Grief: You Aren’t Required To Pretend

There is SO much pressure on grievers to pretend they are “OK” once the socially acceptable amount of time has passed since their loss.

And that is more than unfortunate because not only does it place an undue burden on broken hearts, it inhibits the very necessary work grief requires.

Sharing honestly and openly with safe people, giving voice to our feelings, letting the tears and words flow freely is the only way forward on this treacherous journey.

It’s OK to not be OK.

If you are grievingyou are not responsible for making others feel better about YOUR pain.

You have suffered a great wound and you carry a heavy load.

You are allowed to express sorrow and longing.  It’s what people do.

Read the rest here: You Don’t Have to Pretend

Grief Journey Update: Eight Plus Years and Counting

In the years since I started sharing in this space I’ve had many challenges in addition to the ongoing burden of missing Dominic.

Our family has gained members, lost members, my health has declined, my husband has retired and all my earthbound children have experienced lots of important and sometimes uncomfortable or unwelcome life changes.

For some reason the past two and a half years have been more difficult to navigate in certain ways since the first two years after Dominic’s death. In fact, the past six months have been particularly hard but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

Maybe it’s fatigue-emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational-or maybe it’s what marathoners know as “the wall”. That place when you’re fully committed to running the race but suddenly wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into.

I don’t run marathons (just look at me and you’ll know that!) but I do tend to push through pain and discouragement and what others consider unbeatable odds to reach whatever goal I’ve set for myself. I haven’t been able to employ the usual pep talks or psychological tricks or external cues to do that of late.

People running in city marathon on street

I’m spending too much time thinking about what I need to get done and not enough time doing it.

I’ve got tons of half-written blog posts in my draft folder and too few finished ones lined up to publish.

I remember feeling a bit like this when I graduated from college three months pregnant with my daughter. One giant task was accomplished but one, largely unknown, task was staring me in the face.

That summer is a blur.

I know I did some practical and predictable things to get ready for Fiona’s arrival but I’m not sure I really had much of a plan.

I’ve been walking the road of child loss for more than eight years now. I’m committed to sharing the journey with whomever it might help. I have a basic daily routine that at least includes finding old posts to re-share if not carving out time to create new ones.

The other hours of my day are spent talking or messaging with family and friends, moderating an online bereaved parent community, trying to keep my house relatively clean (no white gloves allowed!), walking two miles each morning, doing research, cooking meals and handling five or six (typically) other random and/or pressing issues along with caring for our menagerie of pets and livestock.

And while my life is good, I’m definitely experiencing dissonance between what I thought it would be like at 58 and what it actually IS.

I thought I’d be writing books or making quilts or teaching craft or cooking classes in my local church.

I absolutely, positively didn’t think my story would include child loss! I couldn’t have imagined that fused bones in my hands and wrists would keep me from doing so many of the things I love to do.

I’m not complaining (well, I’d complain to anyone who’d listen about Dominic not being here) but I am just being honest.

I know the saying, “Grieve the life you thought you’d have and then move on with the life you actually have and be grateful for it”.

Trust me, I have and I am.

I am so, so grateful for each day’s beauty, blessings and the grace and strength to appreciate them.

I am beyond grateful for a loving family, my precious grandsons, the gift of modern medicine and compassionate companionship of friends who help make my burdens easier to carry!

I do wake every morning thankful for the breath in my body and the promise that this body is not the only one I’ll ever have.

I look forward to the final and complete redemption of every pain, every tear, every sad and awful thing, and the restoration of all that has been stolen.

This life continues to be one I didn’t choose but one I choose to make as joy-filled and as productive as possible.

A challenge?

Absolutely.

Celebrations After Child Loss-Life at the Crossroads of Joy and Sorrow

I want to be everything my living children need me to be.  

I try hard to celebrate them, be available, listen closely and love them well.  

I never, ever want them to feel they are competing with their missing brother for my affection or my attention.  

But I’d be lying if I said it was always easy.  

Read the rest here: Crossroads: Celebrations After Child Loss

I’ll Cry If I Want To

I don’t cry nearly as much as I used to.

That kind of bothers me.

I don’t know if I’m just not as sad or if I’ve just used up most of my tears.

I think it’s a bit of both.

DO still cry.  And I try hard to remember that I do not need to be ashamed of my tears.  I don’t need to apologize for them-even if they make some folks uncomfortable.

Read the rest here: It’s My Story and I’ll Cry If I Want To

The Last Day Before It All Fell Apart

I fell asleep last night thinking about that Friday evening eight years ago when I closed my eyes on the world I knew only to open them to a world I wish I could forget.

It’s odd how these anniversaries play out-there’s the actual date (which, if I’m honest isn’t nearly as hard for me) plus the litany of days that lead up to the date and reconstruct the weekend that ended in tragedy.

The Friday night/Saturday morning combination bring me to my knees even eight years later. Only someone who has endured the doorbell or the phone call can truly understand how dozens of tiny prompts create a mental, physical and emotional response that can neither be ignored nor controlled.

It was raining last night and all I could think was, “Why wasn’t it raining THAT night? He wouldn’t have taken his motorcycle.”

Useless, futile and ill-advised pondering that simply made it harder to close my eyes and go back to sleep.

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Julian and I went to a college honors banquet and came back to the house to find Fiona home for the weekend.  I called Hector and texted with James Michael.

I turned out the light and went to sleep.  

No warning shots across the bow of life rang out to let me know what was coming.

But that Friday was the last day I spent misunderstanding the awfulness of death and the absolute uncertainty of life.

Read the rest here: The Day Before It All Fell Apart

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, I Wish I Could Forget Tonight…

Driving home in the dark from several weeks of Mama D duty, I was listening to an old-fashioned, very tame (by today’s standards!) BBC Agatha Christie podcast.

Suddenly the previously entertaining and mindless fare took a turn that plunged me into over an hour of mental wrestling.

One of the characters commented on the face of the deceased and said something like he “looked frightened and astonished”, his last emotion etched forever on his countenance.

THAT was enough to send this mama’s thoughts down an unfruitful and completely horrifying rabbit trail.

I wish that at almost eight years I could reach for a switch to shut out unwelcome images but so far I haven’t found one. I wish I could just will myself to ignore questions about what Dom might have felt, thought or said in the last microseconds of his life. I wish I didn’t know as much as I do about what happened.

I wish I knew more about how Jesus takes His beloved to Heaven.

These intrusive thoughts don’t come as often as they once did and I am (usually) better at pinning them down, changing my thinking and forcing my heart and mind to focus on something else.

But sometimes,

in the dark

when I’m especially tired and vulnerable,

they take over once again.

Lenten Reflections: Refusing To Deny My Emotions, Submitting Them to God’s Will

I’ve written at length in this space regarding my conviction that denying pain diminishes the power of the cross.

If death isn’t awful, if life in this fallen world isn’t full of sorrow, if eternal separation from God is not Hell then why the cross?

Right here, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus acknowledges the terrible cost of salvation, of redemption, of restoration:

Only Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit understood the unspeakable cost Jesus would pay for our sins to be forgiven. Under the crushing weight of all that was to come, Jesus offered variations of the same prayer three times: ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as You will.’

Alicia Britt Chole

God created me with emotions.

They are not “bad” or “good”, they simply “are”. What I do with them and whether I allow them to steer my actions is another matter.

I can make a choice to bring my feelings to the Father and allow Him to fill me with strength so I can submit to His will even when it’s not easy or painless.

Note that Jesus did not try to deny His emotions in the garden but instead expressed them honestly, respectfully, and repeatedly…Honesty is of intimacy with God and, conversely, denial is an enemy of intimacy with God….From Jesus’ example, it is clear that a misalignment between our desires and God’s will is not sin. Jesus was victorious not because He lacked uncooperative feelings but because He affirmed and reaffirmed His commitment to honor Father’s will above His emotions.

Alicia Britt Chole

What cup would you rather not drink?

Ask the Father to help you bring those feelings to the Throne of Grace so that you can receive help in your time of need.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Grief Is A Forest of Sorrow

One of the things I realized early on this journey was that I did not possess the vocabulary for the deep pain, unbearable sorrow and relentless longing I was experiencing.

So I sought out quotes, fellow travelers and groups of others who shared this awful path.

It helped.

It didn’t take away the pain but it gave me words to express it. It gave me courage to believe I could survive it.

I will never forget those who chose to come back with a torch in the dark and light the way.

There are so many ways to describe grief.

So many ways individual hearts walk this path.

For many of us there’s a sense of being locked in time, stuck in space, unable to leave the moment one received the news or the few days before and after.

It’s maddening that the earth still turns, the sun still rises and people go on with life when in so many ways our world is frozen in place.

Read the rest here: Forest of Sorrow

Lenten Reflections: Refusing To Speed Past Sorrow

There are several recorded incidents where Jesus withdrew seeking solitude and solace. 

One of them is upon hearing of John’s beheading at the hands of Herod. 

If we accept that our Shepherd was a perfect model in all things  (and I do!) then this is a model for dealing with sorrow and loss. 

There have been specific individuals instructed by the Lord to ignore mourning  (always for a prophetic purpose) but the general  pattern in Scripture is to make room for the necessary work of processing grief.

So today’s fast is speeding past sorrow.

So often those of us who have wounded hearts are pushed by ourselves, by friends and family, and by a “look on the bright side” society to rush past our sorrow and sadness. But that is not only futile, it’s unhealthy.

While time, by itself, does not heal all wounds.  Time is a necessary component of healing.

As much as we might wish it otherwise, there is no speedy way to wrap up the bits of a broken heart.  Speeding past sorrow only means it festers, not that it is magically erased or truly forgotten. 

It has been brutal, time-consuming and energy-intensive to force my heart to sit with the sorrow of Dominic’s death. 

But every moment and every effort has borne fruit.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12: 24)

In many ways active grieving is it’s own kind of death and that may be why we often run from it.

Bring to mind the names and faces of loved ones who have died.  What deposits did they make in your life?  How did you feel when you first learned of their deaths?…Today, honor the losses  in your life.  Instead of speeding past sadness, slow down and be present to your emotions. With Jesus, sit with your sorrow and let loss do its eternal work in your soul.

Alicia Britt Chole

Some of us are very vocal with our grief and some suffer in silence. 

Either is perfectly normal. 

The important thing is to face it.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional).  If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

I’m So Sorry

My son’s death is a point in time for people outside my immediate grief circle. It’s a date on a calendar. There is a period after his name.

But it is an ongoing experience for me and my family.

We don’t only remember on birthdays, holidays and anniversary days, we can never forget.

Yet often others do.

Read the rest here: I’m Sorry

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