This month marks the beginning of the fifth year since I committed to write every single day in this space.
No one could be as surprised as I am that I’m still here.
I honestly don’t know what response I anticipated when I showed up and started sharing. I just knew that I could not let this heartache go to waste.
Dominic’s death had to count for something.
I had five goals in mind when I started the blog:
- To be as honest and transparent as possible;
- To encourage others and help them hold onto hope;
- To provide a voice for the child loss community in a format that was easy to share;
- To acknowledge and admit that faith did not make child loss any less painful, only more bearable; and
- To chronicle my own progress toward healing.
Of course, I am a biased source, but I feel like I have met those goals in one form or another.
As I continue to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I find there are always new things to say. I am bombarded daily with queries or comments from other bereaved parents that raise a new issue, offer a different perspective or beg for an advocate along this lonesome road.
I’ve discovered that there are many ways life breaks a heart, many ways sorrow enters a soul.
Life is hard.
Love often ends in heartache.
Sorrow can overwhelm a soul so fast there’s no time to grab hold of a lifeline.
But reaching out, reaching back, choosing to be a lighthouse and beacon for the ones so lost they’ve forgotten that light exists, is as much a balm for MY heart as it is for theirs.
Every story matters.
You don’t have to write a blog to share yours.
Speak up. Speak out. Share the hope and strength that has helped you hold on.
You may be the lifeline the next heart needs to choose endurance instead of ending it all.
Hey-I get it.
Who wants to air the good, the bad and the ugly for everyone else to see?
In today’s world where photo filters on our cellphone cameras can turn a pretty rotten picture into a magazine worthy masterpiece no one is anxious to be seen as less than polished and put together.
The pressure is on to pretend that all is well even when all is, well, going quite the other direction.
If you are trudging through a tough patch, let folks know.
You might be surprised by who reaches out saying, “That was me just a while ago. Would you like to know how I made it through?”
If you’ve already walked the long and lonely road of grief, loss, trauma, depression or other difficult circumstance-share your story!
Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t clean up the messy bits. Don’t gloss over the hard spots.
How can anyone learn to walk the hard roads, the rocky paths, the treacherous terrain of life unless someone else is willing to be a guide? And who can trust a guide that hasn’t also made that journey?
Tell it like it was.
Then tell it like it is.
Map the path from there to here.
Shine a light for a soul that thinks darkness is all there is.
Reach back and take a hand.
Help a heart hold on to hope.
The morning Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, after I made the awful phone calls I reached for my journal.
I knew if I didn’t start spilling the grief onto paper my heart would explode with sorrow.
Since I learned to hold a pencil I’ve been writing.
It’s how I sort my thoughts, figure out my feelings and express my heart.
A few months after and I found several online support groups.
There I learned a whole other Language of Grief and Loss. The more I read what others shared, the better I understood my own experience and understood how to communicate that truth to others.
You might not keep a journal or write poetry or craft lengthy essays about your pain and that’s just fine. There’s no magic in written words.
Find a safe space or person and speak it aloud.
Sorrow unspoken swells.
It can’t be contained.
It will absolutely consume you.
Child loss is also often sibling loss.
In addition to their own heartache, bereaved parents carry the heartache of their surviving children.
The family everyone once knew is now a family no one recognizes. Hurting hearts huddle together-or run and hide-and it is so, so hard to find a way to talk about that pain.
There is definitely a time and place for professional counseling. Many, many families benefit from having a trained individual, outside the immediate grief circle, guide them in exploring feelings, developing coping strategies and learning to live life this side of loss.
But there is also something to be said for arranging casual open-ended activities with surviving siblings, parents and even grandparents where space and a more relaxed atmosphere often leads to honest sharing.
This graphic has lots of excellent suggestions for how to craft such a space.
Not all will be suitable for every family, but every family should be able to find a few that fit.
I’ll add these guidelines that may help your family make the best choice for YOU:
- Don’t force it. If you make an offer of an activity and it drops with a thud to the ground, let it go. You might be able to do it another time.
- Don’t make it (what my kids like to say!) a “mandatory option”. There must be no guilt or coercion invading this space. If one or more of your family members consistently refuse to join in, consider asking a close family friend to take that individual out alone and see what might be going on.
- If you choose a movie or other story-themed activity, LOOK UP THE PLOT! I can’t tell you how many times we were sideswiped by a death scene or some other heavy emotional plot twist. There may be a time when your family is prepared to experience those things together (we can now) but it may not be yet.
- Mix and match more structured activities with open-ended ones like walks outside, watching the sunset, sitting on the beach, hanging at the pool, playing a game (not too competitive-that will sometimes bring out hidden anger).
- If you have a family with a broad range of ages you might have to do some things with the littles and some with the older kids. You can always add one or two activities a month or quarter where everyone (or as many as are available) gets together.
- If your children, spouse, parent or other close griever begins to talk-let them. If tears flow-that’s progress! If ugly feelings are expressed, listen. Try not to be defensive. Try to hear the hurt behind the words. It’s OK to set ground rules like using “I” statements and not blaming. But don’t shut them out or shut them down.
These are just ideas.
Google is your friend and your phone is probably already in your hand or pocket-use it.
Find things that fit YOUR family.
The only way through is through.
You have to feel and deal to heal. ❤
We CAN hold some of it in.
In certain circumstances.
And barring additional stress.
But not forever.
So let it out.
Speak your truth and tell your story.
If others don’t understand or turn away or give you the evil eye, ignore them.
This isn’t their story-to tell or to live.
I didn’t realize until I was the person who needed comforting how unhelpful and sometimes painful my own past comments were to my suffering friends and family.
There are many important and necessary conversations going on right now about how we talk to and talk about our fellow humans. I’m thankful folks are learning that words are rarely (ever?) neutral.
They build up or tear down.
And we are responsible for them.
I wish that along with other areas, we would consider how we discuss and address those who experience painful life circumstances. But we rarely do.
This is one place where the right words can make such a difference.
Instead of shutting down the broken heart or lamenting soul, we can choose to invite them to share and then stick around to listen.
We can create safe spaces instead of closing the door to further conversation.
We can participate in healing instead of perpetuating the pain.
A conspiracy of silence forces those who are suffering to hide. It creates huge gaps between what goes on behind closed doors and public image.
And it causes those who are wounded to question the authenticity of their own experience.
I will tell my story because even though it is hard, it matters. And even though it hurts, it can help heal another. And even though it isn’t finished, it can blaze a trail for others to follow.
Read the rest here: Courage is a Heart Word