Repost: Can I Just Be Me?

It’s tough leading in a  dance you never wanted to learn, isn’t it?

Yet that’s what bereaved parents do every single day.

We carry our own burdens and also shoulder the burden of others in social encounters, working hard not to step on toes.

Sometimes, it’s just too much.

If I don’t mention Dominic, no one else does and that disappoints me.

If I do mention Dominic, the response is often sympathy or rushing to another topic.

Which is also disappointing.

If I smile, then I’m “so much better’.

If I tear up, then I’m “not over it yet”.

Read the rest here:  Can I Just Be Me?

When Self-Control Is In Short Supply

Have you ever tried to squeeze into too-small jeans, managed to get them over your hips, sucked in and zipped up only to realize that all that extra “you” is now spilling out over the top of the waistband?  

toddler squeezing into jeans

Sometimes that’s how life after loss feels.  

Too much emotion, too much baggage, too much EVERYTHING that has to fit inside a very narrow set of other people’s expectations and tolerance for self-expression.

I find that I CAN squeeze my words and actions into that skinny space-for awhile.  

But then sure as anything, the real me pops out the top and there I am-exposed to the world- warts and all.  

I’ve discovered that self-control is not a limitless commodity.  

Now before my Bible believing friends remind me that it is part of the fruit of the Spirit, I want to say this:  it sure is!  And because the Spirit of Jesus lives inside me I can promise you I am more self-controlled than I would otherwise be.

BUT…

When every single word, action, thought and feeling has to be reined in every waking moment, there is not enough self-control this side of heaven to do THAT!

exhausted-over-trying-to-be-stronger-than-i-feel

So I find that some days I just need to stay away from people.  Because if I don’t, I’m going to be ugly.

And other days I can do people but I can’t control my eating.

Still other days I can do people and count calories but memories leak out of my eyes and I blubber my way through until darkness brings sleep and relief.

There is just so much inside me now. 

So much that really can’t be laid bare or it would scare everyone else half to death.  

So I keep trying to squeeze myself into the constraints that make me fit for company.  

But beware- I might pop out any minute.  ❤

 

pain behind every tear

Repost: Fault Lines: Bereaved Parents and Social Anxiety

Even at four years into this journey, I can surprise myself when, for no apparent reason, grief explodes from someplace deep within me.  

I’m keyed into triggers-sights, smells, places and people that remind me of Dominic.

But sometimes I can’t figure out what causes the tears to fall or my stomach to be tied in knots.  

It seems to happen most often when I’m in social situations.  I feel surrounded, trapped and anxiety mounts. 

I’m no geologist, but from what I understand, earthquakes are nearly always “about to happen”.  Fault lines guarantee it.  Pressure is building underneath the surface of the earth and when it reaches a level that can no longer be contained, it spews.

Can I just let you in on a secret?

Bereaved parents are full of fault lines.

Many of us are nearly ready to blow almost every single minute, yet hold it in and hold it together.  If you could put a meter to our temple and measure how close we are to a come apart, you would be amazed that it happens so rarely!

Read the rest here:  Fault Lines: Bereaved Parents and Social Anxiety

Not Anti-Social. Just Selectively Social.

Grief changes lots of things.  

I am simply not able to spend energy on frivolous and marginally meaningful social activities anymore. 

I’m sure that hurts some folks feelings and I am truly sorry.

But I can’t help it.  

Truth is, we all have a limited amount of energy to spend on life’s commitments, celebrations and unexpected circumstances.  It’s just that most of us aren’t forced to admit it very often.  Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I could “rob Peter to pay Paul” as my daddy used to say.  A few days of not enough sleep, a few days of rushing here and there, a few days of biting my tongue and smiling when I wanted to cry were bearable.

I could survive a week or two and then take a day or two to recover.  Good as new.

I don’t have that luxury anymore.  

Now I operate every. single. day. on a razor thin edge of just enough energy to get by and not enough energy to get out of the bed.

So I am selective about social commitments because I know the energy just isn’t there.

I’m not withdrawing, I’m drawing boundaries.

I promise you are still important to me but I may have to check up online instead of in person.

I want to know about every special and exciting thing going on in your life-I want to celebrate with you!-even if it’s from a distance.  

Please don’t scratch me off your list just because I don’t always say “yes” anymore.

I will keep showing up when I can and send a card or gift when I can’t.

I care.  

I promise.  

I’m doing the best I can.

 

It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?

This came up in a bereaved parents’ support group and I thought it was a great question:  When you meet someone for the first time, do you tell them about your missing child?”

It’s one of those practical life skills bereaved parents have to figure out.

I remember when it dawned on me a few months after Dominic left us that I would meet people who wouldn’t know he was part of my story unless I told them.

It was a devastating thought.  

I had no idea how I would face the first time it happened.  

Since then I’ve developed a script and guidelines, but it can still be awkward.

If the person I meet is going to be part of a ongoing relationship or partnership then I tell them fairly soon about Dominic.    Depending on who they are, how I sense they may be able to deal with it and if I feel comfortable enough I may give more or fewer details.  The main thing I try to communicate in sharing is that I will behave in ways they might not understand without the context of child loss.  I’m not looking for sympathy or special consideration but “bereaved parent” is as much a part of my identity as “married”.

If I am attending a social function and it’s a casual “meet and greet” then I won’t mention Dominic in terms of his death unless the conversation lends itself to that revelation.  No need to burden acquaintances with my story or run the risk of changing a celebratory mood to a sad one.

I always say I have four children-because I do.  But I don’t have to give details.  If the person insists I tell them more about my children it’s fairly easy to steer the conversation toward a detail or two about my living children without the person noticing it doesn’t add up to four.

I make sure to tell health professionals about Dominic because the stress, physical, emotional and mental changes grief has wrought are integral to my treatment plan.  I’ve had a couple of new doctors since Dom ran ahead and received different responses from them when I shared.  One seemed to understand the impact of child loss while another just continued typing without any acknowledgement of what I revealed.

My son’s death is not a dirty secret.

I don’t have to hide it to protect others.

But it is also not a “poor me” card that I fling on the table of relationships trying to manipulate others into showing me special consideration.

I want people to know Dominic.

dominic at gray haven

So I share.

I don’t want people to only think of him in terms of his death.

So sometimes I don’t.

It depends.

 

 

Hiding in Plain Sight

They say that if you want to hide something so it’s never found, hide it in plain sight. 

I think I’m living proof. 

Because every single day I hide my wounded heart.

band aid heart huff post earthy

I walk right up to people and they never know.  I conduct business, entertain family and friends, sing hymns in church and do daily tasks without a hint that something’s wrong-terribly, terribly wrong.

Am I stronger now than three years ago?  Absolutely!  I have developed muscles I didn’t know existed.  I have a go-to method to stop tears, stop screams, stop tremors, stop panic attacks and swallow words that might otherwise slip out and give me away.

I can make small talk with the best of them.  I’ve learned to redirect a conversation so that it cannot venture into territory that guarantees I won’t be able to keep it together.

I look for opportunities to serve at gatherings.  Kitchen duty?  First in line!  It’s easy and perfectly acceptable to mutter one word replies when your hands are in the sink washing dishes.

I locate bathrooms and exits everywhere I go.  Ducking into the ladies’ room or out the door for a minute or two is usually all I need to regather myself and reenter the fray.

All this hiding takes a toll.  So much energy is needed to shield the world from the pain I carry.

I often find that after a holiday or extended period of social interaction I need a day (or a week!) to recover.  And that’s OK. 

I’m learning to say “no” to invitations or expectations or intimidation.  

I’m learning I have to give myself time to regroup. 

Because then I can reengage, recharged and ready to keep hiding my heart.  

fine not fine

 

Fault Lines: Bereaved Parents and Social Anxiety

I’m no geologist, but from what I understand, earthquakes are nearly always “about to happen”.  Fault lines guarantee it.  Pressure is building underneath the surface of the earth and when it reaches a level that can no longer be contained, it spews.

Can I just let you in on a secret?

Bereaved parents are full of fault lines.

Many of us are nearly ready to blow almost every single minute, yet hold it in and hold it together.  If you could put a meter to our temple and measure how close we are to a come apart, you would be amazed that it happens so rarely!

And this is why we sometimes say, “no” to an invitation.  It’s why we stay home from church or baby showers or weddings.  Not because we are anti-social, but because social situations present unique challenges to our desire to keep it together.

We don’t want to become the center of attention when the center of attention should be the mom-to-be or the wedding couple or the birthday boy.

It may be months or years or decades since our child ran ahead to heaven.  And you may think that’s enough time to “get over” or “get past” or “learn to live with” his or her absence.  In some ways it IS.  Most of us have a “game face” we plaster on to make it through ordinary days and even some extraordinarily difficult ones.

But underneath the veneer of “everything’s OK” there are the fault lines and when extra pressure is applied, we just know we might blow.

Many times I want to be there, really I do.  If I choose not to be, know that it’s because I am trying to be thoughtful, not ugly.  I stay home out of love, not disrespect.  

So please extend grace. 

Give me the benefit of the doubt. 

Let me bow out gracefully when I  know in advance my heart won’t be able to hold on. 

It’s best for both of us, really. ❤

the best we can falls shour