Bereaved Parents Month 2021: Why Friends Abandon Grievers

It happens in all kinds of ways.  One friend just slowly backs off from liking posts on Facebook, waves at a distance from across the sanctuary, stops texting to check up on me.

Another observes complete radio silence as soon as she walks away from the graveside. 

Still another hangs in for a few weeks-calls, texts, even invites me to lunch until I can see in her eyes that my lack of “progress” is making her uneasy.  Then she, too, falls off the grid.

Why do people do that? 

Read the rest here: Why Friends Abandon Grievers

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

Silence Really IS Golden-What NOT to Say to Grieving Hearts

I just got back home from attending the funeral of one of my parents’ very best, lifelong friends.

And even though he was full of years I’m never prepared for the way death steals from us.

As I looked around the crowd gathered near his wife I wondered how many might be offering up platitudes and quips that probably sound helpful in their heads but which fall hard on a broken heart.

So for those who feel compelled to say something, anything, in the silent space between a hug and giving way to the next person in line, here are a few things NOT to say.

Humans are hard-wired to say something when silence lingers long between them.

So it’s not surprising that when death makes talking difficult, the person most susceptible to that pressure will often blurt out the first thing that pops into her head.

And it is often, oh, so wrong.  

Read the rest here: What NOT To Say

Celebrating The Friends Who Stay!

Sticking with a friend whose life is hard and is going to continue to be hard is not for the faint of heart.

Not all wounds can be healed.  

Not all problems have a resolution.

Not all relationships follow a path that leads to a happy ending. 

Read the rest here: To The Friends Who Stay

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.

Father’s Day 2021: Bereaved Dads Need Support Too!

I’ve written often about how important friends are to our grief journey. They can encourage, provide practical help and simply by their presence remind a heart that darkness and despair is not all there is.

Men need friends who will step up and step in. They need masculine examples of sharing and caring.

Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How : NPR

They need grace and space to unlock the chest of emotions that they sometimes keep tucked away and hidden from their family because they think it’s their job to “be strong”.

So if you know a dad whose child has left for Heaven, reach out in the next couple of days before Father’s Day.

Read the rest here: Don’t Forget Dads!

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.

Don’t Forget Dads!

Like it or not the stereotype often rings true: women emote and men clam up.

I see it play out every day in the online support groups to which I belong. If you check the member list there are quite a number of dads in the mix but it’s exceedingly rare that one of them posts or comments.

I get it. I’m a wife and mother to three boys (now men). All of them are better at compartmentalizing difficult situations and pushing down emotions than I am.

When I have something heavy on my heart it almost always spills out and splashes across everything else.

They, on the other hand, will sit on sadness or anxiety or the never-ending missing that makes up child loss/sibling loss until it finally becomes more than even their iron-clad emotional chests can hold.

Even then they often weep in private, mourn in secret.

That’s unfortunate because it means they are frequently forgotten in society’s rush to comfort parents whose children make it first to Heaven.

Much is made over bereaved moms and Mother’s Day. There is even an International Bereaved Mother’s Day on the Sunday before Mother’s Day (U.S.). I (and others) take that opportunity to have a separate day to think about, mourn and celebrate the life of my child gone too soon.

But dads kind of get short shrift.

While there IS an International Bereaved Father’s Day ( August 29, 2021), it’s nowhere near as well-recognized as that for moms.

I’ve written often about how important friends are to our grief journey. They can encourage, provide practical help and simply by their presence remind a heart that darkness and despair is not all there is.

Men need friends who will step up and step in. They need masculine examples of sharing and caring.

Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How : NPR

They need grace and space to unlock the chest of emotions that they sometimes keep tucked away and hidden from their family because they think it’s their job to “be strong”.

So if you know a dad whose child has left for Heaven, reach out in the next couple of weeks before Father’s Day.

Take him fishing. Go for a ride. Tackle a project together.

Be a safe place for them to let their guard down, to open up, to release pent up emotions and (possibly) frustration.

Dads grieve too.

Don’t forget them.

We All Need Sheltering Trees

If you’ve never been caught short in the midst of an unexpected downpour you might not know how important refuge under the boughs of a cedar or oak tree can be.

Living in the middle of woods, punctuated by open pastures, I’ve retreated more than once to the safety of thick boughs which limit the rain’s ability to soak me through.

I have memorized every safe haven between the road and the middle of my 34 acres.

Faithful friends are like those sheltering trees-offering respite to a weary heart, providing a safe space to take a breath, granting protection when we are pursued by the enemy of our souls.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was a mess.

Most folks that brushed shoulders with me in public might not have guessed but those who knew me well saw me devolve from “got it together” to “don’t even know what I should be getting together”.

I was utterly devastated.

Some people were repulsed. They either couldn’t handle my ongoing neediness (a week or a month on the prayer list ought to be enough according to them) or they simply found my presence too uncomfortable a reminder that bad things happen regardless of how “good” you are.

But there were a few…a precious, precious few who refused to go away. They showed up and stayed.

It didn’t matter if they had any remarkable insight or help or “solutions” to my heartache.

What mattered is that they bent over my broken heart and provided shelter.

We all need sheltering trees in the storms of life.

And I am beyond thankful for every single person who is brave enough to bear the brunt of evil winds to provide that shelter.