“Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship”

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ~ Tuesdays with Morrie

A parent’s love doesn’t end simply because a child leaves this earth.  

The relationship is not over as long as a  bereaved parent’s heart beats. 

i carry your heart ee cummingsSo we face a challenge:  How do we express love to and honor relationship with a child out of sight and out of reach. 

We tell our stories and theirs.  We start foundations or fund scholarships or do Random Acts of Kindness in honor of our son or daughter.  We lobby legislators and city councils.  We fight for changes in medical protocol. We post pictures on social media to keep their lights bright in friends’ and family’s memories. 

And we say their names.

Because death can take a body, but it can’t steal a relationship.  

 

death-ends-a-life-not-a-relationship-gentle green

Priceless

Circumstances have made me thoughtful lately.  

My grandson’s premature birth, my daughter’s wedding and our personal season of unwelcome milestones have reminded me that life is short.  

And then a Facebook friend shared this meme:  

a rich life has nothing to do with money

My heart cried, “Yes!”

It’s so, so true.  

What we will value most in our vulnerable moments and in our last moments won’t be anything we bought at a store (or online).  

It will be relationships. 

The people we love and who love us are the true treasure of a life well-lived.  

They are priceless.  

life approved by others award

Empathy Has No Script

I think if we are absolutely honest, most of us would admit we have few relationships that operate without some kind of script.

We are friends with someone because we like the same hobbies or spend time together at a job or ball park or church.  

We fall in love with someone because they “complete” us and offer companionship, emotional support and stability. 

When the script fails (for whatever reason) we tend to pull away from those  relationships.

But if I choose to enter into the suffering of another, I must do so without a script and commit to the long haul.

I must follow his or her lead, allow him or her to guide my response and refuse to impose my preferences on that hurting heart.  

I’m there to hold a hand and help a heart hold onto hope.  

empathy has no script brene brown

Why Some Friends Abandon Grievers

Often a new year means taking stock of the previous twelve months and making adjustments for the next twelve. 

When I comb back through my memories I try to notice where I struggled and where I soared.  I want to learn from the things that worked and the things that didn’t.  And I almost always find relationships top the list of where I need to make changes.

Grief is tough on friendships.  

Not everyone can or will stick around while broken hearts work hard to put the pieces back together.

I miss some of the people I thought would still be here and, if I allow myself to do it, can invest too much of the precious and limited emotional energy I have left this side of child loss in being angry, bitter or just plain disappointed.

But that is unhelpful. 

So instead I began to think about WHY some friends abandon grievers.  

Here’s what I think:  Why Friends Abandon Grievers

Emotional Overload and T.M.I.

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

I know I said (still say!) things that wound others.  Most of the time it’s because I’m distracted or hurting myself and my mouth begins speaking before my brain is fully engaged.  Sometimes, though, it’s because I’m in pain and (frankly!) I want to transfer some of that pain to someone else.

Misery DOES love company!

Often other people in my life will say or do things that wound me.  Some of the folks are part of my inner grief circle and I know that it’s unintentional or they are having a pain-filled day like I am.

A few are extended family members who are either blissfully unaware of the ongoing pain and drama of child loss or are too caught up in their own lives to give it a thought.

Some of them are friends who think by now I should have toughened up and are no longer willing to extend extra grace and try harder to be tender.

Sometimes it’s acquaintances or strangers who don’t have a clue.

Whenever someone pierces my armor and inflicts pain, I have a choice:  Do I suck it up and take it or do I say something and try to reconcile?

There are days when I feel strong enough to just overlook it.  But I know if it represents a pattern, sooner or later the pressure will build and I’m going to blow.  And that’s not good for either one of us.

couple fighting

There are days when I absolutely, positively have to address it.  That’s when I need to be careful of overloading another heart with too much information (TMI).  See, it’s easy to make one person the target for all my strong feelings.  It’s easy to do an emotional and informational “dump” on whoever happens to be handy or whoever is the least intimidating.

That’s unfair and unhelpful-for them and for me.  

So when I decide to open my mouth and address a specific situation with a specific person, I need to keep my margins clean and only say the things that pertain to THAT instance.  I can’t bring up every single thing the person has done in the past or things that they haven’t said or done but which have made me more sensitive to certain words or actions.  I don’t need to burden them with all the details of MY bad day or week or month.

Instead I should talk about my own feelings in relationship to them and their actions or words. 

“I feel like _________when you say________” gives vent to my emotion without accusing another heart.  I need to leave room for them to share what they were/are thinking and feeling too.  It can’t be one-way conversation if I hope to have a two-way relationship.  

i statments graphic

Any stressful life circumstance makes us all more vulnerable to offense.  And child loss is certainly stressful.  It’s stressful in ways others can’t see or comprehend.  It alters the way a parent sees and experiences the world.

It makes everything harder.  

Relationships included.  

I want to be full of love, grace and mercy, not overrun with bitterness, anger and offense. 

So I have to be mindful of what I say, how much I say and when I choose to say it.

young man thought bubble

“Special Handling Required”

This time of year all the package handlers are busy dropping off the bounty of online shoppers’ purchases to millions of doorsteps around the world.  

It’s a wonder that most of it arrives on time and in good condition.  

amazon boxes at door

I suspect though, that you, like me, have gotten one or two boxes over the years that arrived dinged and damaged, battered and broken.

While it can be a real hassle to get the product replaced, it’s usually only a matter of time before a brand new “whatever” arrives.  

People aren’t so easily mended, though.  

And I think we forget that.  

People are more fragile than they appear. Words are more piercing than we realize. We should add in an extra notch of kindness and gentleness whenever we can.

~Gavin Ortlund

I have friends that take more care with their smartphone than with their spouse or children or parents.

Things can be replaced.  People can’t.

Mass produced consumer goods-no matter how expensive or treasured-are worthless compared to a heart.

In an age where clicks and phone calls make it possible to fix so many things, they are rarely helpful in fixing relationships.

“Special Handling Required!” should be plastered across every human’s forehead.  

People are irreplaceable, fragile, beautiful gifts.  

More valuable than anything we could ever buy.  ❤

words and hearts should be handled with care

 

 

 

 

Speaking Truth

In the South, we tend to pussyfoot around hard truths because most of us grew up with the admonition, “Now just be nice!”

And while that makes for charming dinner table conversation, it makes for lousy long-term relationships.

Because we all know the longer you live with, work with and love another body, the more things that should be said but aren’t add up.

Pretty soon the pile is so big it obscures the love or fun or shared interests that should be holding hearts together and instead they drift apart.

I haven’t been all that good at following the southern tradition of code words and cute phrases that mask true intent. But I used to be guilty of it from time to time.

These past years of heartache and hardship have pretty much stripped all the veneer that was left off my tongue.

I doubt you will find a soul that would call me a silver-tongued devil.  They’re more likely to call me a brash something else.

But I have important things to say and I don’t want to waste time sugar-coating them.  I don’t want the meat of my message hidden inside a puff pastry of silly words.  I believe truth should be easy to swallow but not necessarily tasty.

Often the most efficacious medicine leaves a nasty aftertaste.

So I’m here to tell you:  don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.  

All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.  

If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.

It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable. 

But it’s worth it.  

And it’s really the only way to authentic and lasting relationships.  

business-authenticity