Bereaved Parents Month 2021: I STILL Need Grace and Space

It took me a little while to realize that if I was going to survive this lifelong journey I had to make some changes in how and when I responded to requests to do something, be somewhere or participate in outside events.   

Because no matter how worthy the request, there was only so much of me to go around and I was forced to spend nearly all my energy and time and effort on figuring out how this great wound was impacting me and my family.

I cannot overemphasize how much strength and energy is needed to do the work grief requires.

Read the rest here: Grace and Space

Friends and Family Can Anchor a Heart

You’d think that seven YEARS would be time enough to adjust to missing my child, to the changes child loss and sibling loss have wrought in my family, to the awful, unavoidable giant HOLE left in every photo, every gathering, every holiday, every everything.

But it isn’t.

That’s largely why I’m still writing. It’s why I fill my social media profile with invitations to those who share my experience and reminders to those who do not (thankfully!!) that this continues to be the Life I Did Not Choose.

I’m not looking for sympathy, just raising awareness.

Because, really, isn’t the whole point of being human to try to make one another’s journey just a tad bit lighter?

❤ Melanie

Child loss rips through a life like a tornado-wild, unpredictable, viciously destructive.

It drops from the sky like a meteorite-no warning, no defense, just crushing weight.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Friends and Family Can Anchor a Heart

Loss Changes You For A Lifetime

I’ve been reminded in the past few days that loss changes everything.

We often wish it didn’t-that it would last only a season and then things would return to normal. But they don’t.

When one life is yanked violently from the fabric of a family the hole simply can’t be mended. You have to learn to live with the fragility and compromised strength that remains.

It’s hard and it keeps on being hard.

❤ Melanie

When a child dies, everything shifts.

Every relationship is altered. 

Read the rest here: Grief Lasts a Lifetime

Seven Ways to Support a Bereaved Dad on Father’s Day

Holidays are hard on bereaved parents’ hearts.

Even though our children are always on our minds, holidays act as megaphones, amplifying the missing, sorrow, grief and lost opportunity to build more memories.

So it’s particularly helpful when friends and family step up and step in, showing extra support on and around those extra hard days.

Here are seven ways you can bless a bereaved dad this Father’s Day:

MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE IN THEIR GRIEF

Sometimes friends and family let their expectations of how parents should grieve and for how long influence the quantity and quality of the help they’re willing to give. I can’t emphasize enough that no one outside the child loss community really understands how very, very difficult and how very, very much time it takes for a parent to even wrap his or her mind around the fact their child is truly gone. Instead of pushing or pulling a grieving dad forward, simply accept where he is, meet him there and let him take the lead in conversation, activity and whether or not he can join in a Father’s Day celebration.

LET YOUR FRIEND KNOW YOU’RE THINKING OF THEM

This is probably the most important and the simplest way to make a difference in a bereaved dad’s life! I know we all get busy and let days and dates slip by. But set an alarm on your phone if you have to as a reminder. Send a text or make a call. Tell him you haven’t forgotten he will be missing his child and wishing his family was complete this Sunday, especially.

SAY THEIR CHILD’S NAME

As the years go by it is often more and more unlikely for a parent to hear their missing child’s name spoken aloud. Yet it’s something we all long to hear. Sometimes friends and family are afraid that mentioning the child will make a dad “sad” or “remind him” the child is gone. Trust me, “sad” is something he feels often and he never forgets. Knowing someone else is willing to remember too is a great blessing.

SHARE MEMORIES OR DO SOMETHING TO HONOR THEIR CHILD-IF YOUR FRIEND IS READY

Not every grieving parent wants to talk about their child though many do. And even if they are ready, they may not want to talk about him or her right now. Pay attention and let them lead. If a bereaved dad is receptive, share a memory or photograph you might have of his child. Write a card and include details of how his child influenced your life. There are many ways to honor a child’s memory on important dates: make a meaningful donation, place a book in his honor, add to a foundation or scholarship that bears her name or send a small token that speaks of a child’s interests or personality.

SUPPORT SURVIVING SIBLINGS

Surviving siblings can be forgotten mourners. Grieving parents are frequently caught between their own needs and the needs of the children still with them. Child loss changes everything-for the whole family. So when friends come alongside and encourage and care for surviving siblings it helps everyone. Our family’s first Mother’s and Father’s Days were spent in company of friends of our children. It took a huge load off me and my husband to know the day was still special without all the focus being on us.

ENCOURAGE SELF-CARE

Grief from child loss is so overwhelming that often parents find themselves in a downward spiral where self-care is practically impossible. Even parents years into this journey sometimes say holidays and milestone days bring back the intense feelings of those first days. When that happens we need friends and family outside our immediate grief circle to help us find a path out of the darkness. Father’s Day is a great opportunity to offer a dad a healthy meal, take him on a hike or fishing expedition, or just sit and watch a ball game.

STAY IN THE PICTURE

Everyone gets busy and it’s completely natural that over time people forget days and dates. But Father’s Day doesn’t necessarily become easier for bereaved dads over time. So don’t assume because it’s been years that a dad isn’t still in need of extra support. Commit to checking in and helping keep his child’s memory alive.

Sometimes we just don’t know what to do for a grieving friend and often they aren’t able to express what might be helpful.

I hope these seven suggestions encourage you to try.

Be Brave. Ask A Hurting Heart What It Needs.

I think Dominic’s death has made me brave in this one tiny place:  I say things I might not have said before.  I risk pain in relationships where I might not have been willing to risk before.  I assume that if I don’t speak important truths RIGHT NOW I might not get another chance.

I long to be a burden bearer for my friends and family because I know what it is to bear a burden.

So I ask and don’t assume.  

If someone wants to be left alone, then they are free to tell me.

But I will not stay silent or keep away simply for my own comfort.  

Read the rest here: Ask Me, Please.

So Sorry I Haven’t Texted Back…

I remember the early days after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven when people were still checking in often on our family.

Some days there were a dozen or more messages that really, really needed an answer.

But I just couldn’t.

“How are you?” is often a more difficult question than you might think when your world is falling apart.

I wanted to tell the truth about how hard the days were and harder still the long dark nights but it felt too personal, too frightening and too likely to be misunderstood by a heart with no frame of reference.

So most of my responses looked something like this:

Read the rest here: Sorry I Haven’t Texted Back

Some Unexpected Things Can Make Grieving Harder

No one wakes up one day and just “is”. We become, over time, as our innate nature interacts with the world around us. First our parents and siblings influence us and then school, friends, life experience either gently molds us or pounds us into shape.

Often we get so used to our own way of doing and being we never give it much thought. It’s just “how we are”. We work around our faults and try to use our strengths to our advantage.

Most of us are pretty good at it.

Then something earth shattering comes along and suddenly the cracks are exposed and we haven’t the energy to cover them over.

Read the rest here: What Can Make Grieving Harder? Things You Might Not Expect.

Challenge Accepted: Why Am I Still Here?

Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.

They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.

They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.

So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).

It was an excellent exercise.

I looked back over social media posts and blog posts from the half-decade and more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I could trace progress from breath-robbing, body-wracking, all-consuming sorrow to a gentler, muted and tender missing that made room for joy and beauty alongside the ever-present tangible absence of one of my children.

I also noted a transition from “spilling my guts” to “trail guide”.

I’m no longer primarily using this space to release feelings and thoughts I’m not comfortable tossing out in day-to-day conversation. Instead, I’m mostly thinking about and sharing what I’ve learned along the way-pointing out the pitfalls and (hopefully!) encouraging hearts to keep on keeping on.

I’ve given myself permission to repost earlier entries (please note dates when you click through) that represent more raw emotions without making apology for either the lack of time or energy to write something new or the angst I once felt.

I’m also choosing to limit my online interaction to an hour in the morning and maybe an hour in the evening.

I absolutely desire to speak encouragement, grace and hope to hearts that are struggling but still need to guard my own from overload.

And as for friends, family or strangers who think, “Goodness, gracious! She needs to MOVE ON!”.

I say, “How can I hide or hoard this hard-won wisdom and experience?”

This is my ministry.

I didn’t ask for it, but it’s mine.

I won’t run away.

So until the Lord tells me definitively He has another path for my life I’ll be here.

Every morning.

Grief Doesn’t Stay The Same

The first time I shared this post was two years ago-before my mother’s death.

It had been five long years since Dominic left us and I was beginning to notice reliable, positive changes in the heaviness and quality of grief.

Our grandson was born very premature but his story has a happy, happy ending! He’s growing even more and is such a delight.

There have been other changes too-Covid19, social isolation and my husband’s retirement-all impacted daily life and how I experience Dom’s absence.

I want to offer this bit of hope for those who are just beginning the awful journey of child loss-the pain softens, I’ve grown stronger and better able to carry it, and life, in all its varied forms keeps going.

There ARE some beautiful things ahead.

Hold on.

❤ Melanie

This life is not all sadness and sorrow, death and darkness.  

It was.  For a very, very long time all I could see was distant flickers of light.  

They were just enough to keep me going but not enough to lift the utter blackness that surrounded me.  

Read the rest here: Grief Changes

Walking Through Grief With My Children

Bereaved parents often have several tasks before them in the days and months and years following the death of a child.

One of them is to help their surviving children navigate loss.

I have three earthbound children.  And they are grieving.

Their world changed in the same instant mine did.  Their hearts are broken too.

Read the rest here: Helping My Children Walk Through Grief