Repost: A Fine Line

“Can you?”  ” Would you?” “We need you to… Help!”

You’d be surprised how soon people start expecting a bereaved parent to jump right back into the responsibilities and activities they shouldered or enjoyed before burying a child.

I know the rest of the world didn’t stop when mine did, but I was truly amazed that some people in my circle seemed unaware mine had stopped at all.

As I’ve written before here the funeral is not the end of grief’s journey, it’s quite near the beginning.  It took a year for me to just convince my heart Dominic wasn’t coming back.  It took longer to begin to understand how very different I am now and to embrace those changes.

I simply cannot do some things I once did.

Read the rest here:  A Fine Line

Child Loss is Not a Single Event

Child loss is not a single event. 

Of course the moment when the last breath leaves a body is noted and duly recorded because the law requires such.  I can pull out Dominic’s death certificate (what an ugly thing to have to say about my child!) and it reads:  Time of Death:  1:10 a.m. April 12, 2014.  

But I didn’t know about it until 4: 15 that morning when the deputy rang the bell.  

So for me, his death came then.  

For family members away from home it happened when I called them.

Others found out later that day or the next.

Yet hearing the words and swallowing them down deep where my heart could comprehend them were two different things.  I think it wasn’t until I saw his body that it truly dawned on me he was not coming back.  This was not a dream or a mistake or happening to someone else.  It was very, very real.

That was just the beginning.  

I continue to experience loss every time there is a moment when Dominic SHOULD be here but he isn’t.  Every time one of his peers gets married, has a child, makes a career move, celebrates a promotion-I think, “Dominic would be doing this if he were still here.”

When our family gathers for photos and the gap where he should be standing is closed in by another body, squeezing his presence from the record of our lives, my heart sinks.  I smile-that’s what you are supposed to do for pictures-but my mind is working double-time to keep the tears in check.

My living children touch base with me nearly every day-a habit they had before Dom left us but one reinforced by the knowledge that no one wants to regret the phone call or text they didn’t make.  But just like the photographs, his absence is highlighted by their intentional presence. 

When extended family ask for updates on my kids, I have to mindfully skip Dominic and land on Julian.  They don’t notice the tiny pause but my heart marks the place and mourns the lack of news for my third born.

I know for other people Dominic’s death was a date on the calendar.

This realization was very painful at first because my wound is so deep and my sorrow so great.  I’ve made peace with that now.  I understand why folks can move on and forget.  The loss happened-past tense-and their lives are full of new people, new activities, new connections and commitments.  That’s how it should be.

But for me, the loss is an everyday event.  It continues to happen.  It will continue to happen.  

I’m not “dwelling” on my son’s death anymore than I am “dwelling” on my living children’s lives.

They are my children.  

Loved and remembered-every one.

ALWAYS.

mother and child painting

 

 

 

 

Repost: Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

How do you speak of the unspeakable?

How do you constrain the earth-shattering reality of child loss to a few syllables?

How do you SAY what must be said?

I remember the first hour after the news.  I had to make phone calls.  Had to confirm my son’s identity and let family know what had happened.

I used the only words I had at the time, “I have to tell you something terrible. Dominic is dead.”

Read the rest here:  Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?

This came up in a bereaved parents’ support group and I thought it was a great question:  When you meet someone for the first time, do you tell them about your missing child?”

It’s one of those practical life skills bereaved parents have to figure out.

I remember when it dawned on me a few months after Dominic left us that I would meet people who wouldn’t know he was part of my story unless I told them.

It was a devastating thought.  

I had no idea how I would face the first time it happened.  

Since then I’ve developed a script and guidelines, but it can still be awkward.

If the person I meet is going to be part of a ongoing relationship or partnership then I tell them fairly soon about Dominic.    Depending on who they are, how I sense they may be able to deal with it and if I feel comfortable enough I may give more or fewer details.  The main thing I try to communicate in sharing is that I will behave in ways they might not understand without the context of child loss.  I’m not looking for sympathy or special consideration but “bereaved parent” is as much a part of my identity as “married”.

If I am attending a social function and it’s a casual “meet and greet” then I won’t mention Dominic in terms of his death unless the conversation lends itself to that revelation.  No need to burden acquaintances with my story or run the risk of changing a celebratory mood to a sad one.

I always say I have four children-because I do.  But I don’t have to give details.  If the person insists I tell them more about my children it’s fairly easy to steer the conversation toward a detail or two about my living children without the person noticing it doesn’t add up to four.

I make sure to tell health professionals about Dominic because the stress, physical, emotional and mental changes grief has wrought are integral to my treatment plan.  I’ve had a couple of new doctors since Dom ran ahead and received different responses from them when I shared.  One seemed to understand the impact of child loss while another just continued typing without any acknowledgement of what I revealed.

My son’s death is not a dirty secret.

I don’t have to hide it to protect others.

But it is also not a “poor me” card that I fling on the table of relationships trying to manipulate others into showing me special consideration.

I want people to know Dominic.

dominic at gray haven

So I share.

I don’t want people to only think of him in terms of his death.

So sometimes I don’t.

It depends.

 

 

No More “Quiet Mouse” For Me

Believe me, I’ve imposed my share of“Quiet Mouse” on my own kids through the years.

Raising four close-in-age siblings, sometimes that was the only way to make the last five miles home without losing my mind.

But the premise of the game is really this:  I’m bigger, I’m stronger, I’m in control and you are not-so shut up.

Even if you have something important to say.  

Even if you feel like you will burst wide open if you have to hold it in.

No excuses allowed.  Just. Be. Quiet.

quiet_as_a_mouse (2)
Peace at all costs.

I’ve been a quiet mouse for most of my life when it comes to standing up for myself.

Now, advocating for my children or for someone unable to fend for themselves-that’s another story.  But somewhere in my formative years I embraced the message that the most important thing in the world was to keep the peace.

Even if you have something important to say.

Even if you feel like you will burst wide open if you have to hold it in.

No excuses allowed.  Just. Be. Quiet.

But all this emotional turmoil I’ve been feeling since Dominic left us has uncovered layer after layer of brokenness, pain and untold stories.  His death lifted the lid on the vault that had been sealed for decades.

Emotions are flying out like genies.

genie-lamp

And I’ve come to understand that peace at all costs-when the costs are borne by a single individual in a relationship-is not peace. 

It’s slavery.

I also realize that not every friendship and family tie is a mission field on which I must spill my life’s blood to prove my love for Jesus.

Sometimes laying down simply enables bad behavior and encourages bullying and disrespect.  

angry-man-pointing-finger

I want to walk in love.  Always. 

But love does not mean I must allow other people to walk all over me.  

I don’t plan to. 

No more “Quiet Mouse” for me.

not-required-set-yourself-on-fire-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures

How Can I Survive Grief Anniversaries?

There are more than you might think.  

Most folks would count the date of death and maybe the date of burial or memorial service.

But a mama’s heart counts it ALL.

I count the day he left, the day I was first able to view his body, the days of visitation, the day of the funeral and burial.

  • I count the day we cleaned out his apartment.
  • I count the day I notified credit card companies he would no longer require their services.
  • I count the day I received the death certificate.
  • I count the day I got his posthumous diploma.

And every year these dates roll around again to remind my heart of the pain I felt then and to pierce it afresh. 

grief as timeless as love

So how does a heart survive all these grief anniversaries?  How can I navigate the minefield of emotions and triggers that only I can see?

I believe the first step is to embrace them and not try to deny them. 

 

Earl-Grollman-grief-is-not-a-disorder

I remember the horror I felt when I realized I had survived 365 days since the deputy came to my door when I was certain I wouldn’t make it through the first 24 hours.  It did not feel like victory, it felt like betrayal.  

How in the world could my broken heart keep beating if I truly loved my son?

I cannot, by force of will, fend off the feelings that are sure to invade my heart when it recognizes that another year has passed.  

The most important thing is to have a plan, I think. That way it doesn’t slam you against the wall unawares. The feelings are impossible to outrun, but having a plan means you are anticipating them and in a kind of “fighting stance”.

The plan might be to go away or to go to the cemetery or other spot that evokes strong connection to your child.  It might be an elaborate gathering that includes friends or family or just lighting a candle next to a photograph.  Your heart may insist you stay in bed all day, covers over your head and wait out the ticking moments.

I think each family has to approach the day however makes sense to them. There is certainly no “right” way or “easy” way to do it.

no right way to grieve

I am sorry you have to do it at all.

Here’s the truth:  even THAT day will only last 24 hours. Just like the awful day when your child left you.

However you manage to survive is fine. 

mother and child paintingYou are not abandoning your missing child if you don’t make a big public display.  You are not forgetting him or her if you let go of some of these grief anniversaries over time-you are learning to carry the load.  You are not a bad parent if you choose a getaway to distract your heart from the pain.

You are coping the best you can-choosing to carry on.  

And that makes you awesome and brave.  

courage is always an act of love

 

Repost: On The Edge

I wish that I could mark my heart’s healing like I can mark my body’s healing after surgery-wound closes, scar remains, function returns, and forget about it.

But I can’t.

This journey is like walking those narrow ledges on the side of a mountain-doable, but requiring careful attention lest I fall off.

So far, so good.

But I hate days when my attention is drawn back to the threat of falling instead of the journey itself.

Almost three years [now four] and here I am-

still on the edge.

On the edge of an anxiety attack.

On the edge of the cliff of deep sorrow and darkness that threatens to swallow every thing bright in my life.

Read the rest here:  On The Edge