The Weird, Weird Thing About Devastating Loss

My mother’s death has forced me to relive the early days after Dominic’s death.

While her leaving was not completely unexpected (she had many health issues and was not strong) it was still sudden.

And one of the things I’m reliving is that while this giant life-altering event has turned MY world upside down and inside out, it really hasn’t changed anything for those outside a very small inner circle of grievers.

The weird, weird thing about devastating loss is that life actually goes on. When you’re faced with a tragedy, a loss so huge that you have no idea how you can live through it, somehow, the world keeps turning, the seconds keep ticking.

James Patterson

Life DOES go on.

I had someone ask me a question in church Sunday about a decision that was made a week or two before my mom went into the hospital for the last time. It took me at least a full minute to orient my brain to the question and longer to answer it because I could barely remember anything that happened in the past weeks before Mama died.

It was like that after Dominic left us.

I felt like I was living in a low-budget foreign feature film (think ancient Godzilla movies) where English was simply dubbed over the Asian actors original dialogue and everything was slightly “off”. Words were being said that I SHOULD understand but they didn’t match what my eyes were seeing. It took tremendous effort to comprehend what people said to me and an even greater effort to comprehend the context of what they were saying.

It is a weird, weird thing that time moves on regardless of my shattered world.

It is a weird, weird thing that people keep doing routine stuff like watching favorite TV shows, going to football games, celebrating birthdays, checking the value of their portfolio, chiming in on social media and buying groceries.

It is a weird, weird thing that I grow older while Dominic stays twenty-three-almost-twenty-four. It’s even weirder that his once younger brother is now twenty-seven.

Julian, Jame Michael, Dominic

I used to think I had a pretty good imagination. But now I’m not so sure.

I can’t scale Dominic up to what he might be doing now, who he might be dating or married to, where he might have chosen to pursue a career or if he might have done something entirely different than anything he’d done before.

Time really DOES march on.

It doesn’t require my permission.

It doesn’t even notice me at all.

That’s a weird, weird thing.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day 2019

It happens in all kinds of ways.

For one reason or another, the tiny life budding in a belly never gets to see the light of day. Never takes a first breath. Never cries. Never opens his or her eyes to the mama waiting to meet her precious one.

So many mamas have experienced the excitement of watching the pregnancy test show positive only to endure days, weeks or months later, the sadness of saying good-bye to a little one they never got to meet.

Statistics tell us that one in four women will become part of this group during their lifetime.

But what statistics can never tell you about anything is why so, so many of the women who survive pregnancy and infant loss don’t talk about it.

Many think they can’t talk about it or shouldn’t talk about it because often the experience is so very personal.

It may be the pregnancy was never announced. It could be that the culture in which a mama lives doesn’t recognize life at conception so, really, what was lost? Perhaps many women in her family have had similar experiences and THEY didn’t “make a big deal” out of it, so why should she?

Then there’s guilt.

So, so much information is shoved into mothers’ faces about what they should and shouldn’t do to promote a healthy pregnancy and birth. Eat this, don’t eat that. Take this, don’t take that. Exercise-but not too strenuously. Drink water. Don’t drink alcohol or too much caffeine.

It’s easy to blame yourself when a baby stops growing.

Some brave mamas carry a baby for months and to the point of birth-see that precious bundle on an ultrasound, hear the heartbeat, watch and feel those legs kick-yet never hear a cry or hold a warm infant in their arms.

That’s a kind of awful no heart should have to bear.

And yet, that loss too is often unacknowledged.

How do you celebrate a life that was lived only inside the comfort and safety of the womb? How do you share a photo of your precious baby when the only one you have (if you have any) is of him wrapped in a blanket, eyes closed, your eyes crying?

If a second pregnancy follows any kind of pregnancy or infant loss, friends and family almost always pounce on the opportunity to push a mama’s heart forward fast and furious to the future of her “rainbow child” making it even less likely her missing baby is acknowledged or remembered.

But she never forgets.

A mama’s heart never lets go of the life that lived inside her.

That tiny baby-one week, one month, full term-is her son or daughter.

Counted among the others.

Just as precious.

Always.

I’m remembering with you, my sweet friends. Tonight I will light a candle along with millions who also remember, to honor the baby I never held. May the multiplied voices and hearts joined together help others hear the message that our child matters.

Every child matters. ❤

I Want You To Know How My Son LIVED Not Only How He Died

As happens often, multiple conversations, experiences and random social media posts rattle around in my brain and then sort themselves out into a brand new thought.

I realized (maybe for the first time with genuine feeling!) that I want people to know how my son lived and not only how or even that he died.

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It was probably almost three years before I could mention Dominic’s name without also adding, “he was killed in a motorcycle accident” to anyone who didn’t already know that.

It wasn’t because I wanted sympathy or special consideration but because I honestly could not think about Dominic without placing every thought in the context of his death. I was so aware of his absence that it pushed everything else about him into the background.

I was also horribly jealous of what I had lost.

I needed to express how desperately I longed to have him back so tended to share details about his personality, accomplishments and pet peeves from my own perspective.

I was mainly looking at him through my eyes instead of seeing him as a whole person distinct from myself.

I wanted to curate his image in the eyes of others.

But Dominic had been his own man for a long time when he left this earth for Heaven. He made his own choices, had friends I never knew, read things and saw places beyond my experience.

When I insist on introducing him first as Dominic the missing member of the family instead of Dominic the man he had become, I make him smaller than he was (than he is!).

I don’t want to do that.

Even though I rarely insist on mentioning his death anymore in casual conversation unless asked directly, I realize that I want to do more than just NOT mention his death.

I want to comment on his life.

I want to tell folks that Dominic was one of the most talented drummers I’ve ever heard. I want them to know about his quirky sense of humor, his insistence on super soft clothing and irritation with people who took two parking spaces in crowded lots. I want to share how even though you’d swear he was never afraid, he often felt like maybe he wouldn’t measure up somehow.

I want you to know that he was adventurous, athletic, addicted to coffee and adrenaline and a fierce lover of justice and his family.

Yes, Dominic died.

But he lived, too.

And that’s really what I want people to know. ❤

If you are a fellow bereaved parent, please share something about what makes your child(ren) unique. What do you want others to know about him or her?

Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

When your heart is so broken that all is dark inside AND outside, where does the word “joy” even fit into your vocabulary?

I’m not sure I would have described anything as joyful for months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven even though those days included two graduations and a wedding.

I felt positive about those events and I longed to feel joyful, but I just could not muster the energy to do much more than smile for the camera.

So I think, for me, it was a matter (over time and with much effort) to choose to allow joy back into my broken heart.

There are moments of beauty even in the darkest and most difficult days.

At first I refused to recognize and acknowledge them because to embrace joy seemed like treason. It felt disrespectful to Dominic-making light of the horror of his untimely death.

But eventually I realized that embracing whatever good I might stumble upon in a day wasn’t denying the awful, it was admitting and affirming that death didn’t have the last word.

I am walking the Valley now, but this journey will not last forever.

One day it will end with more joy and love and laughter and glory than my finite mind can imagine.

So the bits of joy along the way are simply flickers of light guiding my heart Home.

Repost: And If Not, He’s Still God


It’s a hard, hard lesson to learn.

It’s even harder to carry it like a precious burden in the bosom of your heart.  

Because while it is oh, so true, it does not take away the pain when circumstances just don’t change no matter how hard you pray, how long you endure or how much you wish they would.  

God’s ways are not my ways.  His thoughts are not my thoughts.  He is not required to fit into whatever box I want to put Him in.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/10/09/and-if-not-hes-still-god/

Holidays are Coming, Ready or Not!

We’ve reached the peak of Hallowthankmas in the stores.

I‘ve never liked smashing one holiday on top of another which seems, in my mind, to rob each of their respective unique characteristics.

I’m also particularly frustrated that Halloween-a “holiday” mocking death and focused on fear (for many)-occupies way more space in mass retailers’ aisles than Thanksgiving.

But I can no more hold back the onslaught of merchandising than I can the days marching resolutely toward end of year holidays even if I choose not to join the commercial bandwagon.

So here we are.

There are forty-eight days until Thanksgiving and seventy-five days until Christmas.

Only a short time left to figure out how to honor the missing and love the living through some of the most difficult days of the year for bereaved hearts.

I’ve written many posts about what helps, what hurts, how and when to have hard conversations with extended family members about making space for brokenness at the table and in our celebrations.

I’ll be reposting those over the next couple of weeks since I firmly believe it takes forethought and planning if we want Thanksgiving and Christmas to look more like a Hallmark movie and less like a disaster film.

In the meantime I want to share some questions that are helping me sift through my own expectations, hopes and preferences for what our holidays might look like this year:

  • What is TRULY important to you, your family and/or close friends with whom you celebrate?
  • Do you love to make an elaborate meal, bake tons of cookies, pull out all the old family recipes that call for less-than-healthy ingredients? Is decorating your thing? Does it just not feel like Christmas if you miss driving around looking at lights?
  • Are you fresh on this journey and need a way to skip traditions all together? Maybe you want to spend the holidays away from home or at home with a single candle lit in honor of your child.
  • Do you have to consider younger children (either surviving siblings or grandchildren) that might pressure you to keep things “normal” for their sake?
  • Have you asked your surviving children what’s important to THEM? Don’t assume their silence equals assent.

The first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, lots of things had changed in addition to his absence. One son got married and moved out of state, my mother’s health was in decline, my husband was working out of town and my house felt so, so empty.

We chose to put up a very small tree with limited ornaments consisting of family photos and hearts. We gave gifts but asked that others not give us any. We joined extended family for a meal but not for opening presents.

That’s what was right for US for that year.

Each year since has been slightly different.

I have to ask those questions of myself and of my family over and over, recalibrate, shift our focus or change our choices depending on how life has reshaped our circumstances in the past twelve months.

If this is the first holiday season since your child left you might want to ignore it altogether. That’s OK. But at the least you may have to tell friends and family that’s your plan.

So grab some paper and find a quiet spot to think.

Then write without editing your thoughts, feelings or ideas.

Save the page so you can reflect on it and make the decisions right for YOUR family THIS year.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting ideas from other bereaved parents that might help you navigate this particularly challenging part of the journey.

It may seem impossible.

But you’ve faced the impossible before.

Hurricane Michael-One Year Ago Today

One year ago today Hurricane Michael came ashore at Mexico Beach, Florida packing more wind and damaging power than any hurricane ever recorded hitting there.

What’s more, it held every bit of that strength and smashed trees, houses and power lines for miles and miles inland including the rural county where my folks live 60 miles away from landfall.

My parents and aunt were trapped and unable to leave due to downed trees across the driveway, “yard” and the road leading out to safety. No electricity, not enough fuel to run the generator to power my mom’s oxygen and no running water (well water provided by an electric pump).

They didn’t evacuate because in the 100 years family had been living on that plot of land NO hurricane had ever made it that far inland with more than heavy rain, some strong wind and temporary power outages.

Thankfully, a neighbor had a bobcat tractor and he plus others with chainsaws and tractors were able to clear the dirt road to the main road. Thankfully, my youngest son, Julian,  was able to find a way through the downed trees and power lines between our house and theirs and reach them with more fuel, more chainsaws and another set of strong arms to help them evacuate.

Thankfully, the trees that fell around the house didn’t smash it or hurt anyone.

My family had survived the frightening but escaped the truly awful.

It felt like pure grace that no one we loved was killed that day although our hearts broke for those for whom that wasn’t true.

Once power was restored and my parents were able to return home, there was so much to clean up, so much to do and so many repairs to make.

Who could have guessed that less than a year later another kind of storm would sweep across our lives, taking Mama with it?

This time there was nothing left to do.

There never is when death comes knocking and steals a person you love.

I am so grateful for the extra almost-year with Mama. I am so sad there won’t be more.

And today, when I’ve finally stopped long enough to let my heart begin to feel what that feels like, I find my longing for her is folded into my longing for Dominic.

Two deaths, one broken heart.

I’m thankful and confident that death is not the end of their story.

Mama and Dominic and all the people I’ve loved that love Jesus are together in Heaven and waiting for the rest of us to join them.

Unlike the broken trees and broken homes left behind by Hurricane Michael, there will be no tell-tale signs of repair when on that glorious Day our hearts are made whole again.

Every sad thing will come untrue-as if it never happened.

Every tear will be wiped away.

Every promise kept, every stolen thing redeemed and restored.

And Mama will be dancing while Dominic plays his drums.