Christmas 2022: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know

People say, “I can’t imagine.“

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

Read the rest here: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know

Christmas 2022: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

Dominic left us in April, 2014.

At the time all I could manage (barely!) was the twenty-four hours of each long, lonely and pain-wracked day.

After seven-plus years I’ve learned to look ahead, plan ahead and forge ahead to birthdays, holidays, special days and not-so-special days.

But it takes a great deal of effort and often uncomfortable conversations because no matter how long it’s been, I’m still dragging loss and its after affects behind me.

I wrote this in 2016 when I was desperate to communicate how hard it is to try to marry joy and sorrow, celebration and commemoration, light, love, life and darkness, grief and death.

It remains (I think) my most useful postGrief and Holidays: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Christmas 2022: Nine Years. Sigh…

When I was a little girl I never thought about how the holidays impacted the adults around me. I figured it was all about ME. Or at most, me plus my brother and Santa Claus.

I was blissfully unaware of budgets and baggage.

Now I know better.

The holidays require us to wrap more than presents. They force us to wrap all the pain and expectation and hope and heartache in a giant package and serve it up hot and ripe for dissension and disappointment.

It’s relatively easy to figure out what to put under the tree (or give for the nights of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa). It’s much harder to figure out what to bring to the dinner table or the family gathering or the we’re-doing-something-different-this-year NON-gathering.

I’ve written a lot about the holidays in previous years and I will be sharing those posts again because there is always someone who hasn’t read them or who is just now in need of them. But I wanted to add something to the canon this year-on the ninth set of holidays with one child in Heaven.

It’s not easier just because I’ve had practice.

We have yet to settle into a system that makes space for all the feelings and changes that time brings to lives and loves and hearts and homes.

I’m just as jealous TODAY of whole families as I was the first Christmas without Dominic. I’m just as likely to sit for hours wondering what, exactly, I should cart down from the attic, what I should set up in the living room, how I should honor him without making him a “saint” and when tears are appropriate or distracting and indulgent.

I don’t want to discourage anyone.

I have developed many more coping skills and ways to make it through the season than I had that first awful Christmas when every song, every memory, every EVERYTHING stung like driving snow on frozen faces.

I’m just being honest which is the first and most important commitment I made when I started sharing in this space. And I don’t want any heart who still struggles to think he or she is unusual or defective or weak or “less than” the hearts that declare unmitigated victory over grief and sorrow.

Life is life.

It’s not less treacherous because I’ve developed bigger emotional biceps as a result of child loss.

There is, in fact, a greater gap between what I expect from myself and what I find I’m able to give.

But I keep trying.

I’ll buy the presents, deck the halls, make the meals and cherish every moment I’m with the ones I love.

Because I’m oh, so aware that this Christmas may be the LAST Christmas.

A beautiful and terrible burden to bear.

Christmas and Grief: Surviving Siblings

Life is complicated, isn’t it?

Even if I could erase loss from our family’s story, we’d still be muddling through the holidays trying to meet needs, expectations and holiday hopes all while juggling schedules and unwanted surprises.

Add child loss and sibling loss to the mix and there’s potential for a real mess!

So one of the things I’ve learned on this journey is I have to ask-and ask again-what my surviving children want and need for the holidays.

And then I have to LISTEN well.

We certainly haven’t managed holidays since Dom left us with grace and aplomb. In fact, some have been downright awful.

But we are still trying to make space and give grace so they are less stressful and more joy-filled.

❤ Melanie

I have never wanted to make my life journey with blinders on.  I realized young that MY perspective is not the only one.  I understand that more clearly now. 

So I try hard to think about, acknowledge and accommodate the feelings and needs of others.

But it’s especially challenging since Dominic left us.  And doubly so this time of year when every sight, smell and song screams, “It’s the holidays and HE IS NOT HERE!

I may not be as thoughtful to some in my circle as want to be, but I will expend every ounce of energy and effort I can muster to make space for my living children’s needs during this season.  

Read the rest here: Holidays and Grief: Surviving Siblings

 

Listening is Love in Action

Listening is love in action.

If you know someone whose heart carries great grief-and child loss is not the only hard journey hearts are makingoffer to listen. 

Give up a few minutes to hear how they are really doing, what is really hard, what they really need to say but may be afraid to speak aloud.  Leave spaces in conversation so a heart can work up the courage to share.  Don’t be quick to offer platitudes that shut down deep discussion.  

It often takes many, many repetitions of traumatic events for a heart to begin to heal. 

Read the rest here: Why I Have To Talk It Out

Birthdays Can Be…A Little Complicated

Today is my birthday.

And while I am truly grateful for another trip around the sun, since Dominic left us it’s not a simple celebration of life lived and the hope of years to come.

The last birthday I had with an unbroken family circle was a lovely surprise party for my fiftieth held in Dom’s apartment.

Nine years later and it seems a lifetime ago.

Read the rest here: Birthdays Are…Complicated

How Can I Help Wounded Hearts?

We are surrounded by hurting hearts. When one of them turns to you and bravely holds out her pain, accept it as an offering.

Because it is.

An offering of trust, friendship and vulnerability. 

❤ Melanie

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

It can end badly-both of you walking away uncomfortable and wary.

Read the rest here: How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

Here Are Ten Ways to Love a Mourning Heart at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is only a little over a week away and I know many are making final plans and preparations to gather family and friends around the table.

In the rush toward celebration, please don’t forget those in your circle who have suffered loss.

The past years (!) have prevented or limited many of the ways we publicly gather and mourn so it’s easy to overlook that some families are facing their first set of holidays without a loved one.

Even the second or third Thanksgiving with an empty chair is unbelievably hard.

Here are some helpful ideas to get you started. 

❤ Melanie

We are all on a journey through life and each carry some sort of load.  Mine is child loss.  Yours may be something else.

We can help one another if we try.  

Love and grace grease the wheels and make the load lighter.  

Here are ten ways to love a mourning heart at Thanksgiving:

Read the rest here: Ten Ways to Love a Mourning Heart at Thanksgiving

Thank You For Your Service

I am the proud daughter of a military veteran.

I am the beaming mother of a son who served and the aunt of a nephew currently serving. 

james at pikes peak

And while others argue about why and where we send troops and fight wars, I  pray that wherever they go and whatever they do, they return home safely.

Read the rest here: The Value of Veterans

Why I Need to Tell the Story (Even if You’ve Heard it Before).

I have so much more empathy for older folks since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I’ve always tried to be a patient listener when hearing that same story over and over and over but have to admit that sometimes I’d drift off or internally mock an elder because I was tired of hearing it.

Not anymore.

Because I understand now that it’s in the telling that one both commemorates and honors people as well as the past.

Read the rest here: I Need To Tell The Story (Even If You’ve Heard It Before)

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