Absolutely, Positively Not Normal

Something you hear early on in this grief journey is that one day you will find a “new normal”.

I hate that phrase.

Because while I have certainly developed new routines, new ways of dealing with life, new methods for quelling the tears and the longing and the sorrow and the pain-it is NOT normal.

Read the rest here: Nothing “Normal” About It

Your Story Matters.

We all have one you know.

A story.

Many of us think ours isn’t important because it feels so small.  We can’t imagine our truth blazoned across a headline.

Your story matters.

Read the rest here: Tell Your Story

Finding Me Again

There is so much work to do in grief!

So many chores that demand time, energy, effort and sheer determination.

Finding me again is one of them.

I think it’s hard for anyone whose family and close friend circle is complete to understand that I didn’t *just* lose Dominic when death claimed him, I lost the unique part of me that was reflected back from him. There is a “me” only he could draw out, make laugh a certain way, frustrate and tease over very specific issues.

Some memories were held between just the two of us. Now half the experience is buried with him. No matter how hard I try I can’t recall some of the details and even if I do they are only from my perspective.

Before child loss I was a mom who couldn’t imagine living without one of her children. Now I’m a mom who lives without one of her children. I still haven’t figured out all the ways that’s changed who I am and how I walk in the world.

Mirrors and photographs surprise me.

I know it’s my own face staring back but I barely recognize it.

I’m still searching for me.

For My Fellow Grievers: Being Honest Is Not Always Being Rude

Honesty is not inherently rude. Even when what’s spoken doesn’t sit well with the person listening to it.

It took awhile for me to figure that out on this journey.

Tone matters, facial expression matters, words matter. But I don’t have to stuff truth in service to the comfort of others.

❤ Melanie

I never ask anyone to adjust the thermostat in a car or at home unless I’m suffocating or shivering.

It’s a point of personal pride that I can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than most people.

And for awhile, I carried that same prideful disdain for “weaker folks” into my grief journey.

I was determined to endure whatever blows might come my way via comments, behavior, subtle and not-so-subtle attempts by others to circumscribe, dictate or otherwise influence my loss experience. I didn’t want to abandon pride in my own strength by admitting I wasn’t as strong as I wished I could be.

Then one day I realized that being honest was not the same as being rude. Telling the truth was not the same as acting selfishly.

Read the rest here: Hey Fellow Griever-Being Honest Is NOT Being Rude

I Wish I Knew How I’m Doing. I’m Just Not Sure.


People see me, these years and months after Dominic left us and ask, “How are you doing?”

I come up with an answer because that’s the law of conversation-you ask something and I answer, then I ask something and you answer.

are-you-ok

Gotta keep that ball rolling.  

If it drops we are both forced to stand there wondering what to do with our bodies, our faces and our thoughts.

But right now, I don’t know HOW I’m doing.

Read the rest here: I Don’t Know How I’m Doing

Don’t Be Shackled By Shame!

Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.  

And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.

Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons:

  • Circumstances surrounding the death of their child-suicide, alcohol, drug abuse;
  • Inability to provide the funeral or burial they want due to financial constraints;
  • Missing signs or symptoms of an illness that may have led to death;
  • Family dynamics that pushed a child away from home or relationship.

The list could be endless-on the other side of child loss our brains pick apart every interaction, every choice, every moment that could have gone one way but went another.

Read the rest here: Shake Off the Shame

It’s Kind of Tender Just There

I’m pretty sure most everyone older than five has suffered a bump, bruise or sprain that left them tender for more than a few minutes.

And if you have, then you know the slightest brush up against that sore spot can elicit quite the reaction.

There’s an emotional correlate to physical bruising. And when someone hits that nerve it hurts. Really, really hurts!

It’s impossible to know where all those places are on another person’s body, much less their heart. So we often cause accidental pain to one another.

Many bereaved parents share some emotional bruises others might never see or think about. Lots of everyday interactions press hard against the tender places and make them hurt all the more.

I don’t expect family and friends to walk on eggshells around me, second-guessing everything they say or do. That would be awful for all of us!

But just in case you wonder, here are places my heart is tender:

  • Talking about Dominic’s “legacy”. I am still not prepared to discuss my not yet 24 year old son in terms that should be reserved for someone who has lived a long life and left a better documented trail behind. I don’t want him to have a legacy. I wanted him to have a life.
  • Ignoring his absence in family gatherings. Yes, we’ve added to our number since he left us. But it was never about absolute numbers! It was always about the faces around the table and shared laughter. HIS voice is unique. And I always hear the silent space where it should be no matter how loud and lively the celebration.
  • Weddings and children among his friends. No, I’m not sad at all that these precious people are living life, expanding their families and doing all the things young folks SHOULD do. But even as I rejoice for every single exciting milestone I also mourn the fact that I will never have the same opportunity with Dominic.
  • The smaller and smaller space Dominic occupies in daily life as time goes by. This is simply a function of human existence. Over six years of life have come and gone since he was here to make a memory, share a meal, comment on social media, be included in photographs. I can force the issue and bring him up in conversation or have someone hold a giant picture of him for family portraits but that is not. at. all. the. same.
  • Unexpected and unanticipated grief triggers. I still gasp inside when I see a young man speeding by on a motorcycle. Mention of certain topics, plans, courses of study take me straight back to conversations I had with Dom about what he wanted to do when he finished law school. Sometimes it’s the smell of soap or shampoo or coffee or grilled chicken-all things I strongly associate with his last couple years on earth and his first apartment.
  • Photographs of myself this side of child loss. Other people can say what they will but I see the toll grief has taken on my body, in my eyes and in the way my smile lies lopsided on my face. I want all the pictures I can get! I’ve learned too late that begging off because I’m not in the right clothes or don’t want to stop long enough to snap the photo is a mistake. But I’ve yet to line up for one where I didn’t feel Dom’s absence and wish he were there.
  • Crowds and unfamiliar places. I can’t claim to ever have loved being smashed together with others unless it were family. I used to be able to tolerate it better though. I guess it’s my last ditch effort to carve out control in a world that feels out of control that I avoid large groups and unfamiliar places. I can feel my heart pound faster at even the thought of such a thing.

I know specific circumstances and life experience make each heart’s tender places a little different.

Mine may not be yours.

I don’t expect (really, truly, do not expect!) that everyone (or even anyone) around me might take note of my own.

But I am still tender. And I may well still react.

Bruises are bruises even when we try hard to cover them up or protect them.

No Degree in Grief

I get comments from time to time that chastise me for presenting my child loss experience as universal or for stating things emphatically as if I’m an expert on grief.

That is never, ever, ever my intention.

I try to frame every post with personal details that make plain I’m talking about myself, my family or, sometimes, well-documented research I’ve found and want to share in hopes it helps someone else.

I’m no expert on anything other than my own experience.

I’m even hesitant to share things about my surviving children or my husband because I don’t want to assume that what I observe from the outside accurately reflects their inner world of missing and mourning Dominic.

That’s the nature of a personal blog-it’s personal.

And while I could couch every sentence with qualifiers like, “in my experience” or “for me” or “this is what I felt but might not be what you feel” that makes for tedious reading and clumsy writing.

So I don’t.

I assume anyone who chooses to read what I share wants to read it. I hope that he or she takes what is helpful and tosses the rest.

I do not have a degree in grief.

I am not a professional author.

I am a bereaved mama who has committed to tell my story of loss as honestly and openly as I am able and to share ideas and insights that have been helpful to my own heart.

If it helps yours, I’m thankful.

If you have a different perspective, please share it!

I have always wanted this space to spark a two-way conversation-a dialogue, not a monologue.

Your Story Can Be Someone Else’s Survival Guide

Hey-I get it.

Who wants to air the good, the bad and the ugly for everyone else to see?

When I began writing here I decided to share what I was learning, what I was wondering, what I was feeling and what I was struggling with in hopes it might help another heart.

Even then I was uncertain how authentic and vulnerable I could afford to be as I spilled my words across the Internet for all to see.

But nearly five years later I’ve discovered that telling the full tale, publishing the ugly, hard, unsavory bits as well as the shining moments and victories is the only real way to be of help to anyone else walking this path.

My story can be someone else’s survival guide. Yours can too.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/09/09/your-story-someone-elses-survival-guide/

It Takes A Bit of Brave To Say What’s Important

Last year around this time I was hunkered down with my daughter-in-law, my grandson and her mama at my parents’ farm waiting on Hurricane Dorian to make landfall.

It was eight days with a full house, some craziness and lots and lots of sweet memories that I now treasure more than I could have ever imagined while we were making them.

My mama joined Dominic in Heaven just a few short weeks later.

Hurricanes and random shootings and sudden death can make a heart remember that relationships are really what matters.

One hard, hard lesson I’ve learned from waking up one morning to a never-coming-home son is this: You may not have another chance to make amends, say “I love you“, kiss a face or hug a neck.

I’m here to tell you:  don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.  

All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.  

If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.

It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable. 

Read the rest here: Speaking Truth