A Day in the Life

If you get up every morning and go to work-I applaud you!

Most of my days start with work, but I don’t have to go farther than my own property to discharge my duties.

But today I had to get going extra early for a doctor’s appointment with a specialist about 50 miles away.  So I rushed through my morning chores, double-checked I had everything I needed and left home by 7:10.

I had to park in a parking garage-no easy feat when you drive a full-size pickup and the spaces are designed for mid-size cars.  The low roof, confined space and limited light make me feel trapped and uncomfortable.

Every time I have to fill out health paperwork there is always a question or two that makes me think of Dominic.  I shake off the beginnings of tears and wait to be called back.

My blood pressure is higher than it usually is and I’m a bit heavier than last time I was there-both things that make me feel like a failure and add to the voice in my head that says, “You aren’t good enough.  You are doing something wrong or this wouldn’t have happened to you.”  

My disease is progressing and although my doctor is kind, and patient, and fully aware of the fact that I’ve buried a child,  she broaches once again a treatment option that has more risk but potentially greater efficacy.

I’m just not ready to take the leap.

So my anxiety mounts as I think of both alternatives:  Submitting myself to a new treatment that may have grave consequences or giving in to the inevitable limitations that rheumatoid arthritis is imposing on my life.

She graciously puts off the decision for another three months but I know I won’t be in any better position to make it then either.  I’m paralyzed now when I have to decide these kinds of things-torn between “doing what’s best” and “what difference will it make?”

Bloodwork means waiting in a area next to the infusion clinic and hematology departments and I am surrounded by people that are in dire straits. Once more, between the waiting and the thinking, I’m ready to be out of there.

When I get back to my truck, what had looked like a pretty good place to park has become a nightmare.  Another truck beside me and two parked opposite have closed the space I should have had to get out to the bare minimum.  And someone is waiting for my spot.  

Oh, joy!

I try.

I really try to figure out how to get too much vehicle out of too little space.

Finally, in tears, I step out of my truck (now in what I think is an impossible position) and raise my hands in the air-I give up!  You win!

The kind man that was waiting steps out of his car and guides me backward and forward (4 turns!) until I am free from the awful predicament.  I thank him and keep going.

Before Dominic left us this day would have seemed like a tiny blip on the radar of life.  It certainly wouldn’t have brought me to tears.  

But the energy required to simply get up and get going in the wake of losing him means that I have so much less to spend on anything else.

I don’t suffer from anxiety.

I’m not depressed.  

But there are many moments throughout the day when I am anxious or sorrowful.

One minute I’m fine.  And then a series of events, phone calls or memories pile one atop the other until they become a load I can no longer bear.

It feels like I am always behind, always short on resources, always close to tears.

And no matter how hard I try, I am unable to simply “get better”.  No matter how much I organize or plan or work at it,  I always end up frazzled and frustrated and feeling like a failure.  

I wish it wasn’t like this-this added burden in addition to the missing and the sorrow. Maybe it’s part of the missing and the sorrow.  I don’t know.  

But I’m ready for a day, a single day, when I feel just a little bit victorious..

The Shadowlands

 

Isn’t God supposed to be good? Isn’t He supposed to love us? Does God want us to suffer? What if the answer to that question is, ‘Yes'”? I suggest to you that it is because God loves us that He makes us the gift of suffering.

I’m not sure that God wants us to be happy. I think He wants us to be able to love and be loved. He wants us to grow-up. We think our childish toys bring us all the happiness there is and our nursery is the whole wide world. But something must drive us out of the nursery to the world of others and that something is suffering.

You see, we are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves forms of men. The blows of His chisel, which hurt so much, are what makes us perfect.

C.S. Lewis

Lewis referred to this life as “The Shadowlands”.  The place where we see the shape of the promise but not its substance.

I am caught between the world I live in and the world to come.  There is beauty in both, but only in Eternity will my heart be at home.

Right now, I am Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

not your best life

 

 

 

 

 

Loving the Wounded

God bless the inventor of Band Aids!

That little tacky plaster has soothed more fears and tears than almost any other invention in the world.

Skinned knee?  Put a BandAid on it.

Bee sting?  BandAid.

Tiny bump that no one can even see?  Oh, sweetie, let me give you a BandAid.

Simply acknowledging pain and woundedness is so often all that is needed to encourage a heart and point it toward healing.

It’s the same in the world of emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds.

But we have yet to invent the BandAid for those.

band aid and heart

Instead, frequently we ignore, refute, minimize and pass over the one in our midst who holds out a hand or a heart saying, “I have a boo boo.”

Believe me, I understand-so many of these wounds are incurable, they are uncomfortable to think about, hard to look at.compassion and stay with you

But often the only thing the hurting heart wants is acknowledgement, a moment of time, a face turned full into theirs, eye-to-eye and unafraid to remain alongside through the pain.

Just as a BandAid bears witness to the wound underneath, our compassionate presence can bear witness to the deeper wounds no one can see.

When we choose to lean in and love, to listen and learn, to walk with the wounded we give a great gift.

compassion is a choice

 

My Cup Overflows

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5b

I remember standing in our field with my husband at sundown one day, thankfulness and grace and mercy and wonder flooding my heart-and I whispered, “surely my cup overflows!”

Surely, God’s hand is in this, is on our lives-He has brought us to this place of blessing.

And that’s how I used to always think of that verse-the cup overflowing with goodness and blessing.

But what about when the cup overflows with sorrow?  

With pain?

With tragedy, trials and temptations?

jesus in the garden

Jesus knew about that cup.  That’s the cup He begged the Father to take from Him.

The cup that was bitter and hard to swallow.

He prayed three times, He sweat blood and He battled His flesh so that His spirit could conform to the Father’s will.

And in the end, He submitted Himself to the Father’s plan.

He was obedient, even to death, even to death that He did not deserve, did not HAVE to suffer, did not WANT to suffer.

I have buried a son.

And it is the most painful thing I have ever had to bear.

It’s a burden I never anticipated and it’s a burden of which I will not be free until I join him in Heaven.

There are some parents who have suffered the loss of multiple children. Or who have suffered child loss and other difficult life circumstances.

If my cup is full and overflowing, theirs is overflowing still more.

Where to take that full cup?

Where to find the strength to carry it, to drink it to the dregs?

When my heart screams, “No more!” and my body cries, “I can’t do this!”, I look to my Savior for the model of how to carry on.

Only in Christ, Who Himself bore the cup and Who drank its bitter fullness can I hope for strength and redemption.

The One Who knows my pain can carry my pain.

The One Who lives again will breathe life into my heart.  

The One Who redeems what the enemy has stolen will turn my mourning to dancing.  

cup of blessing

This cup will not always overflow with sorrow.  Around the banquet table at the wedding supper of the Lamb, it will once again be full of joy.

You make me know the path of life; in your presence is unbounded joy, in your right hand eternal delight.

Psalm 16:11 CJB

 

 

An Invitation

When Dominic died,  I was unaware of any  resources available to bereaved parents other than books written on the subject.  Thankfully, through personal contacts and Google searches, I found out about groups, online communities, blogs and excellent articles that helped me understand I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t crazy and I could survive.

I am working on a series of posts that will highlight some of the most helpful things people did for me and our family in the early days of our grief journey.  I will also share the physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological challenges and experiences of bereavement.

If you are a bereaved parent or someone who loves a bereaved parent, please consider joining me on my public Facebook page:  Heartache and Hope:Life After Losing a Child and share your perspective.

Someone suggested not too long after Dominic died that I might start a group for bereaved parents in my area–there aren’t any close by in our rural Alabama county.

I was not even ready to talk openly about my own feelings, much less listen to and absorb the pain of other grieving parents.

A few months ago I was introduced to a wonderful ministry called While We Are Waiting (whilewearewaiting.org) and discovered the blessing of belonging to a community of people who (unfortunately) know how I feel and can relate to my experience as a bereaved parent.  I began to realize that Facebook can be a place to connect people that otherwise might feel isolated in their pain.

I’m still not ready to sit face-to-face with more than one or two people at a time for deep conversation about life and death and fear and hope.

But I have opened a FaceBook page–Heartache and Hope:Life After Losing a Child–and it is public-although I am moderating posts.  I want to facilitate a way for parents in my area or in their own area, to find one another and form communities of support.

For some of us, online will be best.  Others may choose to get together in physical spaces.  Whatever works and brings hope to grieving hearts is wonderful.

I am not going to “invite friends” to like this page-thankfully, I don’t have that many people on my friend list who have buried children.  But I am inviting those who read my blog, and who have themselves lost a child to “like” the Heartache and Hope page.  And please invite other bereaved parents too.

There is no agenda other than encouraging one another in Christ and reminding ourselves of the hope we have in Jesus:  death is defeated, the grave is not the end, and our children will one day be reunited with us in glory.

 

Listen very carefully, I tell you a mystery [a secret truth decreed by God and previously hidden, but now revealed]; we will not all sleep [in death], but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed],  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at [the sound of] the last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [who believed in Christ] will be raised imperishable, and we will be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed]. For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us that is capable of dying] must put on immortality [which is freedom from death]. And when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, “Death is swallowed up in victory (vanquished forever). O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 AMP

Dragging Grief into the Light

During the course of my lifetime I have seen many topics dragged from behind closed doors out onto the stage and under the public spotlight.

Frankly, some of them could have remained in darkness as far as I’m concerned.

But there is something still taboo in polite conversation–something hushed with awkward silence should it ever be spoken aloud in a crowded room–mention GRIEF and eyes drop to the floor or someone hastily throws an arm around you and says, “There, there–it’s going to be alright.”

I don’t blame them.

In my growing up years I don’t remember anyone speaking about death and grief for longer than the time it took to go to a funeral home visitation and stand by the grave as the casket was lowered in the ground.  People were designated by their loss:  He was a widower; she lost a child; her mother died when she was young.

But what came AFTER the loss–not a word.

We need to talk about it.  We need to educate ourselves about it.  Because, like my EMT son says, “No one gets out of here alive.”

You WILL experience grief in your lifetime.

I pray that the people you lose are full of years and ready to go–that you get to say “good-bye” and that all the important things have been said and done so that you aren’t left with extra emotional baggage in addition to the sorrow and missing.

But you never know.  Neither you nor I are in control.

And even in the one place where it would seem most natural to talk about life and death and grief and pain–our churches–it still makes those who are not experiencing it uncomfortable.

Yes, there are grief support groups.  And, yes, they are helpful in ways that only a group made up of people who understand by experience what you are going through can be.

But much of life is spent rubbing elbows with folks unlike ourselves, with parents who know the fear of losing a child but not the awful reality.  And just a little bit of openness, a little bit of education and a little bit of understanding would make such a difference.

So for the next few days I am going to be posting about the grief process itself.  About what grieving parents experience and how friends, family, co-workers and churches can support them.

If you are a grieving parent, I hope these posts will serve as a launchpad for you to have conversations with your own friends and extended family.  If you aren’t a bereaved parent, please commit just the few minutes it takes and consider how you might support someone in your circle of influence who has lost a child.

We don’t want pity.

We aren’t looking for special accomodations that single us out and mark us as “needy”.  But we long for understanding and compassion and the opportunity to tell our stories.

 

 

Fragile

If you’ve ever had major surgery you know that the outside looks whole way before the inside is healed.

That’s how it is with grief–those of us who have lost a child appear to be strong–we have to be, because life doesn’t stop.

Not even for burying a child.

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.  And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Sometimes the process can be a matter of seconds, the only evidence a blank stare or a single tear.  Other times the memories and the forceful return to the here and now unleashes a flood from my eyes and ends my usefulness for that day.

Either way, it’s exhausting. 

I think that might be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for me.  When it strikes hard (as it still does sometimes) it robs me of energy and the desire to do anything.

I am a “get-it-done” kind of person.  But there’s no way to get grief “done”.  It works itself out in its own time and in its own way.

I can position my mind and my heart to heal by focusing on the promises of God in Scripture.  But I cannot hurry along the healing.

And healing, when it comes, will always be incomplete this side of heaven.

Please don’t mistake the fact that I can stand straight and look strong as proof that I am recovered. 

I am often frightened and sometimes I want to hide.

But vulnerable and wounded, I remain until God calls me home.

“In His feathers He shall deliver you and under His wings you shall have refuge; His truth shall surround you as a supply of armor.”

Psalm 91:4