Repost: Lessons Learned

I don’t believe for one minute that child loss is a test or curriculum or punishment.  

But I  do believe there are things I can learn from it. 

I absolutely believe there are things I HAVE learned and am learning in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

What are some of those lessons?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/03/lessons-learned/

I Miss Your Voice: Silent Echoes Haunt My Heart

I try to limit the time I spend perusing old photos and old social media posts of my missing son.

I’ve learned that while they remind me of sweet memories and happy times they also prick my heart in ways nothing else can.

I was looking for something specific the other day and had to scroll through Dominic’s Facebook page to find it. As I did, I began reading some of the back and forth comments under the posts and pictures.

This time it wasn’t what was said or where the photos were taken that hurt my heart.

Instead it was the tiny little time stamp underneath the words that took my breath away.

Nothing more recent than five years ago was recorded.

Because that’s when his voice went silent.

That’s when whatever he was going to say was either said or never would be said. That’s when all the brilliant, not-so-brilliant, snarky, funny, sad, silly and sage thoughts Dominic ever had or ever would have were cut off.

I firmly believe that Dominic is safe in the arms of Jesus-more alive now than he ever was here. I know he’s got things to say and when I join him we will have eternity to chat together.

But right now, what I wouldn’t give for one more conversation in the here and now.

I’ve got things I want to ask him.

I’ve got things I want to tell him.

I’d love to hear his voice or read his comments or see a new picture.

The years of silence echo loud in my ears and louder in my heart.

The Weird, Weird Thing About Devastating Loss

My mother’s death has forced me to relive the early days after Dominic’s death.

While her leaving was not completely unexpected (she had many health issues and was not strong) it was still sudden.

And one of the things I’m reliving is that while this giant life-altering event has turned MY world upside down and inside out, it really hasn’t changed anything for those outside a very small inner circle of grievers.

The weird, weird thing about devastating loss is that life actually goes on. When you’re faced with a tragedy, a loss so huge that you have no idea how you can live through it, somehow, the world keeps turning, the seconds keep ticking.

James Patterson

Life DOES go on.

I had someone ask me a question in church Sunday about a decision that was made a week or two before my mom went into the hospital for the last time. It took me at least a full minute to orient my brain to the question and longer to answer it because I could barely remember anything that happened in the past weeks before Mama died.

It was like that after Dominic left us.

I felt like I was living in a low-budget foreign feature film (think ancient Godzilla movies) where English was simply dubbed over the Asian actors original dialogue and everything was slightly “off”. Words were being said that I SHOULD understand but they didn’t match what my eyes were seeing. It took tremendous effort to comprehend what people said to me and an even greater effort to comprehend the context of what they were saying.

It is a weird, weird thing that time moves on regardless of my shattered world.

It is a weird, weird thing that people keep doing routine stuff like watching favorite TV shows, going to football games, celebrating birthdays, checking the value of their portfolio, chiming in on social media and buying groceries.

It is a weird, weird thing that I grow older while Dominic stays twenty-three-almost-twenty-four. It’s even weirder that his once younger brother is now twenty-seven.

Julian, Jame Michael, Dominic

I used to think I had a pretty good imagination. But now I’m not so sure.

I can’t scale Dominic up to what he might be doing now, who he might be dating or married to, where he might have chosen to pursue a career or if he might have done something entirely different than anything he’d done before.

Time really DOES march on.

It doesn’t require my permission.

It doesn’t even notice me at all.

That’s a weird, weird thing.

Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

When your heart is so broken that all is dark inside AND outside, where does the word “joy” even fit into your vocabulary?

I’m not sure I would have described anything as joyful for months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven even though those days included two graduations and a wedding.

I felt positive about those events and I longed to feel joyful, but I just could not muster the energy to do much more than smile for the camera.

So I think, for me, it was a matter (over time and with much effort) to choose to allow joy back into my broken heart.

There are moments of beauty even in the darkest and most difficult days.

At first I refused to recognize and acknowledge them because to embrace joy seemed like treason. It felt disrespectful to Dominic-making light of the horror of his untimely death.

But eventually I realized that embracing whatever good I might stumble upon in a day wasn’t denying the awful, it was admitting and affirming that death didn’t have the last word.

I am walking the Valley now, but this journey will not last forever.

One day it will end with more joy and love and laughter and glory than my finite mind can imagine.

So the bits of joy along the way are simply flickers of light guiding my heart Home.

Five Minutes Or Less Is All It Takes To Encourage a Broken Heart

I have to admit that I’m not nearly in the fog as much with my mama’s death as I was with Dominic’s death.

I’ve found this time around I can kind of stand a little apart and be a little more objective.

It’s no less horrific or painful or sad, but it IS an orderly death (parents before children) and gives me space to take a step back and observe some things instead of having to filter every single interaction through my emotions.

So can I share a little secret?

It literally takes five minutes or less to encourage a broken heart.

I know people often think that if they don’t have the perfect words or lots of time it’s better to do or say nothing.

That’s just not true.

Send a text, a private message, an email, a card. Make a quick phone call (believe me, the bereaved will not keep you on the line!) or leave a voicemail.

What grieving hearts want to know is that someone sees their pain, someone has taken notice of the drastic and unwelcome change that’s been thrust upon them.

We don’t want to feel invisible. We don’t want to be overlooked because it makes you uncomfortable.

Be brave!

Face your own discomfort (which is microscopic compared to the heartache of the bereaved!) and make the call, send the message, write the email or card.

I promise you will waste more than five minutes today.

So take that tiny bit of time and focus your efforts on speaking courage to a hurting heart.

You don’t have to have the perfect words- “I’m so sorry” is just fine.

Then your head can hit the pillow tonight knowing you helped a heart hold onto hope.

You made a difference between someone giving up or going on.

None Of This Is Easy

It gets harder and harder to be honest the longer I walk this Valley.

Because it’s natural that those for whom Dom’s death was a moment in time, a short season of mourning, an unfortunate incident they sometimes look back on with sadness and regret but don’t live with daily move on.

The further we get in time from the actual moment of Dominic’s sudden departure, the larger the gap between my heart and theirs.

I understand that.

But that chasm is more and more difficult for me to bridge.

It requires energy and effort I don’t always have to reach out and reach across and try to help them understand me.

So sometimes I just don’t.

There is always going to be a blank space where Dominic SHOULD be, but isn’t.

There are always going to be places that aren’t colored in because that part of the canvas belongs to HIM.

There is always, always, always going to be pain when I line up for family photos, set the table for family dinners, go on family trips, wrap presents, send cards, list names on documents because HE IS NO LONGER HERE.

Others think the water fills in where the stone sank down.

But my mama heart knows exactly where those ripples ought to be.

So I quietly remember, quietly mourn, quietly mark that special spot-smiling on the outside.

No one the wiser.

No one the sadder.

No one but me anything at all.

It’s Been Years-What’s Wrong With You?

If you think that time makes a difference to a mama’s heart that’s missing a child who ran ahead to Heaven without her, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

Time does not heal all wounds-especially the kind that shatter a heart into a million pieces.

It takes time for the wound to scar over, but it doesn’t undo the damage.

So if you are wondering why your coworker still takes the day off on his child’s birthday or the anniversary of her child’s homegoing, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Years disappear when those milestones loom large.

It’s just as painful today as it was on THAT day when a bereaved parent has to face an unavoidable reminder that his or her child is gone, gone, gone.

I’m not diminishing anyone’s loss when I say this but child loss is unique.

If we lose a spouse, we cannot replace that person, but we can enjoy the same type of relationship with another one.

When we lose a parent, we cannot replace that individual or that relationship, but we all know age eventually makes a claim on every life. We anticipate (even if subconsciously) that younger folks will outlive the older ones.

A parent’s heart is not equipped to outlive their child.

And yet, some of us do.

“IT’S so WRONG, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before its parents. It’s hard enough to bury our parents. But that we expect. Our parents belong to our past, our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. How can I bury my son, my future, one of the next in line? He was meant to bury me!”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

So if the bereaved parents in your life need extra space, extra grace, extra accommodation on those days when the loss is unavoidable don’t be surprised.

What SHOULD astonish folks is that we are able to function as well as we do on all the other days of the year without additional help.

We get up.

We go on.

That’s the real surprise.