God’s Timeless Time

Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite authors.  His gentle spirit and kind heart shine in every word.

I have learned a lot from him.

This is one of my favorite passages, especially as I contemplate life after Dominic has left us.

On the one hand I feel as if I am leaving Dominic behind-time on earth marches on and event after event rolls past without his presence or participation.  

On the other hand, I feel as if Dominic has run ahead to our forever home and must be waiting for us as much as we long for him.

But Nouwen’s words remind me that time will no longer be something I think about or worry about once we are all together in the Presence of our Savior.

There is no “after” after death. Words like after and before belong to our mortal life, our life in time and space. Death frees us from the boundaries of chronology and brings us into God’s “time,” which is timeless. Speculations about the afterlife, therefore, are little more than just that: speculations. Beyond death there is no “first” and “later,” no “here” and “there,” no “past,” “present,” or “future.” God is all in all. The end of time, the resurrection of the body, and the glorious coming again of Jesus are no longer separated by time for those who are no longer in time.

For us who still live in time, it is important not to act as if the new life in Christ is something we can comprehend or explain. God’s heart and mind are greater than ours. All that is asked of us is trust.

 

How To Survive December With a Broken Heart

It comes up again and again-and not just for the parents facing their year of “firsts”How do I survive December with a broken heart?

There’s no single answer or list of things to do that will suit every family.

But there are some general principles that can make even this awful reality a little easier: 

Be gentle with yourself.  Accept that you will not be able to do all the things you could do before child loss.  Understand that tears will fall at the most inconvenient moments and grief waves will take you under when you least expect them to.  That’s OK.  You do not have to be strong or brave or keep smiling when you are sad.  Feel what you feel.  Do what you need to do.

Be honest with others.  No matter how wonderful it would be if they could truly understand what it feels like to bury a child (without the experience, of course!), it is not the way things ARESo if you need something from someone, speak up.  If you don’t want to go to this or that, say so.  If your heart can’t take one more family gathering or meal, send your regrets and stay home.  Use “I” statements and say something like, “I’m just not able to participate in gift-giving (or whatever) this year.  My heart won’t take it.”  They may not like it.  But they can’t argue with your experience.

Do not let people cross the boundaries you set up to protect your heart.  Once you have figured out where you need to draw the line and have communicated that to others, hold fast.  It’s really just fine to not return phone calls or text messages designed to force you to meet others’ expectations.  You don’t have to be rude, but you also don’t have to submit your heart to constant trampling.

Be open to change.  This is the fourth set of holidays for me without Dominic.  Each year I’ve entered the season with certain ideas about how they will go, what will and won’t be helpful, and where I needed to set boundaries.  And every year I’ve made adjustments.  Some things I thought I COULD do, I couldn’t. Some things I  swore I’d NEVER do, I’ve done.  Work schedules, plane delays, illness, or even happy surprises alter plans and require adjustment.

Remember that December doesn’t last forever.  As hard as this season is, it is only a season.  The earth turns, the sun rises and the days pass.  If you spend the month in bed with the covers over your head, January will still roll around.  If you get up and participate (whatever that looks like for YOU) then January will also show up on schedule.

These days are just like all the rest:  in the end we survive them one breath, one moment at a time.  

But we do survive.  

bereaved parents have one job during the holidays to survive

What IS and IS NOT “Impossible”

I freely and publicly admit that until Dominic ran ahead to heaven I was just as likely as the next person to declare something “impossible” when it was really simply hard, distasteful or uncomfortable. 

Because before Dominic was snatched away in an instant-irretrievably lost to me this side of eternity-I lacked perspective.

I didn’t realize that as long as someone is breathing, there is hope. 

As long as there are choices, you can make them. 

As long as people offer to help, you can let them.

What I am facing may seem insurmountable but if money, time and/or energy can make a difference, then no circumstance is truly impossible.

So I carry an absolute yardstick in my heart:  death is the only utterly impossible situation.  

Anything that falls short of that holds out hope.

I can choose to grab hold or choose to let go, but I have a choice.  

It may be excruciating and hard and frustrating and foolhardy, but I can still hold on.  

 

 

Ten Ways to Love a Mourning Heart at Thanksgiving

We are all on a journey through life and each carry some sort of load.  Mine is child loss.  Yours may be something else.

We can help one another if we try.  

Love and grace grease the wheels and make the load lighter.  

Here are ten ways to love a mourning heart at Thanksgiving:

1. Let them grieve.  Give space and grace for any outward display of grief or emotion.  It doesn’t require comment.  Maybe an outstretched hand or a tissue or maybe not.  Sometimes silence presence is best.

2. Begin conversation with statements that are true for you and then listen.  I appreciate someone sharing their heart with me.  It’s really OK to say, “Hey, I’ve wanted to reach out but I just didn’t know how.”  I would rather hear that than excuses.  ❤

3. Share a memory of their child or their pregnancy (if a child was born straight into heaven).  Whenever I hear a story about Dominic I may not have heard before, it is a gift.

4. Speak their child’s name.  It may make me cry.  But I cry anyway.  And if no one says his name I cry because I think they’ve forgotten.

5. Give them room to step away.  Sometimes I’m overwhelmed and I just need a breath of fresh air or a moment to gather my strength.  Don’t send the cavalry to “rescue” me and don’t make me feel bad by drawing attention to my absence when I return.

6. Find a way to commemorate their child in company with the living.  Light a candle, place a photo, set an honorary place at the table, give a gift in his memory to a charity and display the card-there are many ways to make him part of the holidays.

7. Allow them to participate/ not participate as they are able.  This will be our fourth set of holidays and I still don’t have a routine that feels “right”.  I do enjoy and even crave cooking meals so I appreciate being asked to do that.  Some other things are still hard so I appreciate not being forced to do those.

8. Don’t use this once or twice a year gathering to require an extended debrief of how they are feeling/coping/doing.  Invite me to share and then respect the boundaries I establish in my sharing.  It depends on the day whether I’m going to give you a brief response or a long one.  Let me lead the dance.

9. Try not to make assumptions about what is best for their heart.  Ask questions instead of making pronouncements.  Like I said, I still don’t have any traditions that feel right after nearly four years.  I need space to think about and make choices about what may work for THIS Thanksgiving.

10. Remember that all holidays are hard.  When the whole family gathers, it highlights even more that my son is missing.  Other times it’s easier to play a mental game with myself and pretend he’s just off somewhere.  But when the chairs are drawn around the table and his is empty, there’s no denying that he is gone, gone, gone.  Lots and lots of grace makes it easier for my heart. 

empty chair prayer

 

 

 

 

Why I Have To Talk It Out

I admit I’m full of words.  When my mama came to pick me up when her best friend was babysitting for awhile, she said, “You can’t have her yet, she’s telling me all kinds of things!”

More than once my mouth got me in trouble.

It’s still the source of most of my problems.

But for a time after Dominic left I found that the only words I could muster beyond what was absolutely necessary were written in my journal.  Because the words I wanted to say were bitter and harsh and tasted bad as they came up my throat and threatened to roll off my tongue.

I didn’t want to tell the story of that early morning knock.  I didn’t want to speak aloud the terror that gripped my soul, the literal shattering of my heart, the unholy darkness that enveloped me.

I HAD to make phone calls.  I was forced to say, “Dominic is dead” over and over and over.  Then I wanted to hide in silence and stay on the fringe of conversations that filled our home and the church before we buried him.

It seemed easier to swallow the words than taste them.

But I couldn’t do that forever.

Eventually the words began to rot inside me and make the pain even worse.  I had to let them out.  I had to talk about it.  All of it.

The actual events.

The feelings associated with the accident.

The pain of choosing a cemetery plot, a casket, an order of service, of writing an obituary, of burying my son.

The awful emptiness that one life missing makes in a family of six.

The fact that at some point I woke from the stupor enough to wonder how the God I had worshiped for all these years let this happen.

And I needed someone to listen.  I needed someone to be a witness to my words.  It was no longer enough to write them down, wrap them up and hide them away.

They had to be spoken so that the power they had over my soul could be broken.

business-authenticity

Thank God for people who are willing to listen!  

I have friends and family who let me recite the same thing over and over and over so that each telling helps my heart toward healing.

I have several online and in-person communities of bereaved parents who do the same (and more!) because they understand precisely how I feel and can offer hope from their own stories of healing. *

Listening is love in action.

If you know someone whose heart carries great grief-and child loss is not the only hard journey hearts are makingoffer to listen. 

Give up a few minutes to hear how they are really doing, what is really hard, what they really need to say but may be afraid to speak aloud.  Leave spaces in conversation so a heart can work up the courage to share.  Don’t be quick to offer platitudes that shut down deep discussion.  

It often takes many, many repetitions of traumatic events for a heart to begin to heal. 

And each time you grant someone permission to share and listen to his or her story, you are applying balm to a weary soul.  ❤

listening is a postive act

 

*Here are two online closed communities for bereaved parents:   While We’re Waiting Support for Bereaved Parents  Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child

The Compassionate Friends offers in-person support groups around the country.

GriefShare also holds classes and offers in-person support.  Check online for availability in your area.

 

 

 

Too Scared to Stay

How many reading this enjoy roller coasters?  Or scary movies? Or action films?

My guess is that most like one or the other or all three.

Why?  Because it’s fun to dip our emotional toe into deep water when we know we can take it out at any moment.

We experience a sort of “high” when the “fight or flight” adrenaline pumps through our veins but our minds know full well that we are in no real danger.

What’s much more difficult is to commit to experience in real time with real people the real emotional roller coaster of hard situations and unending sorrow or pain.

Then people tend to withdraw because they are too scared to stay.

I am so sorry that broken hearts are wounded further when friends or family just can’t bear the pain of watching us hurt and run away instead of walking with us.

leaf heart

They are afraid.  I used to be afraid too.  But I’m not afraid now.

My new bravery was purchased at great cost.  And I don’t want to waste it.

This Valley is teaching my heart to reach out further, quicker, more often and to stick around longer than I was willing to before.

hands-passing-heart

I want to stand with and speak courage to wounded hearts.  

I want to help healed hearts that choose to be brave and commit to walk with those in pain. 

And I am learning to extend grace to the hearts who choose to run away.   

Fear is powerful and I can’t blame them.

But for those who remain, I am so, so grateful.  

always leave people better than you found them