They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

I remember the first couple times I ventured out in public after Dominic left us and the flurry of activity surrounding his funeral was over.

I felt naked, afraid and oh, so vulnerable.  

The tiniest misplaced word or random glance could undo me and I burst into tears.  

And I remember the phone calls, cards, texts and Facebook messages from friends and family who truly wanted to encourage my heart but often chose the wrong words and pierced it instead.

I took offense.  Often.

But about a month or so into this journey, as I explored the edges of my pain and had time to think about how utterly different and unknowable it was without experiencing it, I realized that all those barbs were completely unintentional.

No one was aiming to hurt me.  They were walking in the dark and stepping on my toes because they couldn’t SEE, not because they desired to cause me pain.

I was just as clueless before it was ME who buried a child.

So I learned to extend grace-to look behind the words to the heart offering them.

Because they don’t know what they don’t know.  

And I hope to God they never do.

dont expect everyone to understand

No Contest: There’s Enough Heartache to Go Around

I may get jeered by my fellow bereaved parents but I’m committed to honesty so here it is: there is no hierarchy of grief and loss.

Now, am I saying that losing a dog is the same as burying a child?  Absolutely not!  I’ve written about that here.

But what I am saying is that grief, sorrow, loss and heartbreak comes to us in all shapes and sizes.  And what may be small to me may be huge to someone else.

In the past weeks I’ve been exposed to a number of people who were waiting for those magic minutes of visitation allowed for intensive care units.

Each one had a story.  

Each one had a cross to bear and a complicated life they were trying to maintain outside the additional stress and strain of a loved one hooked up to tubes and heart monitors.

None of them revealed (to me at least) that they were bereaved parents.

But I could clearly see pain, sorrow, grief and weariness etched in their furrowed brows. I could hear exhaustion in their voices as they placed phone call after phone call to update people that wanted to know how things were going but couldn’t make it to the hospital.  I noticed hope spring to life in each heart when the clock ticked toward the assigned visitation window and how they leaned forward willing those last seconds to fly by faster.

heart and wood

I knew they were hurting.  It didn’t matter if they hurt as much or less than me. There’s enough pain to go around in this life.

It isn’t a contest.

And I realized that because of my great grief and sorrow, I had a gift to share.  I could reach out and take a hand, listen to a story, hug a weary shoulder empathetically, gently and without judgement.

I understand the weight of hard things.

I know by experience that life can change in a single breath.  I carry both the ongoing burden of missing my son and the traumatic memory of life changed instantly by a knock on the door.   It’s made me stronger in ways I would not have chosen.

I will not squander that strength.

I will put my shoulder to the harness alongside my fellow humans and offer to help carry some of their burden.  I will extend my hand to the stumbling, strengthen the heart of the hurting and offer a listening ear to the one who has no one to talk to.

yoke-of-oxen

I cannot undo what I know.  I cannot undo what has brought them here or may take them to places THEY don’t want to go.

But I can be present.

I can refuse to turn away because I think their grief is small in comparison to my own.   

I can choose love.  

hands-passing-heart

 

Kim Nolywaika at You Can Trust Him was kind enough to nominate thelifeididntchoose for a Liebster Award. What a surprise!

Thanks, Kim.

Liebster-award-ribbon

As per the (alternative, Set #2) Rules, I would also like to nominate the following blogs that I follow and which bless me:

Boxx Banter

Cause Me to Hear

Finding Joy in Him

Kathleen B. Duncan

Shattered Dreams and Shattered Faith

 

 

 

Repost: Practical Ideas for Dealing With the Holidays After Child Loss

It cannot be overstated:  holidays are extremely hard after loss.  Every family gathering highlights the hole where my son SHOULD be, but ISN’T.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to handle the holidays after losing a child.

For many, there is only survival-especially the very first year.

These days also stir great internal conflict:  I want to enjoy and celebrate my living children and my family still here while missing my son that isn’t. Emotions run high and are, oh so difficult to manage.

Read the rest here:  Practical Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays after Child Loss

Revised Post: Grief and Holidays:What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Thank you to each one who is praying for my Mama.  She is improving each day and we are hopeful that maybe in a few days we will escape the hospital 🙂

I am so, so thankful for the wonderful medical care available in our nation and to the medical professionals who are helping her heal.

As all my bereaved friends know, life doesn’t stop for grief-it keeps going.  Things happen.  So we keep on keeping on-it’s the best we can do.  ❤

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.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

So I’m trying to make it easier on all of us.  

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

Repost: Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

Life can literally change in a heartbeat.

We have learned that Mama had a mild heart attack which resulted in the life flight adventure.  Thankfully, she continues to improve and her prognosis is good.

But this experience has emphasized once again that flexibility, honest conversation and lots and lots of grace is the only way to make it through challenging seasons of life.

You don’t have to bury a child to know that changing long-standing family traditions around holidays is a hard, hard thing.

Just ask a parent trying to work out Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time after an adult child marries.  Suddenly the way things have “always been” are no longer the way things are.

Holidays typically involve so many more people and family members than everyday get-togethers and each person brings expectations, emotions and personal history to the table.

So, that is why I decided to run this series of posts NOW.  Because one of the things I have learned over the years is that giving people time to adjust to change is a good thing.

Read the rest here:  Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

Can We Talk?

Joan Rivers was famous for opening her comedic routine with the question, “Can we talk?”

She would launch into a hilarious rendering of topics that were usually off-limits in polite conversation but which everyone secretly wanted to share.  It actually helped bring some things into the light that had been hiding in shadows for far too long.

So, I’m going to take a cue from her and ask, “Can we talk?”

Can we talk about my missing son and quit pretending that just because he’s no longer present in the body, he’s not still part of my life?

Can we say his name without also looking down or away like his death is a shameful secret?

Can we share stories and memories and laughter and tears just as naturally about HIM as we do about anyone else?

Can we make a way to represent him at holidays, birthdays and special occasions?  It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture-even a photo or place setting or ornament will do.

Can we stop acting surprised that I still get upset when other people’s kids reach milestones my son will never attain?

Can we talk about your feelings as well as mine without devolving into a shouting match or a flurry of accusations about who should be feeling what by now?

Can we make space for tears?

Can we make space for solitude?

Can we make space in our conversations and celebrations that allows joy and sadness to dwell together?

Can we continue to honor the light and life that was (and is!) my son?

Because if we can do this, it will make all the difference. 

best way you can help me