Repost: Can’t Fake it Forever

There’s a common bit of advice in grief circles:  Fake it until you make it.

It’s not bad as far as it goes and can be pretty useful-especially just after the initial loss and activity surrounding it.

Like when I met the acquaintance in the grocery store a month after burying Dominic and she grabbed me with a giant smile on her face, “How AREyou?!!! It’s SO good to see you out!!!”

I just smiled and stood there as if I appreciated her interest, a deer caught in headlights, silently praying she’d live up to her talkative past and soon move on to another target.

Faked it.

Boom!

BUT there comes a time when faking it is not helpful.  In fact, it’s downright dangerous.

Read the rest here:  Can’t Fake It Forever

Step Back, Don’t React

It is possible not to react to every single thing someone says or does.  It is possible to scroll past social media posts that get under your skin and not look back.  It is possible to ignore a snarky comment or an unhelpful piece of advice from someone who ACTS like they know what you’re going through but really has. no. idea.  

Now if you are new on this journey, you will read these first few lines and think, “Is this woman crazy????” 

I felt EXACTLY the same way in the first months and even through the first couple years in this Valley.

But, I will tell you this:  the sooner you can embrace the habit of practicing the pause, the sooner you will begin to feel like you have some control in your world again.

And isn’t that one of the things we crave after the tsunami of child loss sweeps over our lives-order, control, a sense of purpose and direction?

It’s hard. 

Really, really hard not to react against every arrow shot into my wounded heart.  Even when I know it was an accident and the offense is collateral damage, it still hurts.

But I’ve found that if I just take a single, deep breath I can put a bit of distance between the oomph of the impact and my reaction.  And there is actually power in choosing to ignore offense.

Because then I am in control, not the person lobbing the arrows. 

just-breathe

So what do I do in the split-second it takes to draw in that preparatory breath?  I consider the source.  I think (quickly) about my ongoing relationship with this person, what’s happening in THEIR life and why they might have said or done what they said or did.

Is it ignorance?  Is it sloppy choice of words?  Is it due to stress in his life?  Is she just worn out and not thinking?

And I decide:  is reacting to THIS particular exchange worth damaging the relationship?

Is it worth the negative emotional energy that I will have to expend?

Is it something I can overlook and move past?

Most of the time the answer is, “yes”.  I CAN let it go.  It’s not that big of a deal.  It is not a fair representation of our relationship and it is certainly not worth ruining a friendship.

I’m not just doing THEM  a favor.  I’m doing ME a favor.

choose to respond

I’m not “letting them off the hook”.  I may actually revisit the issue later on, when emotions aren’t running high. 

But I have learned that I only have so much emotional energy to expend in this Valley.  So much of it is already absorbed in carrying the missing and sorrow and reining in my own outrageous feelings that I just don’t need to waste the rest on trivial things.

So I don’t (most of the time). 

Practicing the pause helps me do that. 

It gives me control. 

There is far too little of that this side of child loss.

So I will take what I can get. 

boundaries control react

Grief is a Family Affair

One of the things I absolutely LOVED about having four kids was the way they pinged off one another.  There were evenings when the comments were flying so fast I could barely keep up.  Sly looks, secret texts, funny faces and friendly punches made up most of our times together.

That’s how families are-each person is just a little “more” when surrounded by folks that love and understand him or her.  

When Dominic left us, we didn’t only lose HIS companionship, we also lost the part of each of us that was reflected back from him.

dom looking up with camera

And just as each one of us had a unique relationship with him in life,we have a unique relationship with him in death.

Sure he was brother to all his siblings.

But he was a younger brother to the older two and older brother to our youngest.  He was a middle son but a third child.  He was close to his sister who shared his love of musical instruments, bonded with his younger brother over cars and butted heads with his older brother when he felt like he was bossed around.

boys

Dominic and I were both political junkies and loved to debate policy and current events.  We listened to NPR and compared notes.

He enjoyed talking sports with his dad and trying out different guitars and sound effects pedals as they jammed to the radio.

So how we remember him, what we miss, what we long for and what we hold onto is a reflection of the different way we interacted with him.

How much and how loud we express our grief is also a combination of our relationship with him and our innate personalities. 

Sometimes that is helpful-like when one of us can sit and listen to another because we are not so emotional at the moment.  Sometimes it causes frustration or even conflict when one or more of us feels that we need to DO a certain thing to remember Dominic and one or more of us is uncomfortable doing that very thing.

We’ve got to respect our differences, embrace them, make room for them even in this Valley.  

We ALL miss him.  That’s something we can agree on. 

We ALL would give anything to have him back.

And we are ALL in this together, even in our unique expressions of the same pain.

Grief is a family affair as much as life is. 

We learn, we grow, we adapt.  

And together we survive.  

beach-and-family-better

One Little Word 2018

I used to spend every New Year’s morning with my Bible, my thoughts and my Lord.

I wrote each family member’s name in my journal and waited for the Holy Spirit to give me a verse to pray for them for the next year.

I would end with my own name and ask God what good works He had planned for me.

When I look back over these journals I realize that what I had essentially been doing for decades was asking God for “One Little Word” to focus my energy, resources and attention each year.

I honestly believe that every human on the face of the Earth is here for a reason. They are not a random collection of cells and neurons. They are created in the image of an Almighty God to impact the people around them in specific ways.

So I challenge you to ask the God of the universe to give you One Little Word for 2018. And then hold every potential commitment up to that light to determine if it is really part of God’s plan for you this year.

For some of my hurting parent friends the word may be “healing” or “rest” and that’s just fine. For others it may be “endurance” or “perseverance” and that’s fine too.

It’s between you and God.

May you hear clearly and receive with open hands.

Did She REALLY Mean It That Way?

Most of us are used to them by now-those photo filters that can turn an awful picture into a dreamy masterpiece.

The same filters can take a perfectly lovely photo and distort it into something comical or worse.

Our minds are like that.

When we see things, hear things, experience things-we are filtering them through our own experience, emotional state, physical condition and biases.

As a bereaved parent, I’ve got to be very, very careful I don’t misinterpret other people’s words, actions and intentions.

It’s easy sometimes for me to feel like someone is purposefully seeking to harm me when all they are doing is acting in ignorance.

I can be quick to assume that a person’s absence is avoidance instead of simply a function of an overbusy schedule.

I can take words and twist them to mean something very different than what was intended because my heart hears everything through the filter of loss.

If I don’t constantly remind myself, I forget that if someone else hasn’t experienced child loss they really, truly HAVE NO CLUE what it feels like to walk in my shoes.

Because if I don’t, I spend most of my time hurt, licking my wounds in the corner and avoiding the very people that can help my heart heal.

Do other people have a responsibility to try to understand?

Of course they do!

But I also have a responsibility to try to see their hearts and not only their actions.

I need to check my own filters to make sure I’m not placing blame where there is none.

I should give them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.

never assume

 

 

 

No Way to “Fix” Child Loss

This was shared in a bereaved parents’ group to which I belong and I really like it.

It’s a great reminder to those of us traveling this road that it is a lifelong journey.

It’s also a good explanation of why there is a gap between our experience and those who have never experienced child loss.

They want to apply the mechanical or medical model to us but it just doesn’t work.

We can’t be “fixed”, we can only learn to make adjustments that incorporate our new reality.  

When your car breaks down, you go to a mechanic. He puts in new parts, makes adjustments, and your car runs fine again. When your body is ill, the doctor examines you and makes a diagnosis. Medication or surgery can cure the problem. With treatment, you’re healthy again.

The mechanical and medical models do not help when it comes to grief. Part of you died when your child died. That part of you is irreplaceable. There are no interchangeable parts to get you through grief. You have to adjust. There is no simple process.

Think of your journey through grief as a kind of rehabilitation. When a woman loses her eyesight, there are ways of coping. She can learn to read braille, get a seeing eye dog, and learn to navigate with a cane. If a man loses his hearing, he can get hearing aids and learn to communicate through sign language and lipreading.

Living through the aftershock of death can teach you new ways to adapt and survive. Life is never the same after a loved one dies. You will need to learn new ways of thinking, acting, and feeling.

Life is still worth living, but there are adjustments to make. They are not easy, because they require admitting that your child is no longer there. The adjustments can include not making as much food for a family meal; missing that precious face at the dinner table; not tucking your child into bed at night; buying fewer Christmas presents (or no birthday gifts); having tears come unbidden when surprised. You can make these adjustments as you walk through the grieving process. Determine that you will learn the skills needed to survive.

You will never forget your child. Your life will not be the same. As you go through the changes, you can hang onto God, because he never changes: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8). His love surrounds you. His strength is available to you, and he will help you face each demanding new day.

~Warren Wiersbe, Gone But Not Lost

 

 

 no timetable for grief

Wise Choices in Grief

I had no choice in child loss.  

When Dominic first left us, it felt like I would never get to choose anything again-it felt like I would always be at the mercy of life just happening TO me. 

But in these months and years since, I’ve found that I DO have choices.

I have many, many choices every. single. day. 

I can choose bitterness or I can choose love.

heart and wood

I can choose blame or I can choose grace.

I can choose to isolate my wounded heart or I can choose to integrate my experience into who I am and invite others to join me on the journey.

I can choose to live in the past-which isn’t really living at all-or I can choose to face each new day and see what it has to offer.

I can choose to elevate my missing child so high that his siblings have no hope of measuring up or I can choose to remember the good AND the bad of who he was and how he walked in the world.

I can choose to complain about how others don’t understand or I can choose to educate them on what child loss feels like, how it impacts all aspects of my life and how it will be part of my experience until the day I join my son.

I can choose to be ashamed of my tears or I can choose to display them proudly as testimony of the love I have for my son.

never ashamed of tears dickens

I can choose to be upset that others fail to mention his name or I can choose to mention it myself, making him as natural a part of the conversation as my living children.

I can choose to ignore the way grief impacts my ability to do all the things I once did or I can choose to make wise accommodations for my limitations.

I can choose to close my heart to love and laughter or I can choose to honor Dominic by loving and laughing anyway.

I choose life. 

Because as long as I breathe, I carry the light of Dominic’s life with mine.

dom looking up with camera