Bereaved Parents Month Post: There Is NO Shame In Getting Help

Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.  

And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.

Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons…Shake Off the Shame

 

When Self-Control Is In Short Supply

Have you ever tried to squeeze into too-small jeans, managed to get them over your hips, sucked in and zipped up only to realize that all that extra “you” is now spilling out over the top of the waistband?  

toddler squeezing into jeans

Sometimes that’s how life after loss feels.  

Too much emotion, too much baggage, too much EVERYTHING that has to fit inside a very narrow set of other people’s expectations and tolerance for self-expression.

I find that I CAN squeeze my words and actions into that skinny space-for awhile.  

But then sure as anything, the real me pops out the top and there I am-exposed to the world- warts and all.  

I’ve discovered that self-control is not a limitless commodity.  

Now before my Bible believing friends remind me that it is part of the fruit of the Spirit, I want to say this:  it sure is!  And because the Spirit of Jesus lives inside me I can promise you I am more self-controlled than I would otherwise be.

BUT…

When every single word, action, thought and feeling has to be reined in every waking moment, there is not enough self-control this side of heaven to do THAT!

exhausted-over-trying-to-be-stronger-than-i-feel

So I find that some days I just need to stay away from people.  Because if I don’t, I’m going to be ugly.

And other days I can do people but I can’t control my eating.

Still other days I can do people and count calories but memories leak out of my eyes and I blubber my way through until darkness brings sleep and relief.

There is just so much inside me now. 

So much that really can’t be laid bare or it would scare everyone else half to death.  

So I keep trying to squeeze myself into the constraints that make me fit for company.  

But beware- I might pop out any minute.  ❤

 

pain behind every tear

Bereaved Parents Month Post: What The Bereaved Need From Friends and Family During the Holidays

I’m taking the opportunity during July to re-post some articles that have been popular and helpful in the past.  

One of the most trying seasons for grieving parents extends from November through the first week of January. 

The holidays are hard for so many people, but especially for parents trying to navigate these family  focused holidays without the presence of a child that they love.

I know it’s still several months away, but once school starts it seems the weeks roll past faster and faster until suddenly there’s no time to plan and the day is upon us.

I highly recommend speaking to family and friends NOW.  Make plans NOW.  When folks have plenty of time to make adjustments, it is much more likely they will accommodate a grieving heart’s need for change.  

I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

So I’m trying to make it easier on all of us.  

 

Read the rest here:  Holidays and Grief: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Stuck or Unstuck in Grief-Who Gets To Decide?

“Stuck in grief”-it’s a theme of blog posts, psychology papers and magazine articles.  The author usually lists either a variety of “symptoms” or relates anecdotes of people who do truly odd things after a loved one dies.  “Complicated grief” is a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis.

But who gets to decide?  

What objective criteria can be applied to every situation, every person, every death to determine whether someone is truly stuck in grief?  How do you take into account the circumstances of a death, the relationship of the bereaved to the deceased, trauma surrounding the event or any of a dozen other things that influence how long and how deeply one grieves a loss?

Read the rest here:  Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?

Little Ways Grief Changes Things

I accidentally dialed my son’s number the other night.  

All he heard amidst the noise of the baseball game he was attending was, “I’m sorry” which immediately put him in “oh no!” mode.  

A couple words later and he understood that what I was sorry for was interrupting him, not another tragedy that required a heart-wrenching, life-changing long distance phone call.

But that’s how it is now.  

The sheriff’s deputy came to my door and I had to make the awful phone calls.  

But so many of Dominic’s friends first suspected something was wrong when they couldn’t reach him by phone on that Saturday after he left us.  

I cannot abide the suspense of not being able to know for sure one of my precious family members is OK.

We carry our phones everywhere, silent to other calls when necessary but never to our “favorites” because we will not be unreachable.

If one of us calls another at an unexpected time, we begin with, “Nothing’s wrong!”

We have to or else hearts race, temples pound and it will be hours before we can come down from a state of heightened anxiety and near panic.  

We touch base every morning and most evenings. 

Like hands stretched out in the dark to comfort one another.

Just be be sure.  

Repost: Fault Lines: Bereaved Parents and Social Anxiety

Even at four years into this journey, I can surprise myself when, for no apparent reason, grief explodes from someplace deep within me.  

I’m keyed into triggers-sights, smells, places and people that remind me of Dominic.

But sometimes I can’t figure out what causes the tears to fall or my stomach to be tied in knots.  

It seems to happen most often when I’m in social situations.  I feel surrounded, trapped and anxiety mounts. 

I’m no geologist, but from what I understand, earthquakes are nearly always “about to happen”.  Fault lines guarantee it.  Pressure is building underneath the surface of the earth and when it reaches a level that can no longer be contained, it spews.

Can I just let you in on a secret?

Bereaved parents are full of fault lines.

Many of us are nearly ready to blow almost every single minute, yet hold it in and hold it together.  If you could put a meter to our temple and measure how close we are to a come apart, you would be amazed that it happens so rarely!

Read the rest here:  Fault Lines: Bereaved Parents and Social Anxiety

Taking Care: Ten Ways to Survive Hard Grief Days

My hardest grief season begins in November and runs to the end of May.  Thanksgiving through Dominic’s birthday on (or near) Memorial Day are days full of triggers, memories and stark reminders that one of us is missing.

If I could fall asleep November first and wake up in June I’d do it.

But I can’t so I have to employ all the tricks I’ve learned in the nearly four years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven to survive those particularly challenging months.

Here are ten ways I survive hard grief days:

1.  I make lists of things to do.  I’ve found that if I don’t make a plan for each day it’s far too easy to just lie around and feel sorry for myself.  I use index cards but whatever works for you is fine.  I list household chores, phone calls to make or notes to write, exercise, errands or whatever.  And then I consider them non-negotiable.  These are my marching orders and after my morning coffee I start down the list.

2.  I do something creative.  I crochet or arrange flowers or sew a little.  Taking just five or ten minutes to make something beautiful changes my perspective.  I have a can opener that takes the lids off without sharp edges and I make magnets for friends and family members or just to have on hand for a little gift.

3.  I take a walk.  I am thankful I can go outside on my own property and enjoy fresh air and country sunshine.  I know not everyone has that option.  But even a walk inside your office building or up and down a couple flights of stairs gets the blood pumping and releases endorphins.  If I can’t walk, then I at least change my physical position-from sitting to standing, from standing to moving.  Body position impacts my emotions.

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

4.  I find something to make me smile.  There is scientific evidence to back our common sense experience that smiling lightens our mood and helps our hearts.  I read jokes or check out some of my Facebook friends that tend to post funny memes or stories.  Sometimes I just “practice” a smile and even that can send feel-good hormones surging through my system.

paco face (2)
“Don’t try to win over the haters, you are not a jackass whisperer.” ~ Brene Brow

5.  I call or text a friend.  Sometimes I just need to know that someone else is aware of my hard day. No one can undo my grief but when I feel there is a witness, it lightens the load somehow.friends pick us up6.  I stay off Facebook and other social media platforms.  I love that I’m able to keep in touch with friends and family via social media.  But it can be full of drama and negativity as well.  So if I’m having a tough day, I remove the potential for it to be made harder due to random comments, posts or photographs.

Styled Stock Photography7.   I pet my cats.  I have always been an animal lover.  But I truly do not know how I could have survived these past four years without the companionship of my cats and other furry friends.  Study after study confirms that being in the presence of pets lowers blood pressure and calms nerves. 

hand-coffee-roosevelt

8.  I go with my feelings.  There is no rule book that says I have to be tough and hide my tears.  If I’m having a hard grief day it is perfectly acceptable to let the sorrow wash over me and let the tears fall.  Sometimes fighting the feelings only prolongs my pain.  Often a good cry is cleansing and I am much better afterwards.

sometimes you can hurt yourself more by keeping feelings hidden9.  I journal.  There are things I need to “say” that are better kept between me, God and my notebook.  I have kept a journal for nearly three decades.  Many times just writing out my feelings, my fears, my thoughts and my frustrations is enough to take the sting out.  There’s something about not keeping it all bottled up inside-even if no other soul reads it-that acts as a catharsis.

10.  I copy encouraging quotes or Scripture and hang them prominent places throughout the house.  I have notes tacked to my bed post, on my bathroom mirror, taped to the cabinet next to my stove, stuck on the fridge, slid into my wallet in my purse-absolutely everywhere.  Because when my heart is hanging on by a thread, the smallest bit of encouragement is often enough to help me hold onto hope.

None of these things undo my grief in the most basic sense.

Dominic is gone, gone, gone and I will not see him or hear his voice until we are reunited in the Presence of our Savior.

But they DO help.

One of the most devastating aspects of child loss is the overwhelming sense that NOTHING makes sense anymore and that I have absolutely NO control.

Choosing helpful habits and actions gives me a way to regain dominion over a tiny corner of my world.

And that little bit of action strengthens my spirit and helps my heart hold on.

remember to take care of yourself you cant pour from an empty cup