A Little Extra Grace

Each day I am reminded by sights, smells, sounds and memories that Dominic is in Heaven and not here.  

But there are moments and seasons when his absence is particularly strong-when I can’t breathe in without also breathing a prayer, “Father, let me make it through this minute, this hour, this day.”

And that’s when I need grace-from family, friends and strangers.

Image result for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about quote

Anyone who knows ANYONE that lives with loss knows that Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and remembrance days are sure to be especially hard for those left behind.

What some may not know is that there are other, hidden, pitfalls on this journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

For many bereaved parents the beginning of the school year is one of them.

Even though my son  was long past school age when he left, that shiny penny newness and promise of another year of school, another step toward maturity and the rest of life, another marker on the road to what every parent hopes will be a beautiful future is a painful reminder that my child won’t be doing anything new here on earth.

And a little extra grace goes a long way toward making this season easier to endure.  

  • A bit more patience as I walk slowly across the parking lot, lost in thought and unaware you are behind me trying to get on with life or park your car.
  • A smile when I accidentally bump my cart into yours in the grocery aisle-having just passed his favorite food or smelled coffee and been instantly transported to his finicky passion for all things caffeine.

  • Calm responses when I jump to conclusions, cut you off mid-sentence or answer a query with a less-than-kind tone of voice.

Want to be especially encouraging to a parent missing their child in heaven?

  • A text or message or a “thinking of you” card can turn a dismal day into one full of sunshine.
  • Do you have a special memory or memento you could share?  What a gift!

If you see us in these next few days and weeks as thoughts and hearts turn from summer to a new semester, be patient-we are once again reminded that our child’s earthly story has ended.

It’s a hard truth to embrace. 

Every. time.

 

Encouraging My Heart

It’s easy to be discouraged.  

Look around.

If I listen to the news, the world is falling apart. When I look in the mirror-I’m falling apart.  

And not a minute goes by that I don’t miss my son in heaven.

But the world-not the WORLD- nor my personal world rests on MY shoulders.

And it doesn’t rest on the shoulders of some ancient made-up god either.

It, and I, were created by and for Jesus Christ.  He holds it and me together.

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 PHILLIPS

So when I lose courage, I will look to the Author and Perfector of my faith.  I will cling to the One Who has died, was buried, resurrected and rose to sit at the right hand of my Father in Heaven.

I will take my eyes off the storm and fix them on Jesus, Who calms the storm.  

Because He Who began a good work in me, will be faithful fo complete it.

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Move On Already!

How long has it been?  A year, two, eighteen or twenty-five?

When. are. you. going. to. move on?  

Aren’t you over talking about their birth story, their childhood, their school years, their spouse, children, moves and career?  How many funny stories or sad recollections do I have to listen to?????

I mean, really-it’s been soooooooooo00 long since they were BORN!

Sound’s ridiculous, doesn’t it? It IS ridiculous.

We don’t expect parents to “move on” or “get over” their living children.

Why, why, why do we expect parents to move on or get over the ones they’ve had to bury?

My love for each of my children, on earth or in heaven, is life-long.  

I wrote about it here: Love: The Reason I Grieve

Can’t Hide the Ugly

Yesterday I was impatient and ugly with someone I love.

When you are hurting, physically or emotionally or physically AND emotionally, you just don’t have the energy to hide the ugly.

But the pain didn’t create the ugly-it just revealed it.

And I am sorry to say that even burying a child did not cleanse me of some ugliness I wish I didn’t have in my heart.

I keep asking God to fill me with His love, mercy and grace.  And I am more full of those things than before.

But there is still plenty of (if not hate then) less-than-love, judgement and impatience. Trials don’t automatically lead to refinement or stronger faith.

Tribulation can drive someone away from God as easily as it can drive them to their knees.

If I’m not careful-if I’m not very careful-I can use my pain as an excuse for all kinds of bad behavior.

So I’m here to confess:  I am so, so sorry.

I’m sorry that when my glass gets tipped, anger and bitterness spills out. I’m sorry that I’m not more faithful to extend grace when I hope grace will be extended to me.  I’m sorry that speaking truth so that I prove my point and wound a heart is sometimes more satisfying than speaking truth in love.

I wish every  deed I did  and every word I spoke was full of life and never full of death.

I hate death.  I. HATE. death.

It has taken enough from me. And I want no part of it.

Father, I want to be a beacon of light and life.  Lord, make me so.  Fill me to overflowing with YOUR love, YOUR life, YOUR grace, YOUR mercy.  Left to myself I have no hope.  But by Your Spirit, it can be so.

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

James 1:2-5 PHILLIPS

 

Twelve Things I Love to Remember

It rolls around every month-the twelfth-that glaring reminder that on this day “x” number of months ago, I woke to the news Dominic was never coming home again.

This month is 28.  Twenty-eight months-more than 28 moon cycles-over two years.

I don’t cry all day on this monthly reminder anymore-although I used to. And I have tried various ways to redeem it.

This month I decided to share twelve things I love to remember about Dominic. Maybe some things even his good friends didn’t know:

  • Dominic HATED to lose.  When he was a little boy we participated in a monthly skate session at a local roller rink.  At the end of the skating time (to encourage kids to quickly take off and return their skates) there were foot races broken up by age and gender. Poor Dom-he was built like a gymnast not a runner and he. just. couldn’t. win.  EVERY TIME, he’d come stomping off the floor, nearly in tears because he didn’t win.  So many things came easily to him but this didn’t and it frustrated him.
  • Dominic finished his undergraduate degree in three and a half years-double major-graduated Magna Cum Laude and delivered the undergraduate address for his graduation ceremony. I love that he was so goal-oriented and persevered even when it was really hard.

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  • He could subsist on rice and broiled chicken breasts when he was trying to work on muscle definition (he rarely missed a day at the gym) but when he was a little kid he hid candy along the side of his mattress.  He remained a sucker for a good sugar binge, especially when stressed during finals.
  • Dominic was scared of needles.  His PCP finally shamed him into getting a needed tetanus shot but he hated it!

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  • He had a weakness for puppies, kittens and kids.

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  • If it had strings, Dominic could play it-mandolin, guitar, bass, banjo.  And if you could coax rhythm out of it, he could make it sing.  Never silent, never still-always making some kind of music. Boy do I miss that!

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  • Dominic never took “no” for an answer.  He would doggedly pursue anything and anyone if he thought it was a valid case or course of action.  He had an entire university policy overturned because he was able to demonstrate to the administration that its application was faulty.  That’s part of what would have made him a great lawyer…
  • He was an adrenaline junkie.  He was the one that wanted to jump out of an airplane so he did.

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  • As an undergraduate he had a part-time job as a  lifeguard at the student recreation center.  He loved the job  but hated swimming. He was an amazing athlete.
  • Although he was an excellent orator, he didn’t really talk until he was almost three and had a speech impediment until he was into second grade.  You would never have known it if you met him as an older teen or adult.

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  • Oh!  Dominic was stubborn!  I remember one afternoon when I had given an assignment to draw a leaf in his nature journal.  He sat, without drawing, for over an hour because he insisted he couldn’t draw, wouldn’t draw and didn’t see the point in the assignment.  I finally caved and said he could trace the leaf.  I still have that picture as a testimony to his mulish side.
  • Dominic had a great sense of humor and nothing was out of bounds if it made someone laugh.

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I am so thankful God made me his mama.  I love every memory I have.  I really wish we could make more…

 

 

What Helps and What Hurts

I am committed to continue to trust Jesus and to look to the Word of God for my hope and direction in this life and in the one to come.

I speak truth to my heart through Scripture, worship songs, testimonies of others who have gone before and remaining in community with other believers.

But I’ve yet to reach the place where I can plan on most days being better days rather than hard ones.

I’m trying.

And I’m working to tease out the influences that make a difference-both the ones that help and the ones that hurt.

So here’s the list so far:

WHAT HELPS

  • Starting the day with Bible reading
  • Writing out a verse or two that speaks hope to my heart
  • Listening to worship music
  • Feeling well-less physical pain translates to an overall sense of well-being
  • Having a plan for the day-even if it is simple and created in broad strokes, knowing what I plan to do gives me a reason to get up and get going
  • Seeking companionship with other believers either via Facebook groups, telephone calls, in person get togethers or messaging.
  • Allowing myself a set time to grieve-cry, pray, lament, or whatever-then moving on with the day
  • Mixing up physical activity with rest-changing my body position often reorients my attitude.
  • Striving to get proper sleep, eating good food (not junk and not mindlessly), exercising and stretching.
  • Crying-if I need to cry I’ve found allowing the tears to fall is much better than fighting them off all day.
  • Retreating when necessary-if I find a situation is too much for me to handle, I give myself permission to retreat.  Most things can be done another day.  Sometimes just granting myself permission means I have the courage to press on and face it.
  • Planning for hard things.  If I know I’m going to have to face a hard thing, then I try to plan it.  I prepare myself by thinking through (as much as possible) various outcomes.  I’m more prepared and usually it goes better than I anticpated.
  • Not overscheduling my days/weeks-it is harder than it used to be to get going in the mornings so I take that into consideration when making appointments.  If I have a busy day on Monday, I will try to make Tuesday open and relaxed.  Having space between commitments gives me time to recoup and minimizes anxiety.
  • Doing as many things via Internet and telephone as possible-I can do needful things even if I’m having a bad day if I don’t have to get dressed and go out to do them.

WHAT HURTS

  • Neglecting my spiritual life-if I don’t read Scripture, don’t engage with other believers and refuse to acknowledge and thank God for the blessings He still bestows-I can quickly succumb to the dark whispers of the enemy of my soul.
  • Ignoring physical needs-when I don’t prioritize sleep, good nutrition, adequate exercise and appropriate pain control (for my RA) then sadness is multiplied and it is so much harder to climb out of the pit of despair.
  • Carrying unnecessary burdens-I cannot MAKE anyone understand the pain and ongoing challenge of child loss.  So when people outside my immediate grief circle question my feelings or try to make me conform to their expectations of what grief should look like and how long it should last, I have to shake it off. If it’s an important and ongoing relationship, I try to help them understand but if they choose not to or if it is a tangential relationship, I let it go.  I refuse to carry the burden of others’ expectations in addition to the burden of burying my child.
  • Being ignored-it hurts to be ignored.  It hurts when someone asks how I am yet doesn’t allow the space and time for me to answer.  It hurts when I answer and they ignore my pain or dismiss it with a story or platitude or Bible verse or just don’t say anything.
  • Being shamed-it hurts for others to shame me by implying that I am not strong in my faith or not trusting Jesus or not hoping hard enough for heaven when I admit I still struggle in grief and still miss my son.
  • Disregarding my triggers:  There are certain situations that I know will guarantee a breakdown, panic or a crying fit.  I avoid them when I can.  If I can’t-then I make a plan of escape (just in case).
  • Being “on display” for others-I am one woman doing the best I can to walk faithfully with Jesus through an unbelievably painful experience.  I am not the Author and Finisher of your faith-Jesus is.  It hurts when I feel like others are watching to see if I’ll make it, if I’ll say the “wrong” thing, if I’ll admit that I doubt.  I want the same freedom others have to grow in my faith and to make mistakes and learn from them.  I don’t want to be a “poster child” for anything.
  • Friends staying away.  I know it is hard to be my friend right now.  You never know what you might get when you call.  But if you ARE my friend, please don’t stay away.  Please reach out even when it makes you uncomfortable.  A good word at the right moment is often the difference between a very bad and very lonely day and a pretty good and generally hopeful one.
  • Hiding my sorrow-when I try to pretend I am stronger than I really am or when I try to hide my tears it takes so much energy and makes me so less capable to do the other things life requires.

These are just some of the things that help/hurt me in my journey.  I would love to have others share what helps/hurts them in theirs.  There’s strength in community.

Leave your thoughts in the COMMENTS below!

 

 

 

Come Sit With Me: How Job’s Comforters Got it Wrong

I want to make sense of the senseless.

I want to draw boundary lines around tragedy so I know what precautions can keep it far away from  me.

But God is in control.  Not me.

How Job’s comforters got it wrong…