How Are You Doing? I Don’t Really Know.

I first shared this post all the way back in 2016.

Most people I knew had experienced my son’s death as a moment in time, a single event, a date on the calendar but for me and my family it was an ongoing event.

His absence continued to shape our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined in the immediate aftermath of his accident.

Folks (meaning well but clueless) often began conversations with, “How are you doing?”.

What I really wanted to tell them was I had absolutely, positively NO IDEA but usually settled for, “As well as can be”.

Over eight years later I can say that most days are pretty good. I’ve learned to navigate the rocky territory of child loss and only rarely fall into a pit of despair.

But I’d still say that I don’t really know HOW I’m doing it-just that I AM doing it.

❤ Melanie

People see me, these years and months after Dominic left us and ask, “How are you doing?”

I come up with an answer because that’s the law of conversation-you ask something and I answer, then I ask something and you answer.

are-you-ok

Gotta keep that ball rolling.  

If it drops we are both forced to stand there wondering what to do with our bodies, our faces and our thoughts.

But right now, I don’t know HOW I’m doing.

Read the rest here: I Don’t Know How I’m Doing

Griefwork: Is It OK To Put Some Friendships on “Hold”?

A few years ago I spent the weekend with a small group of bereaved moms.

For our last session together, I solicited anonymous questions from the group that I promised to try to answer and discuss further.

There were lots of good ones but one of the most poignant was this:

Is it OK to put some friendships on hold because the interaction is no longer encouraging to me? I leave lunches together sad because their lives are going fine and I’m in such pain.

A Grieving Mom

My heart went out to this mama for so many reasons!

First, even in her grief she was concerned about doing the right thing, about being a good friend and about rightly interpreting the situation. She knew her friend wasn’t actively harming her. In fact, the friend was most likely trying hard to come alongside and encourage her heart.

But it still hurt.

And so she wanted to know if she was obligated to “grin and bear it” or if she could graciously and authentically set a boundary that meant a little (or a lot!) of distance between this friend and herself-hopefully for only a season.

This is one of the hard truths and difficult conundrums that inform the lives of many grievers. It certainly was part of mine for a long time.

I craved compassionate companionship from concerned friends and family while, at the exact same moment, longed for solitude and seclusion from “ordinary” life.

How in the world could the world just go on? How in Heaven’s name did the entire universe not take note of my great and irreplaceable loss?

For months (probably, honestly, for a couple of years!) there was always a subscript to every conversation and face-to-face interaction that read like Subtitles for a foreign film. And some folks lives were just too beautiful, too happy, too much like the one I wished I still had to endure the emotional burden that gap produced for my wounded heart.

So I had to limit my interaction with them (for their sake AND mine).

I unfollowed (NOT unfriended!) people on social media. They were none the wiser that the hap-hap-happy posts they splashed everywhere weren’t appearing in my newsfeed and I wasn’t constantly confronted by my own envy and sorrow.

I sent cards for occasions instead of showing up at certain celebrations. I chose them thoughtfully and wrote meaningful and sincere messages. I didn’t have a single person react badly that their wish was on paper instead of in person.

I withdrew from some of the groups where this kind of “humble bragging” was encouraged and promoted. It was a long, long time before I went to a women’s event that wasn’t focused on child loss.

No one really noticed.

And for those few relationships that were so close I couldn’t graciously or subtly move away, I told my friend that while I valued them, wanted very much to stay in touch and support them and didn’t want everything to be about ME, I needed to let them know certain topics might make me uncomfortable or sad.

So we tried to get together around activities that lent themselves to “in the moment” conversation. We didn’t linger long over lunch or on the phone. We walked in a park or went to a movie.

In time, as I did the work grief requires and as I grew stronger and better able to carry this burden called “child loss”, I was able to ease some of the boundaries I had put in place to protect my heart.

I never, ever want child loss (or any other hard life event or trauma) to become an excuse for my bad or unkind behavior.

But grief is work and requires so much time, energy and effort!

If I hadn’t made space and given myself the necessary grace to do that work I would not have found the measure of healing I now enjoy.

So, yes, dear heart-it’s OK to set boundaries.

It’s OK to pull back from some relationships to foster healing.

And it’s OK to reach out and let people back in, too, when your heart feels more whole again.

Bereaved Parents Month 2022: How Do You Breathe?

I’m ending Bereaved Parents Month by sharing this post because I still have moments when I marvel that I’ve survived.

It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.

Read the rest here: How Do You Breathe?

Bereaved Parents Month 2022: Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive, Inappropriate) Questions

I was utterly amazed at the questions people plied me with not long after Dominic’s accident.

They ranged from digging for details about what happened (when we ourselves were still unsure) to ridiculous requests for when I’d be returning to my previous responsibilities in a local ministry.

Since then, many of my bereaved parent friends have shared even more questions that have been lobbed at them across tables, across rooms and in the grocery store.

Recently there was a post in our group that generated so many excellent answers to these kinds of questions, I asked permission to reprint them here (without names, of course!).

So here they are, good answers to hard (or inappropriate or just plain ridiculous) questions:

Read the rest here: Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive, Inappropriate) Questions

Go Ahead and Ask!

I think Dominic’s death has made me brave in this one tiny place:  I say things I might not have said before.  I risk pain in relationships where I might not have been willing to risk before.  I assume that if I don’t speak important truths RIGHT NOW I might not get another chance.

I long to be a burden bearer for my friends and family because I know what it is to bear a burden.

So I ask and don’t assume.  

If someone wants to be left alone, then they are free to tell me.

But I will not stay silent or keep away simply for my own comfort.  

Read the rest here: Ask Me, Please.

Lenten Reflections: Embracing Mystery-I Don’t Have to Understand Everything

There have always been those who tried to reduce faith to something completely comprehensible.

But even a cursory reading of God’s Word and a casual experience with His ways makes that laughable.

When Jesus began teaching His disciples more and more about the Kingdom of God and His role as Christ, they were confused and dismayed. When I read His words they are still challenging and sometimes obscure even though I live on the other side of the resurrection.

Not everything can be explained.

When I insist on living life fully within the edges of rational thought, I not only miss out on many wonderful and inexplicable experiences, I also reduce my relationship with Jesus to rules.

If I am to fully embrace and inhabit the Kingdom life He has for me, I must be willing to embrace and inhabit the mysterious space between what I can know and understand and what I must trust I will one day know and understand (perhaps not until eternity!).

Thankfully, human reasoning neither leads nor limits God’s love. Consider passages in Scripture in which God’s words escape your understanding. What would it be like if God withheld His voice until humankind could fully comprehend it?

Alicia Britt Chole

Today’s fast is rationalism-letting go of a need to understand the mysterious, to insist on circumscribing God’s work in the world by human understanding and dismissing anything I can’t comprehend as immaterial or inconsequential.

How have you limited God’s love and work in your life by clinging to rationalism?

How can you let go and “let God”?

Take ten minutes to sit quietly with the Lord and allow Him to fill you with His Presence without demanding explanations.

Rest in Who He is and let His love overwhelm your heart.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Making Space for Authentic Faith

In Jewish culture, “It’s an act of reverence to ask questions of the story. The Jews are confident that the story is strong enough to be tried and tested….Around the table, a Jewish child has ‘That’s a good question!’ drummed into his or her soul, not ‘You don’t ask that question’…Questions are a sacred as answers.” (Dr. Leonard Sweet)

If you’ve read a single word I’ve written in the past seven years you know how close this truth is to my heart!

I think we do a disservice to ourselves and others when we reduce the complexities of Scripture to something like Aesop’s Fables. Real people lived real lives and had real questions. The Almighty God is big enough to handle them.

We weaken-not strengthen- our faith when we silence sincere questions. Faith in Christ is not an airy substance that rests on unquestioning souls. Biblical faith is muscular, thickened more through trials than ease. The Author of our faith is more than able to address the identity crises His unexpected words and ways may trigger.

Alicia Britt Chole

I am so thankful for the long but often underappreciated record of God’s people bringing their questions to Him.

The Bible is not propaganda, scrubbed clean of any references to experience that might undermine a preordained “message”. It’s a faithful rendering of human hearts wooed by our Shepherd, of hard things, hard sayings and wrestling with sin and with faith.

My story is messy.

My faith has places torn and mended. I still have questions. If God is God (and I believe that He is) then He is not threatened by my queries. He doesn’t owe me an explanation and I accept that. But I believe He welcomes my honesty.

So today I’m fasting tidy faith.

Have you lived with the false mantra: ” I know we aren’t supposed to question God” ?

What do you want/need to ask Him?

Use a concordance to find someone in Scripture who already has.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Good Answers to Awkward, Uncomfortable, Difficult Questions

I was utterly amazed at the questions people plied me with not long after Dominic’s accident.

They ranged from digging for details about what happened (when we ourselves were still unsure) to ridiculous requests for when I’d be returning to my previous responsibilities in a local ministry.

Since then, many of my bereaved parent friends have shared even more questions that have been lobbed at them across tables, across rooms and in the grocery store.

Recently there was a post in our group that generated so many excellent answers to these kinds of questions, I asked permission to reprint them here (without names, of course!).

So here they are, good answers to hard (or inappropriate or just plain ridiculous) questions:

Read the rest here: Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions

God’s Sovereignty and Free Will-Accidents and Miracles

I want to say up front that I am no theologian.  

I am, instead, a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who reads the Bible and tries hard to understand what it says and let it inform my worldview.  

I know I’ve written about this before but it comes up again and again in bereaved parent groups so I’m sharing MY perspective one more time.

Here’s the question: 

If God is sovereign (meaning all powerful) then why didn’t He save my child? 

Read my answer here: At The Intersection of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will: Accidents and Miracles

Learning To Live With Unanswered Questions

It’s been twenty years since the Towers fell.  Hard to believe-no matter how great the tragedy, life goes on.  

Image result for image 9/11

Like many, I was watching things as they happened that day.

My husband, an architect and engineer, saw the wobble in the first tower and knew, he knew, it was going to collapse.  Horrified I began to understand that whoever was still in that building was running out of time.

And I cried, oh, how I cried.  It was awful.

Since then I’ve lived my own tragedy.

My son was unexpectedly and instantly taken from us in an accident.

So when I’m reminded of 9/11 my heart takes me right to those left behind.

And while politicians and pundits can debate the reasons for the attack, can argue about what could have been done, should have been done and why and when-they can never answer the real question in the heart of every family who buried a loved one because of the events of that day.

Why MY husband, wife, daughter, son?  How do I make sense of this senseless tragedy?

The answer is, “You can’t.”

You cannot know why one person chose to go this way and lived and another went a different direction and died.  It’s impossible to understand the series of events that made someone late for work that day but lead another to show up early.

Last minute travel plan changes saved some from being aboard the fateful planes and put others in a seat.

I can’t know exactly why my son lost control of his motorcycle that night.  I will live the rest of my life without an answer to that question.

It’s an ongoing challenge to face the discomfort of things NOT making sense. It goes against human nature to acknowledge that the world is far less predictable than we like to believe.

It takes courage to greet each new day with knowledge that ANYTHING might happen-not only beautiful and wonderful things, but ugly and awful things as well.

If I let my heart dwell on the questions of “why?” and “control”, I am paralyzed, unable to take another step.

There’s no clear path through a world filled with the rubble of broken lives and broken people.

So I turn my heart toward Christ and His promise to never leave or forsake me.

And I am emboldened to take the next step because I know He is already there, even in the dark.

psalm-23_3
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