New Year’s Resolution: Leaning into Love

Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.

~C.S. Lewis

Romantic love is a relatively new idea in the long history of mankind.  

We moderns take for granted that in order to DO something kind and loving for another person, we must FEEL kind and loving toward that person.

But that’s not really what love is all about. 

We act in love all the time without feeling love.

Changing diapers.  Changing oil.  Cooking chicken nuggets when you really want coq au vin.

I am absolutely convinced God makes babies utterly helpless because as parents care for them, they come to love them more deeply and in ways that would never happen without hours and weeks and YEARS of hands-on ministration.

That same principle can be transferred to anyone.  

If I am having a hard time “loving” my neighbor or my co-worker or my family member, if I begin to DO loving things for them, my heart will follow.

Maybe not in a day or a week.  It might well take a year or more.  But eventually, the feelings will develop.

And if they don’t because the person continues his or her prickly ways? 

Well, then I will have become a more loving and patient and kind person regardless of their response to me.  

Either way, I win.  

So this year I am purposing to choose three people in my life that are hard to love and begin actively loving them.

I am going to make sure I contact them often, speak kindly, include them in events and reach out in other ways.  I will look for small favors to do that can brighten their days.  I will remember birthdays and anniversaries and other special days,  I will speak well of them to others.

And I will pray that grace flows both ways from them to me and back again until it blossoms into love.  

Stay tuned.  🙂

small things with great love

 

Did She REALLY Mean It That Way?

Most of us are used to them by now-those photo filters that can turn an awful picture into a dreamy masterpiece.

The same filters can take a perfectly lovely photo and distort it into something comical or worse.

Our minds are like that.

When we see things, hear things, experience things-we are filtering them through our own experience, emotional state, physical condition and biases.

As a bereaved parent, I’ve got to be very, very careful I don’t misinterpret other people’s words, actions and intentions.

It’s easy sometimes for me to feel like someone is purposefully seeking to harm me when all they are doing is acting in ignorance.

I can be quick to assume that a person’s absence is avoidance instead of simply a function of an overbusy schedule.

I can take words and twist them to mean something very different than what was intended because my heart hears everything through the filter of loss.

If I don’t constantly remind myself, I forget that if someone else hasn’t experienced child loss they really, truly HAVE NO CLUE what it feels like to walk in my shoes.

Because if I don’t, I spend most of my time hurt, licking my wounds in the corner and avoiding the very people that can help my heart heal.

Do other people have a responsibility to try to understand?

Of course they do!

But I also have a responsibility to try to see their hearts and not only their actions.

I need to check my own filters to make sure I’m not placing blame where there is none.

I should give them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.

never assume

 

 

 

Christmas 2017: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

Christmas is fast approaching so I’m posting this one last time.  I hope it helps someone who is struggling to share how hard it can be to “make merry” when a heart is broken. ❤

I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it.  I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

Read the rest here:  Grief and Holidays:What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

25 Ways to Give Holiday Hope to the Grieving

This will be the fourth Christmas without Dominic.

I’m certain that for some of my family and many of my friends, they are less and less aware of his absence.  That’s completely natural and understandable.  

But for me, his absence looms just as large THIS Christmas as it did that FIRST Christmas.

Even if you do realize how hard it is for grievers during the holidays, you might not have any idea how to show you care.

I came across this list originally published Family Life Today that gives 25 ideas to give holiday hope to the grieving and wanted to share it because I think it is wonderful.

I can promise you that any hurting heart would be delighted to have a friend or family member reach out in one or more of these ways. 

25 Christmas Gifts or Remembrances for the Brokenhearted

1.  A tree that can be planted in the family’s yard in memory of the loved one (or a gift certificate to a nursery that can be used to purchase a tree in the spring)

2.  Bibles, Christmas Poinsettias, or library books given as memorials

3.  Memorials to the local church or charities

4.  Home videos of the loved one (especially ones of activities that the family may not have)

5.  A scrapbook filled with pictures of the loved one

6.  Special Christmas ornaments (for example, if the child played the piano, see if you can find an ornament in the shape of a piano)

7. Books such as Streams in the Dessert and When Life is Changed Forever

8.  A personal item that would become a memento about the loved one’s personality or gifting

9.  Gift certificates to a cabin or lodge, or to a place that the loved one once enjoyed

10. An original poem about the deceased

11. A journal from friends and family with written memories about the deceased

12. A written tribute to the deceased (The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents by Dennis Rainey and David Boehi, explains how you can do this.)

13. Addressing their Christmas cards or notes

14. Joining them in holiday shopping or doing the shopping for them

15. Asking if you can help decorate their home for Christmas

16. Sharing homemade Christmas cookies

17. Arranging family photographs in albums

18. Inviting them to decorate a gingerbread house

19. Picking them up for Christmas services at church and holiday get-togethers

20. Helping them shop for that “perfect gift” that they can give to others in memory of their loved one

21. Decorating a small tree with ornaments that have special memories of the loved one

22. Helping them write holiday memories

23. Organizing a candle-light memorial for close friends and family

24. Having a family-time of singing some of the deceased’s favorite Christmas carols and hymns

25. Giving the brokenhearted blank journals to write Bible verses that remind them of God’s presence, such as 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a and Jeremiah 29:11

Repost: Christmas Cards-Yes? No? Maybe?

I’m posting this again because last year it seemed to help some bereaved parents figure out something that plagues all of us:  what to do about Christmas cards after a child runs ahead to heaven.

This year I did things a little differently.  I actually sent out Thanksgiving cards (a week late since my mom was in the hospital) and included a similar note with those.

Whatever you decide to do, do it because it helps YOUR heart, not because you feel compelled to meet others’ expectations.  ❤

Getting Christmas cards out on time was always a challenge in my busy household.  

So for the last years of kids at home, we transitioned to sending New Year’s greetings.  It was easier to get a family photo with everyone home for Christmas, there was no artificial deadline to send them and we could include a “thank you” or respond to news in their Christmas letters.

I haven’t sent anything for three years.  

What could I say?  

And a family photo was out of the question.

Read the rest here:  Christmas Cards-Yes? No? Maybe?

Holding Space

We do it all the time in the physical world-leave the shopping cart in line with the admonition to the person behind us to “hold our place” while we run to get that forgotten item.

We leave a gap for that minivan to pull in just where the construction cones narrow a highway from two lanes to one.

We open a door and step aside so the elderly lady with her hands full can manage to get through without dropping the load.

But most of us are not as good at it in relationships.

I think part of the reason is because we are often unaware of the NEED to do it.  We don’t have external cues like traffic cones or physical barriers or long lines waiting to check out or get in.

So we miss the opportunity to step aside, or step back or simply wait a moment for another heart to catch up or move over or step through.

Sometimes it’s because our minds are so used to multi-tasking and treating every single minute as if “time is money” that we are unwilling to slow down enough to truly HEAR another heart.

I find that if I’m not very, very careful, I spend a good part of the time I’m supposed to be listening, constructing my response before the person I’m “listening” to has even finished her comment.

It takes a lot of discipline not to do that.

And I don’t always exercise it.

I want to be a person that holds space for others.  I want to be a heart that listens well and pays attention to the message another heart is sharing.

me too sharing the path

I believe that when I do that, I can lighten a load.

Because often what someone needs is just to know they are seen,

they are heard and

they are loved.

 

How To Survive December With a Broken Heart

It comes up again and again-and not just for the parents facing their year of “firsts”How do I survive December with a broken heart?

There’s no single answer or list of things to do that will suit every family.

But there are some general principles that can make even this awful reality a little easier: 

Be gentle with yourself.  Accept that you will not be able to do all the things you could do before child loss.  Understand that tears will fall at the most inconvenient moments and grief waves will take you under when you least expect them to.  That’s OK.  You do not have to be strong or brave or keep smiling when you are sad.  Feel what you feel.  Do what you need to do.

Be honest with others.  No matter how wonderful it would be if they could truly understand what it feels like to bury a child (without the experience, of course!), it is not the way things ARESo if you need something from someone, speak up.  If you don’t want to go to this or that, say so.  If your heart can’t take one more family gathering or meal, send your regrets and stay home.  Use “I” statements and say something like, “I’m just not able to participate in gift-giving (or whatever) this year.  My heart won’t take it.”  They may not like it.  But they can’t argue with your experience.

Do not let people cross the boundaries you set up to protect your heart.  Once you have figured out where you need to draw the line and have communicated that to others, hold fast.  It’s really just fine to not return phone calls or text messages designed to force you to meet others’ expectations.  You don’t have to be rude, but you also don’t have to submit your heart to constant trampling.

Be open to change.  This is the fourth set of holidays for me without Dominic.  Each year I’ve entered the season with certain ideas about how they will go, what will and won’t be helpful, and where I needed to set boundaries.  And every year I’ve made adjustments.  Some things I thought I COULD do, I couldn’t. Some things I  swore I’d NEVER do, I’ve done.  Work schedules, plane delays, illness, or even happy surprises alter plans and require adjustment.

Remember that December doesn’t last forever.  As hard as this season is, it is only a season.  The earth turns, the sun rises and the days pass.  If you spend the month in bed with the covers over your head, January will still roll around.  If you get up and participate (whatever that looks like for YOU) then January will also show up on schedule.

These days are just like all the rest:  in the end we survive them one breath, one moment at a time.  

But we do survive.  

bereaved parents have one job during the holidays to survive