Analogies. Why I Keep Trying.

Every day in this space I write primarily for the bereaved.

I try to share honestly and openly so others know they are not alone, are not crazy and are absolutely within the normal parameters of life after loss.

But I also write for those who are yet not bereaved but walking alongside a broken heart.

As many of us in the child loss community say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. True enough. Yet it IS possible to help those who have not experienced our pain gain at least a bit of insight into what it feels like.

So I continue to frame my journey in terms and examples that might help them understand.

Just last night someone close to me had an “Aha!” moment.

Over a decade into my struggle with autoimmune disease I was finally able to offer an analogy that rang true with them and connected the pain and difficulty of my daily experience to something they understood and had felt for themselves.

It was glorious!

In a flash, this person recognized (at least on some level) what a struggle it is for me to do things like turn a door knob, hold a coffee cup, lift anything over a pound in weight, button my shirt, brush my teeth or drive a car.

All things they take for granted and do without thinking about them or making a plan.

So I keep sharing and hoping that one or more of the analogies I use for the ongoing struggle of life after child loss will ring true with friends and family and they will have an “aha” moment too.

I send every post out on the worldwide web with a prayer that somehow, somewhere a heart is strengthened, eyes are opened and life might be made just a tiny bit easier for those of us bearing this burden.

Life after loss is hard.

Nothing is as easy or simple as it once was.

I don’t want pity!

But I welcome compassion, understanding and grace.

***What analogies have you used to help friends and family understand this journey? Please share them!!***

Why I Have To Talk It Out

I admit I’m full of words.  When my mama came to pick me up when her best friend was babysitting for awhile, she said, “You can’t have her yet, she’s telling me all kinds of things!”

More than once my mouth got me in trouble.

It’s still the source of most of my problems.

But for a time after Dominic left I found that the only words I could muster beyond what was absolutely necessary were written in my journal.  Because the words I wanted to say were bitter and harsh and tasted bad as they came up my throat and threatened to roll off my tongue.

I didn’t want to tell the story of that early morning knock.  I didn’t want to speak aloud the terror that gripped my soul, the literal shattering of my heart, the unholy darkness that enveloped me.

I HAD to make phone calls.  I was forced to say, “Dominic is dead” over and over and over.  Then I wanted to hide in silence and stay on the fringe of conversations that filled our home and the church before we buried him.

It seemed easier to swallow the words than taste them.

But I couldn’t do that forever.

Eventually the words began to rot inside me and make the pain even worse.  I had to let them out.  I had to talk about it.  All of it.

The actual events.

The feelings associated with the accident.

The pain of choosing a cemetery plot, a casket, an order of service, of writing an obituary, of burying my son.

The awful emptiness that one life missing makes in a family of six.

The fact that at some point I woke from the stupor enough to wonder how the God I had worshiped for all these years let this happen.

And I needed someone to listen.  I needed someone to be a witness to my words.  It was no longer enough to write them down, wrap them up and hide them away.

They had to be spoken so that the power they had over my soul could be broken.

business-authenticity

Thank God for people who are willing to listen!  

I have friends and family who let me recite the same thing over and over and over so that each telling helps my heart toward healing.

I have several online and in-person communities of bereaved parents who do the same (and more!) because they understand precisely how I feel and can offer hope from their own stories of healing. *

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. 

And each time you grant someone permission to share and listen to his or her story, you are applying balm to a weary soul.  ❤

listening is a postive act

 

*Here are two online closed communities for bereaved parents:   While We’re Waiting Support for Bereaved Parents  Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child

The Compassionate Friends offers in-person support groups around the country.

GriefShare also holds classes and offers in-person support.  Check online for availability in your area.

 

 

 

The Problem With Microwave Presets: Struggling with Others’ Expectations in Grief

I hate microwaves that have the “quick minute” presets! 

It takes MORE time for me to undo that feature and tap in how long I want to nuke my food than it would if it weren’t set up that way.

And sometimes I feel as if “undoing” is a great deal of what I do as a griever.

I have to dispel others’ expectations of what I should be feeling, doing or thinking.

I have to help them understand that unless you have been here, you CAN’T understand.

I pray they never understand.

dont expect everyone to understand

But in the meantime, here we are, walking the same road but experiencing discord in communication, relationship, expectations and outlook.

Sometimes it’s ME.  I’ll admit that up front. 

Sometimes I am feeling so vulnerable and broken that the slightest misplaced syllable, the tiniest hint of disapproval, the merest whiff of impatience sends me down the rabbit hole of darkest night and endless grief.  I receive things not as they are MEANT but as they FEEL filtered through my own pain.

But sometimes it IS the other person. 

Sometimes they are thoughtless, heartless and unsympathetic.  Sometimes they think that time has healed all wounds and that I should be “over this”-whatever THAT means.  Sometimes it’s inconvenient for them to continue extending grace when what they need is a spot filled on the roster, a hand to help or a quick fix to one of their problems.

I have better days now at over three years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  I even have better weeks every now and again.  But what a given day or week will be like is still not mine to decide.  Although I steel my mind and heart against the sorrow and missing, one word can pierce the armor I so carefully arrange and I am felled.

So I try to help my friends and family understand that.  I spend time (especially when I am less emotional) explaining what it feels like to continue to miss my son. I hunt down examples to share that may speak to their hearts and circumstances. I write this blog.  I’m honest when making plans to say that I may have to back out at the last minute or only stay for a portion of an event.

In many ways it’s like having an infant again.  When I was nursing my babies there were always things I had to say “no” to or situations that had to be adapted to accommodate the baby.  Feeding schedules and nap times dictated my life.

No one seemed to mind then. 

My current life is equally hemmed in by what I can’t control.  

Try as I might, it’s impossible for me to meet the expectations of others.  I’m not a microwave.

please be aware i am trying

The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

I am always afraid that Dominic will be forgotten.  

I’m afraid that as time passes, things change and lives move forward, his place in hearts will be squeezed smaller and smaller until only a speck remains.

Not in my heart, of course.

Or in the hearts of those closest to him, but in general-he will become less relevant.

But he is not the only one who can be forgotten.  I am just as fearful that my living children will be forgotten.

Not in the same way-they are HERE.

They are participating in life and making new memories, new connections and strengthening old ones.

I’m afraid their grief will be overlooked, unacknowledged-swept under the giant rug of life and busyness that seems to cover everything unpleasant or undervalued.

If the course of a bereaved parent’s grief is marked by initial outpouring of concern, comfort and care followed by the falling away of friends, family and faithful companionship then that of a bereaved sibling is doubly so.

Surviving children often try to lessen a grieving parent’s burden by acting as if “everything is OK”.

But it’s not-it is definitely NOT.

missing them from your side

Their world has been irrevocably altered.  They have come face-to-face with mortality, with deep pain, with an understanding that bad things happen-happen to people they love-without warning and without remedy.

They are forced to rethink their family, their faith and their future without a life-long friend and companion.

Part of their history is gone.

If surviving children are young, it can be so, so easy to mistake the natural enthusiasm and excitement of youth for complete healing.  They are often busy with events, education, work and life and the grief they still feel may go unnoticed-even by themselves.

But they need safe, consistent and compassionate care while they navigate grief and the enduring impacts of sibling loss.  School counselors, grief counselors or mature and emotionally stable adult friends can be very helpful during this process.

It’s important to be alert to danger signals.  Behavioral impacts may present in many ways:

  • Anxiety (situational, tests, generalized)
  • Risk taking
  • Isolation
  • Inability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Depression
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Poor grades (may have given up or may not be able to concentrate)
  • Extreme concern for other family members and their safety

If you observe any of these changes, get help.  A grieving parent is rarely able to be the sole source of intensive counsel for a bereaved child-someone outside the grief circle may be a better choice.

Adult children-even those married and with kids of their own-are also changed forever by saying “good-bye” to a brother or sister.  Addiction, depression and physical health issues can surface in the wake of loss.  

It’s not always easy to connect the dots back to grief since life is full of stress and strain and they may need help.

My children have been blessed to have friends and loved ones who give them a safe place to go when grief overwhelms them or when other stressors on top of grief make life really hard.

If you know a bereaved sibling:

  • Reach out.
  • Be an encourager.
  • Don’t assume that because time has gone by, they are all better.
  • They may not want to talk about it and that’s OK.  But if they do, listen.  Without platitudes, without judgement-just be a safe place.
  • And if you notice something that’s just not “quite right” try to get them the help they may need to make it through this hard place.

Bereaved families are often doing the best they can, but they can’t do it alone.  

When you bless my earthly children, you bless me.  When you give them space to grieve, you give me space to breathe. When you encourage them, you encourage my heart too.

Don’t forget them.  

Please.  

 

 

 

What I Want You to Know About My Grief

I am so very thankful I live in a country where the vast majority of parents do not know what it’s like to bury a child.

I am part of a relatively small group.  Bereaved parents make up a tiny segment of the population.

It’s possible that you may never be close friends with someone who has lost a child.

And because death and dying are unpopular subjects, and because grieving parents can become very good at hiding the pain, even if you DO meet someone whose child has died, they may never tell you about it.

So, so many of the friends I have made on this journey live each day bearing the weight of grief AND the heavy burden of being misunderstood-at work, in church, even in their own extended families.

One of the first posts I wrote was born out of this angst-birthed in pain as I realized that even well-meaning friends and family members who have not experienced child loss really don’t have any idea how it feels :

People say, “I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

Read the rest: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know