What’s It Like Four Years Down the Road of Grief? Exhausting.

In four days it will be four years.

Four years since I woke to the news that my son was dead.

Four years since what I thought was going to be my life was shattered.  

Four years since I was forced to walk a road I do not want to travel.

Four years into the life I did not choose.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately which won’t surprise any bereaved parent reading this.

We think.  A lot.  

About what might have been.  About what is. About what it might be like to live for years or decades still carrying the weight of missing.

One thing that surprises me about life as a grieving parent is how ordinary it remains.  My world was shattered.  But THE world was not shattered.

My family is a tiny drop in the sea of humanity and our up-close tragedy is not even on the radar in the larger scheme of things.  If headlines about mass shootings drop to page ten in a week, how much more unlikely anyone but those intimately involved in our story will be thinking about it a month, a year, four years later?

All the things I had to do BEFORE Dominic left us I still have to do.  

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

The grass grows, clothes get dirty, food must be prepared. 

Friends have birthdays, holidays roll around, kids finish school, get married and have babies.  

This juxtaposition of internal disarray with ordinary routine means I spend a great deal of energy bringing my attention around to what needs to be done instead of allowing my mind to wander down memory lane or explore “what-ifs” or “why-nots”.

Everything I do requires more energy than it used to.  Everything takes more planning, more intentional action, more effort.  

So I’m tired.  

Four years in and I am. so. so. tired.  

This surprises me too.

I thought I’d be better at it by now.  

I’m not.  

EvilSuffering

 

 

Busy Doesn’t Fix Grief

I don’t know if this is the way of other mama’s hearts but mine always accuses me when I try to take it easy.

Maybe it’s a lifetime of a too long list of chores and a too short day in which to do them, but I’m uncomfortable sitting down, doing nothing.  

to do list

If I try to take a minute, my mind races until my hand reaches for a piece of paper and begins to jot down things I need to do.

Shoot-even as I fall asleep I’m usually planning what my day will look like tomorrow!

As I’ve written before, it is tempting to fill every minute trying to avoid the pain and sorrow of missing Dominic.  

But it’s not a healthy way to deal with grief.  

And moving ever closer to the anniversary of the date Dom met Jesus, the temptation grows stronger and stronger.

Just. stay. busy. 

Just. don’t. think.  

What I NEED is solitude and space.  What I NEED is freedom to cry (or not!).  What I NEED is less doing and more being.  What I NEED is to face my feelings, process my feelings, journal my feelings, pray through my feelings and to do the hard work grief requires.

sometimes the most important thing is the rest between two breaths

What I NEED is to treat myself the way I would treat one of my children in distress. 

I NEED tender loving care.  

But it’s just. so. very. hard.  

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: The Inestimable Value of Rest

Have you ever been on a long car trip and looked anxiously for the “Rest Area Ahead” sign?

If you have, you know the wonderfully restorative power of even a few moments to get out of the car, stretch your legs, smell fresh air and change your point of view.

Sometimes it’s tempting to pass by without stopping because you can save a few minutes. But it’s always worth taking time to rest. It makes it easier to keep going.

It’s not the same as just doing nothing.

Sitting still doesn’t guarantee that the mind remains quiet or the spirit settled.

I know, because sometimes I’ve been forced to stay perched in a chair like a toddler in time out and it was not restful.

Read the rest here:  The Inestimable Value of Rest

Worn Slap Out

The best remedy for my heart on the days when grief rolls in like morning fog and refuses to burn off with sunshine is hard work.

If weather permits I go outside and move hay bales, pick up limbs, cut weeds or do anything that requires large muscles to accomplish the task.  The goal is exhaustion so I can sleep.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’ll try to tackle jobs inside that I otherwise tend to ignore.  If you ever see me cleaning the bathroom or kitchen sink fixtures with a toothbrush, just leave me alone-I’m working something out.

So these past days leading up to Dominic’s birthday, that’s what I’ve done.

I sheared sheep, raked out a hay shed, moved hay, medicated horses, dogs and goats, picked up limbs brought down by rain and high winds, vacuumed, washed clothes, cleaned bathrooms and organized (sort of) my closet.

The ungrateful sheep and the silly cat kneading his paws while I’m bent over shearing her. 

photo (44)

Skinks are some of the happier surprises when moving hay.  Snakes and ants not so much.

 

The good thing about so many critters that eat grass is that I rarely cut it.

Now I’m worn slap out!

I think I’ll hit the sack.

fatigue is the best pillow

Daily Battle: Tempted to Give Up

So many things raced through my mind in the first five minutes of hearing the news:

Oh, God!  Is it true? (I have to authenticate his identity);

How do I tell everyone? (I have to make phone calls);

What do you do when your child dies? (I have no idea how to plan a funeral);

and on

and on

and on.

Of course, that doesn’t touch the FEELINGS flooding my heart.

I don’t really have words for that, even now.

But as the days of crazy activity and people everywhere gave way to the weeks and months of silent sorrow, all I wanted to do was to give up and give in.

What was the point of carrying on if it meant carrying this weight of sadness until I was also in the grave?

At first, my motivation was to help my husband and children through these crisis moments.  My training gave me tools to give them words and ways to frame the pain. Hours of home “therapy” drained me but also gave me a sense of purpose and  direction.

It was a couple of months into this journey when  I faced my first test:  I suffer from a gastrointestinal condition that predisposes me to catastrophic GI bleeds.  Combined with the medications I take for RA, I woke one morning to find I was losing large amounts of blood.

It was nearly welcome news.

As weakness overtook my body, I could feel the lure of simply drifting away into eternity.  I was tempted to lie down on the bed and allow my heart rate to decrease, my blood pressure to dive and my soul to break free from this body of death.

But I didn’t-because I could not knowingly add to my family’s heartache.

No one was home so I drove myself to the emergency room and was admitted to the ICU. Several days and units of blood later I came home, restored to life but not unburdened of grief.

And so it goes.   Each day brings its own temptations.

I will be honest:  I am still motivated more strongly by love of my family than a sense of mission or purpose this side of burying Dominic.

Perhaps that is sin.  I don’t know.

But for right now, that’s enough.

Every day, even almost three years later, I wake up and must choose to go on.

I’m not suicidal!

I’m willing to stick around.  But I am no longer afraid to die.

I can say, like Paul,  “To live is Christ, to die is gain”.

doesnt-get-better-gets-different

 

 

 

 

Exhausted

Exhausted

Worn out

Bone-tired

Ready to drop

Drained

Fatigued

War-weary.

I wasn’t created to carry this burden.   I cannot do it.

Jesus invites me to lay it down:

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 VOICE

yoke-of-oxen

 

 

 

Subtitles

My husband is the child of immigrants.  And even thirty years after coming to America, my in-laws preferred their native Italian to English.

italian-village

So when we would be in a crowded room, comments flying, I struggled to keep up with what was being said because I didn’t speak the same language.

As the years went by and our relationship deepened, I realized they had the same struggle when I would try to communicate complex truth in English.  It wasn’t their heart language and some things just didn’t translate well.

Sometimes feelings got hurt because what one of us thought we were saying was not what the other person heard.

Subtitles would have been useful.

The other day in an attempt to keep my unwell body in a chair, I pulled up Amazon and picked a movie.  It was in French with subtitles.

I thought, “I’ll try it.”

But as the movie went on, I realized that I was unable to give full attention to either the action of the movie or the subtitles that interpreted the dialogue.

It took way more effort than I was willing to commit to what was supposed to be a relaxing couple of hours.

So I turned it off.

Today someone in a bereaved parents group to which I belong asked if anyone else found holidays exhausting.

The comments were a resounding “yes”!

The more I thought about it the more I realized that a big part of what makes it so exhausting is a communication gap.

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I am not the same as I was before burying a child.  

My family is not the same.  

Nothing is the same.

Some of the “not the same” is the gap between my understanding of how I have changed and the lack of understanding by others about how I have changed.

Many friends, extended family members and acquaintances continue to relate to me as if I’m the “old” me. That creates tension and requires energy to deal with-I either have to overlook it, try to help them understand or figure out how to deal with it some other way.

We’re just not speaking the same language anymore.

Sometimes I think subtitles would be helpful.

But even then it would still be exhausting.