Courage: Speaking One’s Mind While Telling All One’s Heart

It is scary to speak aloud what you hope will never happen to you.  It’s unbelievably frightening to admit that we really have no control over whether, or when, we or the ones we love might leave this world.

But I am not going to keep silent.

Not because I want pity or special treatment, but because I want that parent who just buried his or her child to know that you. are. not. alone.

Read the rest here: Courage is a Heart Word

Words From One Wounded Heart to Others

I cling fast to words that speak aloud what I’ve only thought.

I collect sentences that eloquently express what I can only feel.

I pull them out on days when my head and heart are doing battle and I can’t find any middle ground.

Reading reminds me I’m not the first soul to travel this way.

Others have been here before and left breadcrumbs.

Read the rest here: Words For a Wounded Heart

Oh Fellow Grievers-Let’s Love Brave!

I was unprepared for the many traveling companions grief brought with it.  I knew to expect sadness and despairbut what about anxiety and guilt?

I had no idea how large a space guilt would soon occupy in my thoughts and heart-guilt over what I did or didn’t do when Dominic was still with us, guilt over what I do or don’t do now.

I can do nothing to change what happened in years past.  

Read the rest here: To My Fellow Grievers-Love Brave

Little by Little: We Don’t Lose Them All at Once

I cannot speak for others but in my case, it seems that I did not lose Dominic all at once.

In fact, I’m still losing him.

Bit by bit, a little at a time, nearly molecule by molecule, his mark on my life, my walls, my world grows smaller.

Read the rest here: Bit By Bit: We Don’t Lose Them All at Once

When You Can’t Ignore the Missing: Hard Stop Days

Most of the time I’m just kind of rolling along.

There are things to do, places to go, people to see, animals to feed.

I get up, get going and get on with it.

But there are some days that are what I call “Hard Stops” on this journey.  They are the days that force my heart to take special notice of the fact that Dominic isn’t here.

Read the rest here: Hard Stops: When You Can’t Ignore the Missing

Griefwork: Is It OK To Put Some Friendships on “Hold”?

A few years ago I spent the weekend with a small group of bereaved moms.

For our last session together, I solicited anonymous questions from the group that I promised to try to answer and discuss further.

There were lots of good ones but one of the most poignant was this:

Is it OK to put some friendships on hold because the interaction is no longer encouraging to me? I leave lunches together sad because their lives are going fine and I’m in such pain.

A Grieving Mom

My heart went out to this mama for so many reasons!

First, even in her grief she was concerned about doing the right thing, about being a good friend and about rightly interpreting the situation. She knew her friend wasn’t actively harming her. In fact, the friend was most likely trying hard to come alongside and encourage her heart.

But it still hurt.

And so she wanted to know if she was obligated to “grin and bear it” or if she could graciously and authentically set a boundary that meant a little (or a lot!) of distance between this friend and herself-hopefully for only a season.

This is one of the hard truths and difficult conundrums that inform the lives of many grievers. It certainly was part of mine for a long time.

I craved compassionate companionship from concerned friends and family while, at the exact same moment, longed for solitude and seclusion from “ordinary” life.

How in the world could the world just go on? How in Heaven’s name did the entire universe not take note of my great and irreplaceable loss?

For months (probably, honestly, for a couple of years!) there was always a subscript to every conversation and face-to-face interaction that read like Subtitles for a foreign film. And some folks lives were just too beautiful, too happy, too much like the one I wished I still had to endure the emotional burden that gap produced for my wounded heart.

So I had to limit my interaction with them (for their sake AND mine).

I unfollowed (NOT unfriended!) people on social media. They were none the wiser that the hap-hap-happy posts they splashed everywhere weren’t appearing in my newsfeed and I wasn’t constantly confronted by my own envy and sorrow.

I sent cards for occasions instead of showing up at certain celebrations. I chose them thoughtfully and wrote meaningful and sincere messages. I didn’t have a single person react badly that their wish was on paper instead of in person.

I withdrew from some of the groups where this kind of “humble bragging” was encouraged and promoted. It was a long, long time before I went to a women’s event that wasn’t focused on child loss.

No one really noticed.

And for those few relationships that were so close I couldn’t graciously or subtly move away, I told my friend that while I valued them, wanted very much to stay in touch and support them and didn’t want everything to be about ME, I needed to let them know certain topics might make me uncomfortable or sad.

So we tried to get together around activities that lent themselves to “in the moment” conversation. We didn’t linger long over lunch or on the phone. We walked in a park or went to a movie.

In time, as I did the work grief requires and as I grew stronger and better able to carry this burden called “child loss”, I was able to ease some of the boundaries I had put in place to protect my heart.

I never, ever want child loss (or any other hard life event or trauma) to become an excuse for my bad or unkind behavior.

But grief is work and requires so much time, energy and effort!

If I hadn’t made space and given myself the necessary grace to do that work I would not have found the measure of healing I now enjoy.

So, yes, dear heart-it’s OK to set boundaries.

It’s OK to pull back from some relationships to foster healing.

And it’s OK to reach out and let people back in, too, when your heart feels more whole again.

What Can I Do? My Family Won’t Talk About My Missing Child!

At first everyone talked about him.

It’s what people do just after a person leaves this world and leaves behind only memories.

It comes natural before the unnatural fact of child loss settles in and begins to make everyone uncomfortable.

But at some point after the funeral and way before the tears dried up, people stopped feeling easy mentioning his name.

Read the rest here: Help! My Family Won’t Talk About My Missing Child.

Grief and Holidays: Best To Start Planning NOW

If your family is like mine, once school starts (even if we no longer have anyone IN school) and Labor Day rolls around they begin to ask that dreaded question: “What do you want to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas?”

It used to be a relatively simple matter of sorting people’s work schedules, ability to travel and possible weather related issues into a workable solution for gathering all of us in one spot to celebrate the holiday and each other.

Now I have to overcome the twin hurdles of reluctance and procrastination to do the work necessary to set the dates and times in stone on the calendar. It’s not that I don’t WANT to get together, it’s just that it’s nearly impossible to gauge this far out how my heart may feel come November or December.

But one thing I’ve learned in the nearly nine years since Dom left us-it does not good to stick my head in the sand and hope the season passes unnoticed.

So here are some things I’ve found helpful. Hope they are helpful for you too.

❤ Melanie

We’ve reached the peak of Hallowthankmas in the stores.

I‘ve never liked smashing one holiday on top of another which seems, in my mind, to rob each of their respective unique characteristics.

I’m also particularly frustrated that Halloween-a “holiday” mocking death and focused on fear (for many)-occupies way more space in mass retailers’ aisles than Thanksgiving.

But I can no more hold back the onslaught of merchandising than I can the days marching resolutely toward end of year holidays even if I choose not to join the commercial bandwagon.

So here we are.

Only a short time left to figure out how to honor the missing and love the living through some of the most difficult days of the year for bereaved hearts.

Read the rest here: Holidays are Coming, Ready or Not!

Journaling My Doubts and Finding My Way Back Home

When I was asked a few years ago to speak to a group of hospice care workers, I titled the presentation “Lifting the Veil on Grief”.

One of the topics I covered was how experiencing the death of a loved one-especially out-of-order or untimely death- can cause even the staunchest believer to doubt.

And the first thing I said was, “Doubt in the face of overwhelming sorrow and hard circumstances is absolutely normal.  But doubt is NOT disbelief.”

So often friends, family, clergy, social workers and others want to steer hearts away from doubt because they are afraid that entertaining questions or expressing disappointment in God will always lead to someone losing faith.

That is untrue.

Read the rest here: Doubt Is Not Denial: Journaling My Way Home

It Helps To Set Aside Time to Grieve

One of the trickiest parts of life as a bereaved parent is navigating the space between our surviving children and the giant hole left by the one (or more) who have run ahead to Heaven.

It’s especially hard at THIS time of year when school starts, sports teams ramp up and exciting opportunities abound for kids and young adults.

So many ways I might cling too hard to what’s lost and not lean in hard enough to what continues to bring blessing and beauty to everyday life.

I’ve learned it’s best to find quiet moments in which I can journal the feelings that might be unhelpful or downright hurtful to express to others.

❤ Melanie

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

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