To The Friends I Haven’t Met Yet

I’m not blind to the danger social media poses to in-person friendship.

For lots of people with busy lives and messy houses it’s a no brainer to choose online companionship over face-to-face lunches, brunches or book clubs.

If I can curate my online presence to reflect only my brightest, funniest and most enviable moments (all from the comfort of home in my pajamas!), why not?

But social media isn’t all bad.

In fact, it can be very, very GOOD for lots of people.

It’s been a godsend for my heart.

I live in a rural area and didn’t have WiFi until late in 2011 and there’s no cell phone reception in the little valley where my home is situated. So before then I wasn’t on social media very much. In fact, I used to get irritated with folks who ONLY posted important things on Facebook (remember this was years ago!) because I often missed them.

By the time Dominic left for Heaven, I was in the habit of checking in at least once a day. That changed to several times a day when I discovered online groups for bereaved parents.

All of a sudden I was not alone in my grief, my experience, my questions, my tears, my tiny victories nor my setbacks.

It’s no cause for celebration that there are so many of us. But it IS cause for celebration that we’ve found one another.

So here’s to all the friends I haven’t met yet from another town, state or country.

You know who you are.

You speak kindness, grace and wisdom over my heart and into my life. You listen when I need to “say” something aloud no one who hasn’t walked our path can understand. You don’t care how many times I talk about my missing son or post his picture. You share encouraging memes, quotes, songs and Scripture verses.

When you wonder if you are making a difference sitting in your living room or at your desk or kitchen table and sharing on Facebook, don’t you believe it.

I am so, so thankful for each of you. ❤

Repost: What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

There’s a kind of relational magic that happens when people who have experienced the same or similar struggle get together.  

In an instant, their hearts are bound in mutual understanding as they look one to another and say, “Me too. I thought I was the only one.”

It was well into the second year after Dominic ran ahead to heaven that I found an online bereaved parent support group.  After bearing this burden alone for so many months, it took awhile before I could open my heart to strangers and share more than the outline of my story.

But, oh, when I did! What relief!  What beautiful support and affirmation that every. single. thing. that was happening to me and that I was feeling was normal!

Read the rest here:  What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

Repost: Barefoot Over Broken Ground

I first shared this in 2014 not quite a month after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

His leaving has made me much more aware that what we read as “stories”where we can turn to the last page and know the ending, others lived in real time, with no ability to fast forward to the ending.

Read the rest here:  Barefoot Over Broken Ground

Why We Turn Away From Hurting Hearts

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

Read the rest here:  Why Do We Turn Away?

International Bereaved Mother’s Day 2019: An Open Letter to my Fellow Sisters in Loss

Dear Mama,

I know that you never-in your wildest imagination-thought that you would need a day set aside for your broken heart and your empty arms.  

Who thinks when they learn a new life is growing inside that this same life might be cut short?  What heart is brave enough to consider the possibility? 

Yet here you are.  

I’m so, so sorry.  

Read the rest here:  International Bereaved Mother’s Day: An Open Letter to my Fellow Sisters in Loss

Suicide and Child Loss: Christ’s Blood is Sufficient

I try hard not to imply that MY child loss experience is representative of EVERY child loss experience.  

Because, as we all know, every parent’s journey (even parents of the same child) is utterly, incontrovertibly unique. 

My son was killed suddenly in an accident.  Other parents I know have stories of prolonged illness.  Some feared it coming as his or her child struggled with addiction and dangerous choices.  And still others bear the added burden of suicide in child loss.

I have always, always felt a special duty to tread lightly with respect to those parents in particular.  I want to honor them and never suggest I speak for them.  I’ve started and discarded at least a dozen posts on child loss and suicide.

So when a mom who lost a child to suicide shared this in one of our closed groups, I messaged her and asked permission to publish her comment here. 

Sheri Yancy Brown graciously agreed.  

So here are HER words, precisely as she shared them:  

“The Lord showed me this on Friday [Good Friday, 2019].  I hope it is a comfort to those of you who have lost a child to suicide.

“Two of the hardest things to come to terms with regarding Tyrel’s suicide for me (a Christian) have been:

  1. I don’t know why he did it and
  2. The religious stigma from other Christians regarding his salvation.

“There’s a very common scripture in the book of Isaiah that has been on my mind this morning because it is Good Friday.  It was written long before Christ died on the cross.

“The scripture is:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“The main questions I ask myself after reading numerous books, attending many support groups, and meeting many people with this type of loss are:

“Was Tyrel’s suicide:

  1. An intentional sin?
  2. a premeditated personal choice?
  3. an impulsive act due to short term mental anguish?
  4. an act due to long term chemically based mental illness?

“Look how this scripture literally covers all four situations!

  1.  To transgress is to choose to intentionally disobey (Is suicide an intentional sin?)
  2. Iniquity refers to a premeditated choice (Is suicide a premeditated personal choice?)
  3. Chastisement of our peace means He took the punishment so that we may have peace  (Is suicide an impulsive act due to short term mental anguish?)
  4. With his stripes we are healed (Is suicide the result of some long term chemically based mental illness)

“According to this scripture, the whys don’t really matter and Tyrel’s salvation is not in question.  As a believer for all of his short life, he is covered no matter which way you look at it.  Tyrel’s unimaginable actions are exactly why Jesus went to the cross.

“The Bible says so.”

coffee and journal morning

Child Loss: Helpful Tips for Interacting With Bereaved Families

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.  

So here’s a list of helpful tips (and a great infographic!) for interacting with bereaved families:  

Express condolences and show you care. Don’t avoid me, please!  You cannot make me any sadder.  I need to hear from you.

friends hugging

Refer to my child by name.  Dominic is STILL my son.  He is still part of my story.  But because he’s no longer visible, his name often goes unspoken.  Please talk to me about him, use his name, tell me a story of how he impacted your life or a memory that makes you smile.  It makes me smile too.

Actively listen and be supportive.  It’s hard to listen to someone tell you how much they are hurting and not offer advice or think of ways to “fix” them.  I can tell you from experience that what I need most on my darkest days is for someone to say, “It IS dark.  I’m so sorry.”  Silence is OK too.  Not every quiet moment needs to be filled with chatter.

listening is a postive act

Understand that each family and family member will grieve in different ways.  You may have observed child loss before but what you saw in one family may not translate to the next.  There are no hard and fast rules for this awful journey.  The age of the child, family background and structure, manner of death-all these impact grief.  In addition, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers all bring their personalities, stage of life, beliefs and experiences to the journey.  There were five of us left behind when Dominic ran ahead.  We were each devastated but expressed it in very different ways.  Nearly five years later, those gaps have widened, not narrowed.

Fathers grieve too.  Sometimes support focuses almost exclusively on the mother.  In part because of a common notion that mothers are somehow emotionally closer to their children than dads.  In part because many men are less demonstrative and may do a good job hiding grief.  Whatever the reason, don’t assume one parent is dealing “better” with the loss than another (mother or father) just because he (or she) is not crying openly.  No one escapes this awful blow unscathed.

bereaved fathers

Don’t overlook siblings.  Surviving siblings are sometimes referred to as “forgotten grievers”.  If they are very young, people may think they are relatively unaffected by the death of a brother or sister. If they are grown and out of the home, people may figure that the siblings’ own, very full and very busy, lives keep them preoccupied.  While some of that may be true-to an extent-most surviving siblings are deeply impacted by the death of a brother or sister, regardless of age.  Not only have they lost a member of the family and changed birth order, they have also lost the family they knew, the parents they knew and a co-keeper of memories and secrets.  Bereaved parents are often overwhelmed with grief for their living children as well as the child that is missing. One of the best gifts anyone gave me was reaching out to my surviving children.  It helped my heart to know that they had friends who were supporting and loving them well.

kids cartoon

Be yourself.  People often feel awkward and stiff when approaching a bereaved parent or family member.  That’s perfectly understandable.  The bereaved seem so fragile (are so fragile!) that folks are afraid the wrong word or touch might shatter them into a thousand pieces.  But what your friend or family needs right now is the you they’ve always known and loved.  If you are a hugger, hug!  If you are a storyteller, tell stories (appropriate ones, ones of the missing child).  If you are a cook and cleaner, then cook and clean.  Our family was blessed by our friends doing exactly what they had always done-come alongside in their own special way.  So much had changed in our world that familiar touchstones, familiar routines and familiar faces were a real comfort.

Keep in mind words matter.  Now is not the time to try to satisfy your curiosity about exactly “what happened”.  Loud joking is rarely welcome.  Many bereaved families find it hard to laugh in the first days, weeks, months because it feels like betrayal.  Don’t offer platitudes intended to help them “look on the bright side” or consider that “it could be worse”.  There is nothing worse than burying your child.  Nothing.  Listen and take direction from the person you are comforting.  Follow his or her lead.  And if something less than helpful slips out, own it and apologize.

pencil-drawing-bereaved-mother

It’s never too late to reach out.  NEVER.  Sometimes people stay away at first for lots of reasons.  Or they show up for the memorial service and then fade into the background.  After a bit, even if they want to reach out, they may feel embarrassed by the long absence.  Don’t be.  So many people stop calling, visiting and texting within the first weeks that your outstretched hand of friendship will be a welcome beacon of hope.  If you need to, apologize for your absence.  Be honest.  Admit you were scared or whatever.

Then show up. 

Stick around.

You don’t have to be perfect.  

Just be present.  

bereaved families infographic