When Routine Wears You Down: Encouragement for the Worn Out Heart

It may not be this way around the country or around the world, but here in Alabama school has been in session for several weeks and the hot weather along with added commitments makes life a little harder.  

After the excitement of posting “first day” photos wears off, routine sets in.

Carpools, music lessons, homework, getting everyone ready to rush out the door...it’s enough to wear anyone down.  

That’s when it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important.  That’s when the enemy whispers, “You don’t make a difference.”

He’s wrong.  

You are shepherding eternal souls. 

Don’t give up!

The tyranny of the urgent can push what’s important past the fringes of our attention.

Our vision can be so consumed with the day-to-day until there’s no space for long-term goals or ambitions.

But God has ordained that our children, eternal beings, be set in families.

 Read the rest:

Sowing in Tears, Reaping in Joy

The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

I am always afraid that Dominic will be forgotten.  

I’m afraid that as time passes, things change and lives move forward, his place in hearts will be squeezed smaller and smaller until only a speck remains.

Not in my heart, of course.

Or in the hearts of those closest to him, but in general-he will become less relevant.

But he is not the only one who can be forgotten.  I am just as fearful that my living children will be forgotten.

Not in the same way-they are HERE.

They are participating in life and making new memories, new connections and strengthening old ones.

I’m afraid their grief will be overlooked, unacknowledged-swept under the giant rug of life and busyness that seems to cover everything unpleasant or undervalued.

If the course of a bereaved parent’s grief is marked by initial outpouring of concern, comfort and care followed by the falling away of friends, family and faithful companionship then that of a bereaved sibling is doubly so.

Surviving children often try to lessen a grieving parent’s burden by acting as if “everything is OK”.

But it’s not-it is definitely NOT.

missing them from your side

Their world has been irrevocably altered.  They have come face-to-face with mortality, with deep pain, with an understanding that bad things happen-happen to people they love-without warning and without remedy.

They are forced to rethink their family, their faith and their future without a life-long friend and companion.

Part of their history is gone.

If surviving children are young, it can be so, so easy to mistake the natural enthusiasm and excitement of youth for complete healing.  They are often busy with events, education, work and life and the grief they still feel may go unnoticed-even by themselves.

But they need safe, consistent and compassionate care while they navigate grief and the enduring impacts of sibling loss.  School counselors, grief counselors or mature and emotionally stable adult friends can be very helpful during this process.

It’s important to be alert to danger signals.  Behavioral impacts may present in many ways:

  • Anxiety (situational, tests, generalized)
  • Risk taking
  • Isolation
  • Inability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Depression
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Poor grades (may have given up or may not be able to concentrate)
  • Extreme concern for other family members and their safety

If you observe any of these changes, get help.  A grieving parent is rarely able to be the sole source of intensive counsel for a bereaved child-someone outside the grief circle may be a better choice.

Adult children-even those married and with kids of their own-are also changed forever by saying “good-bye” to a brother or sister.  Addiction, depression and physical health issues can surface in the wake of loss.  

It’s not always easy to connect the dots back to grief since life is full of stress and strain and they may need help.

My children have been blessed to have friends and loved ones who give them a safe place to go when grief overwhelms them or when other stressors on top of grief make life really hard.

If you know a bereaved sibling:

  • Reach out.
  • Be an encourager.
  • Don’t assume that because time has gone by, they are all better.
  • They may not want to talk about it and that’s OK.  But if they do, listen.  Without platitudes, without judgement-just be a safe place.
  • And if you notice something that’s just not “quite right” try to get them the help they may need to make it through this hard place.

Bereaved families are often doing the best they can, but they can’t do it alone.  

When you bless my earthly children, you bless me.  When you give them space to grieve, you give me space to breathe. When you encourage them, you encourage my heart too.

Don’t forget them.  

Please.  

 

 

 

June Challenge: Eight Legs and Eternity

Day Eight of Kathleen Duncan’s  June 1-30 challenge.

The prompt:  Write a story with eight legs or turn the eight sideways and use “infinity” (eternity) as your prompt.

Eternity is a long time.

Just try and wrap your mind around it.

But when you bury a child, that’s what you think about-the forever that comes when he left his earthly body and entered the Presence of Jesus.

So many hard days followed, so many tears, so much pain.  I wanted to escape to eternity with Dominic.

I would be there eventually anyway, why not now?

But it’s not up to me to determine when I go. So I remain, and try to find a way to make the days count, be useful and stay hope-filled.

And eight legs have helped me stay rooted in the “now” when my heart longs to be in “forever”.

That first Thanksgiving after losing Dominic in April, we  visited our oldest son and his wife in West Virginia where she was a vet.

Touring Lillie’s office, we were introduced to two fluffy, orange kittens that had been abandoned by the road and brought there in hopes of finding a home.

 

IMG_2425

One look and I was smitten.

IMG_2422

 

It took less than five minutes to decide to take them back with us to Alabama.

Who could resist those faces?

 

At dinner that night, we brainstormed possible names.  I still have the list in my notes on my phone:  Kit Kat, Pumpkin, Scratch and Sniff, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostito.

We decided on names that reflected their roots- Moonshine and White Lightning.

After all, West Virginia is home to as many stills as hills.

Once we got back, their needs became part of my morning routine-a constant and undeniable reminder that I HAD to get out of bed.  And they made me laugh!

IMG_2509

Here is Lightning soaking up the sun in front of the picture window.

 

 

 

IMG_2439

 

 

Moonshine’s personality is more relaxed-why sit when you can lay down?

 

 

I used to be able to pick up both of them with one hand, now it takes two hands to pick up one of them!

DSC_0328

They have grown into good companions, great mousers, soft lap warmers and serious purr machines.

I’m very glad these eight legs live in my house.  

They’ve been excellent therapy for my hurting heart.

Benefits of Pet Therapy:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves cardiovascular health
  • releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
  • diminishes overall physical pain
  • the act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some folks need
  • lifts spirits and lessens depression
  • decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
  • encourages communcation
  • provides comfort
  • lowers anxiety
  • creates motivation for the client to recover faster
  • reduces loneliness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June Challenge: Five Favorite Foods

Day Five of Kathleen Duncan’s  June 1-30 challenge.

The prompt:  Share your five favorite foods or recipes.

I grew up in the South where Sunday dinner was delicious and church potlucks were prodigious.

If you were blessed to go to a church that had Fifth Sunday spreads, then you know what I mean.

On cement tables back of the church, good cooks pulled out all the stops and brought forth their most prized recipes for public consumption.

If you wanted a taste of Aunt Wilma’s cake or Aunt Mattie Lou’s beans, you had better be in the front of the line, because the best dishes were emptied fast.

So in honor of those warm memories, I share my five favorite church potluck foods:

Dessert First!  {One of the privileges of potlucks}

Banana Pudding-a southern staple, this creamy concoction is both beautiful and delicious. It often arrived to the buffet with a corner scooped out because someone HAD to taste it-just to make sure it was good.  

banana pudding

 

pound cake

Pound Cake-crunchy crust, moist inside and a perfect foil for fresh fruit or ice cream.  If you lived in a rural community it was made all the better wtih farm fresh egss, real butter and NEVER imitation vanilla.

 

Fried Chicken-before it was possible to pick up a box of chicken on almost any corner-good, iron skillet fried chicken was both an art and a treat.  Only the best cooks could manage to get the meat done, yet still moist and produce a crispy crust.

fried chicken

mac and cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese-full of cheesy goodness and oh, so different, than the stuff in the box! I’m sad that some children don’t even know it can be “homemade”.

 

Creamed Corn-fresh corn, picked and silked, then scalded and scraped from the cob.  Grandmama would pull a few bags from the freezer and cook them down in a pot with a little butter and salt.  You could taste summer and love in every bite.

creamed corn

 

I have fond memories of sitting on cement steps, swatting flies and eating delicious food surrounded by people I love.

I felt safe, protected, full and included.

My heart was assured that there would always be enough love, enough food and enough of everything to go around.

 

 

The Absence of His Presence is Everywhere

Something I’ve been learning in this grief journey is that loss is an ongoing event.

It’s not confined to the moment of death, the funeral, the burial or even the boxing up of belongings.  

I suffer loss every time there is a moment when Dominic would have been present, should have been present and isn’t here.

It happens when I need to ask him a question, get his opinion, long for his help or just want to hear his voice.   

It happens when I look at myself in the mirror and realize that the living mirror that was Dominic is gone.

There is so much more to his absence than just the hole in my heart.

I shared some of these feelings a few months ago:

A family isn’t just the sum of its parts.  It isn’t a simple equation that can be worked out on a chalkboard or around a dinner table-this person plus that person equals two persons.

A family is an organic mixture of personalities, relationships, strengths and weaknesses that exponentially influence one another. I always joked that our family was a ready-made committee.  Wherever we went we brought a fully staffed, action-ready army of six that spread out and triumphed over whatever challenge we faced.

You can read the rest here:  Minus More Than One

A Good Day

 

jm captain

 

Last Friday, my oldest son received his USAF captain’s bars.  True to form, his path to this new achievement was unique and memorable. I’m so very proud of him and of his commitment to excellence.

And that meant that he was leaving San Antonio and headed to Maxwell AFB for Commissioned Officer Training. So he was able to swing by home on Sunday!

 

photo (24)

Sunday afternoon, my kids presented me with this beautiful “Family of Love” necklace for Mother’s Day.  It has all their names and birthstones so I can wear them close to my heart.  I love it!

photo (22)

James Michael brought me flowers-lots of purple, my favorite color.

photo (21)

 

And then we were joined by Joe and Seve, two of Dominic’s good friends from Law School. Joe surprised me with this amazing handmade plate from his recent travels to Turkey. I appreciate the love and support of these fellows and their ongoing commitment to remember Dominic and honor our family.

 

We had Robbie and Jonica over for supper with their new daughter.  I got to cuddle this sweet baby and be reminded that love still lives and life goes on.

photo (19)

 

And no DeSimone adventure would be complete without an “emergency”.  While getting food ready and on the table, we discovered a minor plumbing problem that flooded the downstairs bathroom, the laundry area and into the garage (all downhill-literally and figuratively).

photo (23)

 

So while we girls ate supper, the men worked at repairs.

Just like old times-one boy went in one direction, another went the other way and Julian manned the homefront.  Thankfully, they were able to get things back in working order sooner rather than later.  But not before I exhausted our supply of 24 full-sized “clean-up” towels that were washed in bleach the next day!

 

photo (20)

The evening ended with lots of laughter and plenty of carbs.

And a rare opportunity for a group photo that had me surrounded by all my children within reach. (Thank you, Alison, for snapping the picture!)

We miss you, Dominic.

And we can never stand close enough to squeeze out the giant hole you’ve left.

But we are living like you lived-making the most of the moments-and loving each other.

boys