I Need To Tell The Story (Even If You’ve Heard It Before)

I have so much more empathy for older folks since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I’ve always tried to be a patient listener when hearing that same story over and over and over but have to admit that sometimes I’d drift off or internally mock an elder because I was tired of hearing it.

Not anymore.

Because I understand now that it’s in the telling that one both commemorates and honors people as well as the past.

Me and Aunt Mattie Lou at her 99th birthday.

Stories are how we weave facts into narrative and give them meaning. It’s why so many of us love historical fiction or period dramas that not only reference actual people and events but also peek at emotions, motivation and draw conclusions.

I could hand you my daily calendar and you’d understand the outline of where I was and what I did.

But you wouldn’t know what I thought or felt that day unless I filled it in.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I was forced at first to deliver the most basic message to others who needed to know. I repeated it over and over, “I have to tell you something awful. Dominic is dead.”

I didn’t really know much more than that.

Details were added by friends and first responders in the days to come.

The story broadened to include how we reassembled our family from across the country, who showed up to help us through the first hours, where we chose to bury him, what the funeral service looked like and on and on and on.

For months afterward I found myself compelled to repeat the story of those days.

Compelled to rewind and play again the details, each time teasing out additional insights, questions and feelings.

It was an important part of unspooling and exploring what, exactly, it meant to live in a world that no longer included one of my children.

I know sometimes folks get tired of me telling the story. For them, it is a reminder of some awful event that is tucked neatly in the past. A date on a calendar somewhere that might occasionally tickle the back of their brain and evoke a, “that’s so sad” response but not something they live with every. single. day.

But for me, Dominic’s death is an ongoing experience.

Every day I have to fit his absence into my world. I have to find a way to live around the giant void where he SHOULD be but ISN’T.

So the story grows.

It’s not only what happened on the day he left, it’s what has happened since and is still happening now.

When you make space for me to tell, you make space for me to feel.

And that helps my heart hold on.

There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

This past week has been both hard and wonderful.

Some things happened that mean the next few months are going to be extra painful, extra stressful and extra challenging.

But I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

When I was forced unwillingly on this long, hard journey, everything was dark. Nothing sparked joy. The whole world became a grainy black and white image on an ancient TV and it was fuzzy, flat and utterly uninteresting.

What’s worse, my heart could only REALLY feel two things-pain and love-and they were so inextricably intertwined I was no longer sure which was which.

I couldn’t run fast enough or far enough to escape the darkness or the pain.

I had to face all the awful of child loss, embrace it, feel it, work through it, talk about it in safe spaces with safe people and sit quietly for hours with my thoughts and uncomfortable emotions. I had to let time do the work that only time can do.

There are no shortcuts on this journey.

And then there was a moment when I saw something beautiful and felt something wonderful and I didn’t have to TELL my heart it was beautiful and wonderful.

I just KNEW and I could FEEL it.

At first, these moments didn’t last long and were isolated. But eventually the moments came faster, lasted longer and were closer together. I learned to embrace them, hold onto them, build upon them and look for them.

Now, the moments of light, life and color make up most of my days.

I have not forgotten Dominic. My heart aches to see him again, hold him again, share life with him again. But I’ve learned to hold that yearning for the life I used to have and gratitude for the life I live now in the same heart. I’ve found that allowing joy to fill my soul doesn’t push him away or to the side as if he doesn’t matter.

So if you think there is no way you can survive this awful, awful journey, keep going.

If you are still in the dark days and fearful light will never penetrate the depth of your pain and despair, hold on.

If your world has gone colorless, don’t give up.

Look for your moment, it’s coming.

And when it does, grab it.

There’s more where that came from.

Holiday Help for Grieving Hearts: Make a Plan

When faced with the upcoming holidays and already rapid heartbeat and fading strength, the last thing a bereaved parent wants to hear is , “Make a plan”.

But the truth is, if you don’t it will be so. much. worse.  

fail to plan plan to fail

No one can tell YOU what the plan should be.  Each family is unique.  Each year brings different challenges-declining health, moves, children or grandchildren born and a dozen other variables that must be accounted for THIS year versus years past.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/11/07/holidays-and-grief-you-need-a-plan/

Holiday Help For Grieving Hearts

The calendar is tricky for grieving hearts.

It’s not just a way to plan events or remember doctor appointments.

It’s full of milestone dates and commitments that loom large and awful like an oncoming train in a dark tunnel.

Sometimes I just want to fall asleep sometime around the end of October and wake up in January after all the hoopla is over. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/10/21/grief-and-holidays-how-can-i-make-it-through/

I’m Just Tired Y’all

I realize yesterday’s post was somewhat out of character.

I was angry and hurt and utterly dumbfounded that another parent might take my words exactly as I wrote them (emphasis and all) and simply lift them out of context and plaster them across the Internet.

My heart is especially vulnerable right now.

My mother just died. It’s only been three weeks. And her death has reopened wounds I’d grown skilled at ignoring.

While I’ve been encouraged by many of you who understand the way I feel, I’ve also been hurt by many who seem to think that if I protect my intellectual property I’m petty and unkind.

So I’m just gonna put this out there-I’m tired, y’all. Worn out.

I’m more exhausted than I’ve been since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

The past two years have drained every ounce of reserve I had (and that wasn’t much).

This week has finished me off.

I’m not going to fight to try to get anyone who can’t understand to see my point of view. My debating days are over.

I might just lay the blog aside for awhile. I don’t really know right now.

So, “thank you” to everyone who has come along for the ride. Thank you to every heart that has reached across the miles or across cultures to comment and join in on the conversation. You have encouraged me more than you will ever know.

But I’m tapped out.

Stolen Words, Again. Sigh…

This morning I opened my social media as I always do-checking in on the pages I administer and the private groups I moderate.

I consider it a sacred duty to watch after the precious hearts who choose to be open and honest and expect a safe, secure space in which to do it.

As I was scrolling and reading, I came across this meme:

From “Unnatural” published August 17, 2016 on thelifeididntchoose.com

No quotation marks, no author cited.

These are MY words written about MY son and very, very personal.

You can read the original post here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/08/17/unnatural/

I’ve written before about how painful it is when people steal words. Not because I want recognition myself. If that was my desire I’d have collected the posts into a book by now. Not because I seek monetary gain. If that was true, I’d have advertisements or sponsored links. Not because I’m so naive to believe people can’t steal them in this wild, wild world of Internet freedom and piracy.

No. It’s painful because it’s disrespectful of me, my family and my son about whom they are written.

I write and share so that others have words to help their hearts. The only thing I ask in return is that the origin of them is acknowledged.

Is there no shame anywhere?

Is there no honor among parents who also share the pain of child loss?

I can’t imagine that a stranger, ignorant of the burden we bear, snapped up these words randomly to make a meme.

I don’t want to spend my time searching the internet and bereaved parent sites looking for instances where someone has stolen my words and dishonored my son and misused my trust.

I’m not going to do it.

But I am going to publicly point out that it happens.

And if it’s you who has done it-

shame on you!

I Miss Your Voice: Silent Echoes Haunt My Heart

I try to limit the time I spend perusing old photos and old social media posts of my missing son.

I’ve learned that while they remind me of sweet memories and happy times they also prick my heart in ways nothing else can.

I was looking for something specific the other day and had to scroll through Dominic’s Facebook page to find it. As I did, I began reading some of the back and forth comments under the posts and pictures.

This time it wasn’t what was said or where the photos were taken that hurt my heart.

Instead it was the tiny little time stamp underneath the words that took my breath away.

Nothing more recent than five years ago was recorded.

Because that’s when his voice went silent.

That’s when whatever he was going to say was either said or never would be said. That’s when all the brilliant, not-so-brilliant, snarky, funny, sad, silly and sage thoughts Dominic ever had or ever would have were cut off.

I firmly believe that Dominic is safe in the arms of Jesus-more alive now than he ever was here. I know he’s got things to say and when I join him we will have eternity to chat together.

But right now, what I wouldn’t give for one more conversation in the here and now.

I’ve got things I want to ask him.

I’ve got things I want to tell him.

I’d love to hear his voice or read his comments or see a new picture.

The years of silence echo loud in my ears and louder in my heart.