Repost: The Forgotten Ones-Grieving Siblings

I continue to be amazed at the resiliency of my surviving children.  

They have shouldered the burden of loss so bravely and well.

But it is hard.

And everyone needs help to carry on.

As midterms approach, I was reminded that surviving siblings often exhibit signs they need help that may go unnoticed by those around them.

So I wanted to post this again-it has been shared thousands of times and seems to be helpful:   The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

Strong or Weak? How Labels Harm the Hurting

Labels and categories can be helpful.  When cruising the grocery aisles I’m thankful for the signs that point the way to “vegetables” or “baking needs”.

But labels can be harmful when applied to people.


Thankfully public discussion rarely includes some of the ugly words  I heard growing up.

And that’s a good thing.

It means we are free to talk about the things that really matter without having to clear the hurdle of offense.

This trend has yet to take hold in wider circles when speaking about or speaking to bereaved parents and other hurting people.

From the outside looking in, we tend to classify struggling hearts as either “strong” or “weak”.  We apply standards based on our own experience and background to determine whether or not a particular soul is “handling it well” or “crumbling under the stress”.

The problem with labels for hurting people is that it puts extra pressure on them and lets those around them off the hook.


You probably mean it as a compliment when you say, “You are so strong”.

But I know it’s not true-I’ve gotten very good at holding it together in public and at saying all the right things when I meet folks on the street.

I can look you in the eye, recite answers to the question of , “How are you doing?” by focusing on the current status of my surviving adult children. What you probably won’t notice among the well-rehearsed lines is I never share my heart-I never tell you how I FEEL.

If I opened that vault there’s no telling what might spill out.

You walk away confirmed in your opinion that I am doing well, that I no longer need any active encouragement or ongoing prayer.  I’m off the “ministry list” because I am past the point of crisis and doing just fine.

Or you may see me at a vulnerable moment and think, “She’s weak” or “She’s really struggling”.

I AM weak and I DO struggle.

If you are tired of hearing about the ongoing struggle, how tired do you imagine I am living it?

If you wish I would “get over it”-how much more do you think I wish it never happened?

You may give up because it’s too much trouble to keep reaching out.  You may tuck me in the basket of lost causes because you think I’m not committed to keep trying.

It’s easy to draw a line in the sand and decide that you will go thus far and no farther in extending help or encouragement or grace because you CAN walk away.

But I am not a lost cause.

Each day Jesus meets me in my weakness and brokenness and gives me the strength I need to carry on.

And He often does this through people-people who choose to walk alongside and not label me or my journey.  People who are committed to continue even when they are tired of helping carry the burden and sick of hearing my story.

Graceabundant grace-given and received is what makes life livable.

Love, not labels is what I need.  

It’s what everyone needs.




Holiday Planning Helps for Grieving Parents

As much as I hate the mashup of Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas that assaults my senses every time I walk into a store, it IS a reminder that, like it or not, the holidays are coming.


I wrote these posts a few weeks back so that grieving parents and their families could begin to think about and make plans for year-end celebrations.

I know it’s hard-it continues to be hard for me as I approach the third (!) set of holidays without one of my children at the table.

But it is harder without a plan. 

So here are links to the posts.  I pray they are a small help for heartbroken mamas and daddies:




Grief and Holiday Plans: Working Out the Details





Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations




its hurting again




Grief and Holidays:What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family






Practical Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays after Child Loss

Accommodating Grief

The doctor I see every six months or so for my rheumatoid arthritis always fusses at me.

One of the routine questions is, “How’s your pain level?”

I usually say, “About a three.”

And then she looks at my hands and my feet-at the swollen joints and twisted toes-and shakes her head.

But here’s the deal:  sure they hurt, sure I can’t do all the things I used to do, sure I have to do many things differently than I did them when my hands and feet were unaffected by this disease-but I’m STILL moving and doing what needs to be done.

I don’t really know how to do anything else.

And that’s how it is with this grief I lug around-it’s heavier some days than others-but I’m STILL moving and doing what needs to be done.

fall still moving.jpg

This is not the life I thought I would be living, but it’s the life I have.

So I make accommodations for my sorrow just like I make accommodations for my hurting hands and crooked toes.

  • I try not to over-schedule my days.  If I have an appointment I mark it on the calendar and refuse to pile other commitments on top of it.  That way if I’m wiped out I have some built in down time.
  • I prioritize what needs to be done.  Whether it is for a week or a day, I jot down a list (still using paper-but a phone would work) and then decide what are the two or three MOST important tasks that must be done in that time frame.  If I find myself running behind because it’s a hard grief day (or week), I can quickly make choices that ensure the needful things are done and the others laid aside for when I have more energy to do them.  I’m less anxious about what I don’t get finished because I know I did the most important things first.
  • I build rest into my days.  When I’m overtired, I’m more susceptible to grief attacks. I pause every now and then to sit or take a quick walk outside or simply change my work from detail-oriented to broad strokes.  I have more flexibility because I work at home but even in an office it’s possible.  My husband walks every day on his lunch hour-sunshine and physical activity make his afternoons easier to bear.
  • I ask for help. When I’m drowning in grief, I reach out for a lifeline.  There’s no shame in asking for help.  I have a good friend that I can text or call anytime I need to and ask for prayer or a listening ear.  I belong to a couple of online grief groups and they are full of people who understand my pain and will lift me up in prayer and encourage my heart when it feels especially broken.
  • I accept my limitations.  My toes don’t allow me to wear beautiful shoes anymore so I’ve learned to wear what fits instead of what’s in fashion.  I am not the same person I was before I buried a child so I’m learning to live with the new me.  I don’t like crowds.  I don’t like unexpected change.  I feel anxious in unfamiliar places and around strangers.  I make choices that limit my exposure to those things when possible.
  • I shake off the really awful day.  I can’t help that some days take a nosedive into terrible as soon as I leave the bed. I admit that grieving is hard, that it will continue to be hard.  But I won’t let my worst days be my only days.

I am not in control of everything, but I can control some things.

I would not have chosen this life for myself, but I can make choices that help make it bearable.





You Can Only Hold On To What You Refuse to Let Go Of

Those hours before I planted one last kiss on my son’s forehead, I held his hand.  

I nodded at the people filing past to pay their respects with my arm tucked behind me, desperate to cling to my child.

no one can snatch them

And I’m still clinging.  

I will not let him go.  

I don’t care how many days or months or years march on taking me further from the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand or the brightness of his smile-I refuse to release my grasp.

It’s hard for someone who has never buried a child to understand why we who have are compelled to speak about them, to post pictures of them, to air our great grief and share our great hope of reunion.

I didn’t have a clue before it was me.

But this is all we have.

There will be no new experiences, no fresh memories, no photos marking higher achievements or life passages.  

So I will hold onto Dominic as a little boy who was so stubborn he would sit in the floor and cry in frustration because he couldn’t yet crawl.

I will hold onto Dominic as a young man who could argue anyone under the table until they gave in because, right or wrong, he wasn’t giving up.


I will hold onto Dominic who taught himself how to play the drums and pounded away when I took my daily walk so that it wouldn’t be too loud for my ears.

I will hold onto Dominic who talked his way into a program that admitted few students even though he had missed the first semester of classes.


I will hold onto Dominic who could fight like a banty rooster when he was mad but be as tender as a mother hen with someone who was hurting.


I will hold onto Dominic who would have never wanted this for me, who would have done anything he could to prevent this great sorrow resting on my shoulders.

I refuse to let go.

Because he is my son.

There is no past tense for a mother’s love.  

as long as I live

Eternal Atonement: Hallelu Yah!

The Fall Feasts of Israel are a beautiful reminder of Who God is and what Christ has done for us.

Beginning this evening and continuing until sunset tomorrow, Jews around the world are observing Yom Kippur  or The Day of Atonement.

According to Scripture (Leviticus 16),  The Day of Atonement was commanded by God for Israel to remember the terrible debt of sin and the only acceptable payment–blood.

The high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and apply blood to the horns of the mercy seat, thus covering over for another year the individual and corporate sin of Israel.


According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt.  At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

Yet year after year, this sacrifice was not enough. 

The blood of animals is insufficient to pay the debt owed by men to a perfect and holy God.

But the blood of the Perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ, has completely paid the debt I owe-I no longer cower in the shadow of my sin.

When I chose to apply that blood to my heart by faith, I was made right with the LORD.

As a believer in Jesus the Christ, I have a High Priest that has offered His own blood as the Perfect Sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 9).

I can rest assured that I’m  not sealed only for a day, or even a year, but for all eternity!

Because Jesus is the eternal and sufficient propitiation for my sins, I need not fear death.

It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, then, who gives us the victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ!

I Corinthians 15:55-57 PHILLIPS

We do not have to bring a sacrifice to the altar and hope that our sins are forgiven.  The Law holds no power over us who believe-Jesus fulfilled its every obligation.

But it is a good thing to take a day to reflect on the cost and the gift

Too often we grasp the gift and forget its cost. 

Today, remember what the LORD has done for you.  Remember the burden He lifted by His sacrifice.  Remember His claim on your life–the life He purchased with His blood.



If you are withholding grace and forgivenessremember, and repentgive to others what God has graciously given to you.

If you are walking outside the will of God for your liferemember and repent-fall back in step behind the Lord Jesus and let Him guide you.

If you are dabbling in sinremember and repent-turn from your wickedness and back to holiness.

Remember and be thankful.  

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”  

~Psalm 32:1




Appropriate Response

Tears of great grief have clarified my vision.

I don’t think clever arguments are the best way to effect change and I’m unconvinced that gathering the right group of people can guarantee an outcome.

But I know that God’s people, repentant and responsive to His will can do battle in the heavenlies.


I am writing this BEFORE tonight’s scheduled presidential debate-I won’t be watching itnothing the candidates have to say and no media spin can undo the knot in my stomach.  

I am not surprised to find us here. But I am surprised that so many of my fellow believers are surprised.

Like captive Israel, we seem astonished that God does exactly what He says He will do.

Daniel understood his times.  Daniel knew that the blame lay not on those “out there” but on us “in here”.  

Pagans will be pagans.

They have no reason nor the power to act in accordance with biblical teaching.

But those of us called by grace and covered by Jesus’ blood-that’s an entirely different story.

So instead of lobbing political arguments across the aisle or pounding one another with snarky social media posts, I think we should follow Daniel’s example and storm the gates of heaven.


An appropriate response to our current political predicament starts with prayer.

And that prayer starts with repentance.  

Not a general, “We’ve been so bad, God.  Sorry.”

But genuine, gut-wrenching, heart breaking acknowledgement of the degree to which the people of God-me, you, ushave turned from truth and pursued our own pleasure.

For generations, we have put our faith in a political party instead of a Holy God.  We have been happy to accept leaders of questionable integrity as long as our pocketbooks didn’t suffer.

We have sinned.  And we are reaping the fruit of the seed we sowed.

Our only hope is the mercy of God.  

I am going to be fasting and praying and begging for that mercy, like Daniel.

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame…The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;…The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

Daniel 9:1-19 selected NIV

Choosing the Eternal Path


It’s easy to develop the habit of hurrying.

An inner voice screams, “I’ve got to do it NOW, I’m running out of time!”

When I talk to people, or overhear others’ conversations, they say, “I just don’t have time” or “I’m so busy, I don’t know what to do”.

I have said it myself more than once.

For most of us in America it seems that we rush from place to place, from event to event, from meal to meal, from crisis to crisis.

But when I read the Gospels I don’t feel a sense of rush at all. 

Jesus expressed urgency when proclaiming that the kingdom of God was near, but He was never in a hurry.

He walked everywhere He went even though His was the most important ministry ever executed on the earth and it would have been much more efficient to choose a faster mode of transportation.

The message I receive from His life in this regard is that the journey is as important as the destination.

We justify our lifestyle by claiming we have no control. 

We just can’t help the fact that our cell phones ring, that we have to go here or there and that we can’t seem to get a handle on our schedules.

I think that as Christ followers, God would say:  “Choose!”

We do have control over how we spend our time. 

It is true that we have to fulfill our God-given responsibilities and that may include work-hours we can’t choose.  But even those who work full-time have many hours that they direct.

How many conversations do we neglect with the very people God has put in our path because our minds are focused on the next thing? 

How many times are we multi-tasking with our phones or Ipads and missing a divine appointment to show the love of Jesus to someone right in front of us?

God has not called us to be a people out of breath, with no energy or heart for the ministry He has given us. 

He is the Lord of the Sabbath-the King of Peace and the Giver of Rest.  He invites us to join Him and to take His yoke upon us-a yoke neither heavy nor cumbersome.

In Jeremiah, God called Israel back to Himself with these words:

Thus says the Lord; Stand by the roads and look; and ask for the eternal paths, where the good, old way is; then walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls

Jeremiah 6: 16

Our techno-toys should be used as tools not as taskmasters. 

The activities that fill our calendars should be evaluated in light of the greater call God has on our lives, not chosen just because our friends are doing them.

We need to do “first things first” and make room for people before things and conversation before commerce.

We are free in Christ to choose. 

Abundant life is a gift of God to be experienced right now, right where we are.  

When we refuse to get sucked into the “busy-ness” of our culture, we open up a world of possibility to be the people God has called us to be.

Relentlessly Forward

The sharp shard stabs deep when I’m unprepared.

Drifting off to sleep

Driving down the road

Doing the laundry.

He’s not here.

He’s not coming back.

His living presence is taken from me.

His smile,


His voice,


His arms,

Out of reach.


And the gap widens every day

Between the last time and this moment.

No way to slow it down.

No path to go back.




Dig the Well BEFORE You are Thirsty

I am not a fan of church signs.

Most of the time they try to be cute and reduce eternal truth to a few words that often leave room for [mis]interpretaion.

But I saw one today that I DID like:  “Dig the well before you are thirsty”.

It takes time to dig a well.  

And it’s hard work.  

You can’t wake up one morning, decide to dig and expect results in a couple of hours. If you want a reliable source of water to quench your thirst you have to plan ahead.


It’s been my habit for about 25 years to wake early in the morning, read my Bible and journal.  I started this practice when my children were young and boisterous and our active household meant once they were awake I’d have no time for quiet meditation.

But after reading Scripture for so long, I’d noticed the stories had become too familiar.  I would read through some of them with a “yeah, yeah-heard that before” attitude.

So I committed to SLOW DOWN and force my heart to look carefully and listen closely to what the Spirit was speaking from the page.

I decided I would read just a single chapter each day and copy out a verse or two that stood out into my journal along with notes and comments.  I found as I went along that it was harder and harder to choose only a couple of verses, so I began to copy whole chapters. 

Of course I missed a day or two here and there so it took about three and a half years. 

Just a few months before Dominic left us, I finished my slow journey through the Bible.  I had copied out most of it by hand in six journals.  I had underlined and circled and annotated the pages, making it my own.

I was digging my well.  

I had no clue that I would be desperately thirsty in such a short time.

The morning I received the awful news-my heart shattered, my world spinning, my life undone-words of Truth bubbled to the surface unbidden.  

Living Water sprang forth from the deep well of promise that was dug before I knew I needed it.

When I began my slow walk through Scripture, I didn’t know what the future held.

But my Shepherd-Who knows the end from the beginning-was leading me.

When my hands trembled too much to open the pages of my Bible and my eyes were too full of tears to see the print, the words stored up in the well of my heart spilled out to soothe my soul.  

I continue to draw from this deep well and drink the Living Water.  


It is a source of life and hope and sustaining strength until that day when a well will no longer be needed-when faith will be sight and I possess what has been promised.   

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who [e]heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:1-7 NASB








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