Why I Say, “My Son Died.”

Died.  

It is a harsh word.

I understand completely that some parents don’t want to use it to describe their child and I respect that.

I have chosen to use it often (not always-sometimes I say “left” or “ran ahead to heaven”) because what happened IS harsh. I don’t want to soften it because there was nothing soft about it for me or my family.

It is heartbreaking, lonely, heavy, hard and utterly devastating. 

grief bubble

As a believer in the promises of Scripture, I use it because I want to paint a stark contrast between hopelessness without Christ and the hope I have because of the blood of Jesus applied to my heart and the heart of my son.

Without that assurance, the hopelessness would continue for eternity.

romans 10_9

But because of Jesus, while this reality is harsh, hard and heartbreaking, I have an eternity of rest, renewal and redemption to look forward to.

not ashamed

I think each of us finds our own path through this Valley and should say or use whatever word is best for our own heart.

This is simply one choice among many.  

I’m so sorry that we need ANY words to describe our child’s physical absence in this earthly journey. 

no evil can conquer grace forever

How and Why I Keep Writing: A Shepherd’s Heart

I am still utterly amazed that since November 2015 I have managed a blog post every day.

At first, I was writing because I wanted to make public the things I was learning in this Valley and to honor my missing son.  

dominic at tims wedding

He had been in Heaven a year and a half by then and it was clear to this mama’s heart that (1) people (including ME before it WAS me!) had absolutely NO IDEA what life after child loss was like once the funeral was over;  (2) one way to redeem this pain was to share how God had been faithful even as I struggled; and (3) I just didn’t see too many honest portrayals of life after loss for Christ followers (which is not to say they didn’t/don’t exist but I hadn’t found them).

So I wrote.  

Then I realized (much to my surprise!) that there were mamas (and a few daddies) hanging on by such a tenuous thread to hope that my meager attempt at redeeming this pain was strengthening their grasp.

Then it became a ministry.

Shepherding is in my blood. 

I’ve been a shepherd my whole adult life-first to my own children and then to other children through various home school groups and activities.  Then God granted a desire of my heart when He allowed me to become  a “real” shepherd 20 years ago to a flock/herd of sheep and goats.

goat and mel on porch (2)

I’ve learned so, so much.  

I’ve learned that consistency is key. 

My herd depends on my faithful feeding and my peaceful presence.  They love routine and hate change.  They respond immediately to my voice and run straight to me when they are afraid.

They will endure nearly anything as long as they are assured it is from my loving hand.  

I am not able to shepherd every heart that reads this blog. 

But I hope that a bit of my shepherd’s love and care and compassion is present in each post.  

My desire is that consistency helps the hearts that congregate here every morning.  I long for my words to feed hope to you from time to time.  I pray that routine gives you something to look forward to even on the hard day.  I pray that I faithfully point you to the Shepherd of your soul who can provide shelter no matter where you are or what is chasing you.

sheperd

I pray that together we can endure and persevere and finish strong and well.  

I continue to write because I love you. 

I continue to write because if a single post reaches a single heart on the verge of giving up and helps that heart hold onto hope, then it is worth every minute I spend thinking about, composing and producing these posts.  

And, frankly, many of you have ministered hope to MY heart.  

hope holds a breaking heart together

Dom left for Heaven about when my nest became empty.  Thirty years of raising children and twenty-plus years of homeschooling came to an end right when my heart was dealt this grievous blow.

All the energy and time I had poured into shepherding my children was suddenly available for a new adventure at the very moment when adventure was the last thing on my mind.  

Sharing has turned survival into something beautiful.   

I am so thankful for that.

And I am oh, so grateful for each of you.

thank you

 

 

 

Breathe In. Breathe Out. Repeat.

Almost four years and I still have those moments. 

I know from other grieving mamas that I always will. 

But sometimes they catch me by surprise.

Motoring home from Walmart, a campaign sign catches my eye.  The candidate is young and running for District Judge in our county.  That could have been Dominic.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Walking by the wall of photos in my hallway-something I do every. single. night.  I turn and two-year-old Dom is looking right at me.  Innocent.  Full of promise.  Smiling wide.  I kiss his picture because that’s all I have left.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Reaching for the jar opener Dominic brought home one day, suddenly I’m crying.  He was always looking for ways to make my life easier.  I hope he knew how very much I appreciated it.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Water the plants we got for his funeral. 

Walk by the car he drove to school. 

Wash his cup hanging unused under the kitchen cupboard because it’s covered in dust.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

 

Repost: Grieving With Hope

The church at Thessalonica was confused about some fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  They were frightened that they had missed Christ’s second coming and they were concerned about loved ones that had preceded them in death.  So Paul wrote this letter to remind them of truth and offer comfort in their emotional distress:

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.  I Thessalonians 4:13-14 MSG

This verse is quoted often to believers who have lost a loved one.  At first, gently, sweetly–as an invitation to remember that God is in control, that He has a plan, that the grave is not victorious and that burying the body is not the end.

And, in the early days and weeks after the funeral, it IS comforting–I chanted it to myself like a mantra and it drew my heart from the brink of despair.

But at some point, this verse begins to feel like a rebuke–the well-meaning friend says, “Don’t you know, that Jesus followers don’t grieve like those who have no hope!”

And I turn, dumbfounded, to the person saying this, and wonder, “Have you buried a child?”

Read the rest here:  Grieving With Hope

Is it OK if I Laugh?

Thankfully our family has always turned to laughter as a way of making it through things that would otherwise bring us to tears.  So it wasn’t but a couple days past when we got the news of Dom’s leaving we managed a giggle here and there as his friends shared some funny stories with us.

But it felt strange to have laughter bubbling up in my throat even as I couldn’t stop its escaping my mouth.

It wasn’t the free-floating, airy expression of joy and merriment it used to be.  Instead it was a strangled, mishapen gurgling mixture of the joy I once knew and unspeakable pain I now knew.

It didn’t float airily into the atmosphere, it thudded heavy to the floor.

And then I felt like I was betraying my son.

How could I laugh just days after finding out he would never laugh again?  How could I giggle over a silly story when my own story had drifted into tragic territory?  Was there something dreadfully wrong with me?  Was I somehow defective?

No. No. No.

And No.

There is nothing wrong with laughing-even in the darkest night of child loss.

Laughter is a gift.

When we laugh our hearts and bodies are receiving strength for the work grief requires.

Laughter  has many proven benefits:

  • decreases stress hormones
  • increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease
  • triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • lowers blood pressure
  • works your abdominal muscles
  • improves cardiac health

Dominic had an amazing laughhe was always cutting up, teasing friends and family and finding the funny in every situation.  He loved to laugh.

IMG_1797

One of the favorite stories his classmates told me was when he dressed as a redneck client for a mock trial case.  They were petrified that when he walked into the “courtroom” he was going to ruin their strategy and chances of winning.

But he played the part to perfection and had everyone rolling in the aisles.

I am learning to embrace laughter not only for what it does for ME but for how it links my heart to his.

This Valley is a long, dark place-I’ll take any light that breaks through.

And laughter is one of the brightest.

laughter-infographic-larger-300x298

 

 

Bereaved Parents Month Post: How Do You Breathe?

It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.

Read the rest here: How Do You Breathe?

Feeling Our Way in the Dark

Often this journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is dark and lonely.  

man in woods with glowing light

I am frightened of what may lay in wait-tragedy has visited once, it could come again.

I know Jesus is my Shepherd and I never doubt His companionship.  But if I’m honest, as much as I lean into that truth, it’s oh, so helpful to have a living, breathing human being walk with me.

So when a friend reaches out and takes my trembling hand it calls courage to my heart.

When we huddle together in the dark places, waiting out the storm of grief or doubt, it gives me strength to carry on.

Never, never underestimate the power of presence.

For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face, and now we know in part, but then we shall know fully just as we have been fully known

I Corinthians 13:12

So until then, what?
We feel our way in the dark.
Until we find each other.
We huddle together in the storm.
Wet and shivering, but together.
And maybe in the end it will be our huddling in the storm that gives us more comfort than our understanding of the storm.”

~Ken Gire, The Weathering Grace of God

 

me too sharing the path