Listening is Love in Action

Listening is love in action.

If you know someone whose heart carries great grief-and child loss is not the only hard journey hearts are makingoffer to listen. 

Give up a few minutes to hear how they are really doing, what is really hard, what they really need to say but may be afraid to speak aloud.  Leave spaces in conversation so a heart can work up the courage to share.  Don’t be quick to offer platitudes that shut down deep discussion.  

It often takes many, many repetitions of traumatic events for a heart to begin to heal. 

Read the rest here: Why I Have To Talk It Out

Do The Next Right Thing

I’m not a fan of catch phrases that enter the popular lexicon and then take off into all directions.

Too often they reduce complex emotions or situations into a few words that folks find convenient to banter around in the hopes of sounding wise or “in the know” without any genuine attempt to understand what’s really going on.

But sometimes there IS a phrase that accurately summarizes choices or circumstances and is helpful in guiding a heart in the right direction.

“Do the next right thing” is one of those.

As far as I can tell, it was coined by someone (or many someones) who participated in twelve step programs (think AA) and meant that you don’t give in to the temptation to feed your addiction but instead head to a meeting or rendezvous with a sponsor or other safe person who will help you avoid falling back down the rabbit hole.

Grief is definitely a rabbit hole.

And there are lots of times I need someone or something to distract me from the siren call of despair that would lead me right back down to darkness-even eight and half years later.

So how do I manage to shake it off and move forward? It’s really pretty simple: I do the next right thing.

One day it might be getting up, making coffee and going for my morning walk. Another day it might be taking a shower, getting dressed and heading to a doctor’s appointment.

Most days it’s some form of the regular chores that have outlined my life on this piece of property for the past quarter century-feeding horses, cooking meals, tidying the house, sweeping porches, making necessary phone calls or tracking down some important piece of information we all store in the one location that will most likely be here long after I’m gone.

I’ve written before that just changing my physical position when I feel anxiety creeping up my back and taking hold of my brain can help ward off a full blown panic attack. If I’m sitting, I stand; if standing, I walk; if walking, I sit down. We are complex creatures and the body keeps the score (also a title of an excellent book!).

Feelings aren’t JUST feelings. They are neurotransmitters, muscular contraction, heart rate and blood pressure wrapped up in thoughts.

So when faced with a wall of overwhelming and cascading feelings, I do the next right thing-whatever that may be-and often find it breaks through that wall so I can see a sliver of light.

I follow that light like a candle in a cave until it leads me to a way out of the darkness.

Little by little, decision by decision, I move forward.

Some days it’s easy and some days it’s hard.

But it’s always possible.

Bereaved Parents Month 2022: Grief Brain-It’s a Real Thing!

Traumatic loss rewires your brain as well as your body.

So here I am, nearly eight years into the journey of sudden child loss and I’m reminded once again I am not the same “me” I once was.

Our newest grandbaby made an early entrance into the world this spring and I did Mama D duty with his big brother for nearly a month. It was a delight to be with my three year old grandson but it was also challenging for this aging/post trauma brain.

Trying to navigate (super simple) routes to and from the hospital, to and from preschool, and to and from the closest grocery store led to more than one U-turn and long way around. Sure I could use my phone’s GPS but I kept thinking I’ll finally remember next time.

I should know better by now…

❤ Melanie

I’m looking right at her.

know her.  In fact, I’ve known her for years.  But please don’t ask me her name.

I have no idea.

It happens to all of us-meet someone in the store or at the Post Office and you just know you know them, but cannot-for the life of you-remember a name.

file-cabinet

Chatting on, you search mental files desperately trying to make a connection you can hold onto.  Five minutes after she walks away it pops up-oh, yes!  That’s so-and-so from such-and-such.

Imagine if instead of searching mental files without success you can’t even find the file cabinet and start to wonder if one ever existed.

That’s what “grief brain” does to you.

Here are a few more examples of things that actually happened:

Read the rest here: Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing!

Bereaved Parents Month 2022: How Grief Continues to Shape My Life Eight Years Later

It would be lovely if life were neatly divided into seasons or sections.

But like so many things, there are no clean lines between now and what used to be.

Who I am today is shaped by who I was the day before.

Read the rest here: How Grief Continues To Shape My Life Eight Years Later

So Close And Yet So Far

I’m not usually a person who sits frozen when something unexpected or even something awful happens.

But the events in Uvalde, Texas have paralyzed me.

So many parents, grandparents and siblings thrust into the horror of loss and sorrow in a mere forty-five minutes! How does a heart process that when it knows exactly the long, awful road those families are just beginning to tread?

This isn’t about me, though, it’s about them.

It’s about the dozens and hundreds of people whose lives are touched by the tragic deaths of children and teachers who woke up that morning thinking the school year was winding to a close and looking forward to a summer of freedom.

Instead those families have been circled by chains of grief and will spend the next months and YEARS trying to figure out how to live when their worldview and hearts have been shattered.

I can identify with that.

Dominic was killed weeks shy of his twenty-fourth birthday and an even shorter time shy of finishing his second year of law school.

It was supposed to be downhill from there.

It was three days short of the end of the school year for those precious souls trapped by an evil young man in a classroom with no where to go but Heaven depending on where he pointed his weapon.

How does a parent process that?

How does a mama or daddy keep from lamenting how very close his or her child was to escaping this awful end? How does anyone not count the days and hours and moments that might have meant the difference between life and death?

For those whose hearts have been spared-I am so, so thankful.

For those of us who KNOW- I am so, so sorry.

You have probably also been paralyzed and horrified. You know the long, torturous path stretching before these parents. You know that there are no shortcuts, no detours, no magic to make it less painful.

Your breath has come in gasps interwoven with prayers for grace and strength.

You’ve avoided blaring newscasts and only checked intermittently for updates.

You may have cried, like me, in the shower or in a corner because the idea of another parent joining this “club” always makes you sad.

It’s especially difficult knowing that the end of the school year was so. very. close. The opportunity to do that kind of damage was nearly out of his reach.

And yet.

Here we are.

Again.

Violence and Trauma Mark a Soul

I first shared this a few years ago when there was a string of suicides linked to previous school shootings.

It made me think about all the ways violence and trauma (even without overt violence) marks a soul. But it’s hardly limited to school shootings.

Truth is, there are people all around us every. single. day. who have experienced some sort of trauma and we rarely realize it. They are doing the best they can to get on with life, to fit in with society, to fulfill whatever roles they have to play.

And often they do it so well that it’s not until they absolutely can’t take it anymore we realize what a heavy burden they’ve been carrying all along.

We need to normalize asking for help.

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. 

Read the rest here: Aftermath Of Violence: Trauma Marks a Soul

Grief Brain: Still Real After Eight Years!

Traumatic loss rewires your brain as well as your body.

So here I am, nearly eight years into the journey of sudden child loss and I’m reminded once again I am not the same “me” I once was.

Our newest grandbaby made an early entrance into the world nearly two weeks ago and I’m doing Mama D duty with his big brother. It’s a delight to be with my three year old grandson but it’s also challenging for this aging/post trauma brain.

Trying to navigate (super simple) routes to and from the hospital, to and from preschool, and to and from the closest grocery store has led to more than one U-turn and long way around. Sure I could use my phone’s GPS but I keep thinking I’ll finally remember next time.

I should know better by now…

❤ Melanie

I’m looking right at her.

know her.  In fact, I’ve known her for years.  But please don’t ask me her name.

I have no idea.

It happens to all of us-meet someone in the store or at the Post Office and you just know you know them, but cannot-for the life of you-remember a name.

file-cabinet

Chatting on, you search mental files desperately trying to make a connection you can hold onto.  Five minutes after she walks away it pops up-oh, yes!  That’s so-and-so from such-and-such.

Imagine if instead of searching mental files without success you can’t even find the file cabinet and start to wonder if one ever existed.

That’s what “grief brain” does to you.

Here are a few more examples of things that actually happened:

Read the rest here: Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing!

Speaking From Experience…

If you’ve joined me here for more than a minute you know I am a fierce advocate for bereaved parents in particular and all grievers in general.

But you’ve probably also noticed that, at least in my own life, I recognize how traumatic and/or difficult circumstances can make it hard to see past the hurt and the shattered world a broken heart inhabits. I can judge others harshly without meaning to.

A couple of recent incidents have reminded me how easy it is to interpret every offhand comment or heartfelt opinion as targeted at ME when, in fact, they are simply a reflection of that person’s experience in the world.

I can’t insist that others see the world through MY eyes if I’m not equally prepared to try to see it through THEIRS.

Look, I know how painful it is to scroll through social media posts and feel the darts land square in the center of my heart. Parents bemoaning their children leaving home (all the while I’m thinking, “yeah-but you can call, visit and still hug your child”); folks complaining about how hard it is to manage schedules and meals or trying to figure out family vacations with teens or young adults (“gee, I wish I had the privilege of including ALL my kids for holidays“); and then there are the “miraculous deliverance from a wreck” posts (I’m wondering why Dom wasn’t delivered).

But NONE of those folks are posting or commenting with me in mind. They are simply sharing their thoughts and feelings just like I share my own.

I’ve learned to just scroll on past.

It’s neither healthy nor helpful for me to type some long (or short!) snarky comment trying to “correct” them. I’m not entirely sure they need correcting.

Before it was ME that sent a child to Heaven I had No. Idea.

They don’t either.

So save your energy for the work grief requires. Save it for the family you’ve got left. Save it for a rainy day when tears fall as fast as drops from the sky.

You’re gonna need it.

Struggling With Sleepless Nights

I first shared this post about a year ago.

I was planning my daughter’s wedding and juggling a number of other pressing responsibilities. I managed to keep my composure most days when talking with caterers, family members and vendors but all that pent up stress kept me from falling asleep when I finally put my head down at night.

I had just begun to settle back into a decent sleep pattern when my mother suffered a stroke and died a few days later in September.

That threw me right back into the sleepless cycle that plagued me for years after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven in 2014. I couldn’t fall asleep or when I fell asleep I couldn’t stay asleep. What sleep I managed to get was filled with terrible and terribly vivid dreams.

I’m not sure I will ever enjoy the blissfully ignorant and pleasant slumber I knew as a young girl.

My heart won’t let me.

For the first couple of weeks after Dominic left us, I couldn’t fall asleep.  

It was impossible to close my eyes without a dozen awful scenes flashing behind the lids. 

Silent darkness was not my friend. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/05/02/sleepless-nights/

Rewired

No matter how a child leaves this earth, it’s traumatic.

And trauma rewires our brains.

The “fight or flight” response that had previously been reserved for truly life-threatening situations gets woven in with memories and feelings and our bodies remain on high alert.

So before we know it, all kinds of ordinary, daily, and definitely not life-threatening situations evoke rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, anxiety and fear. And the absolutely reasonable response is to get away from those things that make us feel that way.

So we do (or try to!).

Image may contain: possible text that says '"Our brains are wired for connection, but trauma rewires them for protection. That's why healthy relationships are difficult for wounded people."'

We find ourselves running away from people who love us, who want to help us but who just might not understand why we’re running. We cocoon in our homes, in our own bodies and try to find that one safe space where fear and anxiety can’t find us.

But there is no such absolutely safe space.

Trauma rewires our brains, it’s true.

They can be rewired again.

So many good therapies are available for those of us who suffer in silence. Many are based on using physical cues to help a brain learn to distinguish between truly dangerous and only the memory of dangerous.

PTSD treatments and therapies

It is possible to venture out in the world again, to reach for and sustain connection, to lean into company instead of shying away.

Don’t stay hidden, afraid and alone.

Find a trained trauma counselor

Ask for help.

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