victory in Jesus”.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

It will be on my shelf forever and I will be giving copies to parents for years to come.

(Available at Amazon.com)

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.

Of course the space he occupies in my heart is safe-a mother’s heart grows larger with each birth and never shrinks again!

But in the physical world, the observable world, the world outside the safe sanctuary of my own soul-his presence THERE is fading.

And that’s it’s own brand of grief that must be recognized, felt, mourned and laid to rest.

fading-away

Every time Dominic SHOULD be here but ISN’T means another memory made without him, another photograph with a missing piece, another family milestone celebrated a bit more quietly because his booming laughter doesn’t join the chorus.

Every decision that would ordinarily involve consulting all four children’s schedules and desires is one more opportunity to count down two, skip one and go to my youngest.  I never can remember that there are only three phone calls or texts to make. My heart hurts each time I don’t check in with Dominic.

desimones uab family

Odd pieces of mail come in his name-leftover from mass mailing lists that have not yet been purged of deceased individuals.  Still a little shocking, always sad, I carry it up the quarter mile to the house and lay it on top of the pile of other things that prove he once walked the earth.

Digging through the toolbox in the garage for a screwdriver and there’s that funny little part he took off a car years ago and tucked inside the drawer-just in case we could use it for something.  I smell the grease and gas and feel him near.

Then my mind drags my heart back to reality and he’s gone again.

Dozens of moments make me miss him anew.

I’m not delusional.

I know he has run ahead to Heaven.

But my heart holds on to every shred of physical connection as long as it can.

And then he’s ripped from me all over again.any place we ever walked i miss you

 

The Elephant in the Room

I’ve often been the person who refused to go along with some group’s plan to ignore a real issue and try to talk around it.  

I usually begin like this, “I know it’s hard to talk about, but let’s be honest and…”

I’m even more inclined in that direction now. If my son’s instant and untimely death has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s no use pretending.

So I’m not going to pretend:  Western society doesn’t do grief well.  

grief is often the elephant in the room

I’m not sure that was always the case but like so many other unpleasant, sad and/or uncomfortable aspects of life, we’ve sequestered grief to separate buildings and specialists. We’ve tried to clean it up and clear it away from the everyday.

Like they say, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If we can hide it, we don’t have to deal with it. 

But I’m here to tell you, you WILL have to deal with it.  One day, one way or another, death will come knocking at YOUR door.  No one gets out of here alive.  

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  

Let’s stop ignoring death and grief and how one person’s departure for Heaven leaves others behind trying to deal with the loss, the pain, and the hole that missing life leaves in their hearts.

I know it will take effort to learn the language of grief.  It’s a lost language and it will feel strange on your tongue.  

The more you use it, the more you will realize that it’s really just the language of love with a slight accent.  There are a few more pauses between words, a bit more emphasis in some places and less in others.

And when you don’t know what to say, it’s fine to admit that. 

Just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Because that means you see the elephant too.  

Love in Action: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief

A funeral or memorial service seems like a final chapter.  We close the coffin, close the doors and everyone goes home.

But for bereaved parents and their surviving children, it’s not an end, it is a beginning.

Much like a wedding or birth serves as the threshold to a new way of life, a new commitment, a new understanding of who you are, burying a child does the same.

Read the rest here:   Loving Well: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief

Beyond the Headlines: Weep with Those Who Weep (Again)

I wrote this on June 13, 2016 about the Orlando shooting but I could have written it this afternoon.

I had no idea that anything had happened until I got a message from a fellow bereaved mom that sent me scurrying for the facts.

So here we are again-more families have joined the ranks of those who mourn the too-soon death of children and loved ones.

There are not enough tears for this.

Let me begin by saying I purposely remove myself from the 24/7 news cycle that beats our ears and tries hard to hammer hearts into whatever shape a particular organization deems most meritorious.

So it is no surprise that I was unaware of the [Parkland, Florida] tragedy until well into the day on Wednesday.

And I don’t know what the pundits and politicians or social media gurus are saying.

I only know how it feels.  

I know how it feels to have an officer come to your door and tell you that your child is never coming home.

I know how it feels to receive the devastating news that whatever you said the last time you saw or spoke to your child is the LAST thing you will ever have the opportunity to say to them.

I know how it feels to stand, dumbstruck and reeling, with the instant realization that your world has been wrecked beyond repair-To have to whisper to your heart, “you’ve got to make calls, make connections, make arrangements”.

Oh! My!  

Why, why, why can we not as a nation simply step back and embrace those who have lost so much instead of standing on the ruins of their lives and posturing for ratings, rankings and political, social or moral agendas????

I wrote before, when commenting  here on the incident at the Cincinatti zoo:

If we covered the stories of families who have lost children with the same zeal and creative journalism as we do the lives and deaths of endangered animals, that would change.

If the despair, heartbreak, brokenness and utter horror of bereaved parents’ lives were on display like the sickening piles of poached elephants and rhinos then at least we could have a discussion that was more informed and even-tempered.

We are a death avoidant culture-we splatter gore across the screen in video games and movies-but we DO NOT discuss the ongoing impact loss has on the ones left behind.

These lives are not numbers, they are not just names or a sweet little synoptic bio plastered on Twitter, Facebook or an AP newswire.  

They are people-with families, friends and loved ones.

There is a single, appropriate response to this tragedydeep mourning for the lives lost to hatred and violent action and prayer for the ones left behind.

I refuse to entertain the musings and posturing of ANYONE who does not first-and for an appropriate length of time-acknowledge the loss of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers-each a unique creation with an eternal soul.

Tears.

TEARS are what should be filling the airwaves, the streets, our altars.

weep with those who weep

Repost: Blessed are Those Who Mourn?

I must remind my heart every day that Jesus Himself declared the blessing in mourning.  I must remember that there is comfort available at His feet.  Not in running from my pain, but in embracing it and trusting Him to redeem it.

What blessing is there in mourning?  What comfort in distress?  What good can come from pain and brokenness?

Good questions.

Honest questions.

Questions I have asked God. 

Read the rest here:  Blessed are Those Who Mourn?