Best Christmas Gift EVER

I’ve had plenty of beautiful Christmases.

I’ve had almost a decade of more somber ones.

But when our pastor recently asked, “What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?” I didn’t have to think hard at all.

It was my daughter, Fiona.

She wasn’t born ON Christmas but a week before-today is her birthday-and I was oh, so glad to finally hold that tiny bundle in my arms instead of in my belly.

My first successful pregnancy (I’d miscarried a year before) was a long, hard and difficult one. I never achieved that “glow” so many women enjoy while hormones guaranteeing baby’s health and safety surged through my system.

Instead I was desperately ill for the first four months as I wrapped up my college degree. (In hindsight, taking biology at six in the morning was a bad choice.) I spent many of those days in close communion with the toilet or a bowl when I couldn’t muster the energy to get to the bathroom.

I had a few short golden weeks before my body revolted once again and I developed a serious case of preeclampsia. Now my doctor visits were weekly and included fetal monitoring.

Back then there were few interventions for this condition so it was wait and see, wait and see all the while I counted days and weeks until I could reach the magic “thirty-four week” mark of likely viability.

Thankfully, we made it!

But then that little Miss decided to assert her personality and refuse to make an entrance.

So…finally…I was scheduled to deliver ten full days after her due date of December 8th.

It was a long day of pitocin, contractions, no progress and a swift trip to the OR for what ended up being an emergency C-section. Drama all the way!

She was here, safe and sound, in my arms at last.

There are lots of things I don’t remember in detail about that day or even the week that followed but I remember this: I knew in my bones that life would never be the same. This precious child made me a mama and my heart would forever be wrapped around hers.

I’m so very thankful I had the blessing of three more little ones after that.

I’m grateful for the lives they’ve lived and the ones they are living now.

I miss my third-born, Dominic. His birth story is woven just as firmly into the fabric of my being as Fiona’s and that of her other brothers.

I can’t pick out his threads without unraveling the whole cloth.

And I don’t want to.

I celebrate today the gift of motherhood and the gift of children.

Even when one of them leaves too soon.

Love is always costly, but love is always worth the price.

Christmas 2022: Surviving Siblings and the Holidays

I first shared this post in 2016 when we had muddled through the first two holiday seasons after Dominic left us and were headed for a third.

Now facing our ninth, there are some things that have changed a lot (adding grandchildren and losing my mama) and some things that remain the same (the ongoing struggle to balance everyone’s needs and expectations with the reality of sorrow).

I still find the principles I outlined years ago to be the best way to approach the season. We certainly don’t always get it right but we continue to strive to honor one another, to honor the true meaning of Christmas and to honor Dominic.

❤ Melanie

How do I honor the child for whom memories are all I have and love well the children with whom I am still making memories?

That’s a question I ask myself often.

And it is especially difficult to answer for celebrations and holidays, special events and birthdays.

Read the rest here: Surviving Siblings and Christmas

Christmas and Grief: Surviving Siblings

Life is complicated, isn’t it?

Even if I could erase loss from our family’s story, we’d still be muddling through the holidays trying to meet needs, expectations and holiday hopes all while juggling schedules and unwanted surprises.

Add child loss and sibling loss to the mix and there’s potential for a real mess!

So one of the things I’ve learned on this journey is I have to ask-and ask again-what my surviving children want and need for the holidays.

And then I have to LISTEN well.

We certainly haven’t managed holidays since Dom left us with grace and aplomb. In fact, some have been downright awful.

But we are still trying to make space and give grace so they are less stressful and more joy-filled.

❤ Melanie

I have never wanted to make my life journey with blinders on.  I realized young that MY perspective is not the only one.  I understand that more clearly now. 

So I try hard to think about, acknowledge and accommodate the feelings and needs of others.

But it’s especially challenging since Dominic left us.  And doubly so this time of year when every sight, smell and song screams, “It’s the holidays and HE IS NOT HERE!

I may not be as thoughtful to some in my circle as want to be, but I will expend every ounce of energy and effort I can muster to make space for my living children’s needs during this season.  

Read the rest here: Holidays and Grief: Surviving Siblings

 

Children’s Grief Awareness Day 2022

Last Thursday was Children’s Grief Awareness Day.

I missed posting then but it’s too important to forget!

I’m thankful a day is set aside to focus on children’s grief because it’s so easy for their grief to be overlooked, underrated and even dismissed.

Grown ups often tout the line, “Kids are resilient. They will adapt.”

And while it’s true that from the OUTSIDE it might look like a child is OK or even thriving, on the INSIDE she may be curled up into a ball or he may be angry and resentful.

Read the rest here: Children’s Grief Awareness Day

Remember the Forgotten Ones: Bereaved Siblings

Even though I said I’d be taking August off, here I am because I think teachers, parents, friends and family members need this reminder at the beginning of every school year.

Siblings are often forgotten grievers. But they shouldn’t be.

They have not only lost a brother or sister but also the family they once knew and relied upon. They (if young) may not have the capacity to express or process these losses in ways adults comprehend or recognize. And if older, they may work hard at hiding grief so as not to add to their parents’ burden.

It’s so, so important for those who love and serve bereaved siblings to pay attention, to offer support, to grant space and grace and freedom of expression. They are grieving too. 

❤ Melanie

I am always afraid that Dominic will be forgotten.  

I’m afraid that as time passes, things change and lives move forward, his place in hearts will be squeezed smaller and smaller until only a speck remains.

Not in my heart, of course.

Or in the hearts of those closest to him, but in general-he will become less relevant.

But he is not the only one who can be forgotten.  I am just as fearful that my living children will be forgotten.

Read the rest here: The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

Bereaved Parents Month 2022: Surviving Siblings-Age Makes a Difference

Grieving parents often face the additional challenge of trying to help their surviving children process the death of a sibling.

While there are many factors that influence how a particular child understands and works through his or her grief, age at time of bereavement plays a significant role.

Children’s grief can look very different than that of the adults around them.

And that grief may resurface later on as the child grows and matures, even long after the death of a loved one.

Read the rest here: Sibling Grief Reactions By Age Group

Mother’s Day 2022: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day

I post this around Mother’s Day every year since my daughter, Fiona, wrote it in the voice of her brother who is in Heaven.

It helps my heart sort the mixed emotions that this day stirs up.

I’m not ONLY a bereaved mother. I’m a mother and grandmother of earthbound children too.

I’m grateful for all of them. So very, very grateful.

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this several years ago, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day.

Walking With My Surviving Children Through Grief

One of the most challenging things I’ve had to do is walk alongside my surviving children in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Not only have they been forced to face and deal with death earlier than many people, they’ve also been forced to face and deal with the fallout for themselves and their family.

Sometimes I feel like an ineffectual first aid worker just trying to minimize damage and hopefully pass them off to a professional who can actually work on repairs and healing.

Other times I’m a young mama once again kissing boo-boos, applying bandages and invoking magical thinking to distract them from their oh, so very real wounds.

I’ve not done it perfectly or even adequately sometimes. But I’m trying.

Bereaved parents often have several tasks before them in the days and months and years following the death of a child.

One of them is to help their surviving children navigate loss.

I have three earthbound children.  And they are grieving.

Their world changed in the same instant mine did.  Their hearts are broken too.

I found it hard to watch the pain I saw written on the faces of my kids.

Read the rest here: Helping My Children Walk Through Grief 

Grief is a Family Affair: Tips for Interacting With Bereaved Families

I think the mama is often the first person others think about when they hear a child has run ahead to Heaven.

But child loss affects dads too.

And it’s often sibling loss as well.

Grief is truly a family affair-each member is changed by the experience and they ALL need support.

I firmly believe that our friends and extended family want to reach out, want to help, want to walk alongside as we grieve the death of our child

 I am also convinced that many of them don’t because they don’t know how.  

It may seem unfair that in addition to experiencing our loss, we also have to educate others on how to help us as we experience it, but that’s just how it is.

The alternative is to feel frustrated and abandoned or worse.  

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Helpful Tips for Interacting With Bereaved Families

Christmas and Surviving Siblings

How do I honor the child for whom memories are all I have and love well the children with whom I am still making memories?

That’s a question I ask myself often.

And it is especially difficult to answer for celebrations and holidays, special events and birthdays.

Read the rest here: Surviving Siblings and Christmas

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