Repost: Can’t Fake it Forever

There’s a common bit of advice in grief circles:  Fake it until you make it.

It’s not bad as far as it goes and can be pretty useful-especially just after the initial loss and activity surrounding it.

Like when I met the acquaintance in the grocery store a month after burying Dominic and she grabbed me with a giant smile on her face, “How AREyou?!!! It’s SO good to see you out!!!”

I just smiled and stood there as if I appreciated her interest, a deer caught in headlights, silently praying she’d live up to her talkative past and soon move on to another target.

Faked it.

Boom!

BUT there comes a time when faking it is not helpful.  In fact, it’s downright dangerous.

Read the rest here:  Can’t Fake It Forever

The Greatest Showman: The Power and Peril of Story

I went to see The Greatest Showman the other day with my daughter.  It was an amazing film-I was drawn into the story and my heart longed to see where it was going and how it would end.

greatest showman movie wide

I highly recommend it for two hours of uplifting entertainment.

But I’ve been thinking about it since.

So I did a little digging into P.T. Barnum’s REAL life story.

As you might imagine, several liberties were taken with actual history in order to create what I saw on the screen.  That’s really just fine.  I knew what I was getting into when I plunked my money down for the ticket.  I had no illusion that I was walking into a history lecture- I understood I was there to be entertained.

When I compared the actual Barnum life story to the tidy, beautiful, uplifting and wonderfully scored musical I had seen in the theater, I found gaping holes.

And most of the holes involved the hard and ugly parts of his story-the parts people don’t like to talk about, much less live through.

While leaving them out or glossing them over with a moment or two of wistful glances for the movie is exactly what I expect from Hollywood, it can condition hearts to expect the same kind of thing in real life.

But real life stories don’t skip over the hard parts.

Real people have to live through the ugly and the painful and the devastating and the doubt and the sorrow.  We don’t get to hop right to the happy ending (if there even IS a happy ending) nor do we get to whitewash the dark truths that inform our experience.

And because we prefer tidy (and happy) endings, bright and sunny days, encouraging and uplifting stories, when we are face to face with a challenging and difficult reality, we often turn away.

If we don’t hear it, it doesn’t matter. 

If we don’t look, it didn’t happen. 

If we wait long enough in our safe cocoon, someone else will deal with it.

Sometimes those of us in the middle of hard stories try to ignore it.  But busyness and distraction do not make bad times better.  Maybe for a moment, but not in the long run.

We’ve got to learn to experience it all, tell it all, be honest about how dark the path, how difficult the journey.

And those who are on the sunny side of the street need to learn to lean into friendship, cross over and offer compassionate companionship to those who are struggling.

Because sooner or later, it will be all of us.

we will all struggle and fall brene brown

Repost: Not as Strong As I Look

I wrote this originally two years ago-about  20 months after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

While I continue to grow stronger, to heal a bit more, to find more joy in the every day and the special days, I am can still be felled by a single scent, thought, song or memory.

Truth is, I miss him.  I miss my son.

And there is no cure for that.

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.

And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Read the rest here:  Not as Strong as I Look

No Way to “Fix” Child Loss

This was shared in a bereaved parents’ group to which I belong and I really like it.

It’s a great reminder to those of us traveling this road that it is a lifelong journey.

It’s also a good explanation of why there is a gap between our experience and those who have never experienced child loss.

They want to apply the mechanical or medical model to us but it just doesn’t work.

We can’t be “fixed”, we can only learn to make adjustments that incorporate our new reality.  

When your car breaks down, you go to a mechanic. He puts in new parts, makes adjustments, and your car runs fine again. When your body is ill, the doctor examines you and makes a diagnosis. Medication or surgery can cure the problem. With treatment, you’re healthy again.

The mechanical and medical models do not help when it comes to grief. Part of you died when your child died. That part of you is irreplaceable. There are no interchangeable parts to get you through grief. You have to adjust. There is no simple process.

Think of your journey through grief as a kind of rehabilitation. When a woman loses her eyesight, there are ways of coping. She can learn to read braille, get a seeing eye dog, and learn to navigate with a cane. If a man loses his hearing, he can get hearing aids and learn to communicate through sign language and lipreading.

Living through the aftershock of death can teach you new ways to adapt and survive. Life is never the same after a loved one dies. You will need to learn new ways of thinking, acting, and feeling.

Life is still worth living, but there are adjustments to make. They are not easy, because they require admitting that your child is no longer there. The adjustments can include not making as much food for a family meal; missing that precious face at the dinner table; not tucking your child into bed at night; buying fewer Christmas presents (or no birthday gifts); having tears come unbidden when surprised. You can make these adjustments as you walk through the grieving process. Determine that you will learn the skills needed to survive.

You will never forget your child. Your life will not be the same. As you go through the changes, you can hang onto God, because he never changes: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8). His love surrounds you. His strength is available to you, and he will help you face each demanding new day.

~Warren Wiersbe, Gone But Not Lost

 

 

 no timetable for grief

Why, Oh Why, is Christmas So Hard???

As the fourth Christmas without Dominic rapidly approaches, I am pondering the question:  “Why, oh why, is Christmas so hard?” 

I think I’ve figured out at least a few reasons why.

For me, probably THE biggest reason Christmas is hard is because it throws off the routine I depend on to shepherd my heart through a day.  It’s easiest for me to manage when I have at least a couple of hours of quiet time each morning.  I need those silent moments to let my heart feel what it needs to feel, to cry if I must and to orient my thoughts after, once again, “remembering” that Dominic isn’t here.

Changing schedules and extra commitments mean that some nights I stay up later than usual and can’t manage to get out of bed in time to have those hours.  Extra people in the house mean that they may get up and join me in the living room.  While I love the company, I have to be honest and say I would love it more a little later in the day 🙂 ,

Another reason I struggle at Christmas is because all (almost all!) the family is together in one place.  This may sound odd to anyone who hasn’t buried a child, but when every single person I care most deeply for is together, it highlights the space where Dominic SHOULD be but ISN’T. 

Other times of the year we are more or less a full circle-as long as one or two others are missing, it kind of feels like maybe, just maybe, Dominic is away for awhile instead of away for the rest of my life.  But when we are all gathered round the table or the tree or the fireplace, it is oh, so obvious that he isn’t here.

ask me about the empty chair

Buying presents and filling stockings I go down the list.  I have to skip Dom because he won’t be here to open gifts or pull out his favorite candy from a Christmas sock.  I can’t even mail him a package where he is.  So I try to focus on the fact that his Christmas is the best one, because he is with the One Who IS Christmas.

But my heart still hurts, still yearns for one more hilarious morning when the camcorder won’t work or one of our sleepy young adults refuses to roll out of bed while the rest of us are waiting.

We are waiting now for a different kind of morning-one where the light dawns and never dims.

While I am in no way ashamed of the grief I carry-great love means great grief- I do try not to burden others with my tears at events or in places where smiles should rule.  The Christmas season multiplies those occasions and calls for so. much. energy.  just to maintain my “happy face” for the masses.  It’s exhausting in a way only other grievers can truly understand.  

straw that broke camel back

And, of course, we celebrate Christmas in the US during what my grandmother used to call “the dark of the year”.  Shorter days, longer nights means less time outside, less sunshine to generate the feel-good hormones I depend on to get me through each moment.  When the nights come early and linger long, my mind has more time to ruminate on what was and what will never be again.  

Finally, because Christmas is stressful for everyone for different reasons, people can just be a little harder to deal with-less flexible, more impatient, quicker to take offense or give it.  All that emotional drama can overwhelm my heart in a flash-leaving me speechless, crying and anxious.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just is what it is.

For all these reasons-and dozens more-Christmas is an especially difficult time of year for this hurting heart.

So I try to be gentle to myself and to extend the same grace to ME that I extend to others.

I remind my heart that it is perfectly OK to turn down invitations when I just. can’t. go.

I lean into the Promise born in the manger-Emmanuel, God with us-and hold on with both hands.  

christ-in-christmas

 

 

“Get Out of Christmas Free” Card

I remember playing Monopoly as a kid and how much I treasured that “Get Out of Jail Free” card when I was lucky enough to draw it from the pile.

Because it meant that even if I landed in jail, I didn’t have to stay there. 

As I walk this Valley of the Shadow of Death, I often wish there were cards like that for all sorts of seasons, places and situations.  I can’t help them coming around, but I would love to be able to skip right over and move to the next thing.

Christmas feels like that this year. 

Christmas is hard for all kinds of hearts for all kind of reasons.  And unlike most other holidays that are only a DAY, the Christmas season drags on for weeks which makes it even harder.

Now, you know I’ve posted here about why I still put up a Christmas tree-because the lights remind me there is a limit to the darkness.

But, that said, I want to offer a “Get Out of Christmas Free” card to other hurting hearts who just can’t manage even a lighted tree this time of year.

Shake off the guilt.  Wash off the worry.  Step free of others’ expectations.

There is no biblical imperative to celebrate the birth of Christ.  None.

And there is certainly no biblical imperative to dress up the celebration with all the cultural trappings we’ve added over centuries.

Furthermore, if you get right down to it, there is strong evidence that Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25th.

So if your heart cannot bear the thought of one more holly, jolly song, one more hap-hap-happy get together, one more frenzied rush to the store for a forgotten present or pantry item-just choose to sit this one out.

It is possible to go through the month of December without caving in to consumerism or being guilted into celebrating when your heart’s not in it.

Close the blinds.  Let the telephone go to voicemail.  Fast from social media and turn off the TV.  

The days will pass with or without your permission and January promises a fresh start. 

It’s OK.  I promise.

its ok to not feel like celebrating christmas

 

Repost: Christmas Cards-Yes? No? Maybe?

I’m posting this again because last year it seemed to help some bereaved parents figure out something that plagues all of us:  what to do about Christmas cards after a child runs ahead to heaven.

This year I did things a little differently.  I actually sent out Thanksgiving cards (a week late since my mom was in the hospital) and included a similar note with those.

Whatever you decide to do, do it because it helps YOUR heart, not because you feel compelled to meet others’ expectations.  ❤

Getting Christmas cards out on time was always a challenge in my busy household.  

So for the last years of kids at home, we transitioned to sending New Year’s greetings.  It was easier to get a family photo with everyone home for Christmas, there was no artificial deadline to send them and we could include a “thank you” or respond to news in their Christmas letters.

I haven’t sent anything for three years.  

What could I say?  

And a family photo was out of the question.

Read the rest here:  Christmas Cards-Yes? No? Maybe?