Repost: Bill of Rights for Grieving Parents

I don’t mean to be pushy.

But there are some things I really wish other people understood about grief:

  • It doesn’t have a time limit.
  • It doesn’t conform to my expectations or the expectations of others.
  • I can’t predict when it will overwhelm me.
  • I am not going to apologize for grieving my son because I don’t apologize for loving him.

So, please, consider this Bill of Rights for Grieving Mamas.

imagine child loss

Willful Obedience

How many times have we seen it or experienced it ourselves?

bratty-child

 

That moment when a young child cries, WHY do I have to do it?!!!”

In reply an exasperated mama says, “Because I TOLD you to!!!”

Then the moment of truth:  either the child complies (reluctantly perhaps) or chooses willful disobedience.

When my children were little, we lived on a fairly busy road with our driveway a short distance from the edge of the pavement.  I was shepherding four young ones and could not possibly keep an eye on each one every second of every day.

So early on we established a rule:  You never step on blacktop pavement without holding the hand of an adult.

I explained that the road was dangerous.  But let’s face it, the ability of  a two year old to understand “dangerous” is limited.

Because of the faithful love they experienced in our home, my children trusted me even though they did not fully comprehend the need to obey.

And this rule was never broken as long as we lived there.

It kept them safe.

These last months I have felt like an angry, willful child-I’ve asked God, “Why do I have to affirm Your goodness? Why do I have to believe You are in control?  Why do I have to keep on keeping on when all I want to do is lie down and give up?”

And, honestly, the only answer I’ve gotten is, “Because I told you to.”

He has not given me special revelation nor has He whispered unique comfort to my heart.

No answer as to why MY son was taken.

No insight into how these circumstances play into His greater plan and purpose for my life or for anyone else’s life.

So I face a moment of truth:  will I choose obedience?  Will I choose to continue to follow my Savior and trust my Heavenly Father?. 

Will I rest in the faithful love He has showered on me all my days and hold tighter to the hope I have in Christ?

Or will I walk away because I don’t get what I want and I don’t understand?

The apostles faced a similar test many times.  One which speaks to my heart occurred just after Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand.

When Jesus taught that He was the Bread of Life, many turned away because they found the words offensive and hard to believe.

bread-of-life

The crowd had readily accepted physical blessing from His hand, but hesitated when the blessing wasn’t something they could touch or comprehend.

They were unprepared to follow Him if they didn’t understand.

Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?”

Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you?”

From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!”

John 6: 60-61, 66-69

Simon Peter chose to follow because he believed and accepted a core truth:  Jesus IS the Holy One of God.  He IS the Bread of Heaven.  He IS the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Like the crowd, I cry out, “This teaching (of Your sovereignty, of Your goodness, of Your love for me) is hard! Who can accept it (in light of my experience)?

But as an act of will, even in the midst of so many unanswered questions, I will choose to follow and obey because only Jesus has the words of eternal life.

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?
― C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

Courage is a Heart Word

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad.

~Brene Brown

I grew up in the Deep South where ladies were supposed to keep silent about anything “unmentionable”.

Problem is, that included many things that SHOULD be spoken aloud.

Because a conspiracy of silence forces those who are suffering to hide.  It creates huge gaps between what goes on behind closed doors and public image.

And it causes those who are wounded to question the authenticity of their own experience.

In recent years we have dragged many topics into the light.  We’ve made space in the public square for discussion of things we used to pretend didn’t exist.

But life after child loss is still a hushed topic.

The long road to healing after burying a child is rarely acknowledged outside the community of bereaved parents.

The FACT that as long as I live, my son’s absence will be a shadow trailing me, the burden of sorrow will slow my steps, the heartache of missing will shape my world is glossed over and set aside.

I understand why.

It is scary to speak aloud what you hope will never happen to you.  It’s unbelievably frightening to admit that we really have no control over whether, or when, we or the ones we love might leave this world.

But I am not going to keep silent.

Not because I want pity or special treatment, but because I want that parent who just buried his or her child to know that you. are. not. alone.

I want you to know that what you are experiencing is not unusual.

I want you to understand that the horrible pain you feel is absolutely normal.

And I want you to be assured that you are NOT Crazy!

I will tell my story because even though it is hard, it matters.  And even though it hurts, it can help heal another.  And even though it isn’t finished, it can blaze a trail for others to follow.

Join me, be BRAVE, tell yours.

 

 

It Takes a Lifetime

I was reminded once again this week how the events surrounding death and burial are inadequate indicators of the profound change that has taken place in the lives of those left behind.

Standing at the graveside of a precious friend’s father, I remembered watching Dominic’s earthly shell lowered beneath the ground.

I was wholly unprepared for the days and weeks and months that followed.

No one had told me it was only a beginningLoving Well: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief

 

 

 

Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

I used to position myself at the end of the pew, just in case someone I’m not too comfortable with might come along and try to sit down.

It saved us both that awkward conversation where they ask if they can join me and I say “yes” with my mouth but “no” with my body language.

Frankly, I was at church to be lifted up so I could face the coming week with power and strength. I didn’t want to be dragged down by their reality of brokenness and sometimes bitter tears.

I don’t do that anymore.

I realize that most of what made me uncomfortable was other people’s pain.

Now I’m the one who’s broken.  I’m the one who can’t get through “Amazing Grace” without blubbering.

And I’m the one that others hope won’t ask to join THEM.

But here’s the deal:  God loves the broken.  Christ came for the broken.  It’s the broken and breathless who long for the Spirit to blow life across their wounded hearts.

It’s the hopeless and fearful that run faster to the safety of their Shepherd.

It’s the worried and weary who are thankful for a Burden-bearer.

When I refuse to move over and make room for the broken, I’m barring the way for the very ones who most desperately need the blessing.  When I want my worship experience to exclude those who haven’t the strength to bring their own hearts before the throne of grace, I’m being selfish.  

And that is sin.

Jesus went out of His way to heal the hurting,

to bless the broken and

to speak strength to the weary.

So now I sit in the middle of the pew and leave room for whoever God brings my way.

I want to be an open door, not a gatekeeper.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~Jesus

(Matthew 11:28-30 PHILLIPS)

Not What I Had Planned

I don’t get to choose.

I don’t get to plan the way life is going to be.

Oh, I bring out the calendar and mark down the days:  birthdays, holidays, special events and obligations.

calender

But then one dark morning a knock stops the clock and makes the world spin faster all at once.

I’m suspended and plunged under in the same breath.

Frozen.  Broken. Horrified.

How did this happen?

How is this my life?

My head and heart explode in pain.

Months pass.  The days march on.

I still don’t get to choose what sunrise brings.

But looking back I’m grateful that when my circle was whole we chose love.

That when the days were unfolding we chose faith.

That even as the night closed in and the days grew dark we continued to cling to the one Hope that proves true.

I’m thankful that my heart was full of praise songs and Scripture and that when I couldn’t lift my hand to turn the pages of my Bible the Spirit used them to whisper courage to my soul.

This Valley is deep and the sun is often hidden by the towering mountains on either side.

I have learned two things:

I can’t determine how life unfolds,

but I can decide where to place my hope. 

“I admit how broken I am in body and spirit,

but God is my strength,

and He will be mine forever.”

Psalm 73:26 VOICE

 

 

 

Thanks for Listening!

One year ago today I began sharing my grief journey publicly on this blog.

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You can read that first post here.

 

It was (and still is) scary to expose my thoughts and feelings to a wider audience than just the pages of my personal journal.

I’m never certain that what is helpful for me is necessarily helpful for anyone else.  But in writing it down I find that I am able to sort through things better than when I leave it bouncing around in my own head space.

I decided upfront that I would be as honest as possible about what I felt and how I was coping.  I wasn’t sure if I would post only a few times or a lot, if it would turn into a day-by-day diary or a more sweeping revelation of deeper things.

I think it’s kind of been both at times.

And here we are, 366 days (it was a leap year) and  355 posts later and I’m still here and you’re still listening.

I don’t claim to have any special gifting or knowledge or ability.  I am simply one mama whose love for both her child in heaven and her children still here demands that I speak out.

My heart is full of  love and pain.

thank you

And my heart has been blessed beyond measure by those who read and share what I have written.  I’ve met-in person and virtually-many bereaved parents who are helping me as I continue down this road.

I am so very thankful for each one.

I pray that for those who read these words and know the pain of burying a child, I am speaking things you may think or feel but are not willing or able to express.

And I pray that in hearing them spoken aloud, you are affirmed and encouraged that you. are. not. alone.

Dominic matters.  

Your child matters.  

It’s not only OK but absolutely necessary to admit that life after child loss is a struggle.  It is also just fine to take your time working through the pain and sorrow and overwhelming changes child loss brings.

For those who read my posts and do not share this pain, I pray you gain insight into what bereaved parents feel and how burying a child changes EVERYTHING.

I hope you are better equipped to offer the ongoing support we need and crave.  I hope you learn that this is not something we have chosen, it is something that happened to us. 

And I pray that all of us will be more willing to extend grace, mercy and love to one another.

Words are not neutral.  

They bring life or death.

They wound or heal.

May each of us be an instrument of healing for someone’s hurting heart.   

its hurting again