The Sweetest Words: “I’m sorry for your pain. I’m listening. I’m not going anywhere.”

I first shared this post several years ago when I realized that the best thing anyone could say to me was: “I’m sorry for your pain. I’m listening. I’m not going anywhere.”

At the time it was mainly about my experience with child loss.

Now I know it’s really the best thing for any heart whenever its hurting or afraid or feeling alone.

Watching someone you love in pain is very, very hard.

And it’s natural that people want to say something or do something to try to ease the burden.

They might offer a story illustrating that it “could be worse” or rush past an expression of sorrow by changing the subject or even compliment me on “how well I am doing”.

But none of those things makes me feel better.

Read the rest here: Sweet Words

An Open Letter To My Fellow Sisters In Loss On International Bereaved Mother’s Day

Dear Mama,

I know that you never-in your wildest imagination-thought that you would need a day set aside for your broken heart and your empty arms.  

Who thinks when they learn a new life is growing inside that this same life might be cut short?  What heart is brave enough to consider the possibility? 

Yet here you are.  

I’m so, so sorry.  

But there are a few things I want you to know.  There are some important truths to remember on this broken road-truths that can help you hold onto hope and finish strong.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/05/06/international-bereaved-mothers-day-an-open-letter-to-my-fellow-sisters-in-loss/

Here Are Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent


It’s oh, so hard to know what to do when you are watching a heart break.

You want to reach out and make it better, make the pain go away, make a difference.  But it seems like nothing you can do will matter much in the face of such a huge loss.

While it’s true that you cannot “fix”  the brokenness in a bereaved parent’s life, there are some very important and practical ways you can support them in their grief.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/04/20/five-practical-ways-to-support-grieving-parent/

Start By Showing Up

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of Dominic running ahead to Heaven. I spent a portion of the day thinking about all the people who ministered to our family in those first days and weeks.

What a difference they made!

When our hearts were full of sorrow, they helped us bear the burden. When we couldn’t think straight and make important decisions they came alongside and guided us through. When the dark closed in around us, they held our hands and held a light.

If you want to know what to do when someone you love is thrust into a life they didn’t choose, show up.

You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be present.

This weekend another family joined the ranks of the bereaved. 

A beloved son left for heaven in a car accident.

The mama’s best friend messaged to ask what she could do to help this newly broken heart.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/04/05/what-can-i-do-show-up/

Offering Space Instead of “Fixing”

The world is upside down and inside out and hearts are hurting.

Suddenly everyone knows what it’s like to be stuck in an alternate reality, hoping, hoping, hoping that one morning they will wake up and find it untrue.

When the sun rises day after day after day and nothing changes, it’s oh, so easy to give up hope. And when unhelpful words are tossed at fragile hearts it adds to the burden.

What I say and how I say it (especially NOW) makes a difference. It can be the difference between going on or letting go.

❤ Melanie

I didn’t realize until I was the person who needed comforting how unhelpful and sometimes painful my own past comments were to my suffering friends and family.

There are many important and necessary conversations going on right now about how we talk to and talk about our fellow humans.  I’m thankful folks are learning that words are rarely (ever?) neutral.

They build up or tear down. 

And we are responsible for them.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/01/instead-of-fixing-offer-space-to-share/

Oh, To Be Understood! What a Blessing.

Today I’ll toss all the random bits and pieces I’ve assembled for this weekend’s retreat into my car and drive away.

I’m always a little nervous until I’m far enough down the road that turning back isn’t a realistic option.

Even though this is the third retreat in the same place with some of the same moms (plus some new ones) I always fret over whether or not the message God gave me is the one that will bless their hearts.

But I have to trust in this as in all things and keep moving.

One thing that is always, always, always a blessing-Every. Single. Time.-is the compassionate companionship of women who, like me, know what it is to bury a child.

I try to encourage every heart that might even think about joining us with this: you can be yourself.

No mask*No filter*No worrying about whether or not your tears will upset the person next to you*No wondering if your questions or queries or doubts will be considered a failure of faith*No need to hide the ugly truth that child loss is awful and time does NOT heal all wounds.

There’s nothing magical about this retreat or these moms.

It’s simply a shared experience, a shared commitment to transparency and a shared trust in the Word of God that makes our time together fruitful, strengthening and restorative.

So if you have an opportunity to join or create a small group in your neck of the woods, centered on the truth of who God is, founded on the principle of transparent sharing and committed to creating a safe space where masks are unnecessary-go for it!

You will never be sorry you did.

Hardly The Time For Being Taught

It seems to be the nature of humans to listen with an ear to respond rather than an ear to hear.

I’ve done it myself.

Jumped right in with all kinds of suggestions designed to “fix” someone else’s problem.

Or worse, heaped my own experience with something more or less (often less) similar onto an already overburdened heart.

I hate that tendency in myself and I’m working hard to try to change it.

Image result for listen to respond listen to understand

Those who feel compelled to just say SOMETHING often bombard grievers with platitudes, comparisons to their own grief or just empty, frivolous words that require we either stand there dumbfounded or find a gracious way to exit the conversation.

It’s especially painful for a broken heart when a well-meaning someone decides THIS is the moment for a theology lesson.

“God has something planned for you in this” or “God will use this for good”. (Romans 8:28-29)

“We don’t grieve as those without hope!” ( I Thessalonians 4:13)

“All our days are numbered.” (Psalm 139:16)

I get it-death is a heavy subject and the death of a child isn’t something anyone wants to talk about, contemplate or be forced to wrestle with. So it’s often easier to simply say something-anything-do your duty and walk away.

But it is hardly helpful.

Deep grief as a result of unbearable loss is not a teaching moment.

It’s an opportunity to listen well, think carefully about if or when you need to say anything and simply offer compassionate companionship to a broken heart.

Grieving felt hardly like the time for being taught, at least initially. Early grief was my time for pulling out of my past those truths that I had already learned — out of my ‘basement — so that I could begin to assemble them together into something even more meaningful to me than before. It was the time for understanding that even though I had always believed in heaven, it now looked to my perceptions to be more real than this world. It was the time when, even though I already believed in God’s control of the world, I now felt dependent upon him being sovereign over it for all my hopes. It was the time for realizing that even though I already believed that Christ conquered death, I now longed to see death die.

Lianna Davis, Made for a Different Land

How I Long To Just Be Me!

I first shared this post two years ago when I was approaching the four year milestone of Dominic’s leaving for Heaven.

By that time most folks who knew me when he died had relegated that part of my story to some ancient past that surely I was over by now. I’d met others who had no clue my heart skipped a beat on a regular basis because one of my children was buried.

And even the closest ones-the ones I thought would understand forever-were sometimes impatient with my ongoing refusal to leave Dominic behind and be “healed” of my grief.

What I long for more than anything as the sixth anniversary of his departure draws near is simply this: Let me be me, whatever that looks like.

Don’t try to fit my journey into your mold.

Melanie ❤

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/01/26/can-i-just-be-me/

Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore-The Power of Presence

I’m not entirely sure this quote is an accurate one from the original Winnie the Pooh books but it is absolutely an accurate reflection of the characters.

And it’s a beautiful reminder to all of us how powerful presence can be.

May we all have Poohs and Piglets that come sit with us when we are Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around.

“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.

‘Hello Eeyore,’ said Pooh.

‘Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,’ said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.

‘We just thought we’d check in on you,’ said Piglet, ‘because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.’

“Eeyore was silent for a moment. ‘Am I okay?’ he asked, eventually. ‘Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.’

“Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.

Eeyore looked at them in surprise. ‘What are you doing?’

‘We’re sitting here with you,’ said Pooh, ‘because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.’

‘Oh,’ said Eeyore. ‘Oh.’

“And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.

“Because Pooh and Piglet were There.”

(A.A. Milne, E.H. Shepard)

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Broken Legs, Broken Hearts, Broken Lives

Sometimes I’m envious of folks hobbling along in those plastic boots designed to support an injured leg or ankle and aid healing.

Not because of the injuryI’m thankful I’ve never broken a bone-but because it’s an outward warning to anyone who might otherwise be impatient or insensitive that they just can’t go any faster.

I think there ought to be some kind of t-shirt, pin or banner that gives the same kind of warning for those of us walking around with broken hearts and broken lives.

But there isn’t.

Except for the first shell-shocked days immediately following Dominic’s death, I look pretty much the same as I always have.

Most of us do.

If you lined up a hundred parents and scattered ten in the group who had suffered child loss, very few people would be able to single them out.

The giant heart wound we bear is barely noticeable to the uninitiated.

Yet even years later, we need extra support, extra care, extra grace to help us continue to heal.

There’s no plastic boot to fit around a broken heart. But there are things friends and family can do to create safe spaces that protect it.

  • Remember my heart is tender and easily bruised.
  • Speak about my child in Heaven. When I hear his name it is music to my ears.
  • Allow me to graciously bow out of activities or gatherings that are noisy, busy or filled with people I don’t know.
  • Don’t change the subject when I become emotional because you are uncomfortable-acknowledge my pain as a perfectly acceptable response to an unfathomable loss or just hug me.
  • Help me carry the light and life of my missing child by sharing memories, photographs or mementos. It’s a great gift to know that my child is spoken about, remembered and loved by others.
  • Recognize that while I am stronger, the absolute weight of my burden isn’t lighter. On some days it’s heavier than others so don’t be surprised by tears that seem out of place or out of time.
  • Remember important dates like my child’s birthday or memorial service day or even when he or she would have graduated high school or college if denied that opportunity. My heart mark all those silent grief anniversaries even when no one else recognizes them. It can be awfully lonely. Compassionate companionship expressed in a note, text or call helps so very much.
  • Please don’t give up on me! There may be seasons when i isolate in an effort to protect my heart. I know it’s hard to continue to reach out to someone who won’t reach back, but sometimes I just don’t have the strength to do it even when the distance is short. Try again in a little while.

If you know someone whose child has run ahead to Heaven, don’t ignore the wound.

Reach out.

Don’t insist that they walk as fast or as unencumbered as you might.

Be willing to slow down and walk with them awhile.