Child Loss DOES Define Me

It’s popular in books, self-help articles and even in some grief groups for people to declare , “Child loss does not (will not, should not) define me”.

And while I will defend to the end another parent’s right to walk this path however seems best and most healing to him or her,  to that statement I say, “Bah! Humbug!”

Child loss DOES define me.

It defines me in the same way that motherhood and marriage define me.  It defines me as much as any other major milestone, event, choice or experience defines me.

How could it not define me and inform the person I am today?

But it does NOT circumscribe me.

Listen carefully to these next words: Child loss is a huge part of who I am but it does not draw a circle around who I am becoming.  It is not a line in the sand I cannot cross.  It is not a ball and chain weighing me down and preventing my forward motion.

It is not the ONLY thing I am, but it is an important part of who I am.

In many ways it has made life harder-especially in the first three years after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  But in other ways it has made my life more open, larger, expansive and inclusive.  Child loss has opened my eyes to other hurting hearts in ways I doubt I would have noticed if my own had not been broken.  Child loss has taught me the language of compassion and the necessity of listening well to other people.  Child loss has rearranged my schedule and my priorities.

priorities

It most certainly helps to define the woman I am today.

Would I have chosen it?  Absolutely not!

But I won’t waste it.

I choose to enfold it into who I am and what I do and how I live.

I cannot set it aside and ignore it any more than I could set aside my son.

Could you?

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

 

Legacy of Love in Spite of Pain

It’s said that “Hurt people, hurt people”.  

And it’s true-often in my own pain I lash out and hurt others.  Partly because my pain is so huge and so real and so blinding that I don’t always see what I’m doing to others. 

But also, sometimes, (and I hate to admit it!) because misery loves company.  If I’M hurting then someone else better hurt too!

hurt people hurt people

That’s not the high road.  

And it’s not the road Jesus paved with His blood.  

I need to take my brokenness to Him.  Because truth told, He’s really the only one that can minister true healing. 

heals the broken hearted

When I use my pain-even the unfathomably great pain of child loss-as an excuse for bad behavior all I do is spread the hurt. 

It doesn’t take one bit of my own away.  

So I try to be more mindful of when discomfort authors my words and stop them before they pour from my mouth on some unsuspecting victim.  

I want my legacy to be love.  

It’s a daily choice.  

did I offer peace bowl brown

All The Glory on the Ground

Fall doesn’t last long here in Alabama.  

We have summer right through September most years and even into October on occasion.

This year was even shorter-hot, hot, hot, hot, cold!

But no matter how long or short the temperate days I have two or three trees I look for when the cold nights work their magic and the leaves turn bright.

I know I have to drink in their beauty as much as possible because it won’t last for more than a week.  And that makes it all the more precious to me.

So I don’t rush by as I’m wont to other times of year.  I slow down as I round the curve and gasp again at translucent gold lit bright against a pale blue sky. 

yellow ginkgo tree

One, two, three passes and then one day they’re gone. 

A windy rain knocked every one to the earth.  

All the glory on the ground.  

And my heart notes once again that nothing in this life is forever.

Even the most beautiful and highly treasured things will fade and fall.

People too. 

So don’t rush by. 

Slow down and drink in the glory of family around the table, coffee with a friend, walks in your neighborhood, cuddles with the kids, hot chocolate around a campfire or the kitchen stove.  

Nothing in this life is forever.  

time with those you love

Accepting My Limitations

I’m no quitter.

I grew up with the mantra, “You can be anything you want to be if you want to be it badly enough” ringing through my childhood.

I added this one for my kids:  “Failure is not an option.”

But I’ve got to admit, while both are great motivators when motivation is the missing ingredient, they are lies.

I cannot be “anything I want to be”.  I can be the best me possible, but I cannot be anyone but me.

authenticity embracing who we are daily practice

And failure-well, how do you want to define that?  Is it failure when you have poured every ounce of energy into a person or a project and things just don’t work like you hoped they would?  Is it failure when despite all the planning, pursuing and perseverance a heart can muster life takes a giant left turn you never expected?

One of my favorite but most exasperating memories of Dominic is when he was about six months old and would wake every morning close to 3 a.m. and refuse to go back to sleep.  Now, judge me if you want to, but this whole “let them cry it out” thing was not in my parenting wheelhouse.  With two other siblings and a small house, if he was crying for hours, it meant soon everyone would be awake.

So after nursing him and trying to get him to go back to sleep, I finally gave up and just went into the living room and let him play.

This went on for weeks-my body was so, so tired and I was frustrated beyond imagination.

Until I realized that I was burning more energy being upset over the inevitable than I was in just getting up and enjoying the one on one time with my baby.

So instead of fussing every early morning, I started getting up, making coffee, playing with him and then doing necessary chores while he prattled on with his toys.

I accepted what was out of my control and made the best of it.

That’s how I feel this side of Dominic running ahead to heaven.

I am not the person I used to be.

I cannot do all the things I used to do.

I need to acknowledge that.  I need to let go of unrealistic expectations that only drive me to distraction and despair. 

courage starts with showing up water

I’m freeing myself to lean into the life I have NOW by admitting it’s not the life I USED to have.

I’m not giving up. 

I am letting go of excess emotional baggage.

But I’m holding onto hope with both hands. 

holding onto hope dandilion

Sun & Shade: Picking My Path

I walk the half-mile stretch down and back on my driveway at least four or five times a day.

In the winter I follow the sun.

In the summer I follow the shade.

The path I choose to take either adds to or subtracts from my ability to make the trek in relative comfort.

It would be foolish for me to not take advantage of available provisions.  It would be silly for me to shiver or sweat more just because I was too lazy to adjust my trajectory.

I can’t change the absolute temperature outside but I can influence how I experience it.

I’ve found that the same practical wisdom applies to my grief journey:  I can make things easier or harder on my heart by making even small changes in how I face a day or situation.

I can’t change the fact that my son is dead.  But I can influence how I experience it.

On days when I am struggling with sorrow, I seek out some “sunshine”-both actual sunshine by getting outdoors and figurative sunshine by feeding my soul with positive images, thoughts and the truth of Scripture.

sunrise brightest

I minimize my interaction with “negative Nellies” and sites or shows or books or places that send me further down the path of despair.

I share my struggle with safe people who will listen and not try to correct me or force me into pretending that sorrow is not what I feel.

I go to bed early, knowing that each sunrise brings new mercies from our Heavenly Father and that one bad day does not have to define a week.

steadfast-love-in-the-morning

On days when I’m overwhelmed with the “heat” of commitment or too many people or too much activity, I seek out some “shade”-I look for a spot in my schedule where I can rest a bit and catch my breath.

I reassess and find things I can give up.  I find other ways to meet obligations that give me more space and require less frantic scrambling.

I make myself sit down and slow down, even if it is for just fifteen minutes.

let-yourself-rest

I’m honest with my family and friends, because if I’m not I will end up being ugly and hurting someone’s feelings.

So, so many things about grief are outside my control.  I cannot anticipate every random trigger that might land me in a puddle of tears.

Life goes on and continues to demand my participation.

I want to be fully present for my loved ones.  I want to show up and make merry for all the special occasions.

So I try to use wisdom in how I approach each day, assessing my grief “temperature” so that I can do what’s necessary to ensure I’m emotionally healthy enough to do what I really want to do.

Shade in summer.

Sun in winter.

between stimulus and response

One Reason Why Grief Requires So Much Energy…

I’ve been doing this for a bit over four years now.

I’m pretty good at it in many ways-I’ve developed standard answers to common questions, figured out ways to keep my mouth shut when no answer I can think of is appropriate (literally biting my tongue), learned how to squelch tears and swallow sobs in public spaces, and (usually) how to avoid major triggers.

But navigating this territory is still exhausting.  

Because every. single. day. I have to make choices and make changes so I’m not overwhelmed and incapacitated by grief.  

And that takes a lot of energy.  Energy that’s not available for other things.  

Yet the world marches on and my responsibilities remain.  

It’s no wonder I flop in bed exhausted every night.  

I wrote this a couple years ago and it explains it well:  

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

Read the rest here:  It’s Complicated

No, It’s Not Fair

I don’t know about you but I absolutely hated the word “fair” when I was raising four little humans.

What seemed like a good idea when training them to share toys was soon turned into a weapon whereby they would shout, “But Mama!  That’s not FAIR!!!”

Someone was going to get the last piece of cake or pizza or a tiny bit larger slice of pie.  Someone needed shoes this payday but not everyone needed shoes.  My daughter required certain items for her dance class, the boys didn’t need a thing.

To kids, “fair” meant even-exactly, precisely, even division of time, talent, money and attention.

Its-Not-Fair-608x419

But if I tried to turn the tables and suggest that it was one child’s turn to empty the bathroom garbage because another child did it last time, suddenly “fair” wasn’t such a great idea.

Because even young sinful hearts learn that making everything exactly even isn’t really what we want.

What we want is for the fates (and God! and Mama!) to favor US.

We want the bigger piece, we want to be excused from duty when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable.  We want, above all, not to suffer-even if the suffering is really not very painful.

calvin and hobbes bigger piece of the pie

As hard as it was to explain that life is. not. fair. to my young children, it has been harder still to explain it to my own heart in the wake of burying Dominic.

Seriously. 

What IS fair? 

Is it fair that my son shouldn’t die when the laws of physics kicked in as he left the road in a curve?

What about when those same laws mean another son lives?

Is it fair that my children were born in a land not decimated by war or famine-every one born by C-section in clean hospitals with adequate staffing and appropriate facilities?

No, life isn’t fair.

We live in a world marred by sin.  It’s a broken world where sometimes people make foolish choices, sinful choices or simply reckless choices.

It’s a world in which disease ravages bodies-young and old-and hearts stop.

I will mourn what I’ve lost.  I will weep for what I will never have. 

But I will not whine about things not being fair. 

I had nearly 24 years with Dominic.  Not as many as I expected nor as many as I wanted.  His life ended too soon from my perspective regardless of whatever Bible verse someone uses to explain it differently.

He was a gift.  And though he is now gone from my sight, I will see him again. 

Until then, I will work hard at being thankful and not resentful.  One attitude brings life and the other only death.

I’ve had enough death. 

I choose life. 

thankful for what is given rather than what is withheld