Don’t Let The Outside Fool You

What a blessed relief it was to drive up our winding lane and enter home after my husband’s surgery!

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the encouraging words and prayers lifted on our behalf. If you’ve raised your voice to Heaven, begging for relief, only to have your hopes dashed, then you understand how amazing it feels to have prayers answered.

I am happy, happy, happy to report that my husband is doing well.

A couple days ago he had a follow-up appointment to remove the staples from his incisions and there was no sign of infection. He was warned by the doctor not to mistake the lack of evidence declaring major surgery on the OUTSIDE with what they did to him on the INSIDE.

He was solemnly adjured to continue to take it easy for several more weeks so that deep and necessary healing could occur.

Because my mind is never all that far away from thinking about Dominic, loss, my own grief journey and the many who join me here walking the same broken road, I quickly found myself comparing Hector’s surgery to the experience of child loss.

From the outside-very soon after all the formal visiting, meal bringing and memorial service or funeral-most bereaved parents look “fine”.

We have to.

The world doesn’t stop turning because our world imploded.

Work, life, family duties, household chores, and all the ordinary things determined by hours and calendars keep rolling along.

But on the inside, every bit of who we are, how we feel, what we think has been devastatingly poked, prodded, ripped apart and rearranged.

And just like there is no substitute for TIME in physical healing, there is no substitute for TIME in emotional, mental or spiritual healing either.

So if you are fresh on this path, new to the rigors of trying to “do life” while mourning your precious child, recognize that there is oh, so much damage where people can’t see.

Even when (or if!) you are able to return to some semblance of normal, to carry on with duties and obligations and even muster a smile for special occasions, your wounded heart will require special care.

Don’t let others hurry you along or dismiss your very real need to maintain safe boundaries to protect it.

My husband’s body will bear scars from his surgery although the inner works will undoubtedly heal fine. I’m thankful for modern medicine that makes it possible.

It’s not so easy to heal a broken heart.

I’m convinced that while there is a measure of healing in this life it will never be complete until eternity.

But I’m certain that healing can only occur when we give ourselves the grace, space and time necessary to do the work grief requires.

Healthy Boundaries and Forgiveness

I do not believe that in offering genuine forgiveness I am required to again submit myself to another person’s hurtful or sinful behavior.  

I do believe that forgiveness releases that person from past offenses against me but it does not release them to continue to wound my heart.

And I will stand up any time, anywhere and defend my. right to create healthy boundaries between my heart and someone who has proven, time and again, that they intend to do just that.

Read the rest here: Forgiveness and Healthy Boundaries

Griefwork: Is It OK To Put Some Friendships on “Hold”?

A few years ago I spent the weekend with a small group of bereaved moms.

For our last session together, I solicited anonymous questions from the group that I promised to try to answer and discuss further.

There were lots of good ones but one of the most poignant was this:

Is it OK to put some friendships on hold because the interaction is no longer encouraging to me? I leave lunches together sad because their lives are going fine and I’m in such pain.

A Grieving Mom

My heart went out to this mama for so many reasons!

First, even in her grief she was concerned about doing the right thing, about being a good friend and about rightly interpreting the situation. She knew her friend wasn’t actively harming her. In fact, the friend was most likely trying hard to come alongside and encourage her heart.

But it still hurt.

And so she wanted to know if she was obligated to “grin and bear it” or if she could graciously and authentically set a boundary that meant a little (or a lot!) of distance between this friend and herself-hopefully for only a season.

This is one of the hard truths and difficult conundrums that inform the lives of many grievers. It certainly was part of mine for a long time.

I craved compassionate companionship from concerned friends and family while, at the exact same moment, longed for solitude and seclusion from “ordinary” life.

How in the world could the world just go on? How in Heaven’s name did the entire universe not take note of my great and irreplaceable loss?

For months (probably, honestly, for a couple of years!) there was always a subscript to every conversation and face-to-face interaction that read like Subtitles for a foreign film. And some folks lives were just too beautiful, too happy, too much like the one I wished I still had to endure the emotional burden that gap produced for my wounded heart.

So I had to limit my interaction with them (for their sake AND mine).

I unfollowed (NOT unfriended!) people on social media. They were none the wiser that the hap-hap-happy posts they splashed everywhere weren’t appearing in my newsfeed and I wasn’t constantly confronted by my own envy and sorrow.

I sent cards for occasions instead of showing up at certain celebrations. I chose them thoughtfully and wrote meaningful and sincere messages. I didn’t have a single person react badly that their wish was on paper instead of in person.

I withdrew from some of the groups where this kind of “humble bragging” was encouraged and promoted. It was a long, long time before I went to a women’s event that wasn’t focused on child loss.

No one really noticed.

And for those few relationships that were so close I couldn’t graciously or subtly move away, I told my friend that while I valued them, wanted very much to stay in touch and support them and didn’t want everything to be about ME, I needed to let them know certain topics might make me uncomfortable or sad.

So we tried to get together around activities that lent themselves to “in the moment” conversation. We didn’t linger long over lunch or on the phone. We walked in a park or went to a movie.

In time, as I did the work grief requires and as I grew stronger and better able to carry this burden called “child loss”, I was able to ease some of the boundaries I had put in place to protect my heart.

I never, ever want child loss (or any other hard life event or trauma) to become an excuse for my bad or unkind behavior.

But grief is work and requires so much time, energy and effort!

If I hadn’t made space and given myself the necessary grace to do that work I would not have found the measure of healing I now enjoy.

So, yes, dear heart-it’s OK to set boundaries.

It’s OK to pull back from some relationships to foster healing.

And it’s OK to reach out and let people back in, too, when your heart feels more whole again.

Dismantling The Past

I’ve spent the last two days rearranging our family room.

Since my husband has retired, we no longer use it as we once did and I realized a few weeks ago that it was ridiculous to have it set up the way it’s been for decades when our needs have drastically changed.

So we decided to tackle the job of sorting/moving/dismantling books, videos (yes, we still have a few!), DVDs, CDs and random other bits and pieces of a life long lived in the same place.

For those of you who have moved often you may have been spared the detritus of papers stuck in cracks and crevices on bookcases with the promise to yourself you’ll “put them where they go when I get a chance”.

Me, not so lucky.

I’ve found treasures-scribbles of younger days from my now (very!) grown children-and sad reminders of projects begun and left hanging because we got too busy to see them through.

The one thing I celebrated in taking apart, digging through and tearing down was this: totally destroying and trashing an old, old, old television stand from back in the day when TVs were far too heavy and far too thick to mount on walls or above fireplaces.

I’d always hated that thing.

We bought it as young marrieds when our budget was tight and floor space was precious in our first small home. It did the job but it was just not my style. And at the time, I wasn’t bold enough or strong enough to speak up and advocate for a different choice.

Oh, there are wonderful memories of my two oldest kids putting on shows dressed up in fun costumes and singing along to our cassette tape playlist. We have more than one photo of that delightful era.

But there were years and years of putting up with something that no longer served our needs (because it was here, bought and paid for, and convenient) instead of ditching it and buying something that would both serve and bring delight.

Closest picture I could find to what we had.

So other than a long march down memory lane, what does this have to do with child loss?

I’ve learned since Dom left us that I’ll no longer stay silent when a habit, a situation, a relationship or a piece of furniture doesn’t serve my current mental, physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual circumstances.

I won’t wait for someone else to notice I’m upset or sad or happy or delighted.

I’ve learned to speak up for myself and ask for things I need. I’m learning (haven’t made the progress I’d like!) to set boundaries and tell others that they may come thus far and no closer. I’m trying harder to rid my life of what is unhelpful and unhealthy.

I’m definitely a work in progress.

And most of the work won’t have such a satisfying and concise conclusion as when I cheerfully watch the pieces of that old TV stand go up in smoke.

But I’m committed to continue dismantling the parts of my past that no longer serve my present.

The Necessity of Setting Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

Honesty Doesn’t Have to Be Rude

Like I’ve said before, my emotions will leak out somewhere. I can’t keep them bottled inside forever.

When I choose to be honest AT THE TIME it’s so much better.

When I let folks know that what they say, do, expect from and thrust upon me is unhelpful or overwhelming or even painful, they usually respond with gratitude.

They almost always accept my boundaries.

Those of us walking the Valley often say that those who aren’t just can’t understand. They don’t know what they don’t know.

That’s true.

But they can be educated about some of what we know.

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

Bereavement and Spoon Theory: THIS Is Why I’m Exhausted!

We like to think we are invincible, full of infinite energy and able to handle anything life may throw at us. It’s understandable considering Western society places a premium on heroic endurance in the face of adversity or challenge.

Truth is, though, our emotional, physical and mental energy are not infinite. We ALL have an absolute rock bottom where we simply cannot do one. more. thing.

And living with child loss means I exhaust my resources sooner than many.

I love this concrete representation of my limitations. It has helped me understand that it’s OK to say, “no” and it’s human to have to.

I hope it gives you courage to do the same.

❤ Melanie

The basic idea is that everyone starts with a finite number of “spoons” representing the energy, attention and stamina that can be accessed for any given day. When you do something, you remove a spoon (or two or three) based on the effort required.  When you have used up all your spoons, you are operating at a deficit. 

Like a budget, you can only do that so long before you are in big trouble.

Read the rest here: Spoon Theory Applied to Bereavement

Healthy Boundaries: I Don’t Have to Be Someone’s Punching Bag

I first shared this years ago in response to some parents’ comments about friends and even family who simply would not relent in offering unsolicited advice or worse, graceless observations on how they “should be” handling their grief.

While I am all for assuming the best about folks, I am not an advocate of submitting oneself to bullying.

Boundaries are not only helpful, they are absolutely, positively necessary for anyone. And especially for wounded hearts.

You do not have to be anyone else’s punching bag!

❤ Melanie

There are some people who make it a habit to be insensitive.

They are the ones who delight in speaking their mind regardless of how it hurts another heart.  They pride themselves on “telling it like it is” and justify the fallout as a necessary consequence of “opening the eyes” of people they consider “blind to the truth”.

And while I believe that it is my duty as a Christ follower to forgive these folks when they hurt my feelings, I do not believe that I am required to continue to offer my heart to them to be tossed to the ground and trampled.

Read the rest here: Boundaries: I’m Not a Punching Bag

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Grief

I think child loss forces many of us to reflect on where (or if) we’ve set healthy boundaries in relationships.

I know it did for me.

I found that I had too long allowed what others might think of me or say about me to determine my priorities. But when I was no longer able to give, give, give I had to learn to draw a line.

It’s not only OK to have boundaries, it’s imperative if your heart is to have the space and time available to do the work grief requires.

❤ Melanie

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here:  Healthy Boundaries in Grief

In The Early Days I Was a Walking Nerve

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.

Read the rest here: A Walking Nerve

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