Mountains or Molehills?

This post is for all the bereaved parents who wonder why the things that used to be easy are so. very. hard. now.

I kind of understood that the twelve months of “firsts” after Dominic left us would be difficult and draining. But I thought that having survived THOSE I’d be better equipped to do it again.

I was wrong.

Not only were milestone days and holidays just as hard, even everyday chores could be a challenge.

What used to be molehills were mighty mountains and I wasn’t in any shape to scale them.

There’s a saying in the South, “You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill”.

It’s supposed knock sense into someone who is overreacting to a small and easily resolved problem.  Most of the time it works-stepping back and gaining perspective is a good thing.

But I find that this side of Dominic’s leaving, many, many things that were mole hills before are MOUNTAINS now.  Because my faith in my own ability to handle things has become so very small, nearly any challenge feels like a never-ending ascent up the mountain.

Read the rest here: Mountains and Mole Hills

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: But I Had All Those Things BEFORE!

I absolutely understand that when people say things like, “Just think of all the wonderful memories you have” or “He brought you so much joy” they mean well.

Because it’s true-I have beautiful memories of Dominic.  And he DID bring me great joy.

But I had those things BEFORE he was beyond my reach.

Read the rest here: But I Had All That BEFORE!

Digging Up Memories, Laying Down Dreams

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only bereaved parent who has boxed up things post loss and left them untouched for years.

Life kept moving at a fast pace after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve had the time to even consider going through his stuff.

Time alone was not enough to push me toward doing the hard work of deciding what to keep, what to give away and (most painfully!) what to throw away. But various circumstances forced my hand and I’ve spent much of the last year digging through stuff and digging up memories.

To be sure, not everything has a direct connection to Dominic. I have a giant pile of craft materials that needed sorting and organizing.

Even then, as I put like items together I remembered pushing two littles in a buggy with two older children on either side through the craft store or Walmart. I knew where this tidbit was purchased and what school or church project prompted buying dozens of a certain sticker or wooden cut out.

This past week I’ve been working on “my” side of our two-car garage.

It’s never been used as a garage but instead as a catch-all for a house that has no basement. My side is where I store pantry overflow and all kinds of supplies from toilet paper to party goods.

It’s also where I put some things from Dominic’s kitchen when we had to hurriedly empty his apartment over seven years ago.

Seven years. How can it be seven years?

I finally had to do the hard work of deciding what I should REALLY keep and what it was time to let go of. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one little bit. But it is necessary.

I’m taking it in small doses-two or three hours a day-and trying to give myself grace when even that amount of time doesn’t seem to make a dent.

It’s grueling labor to dig up memories and lay down dreams.

Unrelenting emotional work.

Every bit tossed in the trash is a declaration that he isn’t coming back to claim it. I can’t ask him if he deems it worthy of saving because I can’t ask him anything.

That in itself is a kind of concession to defeat.

Where he is he doesn’t need or miss this stuff but it represents hopes and dreams to me.

I have to lay them down.

And that hurts.

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Child Loss

My goal this month is to share posts (some shared previously) that will encourage bereaved parents and also give them something to share on their own social media.

If we remain silent-shushed and shamed by those who find death uncomfortable or unmentionable-then things will never change.

The power is ours. Truly it is.

Tell your story. Tell your child’s story.

❤ Melanie

I’ve had awhile to think about this. Seven years is a long time to live with loss, to live without the child I carried, raised and sent off in the world.

So I’ve considered carefully what my “top ten” might be.

Here’s MY list (yours might be very different):

Read the rest here: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Child Loss

Why We NEED a Bereaved Parents Month

There are so many competing causes it’s a wonder anyone can keep up with them.

But when one or more of them become near and dear to your heart, it’s easy.

July is Bereaved Parents Month. A designation I knew nothing about until several years into my own journey as a bereaved parent.

And while I’m unsure about the necessity for declarations like National Trivia Day or National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day I am absolutely convinced of the need for Bereaved Parents Month.

Read the rest here: Why Bereaved Parents Month?

Why I’m Still Writing Seven Years After Loss?

I first shared this two years ago when I was reflecting on half a decade of living without one of my children beside me. I’ve now had another year to think about why or if I’ll continue to write.

Every so often I take a day or two to reflect on whether I want to keep posting. I have to admit sometimes I worry that if I bang the same drum it will sound too loud or obnoxious in some people’s ears.

But then I get a message or comment from someone fresh on this journey and they feel seen, heard, validated and safe. So I write on.

And I find that writing still brings clarity and comfort to my soul. I still have things to say and I hope what I say still brings some small measure of light, love, life and hope to other hearts.

❤ Melanie

If someone had said, “Pick any topic to write about”, child loss wouldn’t have been in the first million choices.

No one CHOOSES child loss (Thus the name of the blog:  The Life I Didn’t Choose).

But untold numbers of parents EXPERIENCE it every year.  This very day,  parents somewhere got a knock on the door or a phone call or sat next to a hospital bed as life slipped slowly from their child’s tired body.

Since I was already journaling and had walked this Valley for nearly a year and a half, it dawned on me that the ramblings I’d put down might be helpful to another heart.  So I started THIS blog in September, 2015.

And I’ve been here ever since.  

Read the rest here: Why Am I Still Writing About Loss Five Years Out?

You’re Not Required To Pretend

There is SO much pressure on grievers to pretend they are “OK” once the socially acceptable amount of time has passed since their loss.

And that is more than unfortunate because not only does it place an undue burden on broken hearts, it inhibits the very necessary work grief requires.

Sharing honestly and openly with safe people, giving voice to our feelings, letting the tears and words flow freely is the only way forward on this treacherous journey.

It’s OK to not be OK.

If you are grievingyou are not responsible for making others feel better about YOUR pain.

You have suffered a great wound and you carry a heavy load.

You are allowed to express sorrow and longing.  It’s what people do.

Read the rest here: You Don’t Have to Pretend

Thirty-Seven Years and Counting

Today is thirty-seven years since we said, “I do” and had absolutely NO idea what that would look like.

I first shared this a few years ago on our anniversary because I wanted other bereaved parents to know that while it is hard (and isn’t marriage always hard?), it is not impossible for a marriage to survive child loss.

We are definitely not the perfect couple. We fuss and we struggle. We sometimes retreat into our own separate worlds as we process some new aspect of living this earthly life without one of our children.

But we have learned that we are stronger together and that we are willing to do the work necessary to stay that way.

Today my husband and I celebrate 37 years of marriage.  

Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.

Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far:

hector and me 29 anniversary

Read the rest here: Dispelling Marriage Myths Surrounding Child Loss.

A Bereaved Dad Speaks: What I’ve Learned About Grief

I belong to a number of closed online bereaved parent groups.  

I’m not sure if it is a function of gender or not, but the moms seem to be a bit more willing to share their feelings and to respond to the feelings of others.  

Every now and then, a dad speaks up. When he does, I usually pay close attention to this male perspective.

Wes Lake is a bereaved dad in our group who often has thoughtful posts that touch my heart.  This one in particular was a beautiful, true and helpful reflection so I asked him for permission to share.

Read the rest here: What I’ve Learned About Grief: A Bereaved Dad’s Perspective

“Anything Human Is Mentionable”-The Wisdom of Mr. Rogers

We wall off our world with words.

The ones we speak and the ones we swallow down so they don’t escape our lips.

But, as Mr. Rogers says, “Anything human is mentionable.”

Won't You Be My Neighbor?' the Mister Rogers Documentary, Comes to ...

Even death.

Read the rest here: Anything Human Is Mentionable