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

A Walking Nerve

It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t walked this path.

Deep pain and unfathomable sorrow stripped me of any reserve, any defense, any padding between the wider world and my oh-so-fragile heart.

I was a walking nerve.

Every awkward and less-than-thoughtful word or deed by friends, family and acquaintances rubbed me raw. I was utterly incapable of extending grace even as I knew I should and understood that most often their intentions were kind.

I had suffered a grievous wound and spent most of my energy just trying to protect what was left of my heart.

All I wanted to do was retreat to the safe cocoon of my own home. I unfollowed people on social media, I screened telephone calls, I rarely ventured out for anything but the most necessary supplies. It was the only way I could provide the space and time needed for my heart to heal enough to bear even the slightest brush with folks who might say or do the wrong thing.

It helped.

Eventually I found the strength to venture beyond the safety of home, family and the few friends with whom I felt comfortable and secure.

I could scroll through Facebook once again without reacting to every single post.

I went back to church and even showed up for covered dish socials where I couldn’t be certain which way the conversation would flow or who might get me blocked into a corner and ply me with questions.

I attended a few large gatherings: graduations, weddings and a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert.

So if you are in the early days of this hard, hard journey, do what you have to and find the safe circle that gives you time, space and grace to help your heart toward healing.

It may take longer than you’d like, but resting from the constant pressure of trying to protect yourself from the hustle and bustle in a world where child loss is misunderstood and frequently ignored will make a difference.

And one day, like me, you might well wake up and realize that what once felt like personal attacks are simply folks saying and doing foolish things because they haven’t been forced to learn the wisdom of compassion through unfathomable loss.

I’m still more sensitive than I used to be.

There are times I just can’t take crowds, unpredictable settings, offhand comments about death, dying, grief and heartache.

But I’m finally able to walk in the world without feeling I have to protect my heart at every turn.

It’s liberating and I’m thankful.

Grief Is The Elephant In The Room

I’ve often been the person who refused to go along with some group’s plan to ignore a real issue and try to talk around it.  

I usually begin like this, “I know it’s hard to talk about, but let’s be honest and…”

I’m even more inclined in that direction now. If my son’s instant and untimely death has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s no use pretending.

So I’m not going to pretend:  Western society doesn’t do grief well.

Read the rest here: The Elephant in the Room

You Don’t Need Permission To Grieve

You wouldn’t think we need permission from total strangers, friends and extended family to grieve but many times it feels like we do.

Odd looks, questioning stares and wagging tongues can make a heart doubt whether it’s really OK to do this or that while trying not to fall apart.

Well I’m here to tell you-ignore all that!

Read the rest here: Permission To Grieve

Lots Going On

I wrote a few months ago about how the pandemic changed the routine around here.

My long quiet mornings spent reading and writing were suddenly transformed by our living room serving as office space for my work-at-home husband.

It took awhile to figure out how to adapt but eventually we found a rhythm to our days.

Now life has taken another turn. He’s retiring! Which is a very, very good thing but means I’ve got another boatload of adjusting to do.

Since he’s had an apartment in California for several years, he returned to clean it out and move things here. I need to declutter and rearrange at home to make space for some furniture and other items he’ll be bringing back.

I wish I had been one of those people who spent the past few months of stay-at-home to dig into closets, deep clean corners and dejunk junk drawers but I wasn’t. So that means I’m trying to do it now. Which is not only time consuming but sometimes overwhelming as decades of daily memories fall out of folders, show up in odd places and hit my heart.

I’m soldiering on though.

I doubt I’ll tackle the toughest space-Dominic’s room-before my hubby makes it home. But I’ll have most of the rest of the place shipshape.

Until he brings that truckload to the door.

I better take pictures.

It may be the last time the house looks this good.

I Have A Question: Can We Talk?

Can we talk about my missing son and quit pretending that just because he’s no longer present in the body, he’s not still part of my life?

Can we say his name without also looking down or away like his death is a shameful secret?

Can we share stories and memories and laughter and tears just as naturally about HIM as we do about anyone else?

Read the rest here: Can We Talk?

Why I Won’t “Move On”

How long has it been?  A year, two, eighteen or twenty-five?

When. are. you. going. to. move on?  

Aren’t you over talking about their birth story, their childhood, their school years, their spouse, children, moves and career?  How many funny stories or sad recollections do I have to listen to?????

I mean, really-it’s been soooooooooo00 long since they were BORN!

Sound’s ridiculous, doesn’t it? It IS ridiculous.

Read the rest here: Move On Already!

Learning To Bear The Burden


I told the two children with me that morning that we were going to survive this awful blow.

And we have.

It has been hard and ugly and more painful than anything else we’ve ever had to do. 

But we’re still standing.

And I want to encourage the hearts that are just starting down this broken road:  You really CAN make it.

Some of you reading this are saying, “But I don’t want to make it.  I want to lie down and give up and be out of this pain.”  

I don’t blame you. 

Read the rest here: Shifting The Weight, Bearing the Burden

What I’d Like You To Know About Grief

There are some things I’d like you to know about grief.

Things I didn’t know until I was the one walking the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Things that can help you companion me and others compassionately, wisely and graciously.

My grief is here-get used to it (please and thank you). Grief has entered my life and while it may be an unwelcome guest, it’s here to stay. I won’t be getting over it or moving on. Grief is the price you pay for love. I will love and miss my child as long as I live, so I will grieve him until my last breath.

The goal of grief isn’t to forget. In fact, the goal of grief work (facing and working through my feelings, my fears and finding a way forward) is to remember and remain connected. I no longer have a physical relationship with my child. I’m trying to figure out how to have one with him in his absence.

I have to do grief my own way. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Who I am, who my child is, what my family looks like, circumstances surrounding my loss, previous life experience all inform how I face this challenge. There is no “right way” to grieve. As long as I am not harming myself or others, there’s only “my way” to grieve.

I am the same person, but I’ve also changed. I know you are trying to figure me out post-child loss. I’m trying to figure me out too. I didn’t get a how-to manual when I buried my son. Even six years into this journey I’m still finding ways in which I am profoundly changed. But I’m also still the same person that needs your friendship and longs for compassionate connection. It’s work for both of us but I don’t want to be alone in my grief.

Even when I’m OK, I’m still grieving. It’s normal for friends and family to look for signs I’m “better”. The early days of sobbing and unceasing pain do (usually) morph into a more gentle, quiet and manageable burden. But even when I’m laughing, participating and gathering new, joy-filled memories I’m grieving. My son’s absence is background music to every moment. I’m never free from the feeling he should be here but isn’t.

I may stay connected to my loved one in ways you don’t understand, but trust me, they’re normal. There are SO many ways hearts work hard to stay connected to their missing child! Dominic’s jacket is hung on a peg in our mudroom right where he left it the last time he was home. I see it every day and touch it often. There are other little mementos here and there that keep his presence part of daily life. I have tokens I carry in a pocket that help me take him with me. Other parents sleep with a favorite stuffed toy or their child’s pillow. Some make blankets of old t-shirts or clothing. It’s all normal.

Grief will visit every heart eventually.

If it hasn’t come to rest in yours yet, consider yourself blessed.

I’m sure you have at least one friend carrying this burden.

When you take time to try to understand even a little how they feel, you help them bear the load.