So This Is What I Looked Like: It’s Hard Watching Another Heart Grieve

Watching my father grieve my mother is the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Grieving my own son, watching my husband and children grieve him too, is the hardest.

I observe Papa’s expression, hear the weariness in his voice, note the far off stare when conversation drifts to mundane and unimportant things and realize that was exactly how I looked and sounded in the first months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I love my mama.

And I spent a lot of time with her these past two years since the fall and heart attack that changed everything in August, 2017.

But I was not her daily caregiver. My schedule didn’t revolve around whether or not someone could stay with her so I could go somewhere else-even if it was just down the road-for more than an hour.

One of the last photos we took with Mama. She was so proud of her great-grandson.

I called each day and talked to Papa, checking on them both, but then I was free to do or not do whatever I wanted to without considering her need to be attached to oxygen and her limited endurance to do anything even then.

I tried to be supportive. I made multiple trips down to the farm and tried to give Papa some space and freedom.

That’s just not the same as 24/7 care.

His grief for the wife with whom he spent 58 years is deeper and wider than my heart can understand.

Mama and Papa in the early days.

Just as my grief for the child I had carried, birthed, raised and cared for was impossible for him to fully comprehend.

Dominic is his grandson. And as grandparents go, my parents were extremely involved in my kids’ lives-showing up to not only the important events and occasions but also to many mundane and everyday moments.

But the gap between even frequent visits and daily living is huge.

So while I cannot feel precisely what Papa is feeling about Mama-his wife-I can absolutely understand how very devastating his loss is.

Our losses are different in kind but not in quality.

When I look at him, I’m looking in a mirror.

Grief etched everywhere.

Pain across his forehead.

Heartache painted on his lips.

I am so sad that I am no more able to touch that deep wound and render healing than anyone was able to touch mine and do the same.

No one can do the work he has to do but himself-not even someone who has done the same work in her own life.

All I can offer is to walk with him, no matter how hard it gets, for as long as it takes just like he did (does!) for me. ❤

Distant Music

I don’t know about you, but sometimes cute little memes intended to help me “look on the bright side” fly all over me.

Sure, if life gives you lemons (bad hair day, late to work, long line at the grocery store) make lemonade.

But sometimes it’s not lemons life gives you, it’s an avalanche of pain, heartache and world-shattering awful.

You can’t make lemonade from THAT.

So often life is absolutely NOT the party I had hoped for. And all the catchy psychobabble parading across my social media newsfeed doesn’t make it any easier to take.

This sweet little picture did though.

There are days when I just can’t. And that’s OK.

But when I stop to listen, even on the hardest days, there’s still sweet music in the distance. ❤️

What I’ve Learned About Grief: A Bereaved Dad’s Perspective

I belong to a number of closed online bereaved parent groups.  

I’m not sure if it is a function of gender or not, but the moms seem to be a bit more willing to share their feelings and to respond to the feelings of others.  

Every now and then, a dad speaks up. When he does, I usually pay close attention to this male perspective.

Wes Lake is a bereaved dad in our group who often has thoughtful posts that help my heart.  This one in particular was a beautiful, true and helpful reflection so I asked him for permission to share.

He graciously agreed.  

” [I was] just thinking about 5 years down this road and some of the things I’ve learned:

Grief doesn’t usually kill you.

For a long time I wished the Lord would take me but apparently he had other plans because I’m still here. So if I’m still alive what choice do I have but to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and learn to live again. Yes, I’m severely disabled but I need to make the best of what I have.

It is not the hand your dealt, it is about how you play the cards.

world-doesnt-stop-for-your-grief

I have learned not to trust my emotions.

I will have the blackest of black days and a day later the world will look like there is hope. Nothing in child loss good or bad is forever other than the loss of our child.

On the bad days I hold out hoping for a better day.

good day bad day god is in all days lucado

Time does heal but not in a way that most people think.  

Time shows you all the sides of grief. Time teaches you your limitations.  Time helps you to stuff the grief so you can function again.  Time shows you how to interact with a non-grieving world.

You don’t grieve any less, but your life gets easier.

it has been said that time heals all wounds rose kennedy clock

One other one not part is of the OP [overall process]-I had to come to grips with being happy.

For a long time I felt that experiencing the slightest sliver of joy was somehow being unfaithful to my daughter. I’m here to tell you that is a huge lie of grief. Just because you are experiencing good things does not mean you miss your child any less.

Being a martyr gets you no place good.”

~ Wes Lake, bereaved dad

grieving person is going to laugh again

 

Life is a Gift-Celebrate! Every. Single. Day.

I have never been a crystal and china kind of gal.

I got a few special pieces when my husband and I married, but most of the things in my home are durable and useful.

So I don’t have many things tucked away for special occasions.

I’m glad that when my kids were young we made even ordinary days special by setting the table, using candles, cloth napkins, real plates and mugs for meals.

We foolish mortals sometimes live through years not realizing how short life is, and that TODAY is your life.
― Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking

I’m especially thankful this side of child loss that our memories include making many regular days wonderful by choosing to celebrate the smallest moments. 

I have an inexpensive set of Chinese plates, soup bowls and porcelain spoons I bought from a mail order catalog way before the Internet, much less Amazon.  It gave my homemade sweet and sour chicken an air of authenticity (and it was fun!).

When December rolled around, we ditched our everyday plates for Christmas ones we used for meals and festive coffee mugs that held everything from morning coffee to the evening’s soft drinks, tea and hot cocoa.

Birthdays, holidays and regular days were all reasons to make merry and make memories. 

I’m so glad we didn’t set things aside because they were too dear for everyday use.  

Life IS a gift. 

Celebrate it.

dont save for special occassion

Baby Steps Count

When my daughter was learning to walk, I would hover near-ready to catch her if she fell.

I covered sharp corners or moved furniture so that the chance of injury was minimized. I clapped and cooed each time she made a little progress-pulling up, cruising around the edge of the sofa and coffee table-those tentative moments when she was brave enough to let go and then plop on her bottom.

And finally, when she made her first unassisted steps between the security of holding on and my waiting arms.

It was a judgement free zone.  

I wasn’t looking for technical perfection or measuring progress according to any external metric.

crawling walking baby huff post

I didn’t rush the process. I couldn’t do it for her.  I could only support her own efforts toward the goal we both had in our hearts.  I never despised her baby steps.  

They were a beginning.  

And everything has a beginning.

When Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I felt like I was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually knocked to the floor.  I had no idea how I was going to make a life after this great blow.   I could barely get dressed, much less do anything that took more thought or energy than that.

I was overwhelmed.   I had to learn to walk all over again.

And I did it with baby steps, in a judgement free-zone I created for myself where I refused to gauge my progress against anyone else’s.

its all about the baby steps

Because baby steps count.

Here are some of the baby steps I’ve taken and am still taking:

  • Got up, got dressed, bought groceries.
  • Cooked dinner.
  • Cleaned the bathrooms.
  • Went to church.
  • Remembered a birthday and sent a card.
  • Drove to an unfamiliar place to meet someone for lunch.
  • Exercised.
  • Made phone calls.
  • Went to work.
  • Volunteered.
  • Slept through a whole night.
  • Organized a party.
  • Showed up to graduations, a couple funerals and a wedding.
  • Kept doctor’s appointments.
  • Laughed.

I have yet to hit my stride and I don’t think running is in my near future, but I am moving forward.  I’m making progress.  I don’t have to meet a timetable or get anyone else’s approval.  

It’s my journey.

And baby steps count.  ❤

feet on path

 

 

 

Repost: Gratitude and Grieving

Gratitude does not undo grief.  

There, I said it.

Gratitude is important.  It is (in my opinion) a necessary ingredient for a healthy and hope-filled and useful life.  It is the key to any real happiness a heart might find on this broken road.

But it cannot fill up the empty place where Dominic used to be.  

Grief does not preclude gratitude.  

Although some broken hearts swear it does. 

Read the rest here:  Gratitude and Grieving: Appreciating What I Have, Acknowledging What I Miss