Grief-It’s Really Just Love

At first grief felt only like sorrow and longing and brokenness.

Then it felt like confusion and anxiety and despair.

A little further along this journey it mostly felt like apathy.

Now it feels like love.

It’s the same love that helped me hold on when I was face first in the toilet every morning for seven months. Morning sickness with Dominic lasted nearly the whole pregnancy! With two young children already in our home, it was one of the hardest seasons of my life.

It’s the same love that demanded they bring me my baby when they whisked him away due to “concerns” after birth. Twenty-four hours later, c-section or no c-section, I told the nurse I’d be marching my butt down to the nursery if they didn’t bring him to me right away. (It was a different time-no real “rooming in”.)

It’s the same love that worked with my frustrated little boy to make his words sound clear and correct. Slow down, hit the hard consonants, be precise in how you form your lips. He grew up to give the undergraduate address when he graduated from UAB in front of thousands.

It’s the same love that listened when he told me his troubles, his fears and his dreams. So, so many nights he’d come in, flop down backwards on my bed and proceed to talk until I was just about to drift off to sleep.

It’s the same love that held his hand as people walked by expressing condolences.

It’s the same love that kissed his cold cheek before they lowered the casket lid. Told him, “Good-bye” and walked upright from the sanctuary.

I refused to dishonor his brave life by giving in to my personal fear.

Grief is really just love.

Dominic has been my son since he sat safely in my womb.

He’s still my son.

My love is not diminished because I can no longer touch him.

Love lives.

Forever.

Words For a Wounded Heart

I cling fast to words that speak aloud what I’ve only thought.

I collect sentences that eloquently express what I can only feel.

I pull them out on days when my head and heart are doing battle and I can’t find any middle ground.

Reading reminds me I’m not the first soul to travel this way.

Others have been here before and left breadcrumbs.

A friend said, “Remember, he’s in good hands.” I was deeply moved. But that reality does not put Eric back in my hands now. That’s my grief. For that grief, what consolation can there be other than having him back?

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

The promise that I will one day see Dominic again makes the pain bearable. But it does nothing to treat the essential wound. He is not here and I will miss him, miss him, miss him until I draw my last breath.

The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.”
― Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits

Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits

I never knew a person could cry every day for months. Not just a tiny overflow that falls sweetly down a cheek but gigantic gut-wrenching, ear-shattering sobs. That was what I hid from everyone-the pillow-over-my-mouth-to-muffle it-crying in my room in the dark.

Maybe we all do.

Maybe that’s why those untouched by child loss don’t really know how much it hurts and for how long.

grief is a house
where the chairs
have forgotten how to hold us
the mirrors how to reflect us
the walls how to contain us

grief is a house that disappears
each time someone knocks at the door
or rings the bell
a house that blows into the air
at the slightest gust
that buries itself deep in the ground
while everyone is sleeping

grief is a house where no one can protect you
where the younger sister
will grow older than the older one
where the doors
no longer let you in
or out

Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, he was living on his own. He’d been out of the house for a couple of years.

So I was utterly unprepared to find his earthly absence echoed in the house from which he had already been absent. Everything changed, everything was slightly askew.

And it is “a house where the younger [brother] will grow older than the older one”.

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I remember being surprised the first time I circled back around in my grief and revisited places in my heart I thought I had subdued and conquered.

But that’s how it is.

Grief has so many layers that I honestly don’t believe we could survive it at all if forced to peel them back all at once. So I’ve resigned myself to the fact I will come back to many of the same sore spots over and over.

I do feel like I’m spiraling upward. Each time I circle around, I’m better equipped to face the fear or guilt or sorrow or despair.

The phases recur, but I’ve grown in the meantime.

I’m stronger.

I’m wiser.

I’m more resilient.

And I’m still here.

Give Sorrow Words

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. 

i-write-because-i-dont-know

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.  

Give-sorrow-words shakespeare

 

Repost: My Cup Overflows

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

~Psalm 23:5b

I remember standing in our field with my husband at sundown one day, thankfulness and grace and mercy and wonder flooding my heart-and I whispered, “surely my cup overflows!”

Surely, God’s hand is in this, is on our lives-He has brought us to this place of blessing.

And that’s how I used to always think of that verse-the cup overflowing with goodness and blessing.

But what about when the cup overflows with sorrow?  

Read the rest here:  My Cup Overflows

Holy Week 2019: Sorrow Lifted As Sacrifice

In some liturgical Christian traditions, today is the day the church remembers and honors Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive and rare perfume.  

It was a beautiful act of great sacrifice as the perfume would ordinarily be a family treasure broken and used only at death for anointing a beloved body.

It’s also an expression of deep sorrow because somehow Mary knew.

Mary.  Knew.  

So she poured out her precious gift on the One Who loves her most.  

Tears are my sacrifice. 

Holy Week Reflections: Sorrow Lifted as Sacrifice

Repost: Just Plain Hard

I wrote this last year about this time but it suits me this year too.

So many big stressors combined with dozens of small ones have me begging God for relief.  The end is not in sight but I DO know how the story ends.

If I can hold onto hope -which I manage to do most days-and make space for my heart on the days I just can’t, it will be alright.

Maybe not soon and certainly not in this lifetime.  But it WILL be alright.  ❤

Today is full of tears.

No real reason-other than the obvious one-but so many things coming together to remind me this life is hard, hard, hard.

I find on this side of burying Dominic that when two or three other stressful events pile one atop the other I crumble.  Sometimes it’s other family members  doing the best they can to muddle through and sometimes it’s physical pain or disappointment or the random “ya-ya” stuff of life in community with other people  Whatever it is, the weight-in addition to grief-just absolutely overwhelms me.

I used to be stronger.  

Or at least I thought I was stronger.

Read the rest here:  Just Plain Hard

Aftermath Of Violence: Trauma Marks a Soul

The recent spate of apparent suicides connected to school shootings should be a wake up call.  

Not that everyone who survives trauma may follow suit.  

But every soul who survives trauma struggles-no matter what it looks like from the outside.  

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975…That was a long time ago but it’s wrong what they say about the past….Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.  ~ Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Witnessing or experiencing horror scars a heart.  And society rarely does a good job making room for the kind of work it takes for that heart to even begin to heal.

Feel-good news stories about activism, heroism and turning tragedy into triumph send a signal that if you can’t “get over it“, “overcome” or “become stronger” in the wake of the most awful day of your life, you aren’t trying hard enough.

But the truth is that most people DO try. 

They try and try and try but trying isn’t enough.  Tragedy and trauma change a person and no matter how much they may want to go back to the “old” them, they just can’t. 

And that is OK. 

trauma image

We must allow survivors to take as long as they take and to adjust their lives however they can.  We need to stop insisting that there’s a time limit on grief or that there is an absolute upward trajectory in recovery.

I don’t know what drove these individuals to die by suicide.  

But I do know that as a society we are not tolerant of people who don’t “deal” with their “issues” and live a life accepted as “normal”.

And that is not only unhelpful, it’s despicable.  

No one has the right to shut down another person’s voice or circumscribe another heart’s journey.  

We need to do better.  

We have to create safe spaces for people to admit they are fundamentally and permanently changed by a traumatic experience.  

We have got to make room for messy and unfinished stories.  

loving people with ptsd