When Sleep Isn’t Enough: Soul Weary

In yesterday’s post I shared how adjusting my focus and speaking truth and hope to my heart makes such a difference!

But sometimes, no matter how hard I try to “keep my chin up” or “remind myself of redemption”, my soul gets weary.

I’ve recently come off of several months of activity along with emotionally charged interactions and I. am. worn. out.

There’s not really a good or easy way to describe this kind of bone-deep tiredness to someone who has not walked the path we’ve walked so I usually settle for, “I’m tired”. That’s when they typically suggest I get more rest or take a nap.

But I know that won’t really help.

❤ Melanie

When I say to someone, “I’m so very tired!” they nearly always suggest a nap.  Trust me, if a nap would erase this soul weariness, I’d take one every single day.

But it doesn’t, so I don’t.

Instead I go outside and breathe some fresh air, make a cup of hot tea and sit down with a good book, or just sit down and watch the Christmas lights or a candle with my cat in my lap.

Read the rest here: When Sleep Won’t Fix It

Self Care Isn’t Selfish

Every family is different. Every loss experience is unique.

Some of us have busy households when one of our children leave for Heaven and some of us are long past full tables and messy teen bedrooms.

Wherever we find ourselves when the unthinkable overtakes us, it’s always hard to continue doing daily tasks bearing a burden of sorrow. So often we settle into a pattern of striving and straining through the deep mire of grief without making time for rest.

I know I did.

Goodness! I still experience seasons when grief waves steal what little breath is left from a breathless and busy life and I can barely function.

It’s then I remind my heart that self care isn’t selfish. It’s necessary.

Absolutely, positively necessary.

Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.

I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.

And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.

Read the rest here: Self Care in Grief

Dismantling The Past

I’ve spent the last two days rearranging our family room.

Since my husband has retired, we no longer use it as we once did and I realized a few weeks ago that it was ridiculous to have it set up the way it’s been for decades when our needs have drastically changed.

So we decided to tackle the job of sorting/moving/dismantling books, videos (yes, we still have a few!), DVDs, CDs and random other bits and pieces of a life long lived in the same place.

For those of you who have moved often you may have been spared the detritus of papers stuck in cracks and crevices on bookcases with the promise to yourself you’ll “put them where they go when I get a chance”.

Me, not so lucky.

I’ve found treasures-scribbles of younger days from my now (very!) grown children-and sad reminders of projects begun and left hanging because we got too busy to see them through.

The one thing I celebrated in taking apart, digging through and tearing down was this: totally destroying and trashing an old, old, old television stand from back in the day when TVs were far too heavy and far too thick to mount on walls or above fireplaces.

I’d always hated that thing.

We bought it as young marrieds when our budget was tight and floor space was precious in our first small home. It did the job but it was just not my style. And at the time, I wasn’t bold enough or strong enough to speak up and advocate for a different choice.

Oh, there are wonderful memories of my two oldest kids putting on shows dressed up in fun costumes and singing along to our cassette tape playlist. We have more than one photo of that delightful era.

But there were years and years of putting up with something that no longer served our needs (because it was here, bought and paid for, and convenient) instead of ditching it and buying something that would both serve and bring delight.

Closest picture I could find to what we had.

So other than a long march down memory lane, what does this have to do with child loss?

I’ve learned since Dom left us that I’ll no longer stay silent when a habit, a situation, a relationship or a piece of furniture doesn’t serve my current mental, physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual circumstances.

I won’t wait for someone else to notice I’m upset or sad or happy or delighted.

I’ve learned to speak up for myself and ask for things I need. I’m learning (haven’t made the progress I’d like!) to set boundaries and tell others that they may come thus far and no closer. I’m trying harder to rid my life of what is unhelpful and unhealthy.

I’m definitely a work in progress.

And most of the work won’t have such a satisfying and concise conclusion as when I cheerfully watch the pieces of that old TV stand go up in smoke.

But I’m committed to continue dismantling the parts of my past that no longer serve my present.

I Just Want to be Me!

I first shared this post four (!) years ago when I was approaching the four year milestone of Dominic’s leaving for Heaven.

By that time most folks who knew me when he died had relegated that part of my story to some ancient past that surely I was over by now. I’d met others who had no clue my heart skipped a beat on a regular basis because one of my children was buried in the churchyard down the road.

And even the closest ones-the ones I thought would understand forever-were sometimes impatient with my ongoing refusal to leave Dominic behind and be “healed” of my grief.

What I long for more than anything as the eighth anniversary of his departure draws near is simply this: Let me be me, whatever that looks like.

Don’t try to fit my journey into your mold.

❤ Melanie

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

Read the rest here: Can I Just Be Me?

Sleep and Grief

It’s something I hear often from bereaved parents-sleep is elusive.

Falling asleep was nearly impossible in the first days and weeks after Dominic’s accident. I would lie down utterly exhausted but simply not be able to close my eyes because behind the lids scrolled the awful truth that my son was never coming home again.

Eventually my body overcame my mind and I would drift off for an hour or two but couldn’t stay asleep.

It was years before I finally developed something that resembled a “normal” sleep pattern. Even now I wake at four practically every morning-the time when the deputy’s knock sounded on my door.

Sleep is important. I can’t do the work grief requires if I go too long without it.

I have used (and still use!) various tips and tricks to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. Here are a few of them.

Boy, do I envy my cats’ ability to fall asleep any place, any time.

I’ve lived with chronic physical pain for over a decade and there are nights when it is hard to go to sleep-when it is impossible to ignore the pain.  But I have never thought of myself as having trouble sleeping.

Until now.

Read the rest here: grief and sleep

The Importance of Self Care in Grief

Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.

I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.

And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.

Read the rest here: Self Care in Grief

How Stress Impacts Grief

It would be so helpful if there was an app to track stress like there is to track spending.

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to get an alert that said, “Low Balance”, for mental, physical and psychological reserves like the one you can get for your bank account right before you are heading to overdraft territory?

But there isn’t.

And few of us are very good at gauging just how much is left in our mental wellness accounts which means we often keep giving when the well is more than dry.

I’d be lying if I said I spend the same amount of time crying, lamenting and bent over in agonizing pain that I did in the early days of mourning Dominic. I’ve found a way to keep him close, to trust his soul to Jesus and to (largely) live in the present instead of always longing for the past.

There are days, though…

Some days are easy to anticipate-birthdays, holidays, the awful anniversary of his leaving-and some sneak up on me. I can often trace my overwhelming sadness to a specific trigger or memory dug up in a drawer or found in a pile of photos.

Occasionally, I have a horrible weepy day for no discernable reason.

That’s when I walk my heart back through recent events and always come to the same conclusion-I’ve let myself run dry:

  • I’ve overcommitted.
  • I’ve not planned rest.
  • I’ve had hard pain days.
  • There’s been family drama.
  • Someone I love is sick.
  • I’m sick.
  • A deadline looms large.
  • There’s some major unpredictability going on.
  • I’ve counseled too many people without enough time to regain my own emotional stores.
  • I’m not sleeping well.
  • I’m doing too much and not listening to my body.

What I’ve come to understand is that stress is a HUGE impact on my grief and how I experience it.

I won’t patronize folks reading this with a simplistic (but wholly unhelpful!) suggestion to “reduce or avoid stress”.

For heaven’s sake! If we could do that with a snap of our fingers we would hardly need someone to tell us to take advantage of that solution.

Truth is, stress is often largely outside our control.

But there ARE some things I can make choices about. So I do. I look ahead at the calendar and note upcoming milestone days. I plug in doctor’s appointments, birthdays and holidays. I review every invitation to celebrations or lunch in light of what is already inked in.

I’ve learned to be honest with folks about my limitations and send a card or gift through the mail if I can’t be there in person. I sometimes suggest an alternative date and time if the one a friend offers just doesn’t work for me. I stand firm in my opinion that “no” is a complete sentence and as long as I’m kind and gracious it is not incumbent upon me to offer an explanation for why I’m turning down an invitation.

And if I have an unexpectedly hard day-from grief or activity or because of my RA-I drop back the next day to allow time to recuperate and rest (if at all possible).

The reality is that child loss means there is ALWAYS a certain low-level hum of stress in my life.

Adding to that already higher-than-average stress means it’s easy for me to be tipped into unhealthy territory.

Crying is only the tip of the iceberg.

Health problems, heart problems, relationship issues and other long-term consequences often result.

It’s not only OK for me to set boundaries to protect my health and my heart,

It’s absolutely, positively the right thing to do.

Want To Try Journaling? Here’s How.

Journaling has been and continues to be a very important part of my grief journey.

Putting thoughts on paper gets them out of my head.

Writing them down helps me understand them.

Read the rest here: Grief Journaling Prompts

Ten Ways I Survive Hard Grief Days

My hardest grief season begins in November and runs to the end of May.  Thanksgiving through Dominic’s birthday on (or near) Memorial Day are days full of triggers, memories and stark reminders that one of us is missing.

If I could fall asleep November first and wake up in June I’d do it.

But I can’t so I have to employ all the tricks I’ve learned in the over seven years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven to survive those particularly challenging months.

Here are ten ways I survive hard grief days

Read the rest here: Taking Care: Ten Ways to Survive Hard Grief Days

Yay For Naps!

Historically many of the most prolific and influential people (think Winston Churchill) have been proponents of mid-day naps.

But for a Type-A personality whose life experience has amplified internal voices that scream, “Make every moment count!” naps feel like being lazy and wasting time.

I have resisted that after-lunch malaise for most of my life because I was convinced giving up an hour or more to sleeping would rob me of vital productivity and mean my list of “things to do” would languish, undone.

Recently (very, very recently-like only a week) I’ve tried to overcome my personal reluctance to give in to my body’s need to rest and have (gasp!!!) been going upstairs, lying down and taking a nap.

I still wake rather confused, disoriented and feeling like I’ve *wasted* whatever time was spent sleeping. But I have noticed that, contrary to what I anticipated, my night time rest has become more effective and restorative.

Like many of my fellow bereaved parents, my health has deteriorated following my son’s death. I was already diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and have been through five different treatment regimens trying to address its insidious, progressive nature in the past seven years. I’m trying to come to terms with what amounts to premature aging and the limitations that represents but it’s hard.

I’ve also (ridiculous, I know!) still not adjusted to the FACT that I don’t have as many daily responsibilities as I once had as mama to a brood of four whom I homeschooled and chauffeured around to various extra-curricular activities.

It’s just me and my retired husband.

We can eat sandwiches or skip a meal altogether.

And if something’s not done today, it can most likely be done tomorrow (or next week) with little impact on the outcome.

I’m trying to embrace a lifestyle where there is literally NO ONE keeping score.

It’s a different kind of challenge.

But one I’m working to meet.

Yay! for naps.

The rest and the spell

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