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?

How To Be Fierce Without Being Fractious

It’s funny how child loss has, at the same time, made me more yielding and more steadfast.

I give in without a moment’s hesitation to other people’s choice in where to go for lunch, what to do for birthdays, how to arrange this or that at church.  My brain simply doesn’t have the capacity any more to argue over trifles.

But I will stand up to a lion for the sake of love or to protect a hurting heart.

wounded_heart-960x600

I can be a little reactionary when that happens-snapping and biting the heads off those who might have said or done something in ignorance and not intentionally.

So I’m learning to think a minute before I launch into a tirade and try to discern just what will be most helpful.

I want to challenge and educate folks, not send them running for cover every time they see me coming around a corner.

I want to be fierce without being fractious.

I ask myself, “How can I communicate truth in love?” and I try to follow these precepts:

Don’t attack the person.  Quite often people speak without thinking and speak about things they haven’t experienced.  They may just be parroting something they’ve heard and not even actually believe it themselves.

Ask questions.  Try to suss out WHY they said or did what they said or did.  Again, without thinking?  Or is there a motive behind it?  Fear is a frequent motivator for pushing hurting hearts away.  People are afraid of how much they might have to invest in a relationship or they are afraid that what happened to me can happen to them and they just don’t want the reminder.

Many People Thinking of Questions

Educate.  I often start by saying something like, “If you haven’t buried a child, you would have no way to know this but…” and follow up with whatever I think they might need to hear.  No one can argue with my experience.  I’ve never had a single person walk away angry when I share this way.  Some have come back and thanked me for the insight.

schoolhouse

Extend grace.  I know child loss but I don’t know everything or even a tenth of everything.  So while my friend may have stepped on MY toes by saying or doing something today, I’ve probably stepped on HERS another day.  I try to assume that the person in front of me is doing the best he or she can and not aiming to inflict pain on my heart.

grace tree

Choose to end fruitless discussions.  If I realize that the person I’m speaking to is defensive, resistant and unyielding, then I find an opportune moment to end the conversation.  We’ve all been there-someone itching for a fight decides that now is the moment to have one.  I’m not interested in debating anyone over my experience so I just don’t.

calvin-cartoon_debate

As long as I walk in this world there will be others with whom I disagree.  some who actively seek to wound and many who are just ignorant of situations they have never experienced. 

I don’t want to bludgeon them with words, forcing them to agree with me.  

I want to be a light that opens eyes, a gentle breeze that blows away the fog and helps them see clearly.  

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

Silent Joy and Hidden Treasure

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and author who actively opposed the Nazi regime. 

He was imprisoned for a year and a half and executed just two weeks before American soldiers liberated the prison where he had been held. 

Bonhoeffer was no stranger to loss. 

Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote while in prison (emphasis added):

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so.

One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.

Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy.

One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain. “

[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. ]

memories are a way of holding onto the ones we love

Repost: No Mirrors, Please!

I hate mirrors.  Not because I’m ashamed of my wrinkles or my fat hips.  But because the face staring back at me now is not one I recognize.

I see someone who’s supposed to be me and can’t quite place her.

There’s a vague resemblance to the person that used to look me in the eye while I was brushing my teeth or fixing my hair.

But now, she is “other”unfamiliar, strange in a “slightly off” kind of way.

Read the rest here:  No Mirrors, Please!

Why We Have to Tell Our Stories & Why We Need Someone to Listen

We’ve all been at the family dinner table when an elder launches into THAT story-the one that gets dragged out every holiday and several times in between.

Often our eyes roll and we exchange knowing glances with the younger set as if to say, “Here we go again!”

But we point our faces toward the speaker, lean in and lap it up.  

Because we know this story is important to her or else she wouldn’t be sharing it again.

You learn a lot about your parents and grandparents, older aunts and uncles by listening carefully to the stories that have stuck around in a head that finds it hard to remember what the body had for breakfast.

Some of the stories are wonderful.  Sweet, sweet memories of special times and special friends; of younger years and youthful dreams. 

Some of the stories are tragic.  The baby brother or sister who only lived a few days or months.  The mother that died too soon because there were no drugs to treat a common condition.  The friend that never came home from the war.

The stories are windows into souls.

our lives are stories take time to listen

Some of us have stories that need telling NOW.  We can’t wait until our age guarantees us a captive audience.

Because telling the stories helps our hearts.  

A fellow bereaved mom who has a gift for finding exquisite quotes found this one:

Sometimes I think that if it were possible to tell a story often enough to make the hurt ease up, to make the words slide down my arms and away from me like water, I would tell that story a thousand times.

~Anita Shreve, The Weight of Water

Every time I tell the story of Dominic, it helps to keep him real. 

It reminds my heart that he lived, that he mattered, that he matters still.

And in the telling, I am giving away a little bit of him for another heart to carry.  His light is passed to another soul that can pass it to another and another.

It doesn’t really take away the hurt and sorrow, but it does help me bear it.

So if I launch into the same old rendition of my favorite memories of my missing son, bear with me.

Be a witness.

Help me carry the burden.  

we all need people who will listen to our stories

 

Obliterated

You think because you have “imagined” it, you have an inkling.

But you don’t.  

You can’t.  

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind.
~Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

This was one of the most surprising things to me-that in spite of all the books I’d read, movies I’d seen, people I’d known (who had grieved a loss in my company)- I knew absolutely nothing of grief.

I did not know it would totally destroy who I was-leaving bits so small that I had no idea how to put them back together.

I did not know it would so completely block the light of the sun that I wouldn’t be able to tell day from night.

I didn’t know that it would change the taste of food, the smell of flowers, the sound of the wind so that everything I tasted, smelled and heard was death.  

Thankfully, slowly, the bits have come back together and formed a semblance of the me that was before.  

Before grief.

But not really the same.  A hollowed out husk of who I was.  Familiar shape without the substance.  

I’m learning to live with the me that’s left.  

Holding on to hope.

Leaning into love.  

empty statue

Original artist : Albert György
Bronze Statue located at Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Waking Up Is Hard To Do

Just after I got my driver’s license I was using the family station wagon to run some errands.  

I remember thinking, “Should I pull into that space between two parked cars or should I just go a bit further and make it easy on myself?”  I channeled my dad’s voice which was always pushing me past my comfort zone, threw off my fear and started into the smaller space.

Bad choice.

I kept trying to convince myself it was a dream.  I was not going to have to go home and tell my father what I had done.  It would disappear if only I wished hard enough.

But that was silly and untrue.

Denting the family wagon is small potatoes next to many other, bigger things I’ve faced in life.

And it is absolutely a zero on a scale of one to ten when considering the death of my son.  

You can fix a dent.  Even if it costs money and time.  

You can’t fix child loss.

Because of that FACT-I wake every morning to the same awful reality:  My child is dead.  He’s not coming back.  My life is forever changed.  My family forever altered.  My heart will carry this burden to the grave.

That makes waking up hard to do.  

Each morning I must force myself to push through an invisible wall and set my feet on ground I’m not sure I want to walk upon.

I must open my eyes and abandon the sweet release of dreamless sleep.

I have to face the light and embrace reality.

Four years and it is still a shock.  

Every

Single. 

Morning.

sometimes cant believe you are gone