Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean? Grief and Everyday Responsiblities

I freely admit I was never a housecleaning fanatic.

With a busy family, a small farm and mountains of paper, pencils and books scattered around I was content if the most obvious dirt was swept up and the sink free of dishes.

But, I DID have a routine.  I DID clean my bathrooms and wash clothes and make beds and vacuum the rugs on a regular basis.

Not anymore.

Even all this time after Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I have not reestablished any kind of rhythm to keeping house, making meals or doing the most basic, necessary chores.

And I don’t really know why.

I’m not overly busy.  I’m not doing other things that keep me away from the necessary things.  

In fact, sometimes I actually sit down for what I think will be a few minutes only to find a couple hours have raced by while I was doing nothing.  That NEVER happened before.

Literally, never.

I was a dynamo from the time I woke in the morning until evening-moving, moving, moving.  I certainly still have plenty I COULD do, but not so much that I WANT to do.

I’ve pondered, “Why?” and only been able to come up with a single answer: Grief is WORK.  And apparently I only have so much energy to divide between what I need to do (grief work) and what I’d like to do (clean my house, etc.).

The hours I spend “doing nothing” are actually hours spent working through feelings, thoughts, spiritual conundrums and rediscovering who I am in light of what has happened.

So I’m learning to cut corners and give myself a break.  Because it doesn’t appear that my get-up-and-go is coming back anytime soon.

Here are some practical things I’ve been doing to make daily life work:

I’ve adjusted my standards.  I have a minimal acceptable standard and apply that to my home and myself instead of trying to live up to “what others want me to do/be”. For me, it means no germy surfaces, clutter free places to sit and eat, wiped down bathrooms and clean clothes for the day.  

Anything over that is a bonus!

I take shortcuts.  Paper goods for meals to cut down on dishes.  Easy menus for dinners (lots of crockpot recipes).  I keep paper towels and cleaner in each bathroom and wipe down when I’m in there for something else instead of making “clean the bathrooms” a separate chore.  

I have baskets to catch wayward items and carry them upstairs all at once or just leave them in the baskets.  I wash clothes but don’t worry if I get them folded.  I bought more underwear and socks so washing isn’t an emergency.

I don’t apologize when someone stops by and things aren’t as tidy as they used to be or I wish they were. 

I won’t waste emotional energy on worrying about what they think.  

And when I find that I’m sitting down, pondering some aspect of loss or life or love, I lean in and do it.  I grab my computer or a journal and write out what’s running through my head.  

Because that’s the more important work right now.  

Companioning The Bereaved

I’ve learned so much in this journey.

I’ve had to unlearn some things too.

One of the things I’ve had to unlearn is that the medical model of “identify, treat, cure” is not applicable to grieving hearts.

Grief is not a disease. It’s not an abnormality. It doesn’t need to be treated and cured so that it “goes away”.

It’s the perfectly normal and appropriate response to loss.

A more helpful model is compassionate companionship.

What grievers need is faithful friends and family who choose to come alongside and refuse to be frightened away when the process seems long, tortuous and challenging. We need others to be present, to truly listen and to bear witness to our wounds.

Recently I found this list from Dr. Alan Wolfelt, founder of the Center for Loss (http://www.centerforloss.com) and I love it!

It’s an elegant synopsis of what compassionate companionship looks like in practice:

  1. Being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  2. Going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
  3. Honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  4. Listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  5. Bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
  6. Walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  7. Discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
  8. Being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  9. Respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  10. Learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  11. Compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.

~Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Eleven Tenets of Companioning the Bereaved

At one time or another each of us need someone to be present, to truly listen and to bear witness to our wounds.

When your world is profoundly dark, an outstretched hand is often the only way a heart can hold onto hope. 

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Repost: Little Ways Grief Changes Things


I accidentally dialed my son’s number the other night.  

All he heard amidst the noise of the baseball game he was attending was, “I’m sorry” which immediately put him in “oh no!” mode.  

A couple words later and he understood that what I was sorry for was interrupting him, not another tragedy that required a heart-wrenching, life-changing long distance phone call.

But that’s how it is now.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/07/19/little-ways-grief-changes-things/

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Why, “Just Think About All the Good Memories,” Doesn’t Comfort My Heart


I pull out the memories like treasures from a locked strongbox.

“Handle With Care” because they are all I have left.

But they are not enough.

They will never be enough to satisfy this mama’s heart.

We are supposed to have to remember our elders, our grandparents, even, maybe our spouse at some point-but not our children.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/15/why-just-think-about-all-the-good-memories-doesnt-comfort-my-heart/

To The Friends I Haven’t Met Yet

I’m not blind to the danger social media poses to in-person friendship.

For lots of people with busy lives and messy houses it’s a no brainer to choose online companionship over face-to-face lunches, brunches or book clubs.

If I can curate my online presence to reflect only my brightest, funniest and most enviable moments (all from the comfort of home in my pajamas!), why not?

But social media isn’t all bad.

In fact, it can be very, very GOOD for lots of people.

It’s been a godsend for my heart.

I live in a rural area and didn’t have WiFi until late in 2011 and there’s no cell phone reception in the little valley where my home is situated. So before then I wasn’t on social media very much. In fact, I used to get irritated with folks who ONLY posted important things on Facebook (remember this was years ago!) because I often missed them.

By the time Dominic left for Heaven, I was in the habit of checking in at least once a day. That changed to several times a day when I discovered online groups for bereaved parents.

All of a sudden I was not alone in my grief, my experience, my questions, my tears, my tiny victories nor my setbacks.

It’s no cause for celebration that there are so many of us. But it IS cause for celebration that we’ve found one another.

So here’s to all the friends I haven’t met yet from another town, state or country.

You know who you are.

You speak kindness, grace and wisdom over my heart and into my life. You listen when I need to “say” something aloud no one who hasn’t walked our path can understand. You don’t care how many times I talk about my missing son or post his picture. You share encouraging memes, quotes, songs and Scripture verses.

When you wonder if you are making a difference sitting in your living room or at your desk or kitchen table and sharing on Facebook, don’t you believe it.

I am so, so thankful for each of you. ❤

Ask. Don’t Assume.

I’ll confess right here on the world wide web that I tend to go along to get along.

It’s a terrible and odd twist that the son who always encouraged me to speak up for myself has accomplished his goal by his absence.

Since Dominic left for Heaven I’m learning to ask questions I’d never dare ask before.

When someone does something or doesn’t do something, instead of assuming motives or assigning blame, I ask them why. It doesn’t always end well, but it’s worth the risk.

Most of the time I find the person has anticipated (often mistakenly) that his or her behavior, choices or words are helpful. Truly, family and friends are not usually out to hurt my heart.

Now, I admit in the beginning I didn’t care whether it was accidental or purposeful. I was already so burdened that any additional stress or strain was more than I could bear. I wanted people to put themselves in my shoes.

Truth is, they can’t.

All the times I IMAGINED what it might feel like to have a child run ahead to Heaven didn’t even come close to how it actually felt. All the scripts that played in my head when someone was late checking in, coming home or assuring me of safe arrival when traveling can’t hold a candle to the REALITY of a son never ever coming home again.

It’s not fair (but what about child loss IS fair?) that I have to educate others as I’m learning myself.

It’s simply reality.

I liken it to being forced to lead in a dance I don’t know to music I can’t stand to hear.

So I ask.

And I’m often surprised by the answers.

In utter innocence and genuine sympathy some friends and family make decisions they honestly think are good ones.

None of us has a road map for this journey-neither we who travel the road nor those who walk alongside us. It’s uncharted territory.

I would rather err on the side of love and grace then build walls between my heart and the ones I have left here on earth.

Sure it hurts.

But most things this side of child loss do.

I refuse to sacrifice relationship on the altar of grief.

“I Lost My Child Today” by Netta Wilson

My son’s death is a moment in time, a date on the calendar, a thing of the past for other people.

I understand that.

But for me, it’s an ongoing event.

Every time Dominic SHOULD be here but isn’t I lose him again.

Every milestone he should be marking but doesn’t I lose him again. Every Christmas, every birthday, every ordinary day when something funny happens or I want to send him a text or message, I lose him again. Every time I need his advice and insight, I lose him again.

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I didn’t lose him once, I keep losing him.

Over and over and over again.

I lost my child….Today

… I lost my child today. 

People came to weep and cry, 

As I just sat and stared, dry eyed. 

They struggled to find words to say, 

To try and make the pain go away, 

I walked the floor in disbelief, 

I lost my child today.

I lost my child last month. 

Most of the people went away, 

Some still call and some still stay. 

I wait to wake up from this dream. 

This can’t be real. 

I want to scream. 

Yet everything is locked inside, 

God, help me, I want to die. 

I lost my child last month.

I lost my child last year. 

Now people who had come, have gone. 

I sit and struggle all day long. 

To bear the pain so deep inside. 

And now my friends just question, Why? 

Why does this mother not move on? 

Just sits and sings the same old song. 

Good heavens, it has been so long. 

I lost my child last year.

Time has not moved on for me. 

The numbness it has disappeared. 

My eyes have now cried many tears. 

I see the look upon your face, “She must move on and leave this place.” 

Yet I am trapped right here in time, 

The songs the same, as is the rhyme, 

I lost my child……Today.”

Netta Wilson