Anxiety After Child Loss Is Real

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I would not have described myself as “anxious”.

Of course I had my moments, but anxiety ,panic or worry was not really something I experienced on a regular basis.  

That’s changed.  

Now I sometimes have to close my eyes when a family member is driving in traffic.   I clench my fists when in a crowd.  I can’t concentrate if too many people are talking at once and I cannot navigate unfamiliar roads while the radio is blaring.

Dominic’s sudden death destroyed my sense of safety and control. 

If my son could be healthy and alive one moment and dead the next, anything could happen.  

It doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not, the anxiety I experience is very real and often debilitating.

What makes it worse is when friends and family minimize my feelings, mock my fear or dismiss it as foolish and stupid.

What helps is when friends and family choose to acknowledge my feelings and commit to compassionate companionship while I work through them.

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Man Proposes, God Disposes

I learned this lesson years ago.  

As a matter of fact, I had a cute little picture on my fridge of a sinking ship that said. “Another day, another disaster”.  

That was before I had actually lived through disaster. 

Now it’s engraved on my heart as well as my mind.  

I think I’m in control.  I think my “to do” list determines a day.  I think I can set the alarm and set my agenda.

But I’m not.  It doesn’t and I can’t.  

loved by the one in control

Last week I was rocking and rolling, moving and grooving.  Making molehills out of mountains and working my list.

Today I’m sitting in my chair, heating pad on my back, barely able to move. 

My body hates me.  

This is the hardest part of chronic illness and lifelong grief-I want to be able to plan ahead, make progress, achieve momentum and finish tasks.  But I just can’t.  I can’t be sure when I go to bed that the next day is going to be anything like what I hope it will be.

If you think weather forecasts are unpredictable, they are solid compared to my life.

And while I absolutely, positively accede God is in control, is sovereign, does not answer to me or anyone else and can order my life and the world as He sees fit; I would love, love, love to have two days in a row that followed a pattern of positive progress.

dear stress lets break up

So I’m just a *little* bit frustrated.  

I know I need to adjust my expectations.  

I’m trying. 

Really.  

 

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Things I CAN Control

When I opened the door to that deputy and received the news, my world suddenly spiraled out of control.

Over the next days, weeks months I would have to do things I never imagined I might do and certainly things I did not WANT to do.  So, so much I couldn’t change.  So many ways I lost the right to choose.  

And I hated it!  

Wasn’t long and that sense of helplessness permeated every corner.  Even when it didn’t belong there.  I began to feel as if I couldn’t control anything.

So in many ways I stopped trying.  

But then one day I woke from the fog of despair.  I remembered that there WERE some areas of life where I could still make choices.

And it was empowering!  

So here’s a list that I pray gives hope to other hurting hearts.

THINGS I CAN CONTROL

  • My attitude (how I react to what others say or do)
  • My thoughts (with great difficulty sometimes)
  • My perspective (when I’m careful to fill my mind, heart and eyes with truth)
  • If I’m honest (about ALL things-including my feelings)
  • Who my friends are (from my end-can’t stop people from walking away)
  • What books I read (I am choosy and only read things that feed my soul)
  • What media I consume (stay away from toxic people, topics and television)
  • What type of food I eat (healthy, appropriate amounts)
  • How often I exercise (a walk, gentle yoga, online video routines)
  • How many risks I take (not just physical ones, but also emotional and relational risks)
  • How kind I am to others (being wounded does not give me the right to wound)
  • How I interpret situations (do I assume the best or the worst?)
  • How kind I am to myself (extending the same grace to ME that I extend to others)
  • How often and to whom I say, “I love you”
  • How often and to whom I say, “Thank you”
  • How I express my feelings (I can learn healthy ways to speak my truth)
  • Whether or not I ask for help (no one gets “points” for playing the martyr)
  • How many times I smile in a day (smiling, by itself, lifts mood-even a “fake” smile)
  • The amount of effort I choose to put forth
  • How I spend my money
  • How much time I spend worrying (or praying or complaining)
  • How often I spend moments blaming myself or others for past actions
  • Whether or not I judge other people
  • Whether or not I try again when I suffer a setback or disappointment (success is getting up one more time than I fall down)
  • How much I appreciate the people and things in my life

Exercising control over the parts of my life where I CAN exercise control helps me deal more effectively with the many parts over which I have no control

It does not undo the sorrow and pain of child loss, but it does work to balance the emotional scales. 

It makes it easier to face a new day.  

It helps me hold onto hope.  

And that is a good thing.  ❤

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When You Feel Like You Can’t Breathe: Setting Living Children Free

A couple weeks ago I walked away from my son’s house, after kissing him goodbye and prayed under my breath that it won’t be the last time I see his bright eyes and lively smile.

Because when you’ve mistakenly waved a cheery “see you later” to your child, ignorant that it’s the LAST time, your heart never takes these moments for granted again.

I drink in the laugh lines around his 30 year old eyes, wondering if mine had laugh lines at that young age as well.

james 30 birthday

I make a mental record of the timbre of his voice, the set of his shoulders, the way he laughs.

I cannot get enough of him- like a parched woman in the desert-trying to quench a thirst that simply cannot be filled.

He’s off to an adventure and I refuse to squelch his enthusiasm.

james at pikes peak

I’ve buried one son and part of my heart begs me to set up barricades and safe zones around the rest of my children.

But the truth is, I can’t.  There is no way to guarantee safety in this world.  And if I try to circumscribe their lives, all I will gain is a false sense of control and a strained relationship.

So I open my hand.  

Open my heart.  

Take a deep breath.

Pray for grace and mercy.

And let go.  

james and me yellow shirt 2015

Bad Mama?

I have a heart for ALL mamas-the ones who are just starting out all the way up to the ones who launched their fledglings and have an empty nest.

I especially have a heart for mamas who have had to say “good-bye” to one or more of their precious children-sending them on ahead to heaven.

I’ve never met one that didn’t wonder if she did enough, said enough, loved enough-WAS enough.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

On the one hand, it allows instant communication and easy sharing of special events among friends and family in ways we could only dream about when my kids were tiny. On the other hand, the perfect pictures and carefully curated lives posted for the world to see place great pressure on those of us who look around at our messy houses and messy lives.

Add to that the articles and memes passed around and you have a perfect combination to crush a mama’s spirit.

Are my children being kept safe?  Are they being kept too safe?  Are they in the right school, the right sport, the right music program? Should I feed them this or that?  Am I doing enough?

Am I enough?

Am I a bad mama?

Can I just tell you something struggling mama?  Can I give you a lifeboat in the ocean of doubt?

God chose you before the foundation of the world to be your child’s mama.  He knows everything about you-past. present and future-and He chose YOU to help shape this little life into the person He created your child to be.

Yes, you make mistakes.  

Yes, you are flawed.  

Yes, you will do some things well and some things not so well.

But that is no surprise to God.

Look closely at the families in the Old Testament-you don’t have to get past Genesis to find dysfunction all over the place.  But God isn’t limited by our limitations.  His plan isn’t thwarted by our inability to follow directions.  His purposes do not depend on perfect parenting.  

Hallelujah! AMEN!

So buckle up and hold on-do the best you can to guide your family down the road God lays before you.  You will make some bad decisions and need to do a few U-turns.

That’s OK.  Lean into the One Who made you and made your children.

God has it under control.  

no way to be a perfect mother child in arms

Out of [My] Control

I really think I’m in control.  I choose, I do, I make it happen.

Hogwash!

I do make the coffee, sure, but I can’t make breath fill my lungs.  I sit in my chair and watch the sun rise, but if it didn’t show up one day there wouldn’t be a single thing I could do about it.

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Even this mama who had that awful, awful knock on the door that should have settled this question forever is lulled back into embracing the myth that I am in control.

For some odd reason that brings me comfort.

Odd because I fully realize how absolutely terrible it would be if I WAS in control of everything.  I can’t find my glasses on top of my head-how in the world would I keep the earth spinning?

If it was up to me, things would be a mess.

Thankfully it is NOT up to me.  I am NOT in control.

But I know the One Who is.

God-is-our-refuge-and-strength-an-ever-present-help-in-trouble.-Psalm-46-1So many days I live like if I hold on tight enough, I won’t lose anything else.  But that’s just not true-it’s still all up for grabs-I don’t have the strength or power to stop loss.

When I let go of my futile attempt to be in control, to maintain the illusion of control and to feed my need for control, I can receive the peace God is offering me through Jesus Christ.

Closed hands can’t receive anything.

If I am going to live at all,

I  have got to live with open hands,

not clinched fists.

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Monday Musings

It’s my habit to watch the sun rise.

Even on Monday mornings.

Even when I might rather stay in bed.  

Because every time the sky lightens from black night to bright day I’m reminded of two things:  

loved by the one in control

 

 

I am not in control.  

But God IS.

I can’t stop the world turning and I can’t make the sun rise.  

 

But I don’t have to-I am not responsible for the big picture.  I am not in charge of making all the pieces fit just-so.

My duty is to be the piece I was made to be.  

To go where God sends me.  

To do what God has for me to do.

 And to leave the rest in His hands.  

There are times I want to be in control, but it doesn’t last long.  I quickly realize that I can barely keep myself in line, much less anyone else.

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And when I let go, I am free.  

I am free to be the me God has made me to be.

I free those around me to be the persons God has made them to be.  

And that’s worth waking up to.