Why Am I Still Writing?

I ask myself this question often:  Do I want to keep writing in this space?  

Sometimes the answer is a resounding, “no!”. 

Because while I love to write, some days it’s hard to put together words in a way others can understand.  Sometimes I’m tired, or rushed or just tired of thinking about how grief and loss impact my life.

And then I ask the follow up:  Do I still have anything to say?

That’s the one that keeps me here. 

Because as soon as I think the answer is “no” to that question,  a conversation or a comment thread or a personal experience brings up something that I feel I need or want to write about.

So I sit down and begin again.  

your-story-could-be-the-key

I made a commitment in the beginning to be as honest as possible and I’ve done that the best I know how while protecting identities of those who are part of my story but who have their own stories to tell (should they choose).

I also promised to be transparent about my thoughts on God, on faith, on life everlasting.  I feel like I’ve done that.  In fact, I’m pretty sure some of my rambling has shocked friends and family from time to time.  But I’m not afraid of shocking God.  He knows my frame, knows my heart and cannot be made small by my questions or doubts.

I try to do research when appropriate to bring together resources and ideas for bereaved parents in one place. 

One of the most frustrating things to me in the early months of missing Dominic was how hard it was to find good resources.  The Internet is not your friend if you are looking for local and accessible help for practical problems.  It was over a year and a half before I found a closed group of like-minded bereaved parents.  But once I did, oh, what a difference that made in my journey!

So if you are interested in finding a safe, closed group, ask me.  I know of several.  

And then there’s the sweet comments that (usually) mamas send my way-either through Facebook or here.  When someone writes that looking for the blog post each morning helps them get out of bed-well, that’s both encouragement and a serious responsibility.  I don’t want to not show up and disappoint a heart.  Even when all I have to offer is only my words.

So for now, at least, I plan to stay.  

When my life circumstances make it impossible to carry on or I run out of things to say (which my mother will swear won’t happen!) then I’ll quit.

I send each post into cyberspace with a prayer-even for my readers who don’t believe in prayer: 

“Father God, help each heart hold onto hope.  Send a ray of sunshine into every cloudy day.  Bring someone along who will listen, who will care and who will offer a hand to the one who is too weary and broken to take another step.  Help them believe that they are seen, they are loved and that they matter.  Overwhelm them with Your love, grace and mercy.”

You DO matter.

I DO care.

If you need to talk, message me. 

If you need a safe space, I’ll direct you to it.  

I’m not going anywhere.  

compassion and stay with you

Worse For Wear, I Don’t Care

I have never been one of those women who lied about her age.

My weight…well, you will have to threaten me with something that matters to get THAT number out of my lips.

But I’ve noticed this year more than others since Dominic left us that the wear and tear of years and tears and life and loss are showing up on my face as well as my hips.

I am definitely the worse for wear.

My daughter is getting married in May and for the first time in my life I am religious about applying under eye cream and moisturizing lotion to my face each morning and night.

who wants to look young

I don’t want to be the sore thumb in the family pictures!

I’m not sure it’s working.  I’m not sure anything can erase or roll back the marks that life and love and loss have etched on my face.

I’m not sure I want to.

Because each wrinkle, each line, each saggy, baggy skin flap says, “I loved, I lived and I am surviving-even though it’s hard.”

Before Dom left I was camera shy.  I still am, a bit.  But I’m trying hard to suck up my pride and my insecurity and let those flashes pop.  Memories are made one day at a time and photos help preserve them.

engagement party group shot (2)

So whether I’m at my best, at my worst or somewhere in between, I won’t say no to a Kodak moment.

I wish I had more of them from “before”.

Dominic and family at PRSSA banquet

I wish I hadn’t’ been so darned particular about what I looked like, what I was wearing and whether or not my wrinkles or big butt showed.

Worse for wear?

Who cares?

This one wasn’t made to last.  

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 MSG

On The Struggle Bus

I weigh more today than I’ve weighed in ten years.  

Just before Dominic graduated high school in 2008, I decided that being “fluffy” was not good for my health, not good for my joints and for the first time in my married life I had the extra energy, time and attention to work on losing weight.  

I lost over fifty pounds.  

Still not skinny, but definitely a much smaller version of me than had existed since I started having children.

IMG_0744 (1)
June 2013

But after Dom left us,  a series of choices and out-of-my-control health issues combined to make it harder and harder to maintain the weight loss I had (fairly) effortlessly maintained for six years.

I’m scheduled to see my GP tomorrow and you know what makes me more nervous than all the bloodwork they will have to do?  Stepping on the scales!

Why is is more deplorable to be fat than to be mean?

Why is it considered a greater moral failure to lug around extra pounds than to lug around a hateful heart?

I feel more like a failure because I’ve allowed pounds to creep back up on my backside than for so many other things that are so much more important.  

Menopause, middle age and many sleepless nights which increase my cortisol levels have conspired to make it harder this time than last time to rid my body of excess weight.

family fionas grad (2)

I’m active, eat well and in limited amounts (no Twinkies or high fructose corn syrup!) but my hips refuse to get smaller.

I try hard not to blame everything on child loss. 

But I’m pretty sure a significant portion of responsibility sits squarely on the fact that my heart is broken.  I am exercising so much self-control every. single. day. that I don’t have any left over.

I rarely cry any more in public. 

Goodness!  I rarely cry any more in private.  

I can return a cheery, “Have a nice day!” to any and everyone I meet.  

But that means I am constantly running a tape in my head that goes something like this:  “Don’t take it out on her.  She has no idea. Keep smiling.  People don’t know that you were about to cry just a minute ago. Don’t let that person’s ugly attitude unleash the beast inside you.”  

Can I be honest here?  

I’m tired.  

I’m tired of everything being hard.  

please be aware i am trying

I don’t know if or when I’ll lose weight (please don’t inbox me with your latest, greatest sales pitch).

I’m trying most days.  

But sometimes I just don’t have it in me to try.  Sometimes I just want to be normal-whatever THAT is.  Sometimes I just want to have one corner of life where things are easy and don’t require constant vigilance or extreme restraint.  Sometimes I want to eat ALL the things and not give a hoot if it adds inches to my waist.

the struggle bus

I won’t do it.  

Because I know it’s not what’s best.  

But I want to.  

eat whatever you want

 

Refuse to Hide: Lament As Worship

We usually think of worship as songs of joy and happiness extolling the virtues of God and Christ.  

While that is most certainly a form of worship, it is absolutely not the only one.  

Biblical lament is an honest, vulnerable expression of pain, a crying out to God in faith as we are suffering.
― Cindee Snider Re

Worship is also the broken whimper of a scared and wounded child, crawling into the lap of her Abba Father.  

There is no less adoration in this ultimate act of confident trust than in the most eloquent declaration of theological truth in word or song.  

Lament is worship.  

Christian lament is not simply complaint. Yes, it stares clear-eyed at awfulness and even wonders if God has gone…Yet at its fullest, biblical lament expresses sorrow over losing a world that was once good alongside a belief that it can be made good again. Lament isn’t giving up, it’s giving over. When we lift up our sorrow and our pain, we turn it over to the only one who can meet it: our God.”
― Josh Larsen

Bringing my brokenness to God as an offering, trusting Him to receive it, to keep it and to begin to weave even this into the tapestry of my life is perhaps the ultimate act of worship.  

you keep track of all my tears

When I refuse to pretend, refuse to hide, refuse to run away and look for an answer somewhere else, I affirm that He is my God, and there is no other beside Him.  

A lament is an act of worship, a faith statement of trust, in the face of difficulty. It’s a wonderfully honest way to acknowledge our trouble to God as we also acknowledge our hope is in him.
― Linda Evans Shepherd

lamenting is a painful process

 

God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers. … It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is splendor. … Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.
― Nicholas Wolterstorff

Child Loss: Marking the Milestones

When your child is born you take notes.

You plan to mark this day as a special milestone for the rest of your life.

You absolutely, positively NEVER think you will have to mark another one:  the day he or she leaves this life and leaves you behind.

But some parents have to mark both.  The dash in the middle is shorter than we anticipated, and our child’s life ends before ours.

grieving mother at grave

So how do you do it?  How in the world do you observe the polar opposite of a birthday?

Here are some ideas (shared with permission) that parents shared recently in an online discussion sparked by one mom’s very honest admission that she just didn’t have it in her to create another video montage from the same old photos to mark yet another year without the earthly companionship of her precious son:

Don’t do anything.  That is an option. We do not have to draw a red circle around THAT day on the calendar, gather folks as if  it’s a celebration.  As one mama said, “Yes, the day they left us does not need to be ‘remembered’.”  For some parents, going to work like it’s a regular day, engaging in whatever normal activities are required, ticking the hours off on the clock until night falls and the earth turns to the next day may be the very best choice.  Another mama wrote this:  “I have friends who celebrate a ‘heaven day’ for their son.  I can’t.  I just can’t.  If it were up to me, I would probably go camp somewhere all alone, and not move a muscle for the entire day.”

Do something big (or small).  Some parents choose this day to hold an annual “Celebration of Life”.  It might take the form of a balloon release, or lantern release at home, at a park or other outdoor venue or at the cemetery.  It might be lunch or dinner out at your child’s favorite restaurant or at home with your child’s favorite menu.  Invite friends and family to join you and ask that they bring a photograph or memory and share.  One mom said that such an event kind of happened organically and spontaneously when contacted by her son’s widow:  “We went to one of [his] favorite restaurants.  Told funny stories about him, talked about how missed he is, then went o his grave and put fresh flowers.”

balloon release

Serve others.  Did your child have a special interest in a particular charity or community organization?  Maybe you can spend this day volunteering or raising awareness/money for that group.  Often having something to do helps a heart from sinking into despair.  If the group allows, maybe put up a sign saying, “Volunteering today in honor of __________” and attach appropriate photos of your child.  Some parents whose child died from cancer or suicide or violence participate in walks or fundraisers that highlight those causes.

Encourage Random Acts of Kindness (RAK).  I plan to do this one in April.  It will be five years (!) and I can barely stand it.  But so many of the comments from Dominic’s friends after he left for Heaven went something like this one, “He was always doing something for someone else.  Fixing their car or showing up when they needed an encouraging word.”  He was known for his many acts of generosity and kindness and I feel like he lives on in the hearts of others because of that.  I had cards printed ( I intentionally let his “dates” off) which I will distribute well in advance of April 12th for friends and family to leave behind when they do a RAK in memory of Dom.  Vistaprint and other online publishing companies offer reasonable prices and will guide you through the process step-by-step.

random act of kindness

Escape.  Lots of us find being at home (alone or in the company of others) too hard to bear.  Many received word of their child’s death at home and as the day creeps closer, the memories crowd every corner of mental and physical space and are inescapable.  So sometimes parents plan a trip around this time.  Go somewhere your child would have loved to go or go somewhere he or she enjoyed visiting.  Take photos and post them in honor of your child if you want to.

Focus on family.  You may not want to be alone, but the thought of being with anyone outside your closest grief circle is overwhelming.  That’s OK.  Spend time with the people who, like you, are most affected by your child’s absence.  You don’t have to do anything special.  You can make room for them to speak or not speak about their grief as they choose.  Sometimes just having another warm body in the room is enough to ward of the chill of despondency.

grieving dad

Flip the script.  For those of us who believe that this life is not all there is, the day can be one of celebration.  Our children have escaped life full of sorrow and trouble and are safe forever in the arms of Jesus, where we will also be one day.  Waiting is hard, but waiting is not forever.

Simply allow yourself to feel the full force of missing and grief.  “As far as his death day, for me, that is a day when I allow myself to fully feel and express the pain of my loss.  It is a way to (temporarily) empty myself of all this pain, so I can breathe again to face another day.  I will sit in his sweatshirt, listen to reflective music, cry a lot, talk to him, pray to God, and just allow myself to feel all the pain and emotion that everyday responsibilities cause me to stuff away.”  If you can manage it, taking the day off work and giving yourself grace and space to grieve in ways that are denied so often may be the very best way to experience the day.

Here’s a list of ways some parents honor their child on this day:  

  • Giving away stuffed toys with a card or note explaining why.
  • Taking goodies to first responders and/or nurses who were served their family during an accident or illness.
  • Handing out Bibles or books in memory of their child.
  • Making memory baskets for parent whose child will be born straight into heaven.
  • Adding to a scholarship fund or other charitable fund in honor of their child.
  • Placing balloons, flowers or other special decorations on their child’s final resting place.
  • Lighting candles, releasing butterflies, balloons or lanterns.
  • Placing a memorial advertisement in a local paper.

Do or don’t do whatever helps you make it through those twenty-four hours that represent another year of sorrow, another year of missing.  

missing child from arms

There is NO wrong way to mark or not mark this day. 

It’s up to you and your heart.  

And absolutely does not require anyone else’s permission or approval.  

dont trade authenticity for approval

 

 

Sometimes I Just Want To Be Me!

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

And here-almost five years later-I still feel like I need to lead the way in conversations and social encounters.

Read the rest here:  Can I Just Be Me?

I Don’t Have to Choose Between Sorrow and Celebration

Our family is looking forward to Spring and also dreading it.  

This year we will welcome a new baby (my first grandchild) and also celebrate my daughter’s wedding to a wonderful man. 

Our family is growing again!

brandon and fiona engagement

But we will also mark the fifth year anniversary of Dominic leaving for Heaven and another birthday that he won’t be here to greet.

dom on mountaintop

I’m pretty sure tears will be shed on each of these days and they will be salty-sweet, sad and happy, sorrowful and celebratory-all at once.  

There are no more hard lines in my life that separate events into distinct categories where only a single set of emotions is appropriate.  Instead my heart’s a watercolor mosaic where one feeling washes into another, darker colors make the lighter ones brighter.

My daughter recently wrote her own blog post, Guest Books & Memory Tables: A Sibling’s Perspective on Love and Loss.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Even Hobby Lobby reminds me that if I’m remembering anyone at my wedding it should be the family legends of generations past, not current. Somewhere in my carefully- packed boxes of wedding decorations, sits frames and mementos for mine and my fiance’s grandparents and my forever-frozen-in-time 23 year old brother.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing.  She’s done a beautiful job sharing from a sibling’s perspective.

Her wedding day will be full of great joy and celebration and also some sorrow as we take pictures of the whole family minus one.

 

you should be here

I might be laughing one minute and crying the next.  

And that’s OK.  

No need to fake it.  

It’s ALL part of life. 

sorrow and celebration can coexist authentically