A Thousand Pieces

We buried the earthly remains of my son seven years ago today.

I still have no idea how I walked away from that deep pit where his body would be lowered never to see daylight again.

But I did.

Western society doesn’t like to acknowledge the horror of death. We don’t like to be too dramatic, cry too loudly, wail and weep throwing our bodies over a casket.

But maybe we should.

Why can’t we have a dramatic outburst at the edge of death that burns an unforgettable image in the hearts and minds of those who join us to say good-bye?

Read the rest here: Fragments

Seven Years. Sigh…

When the numbness wore off (maybe around six months) I remember vaguely wondering what years down the road would feel like.

I tried to project the “me” of that moment into the future and imagine how I might deal with life changes, new circumstances, an empty nest, grandchildren (if there were any) and growing older alongside the heartache of burying a child.

But just as it’s impossible to comprehend how the addition of a child utterly transforms a family, it’s impossible to understand how the subtraction of one changes everything just as much.

We are all so very different than we would have been if Dominic were still here.

Life most likely wouldn’t be any more perfect because we would each grow and change, find common ground and find points of conflict, make new memories and drag up old hurts.

Still, none of us would carry the deep wound and traumatic injury of sudden and out-of-order death.

THAT is impossible to ignore. Even seven years later it’s a red flag, a sticky note, an addendum to every family gathering and holiday.

So we carry on.

Like generations before us who have walked this world dragging loss behind them, we keep going. It shapes us but doesn’t limit us. It informs our views but isn’t the only thing that molds our opinions and frames our choices.

My faith in God’s larger and perfect plan helps me hold onto hope even as I continue to miss my son.

But today is a hard day and I don’t think that’s going to change as long as I live.

I’m getting better at remembering Dominic’s birthday in ways that honor who he is and the man he might have become. I can’t say I’ve figured out any good way to walk through the yearly unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of the day he left us.

I’m learning to allow the grief waves to simply wash over me without resisting them.

Eventually the hours tick away, the day is over and I find I’ve survived yet again.

Remembering The Day Before It All Fell Apart

I fell asleep last night thinking about that Friday evening seven years ago when I closed my eyes on the world I knew only to open them to a world I wish I could forget.

It’s odd how these anniversaries play out-there’s the actual date (which, if I’m honest isn’t nearly as hard for me) plus the litany of days that lead up to the date and reconstruct the weekend that ended in tragedy.

The Friday night/Saturday morning combination bring me to my knees even seven years later. Only someone who has endured the doorbell or the phone call can truly understand how dozens of tiny prompts create a mental, physical and emotional response that can neither be ignored nor controlled.

It was raining last night and all I could think was, “Why wasn’t it raining THAT night? He wouldn’t have taken his motorcycle.”

Useless, futile and ill-advised pondering that simply made it harder to close my eyes and go back to sleep.

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Julian and I went to a college honors banquet and came back to the house to find Fiona home for the weekend.  I called Hector and texted with James Michael.

I turned out the light and went to sleep.  

No warning shots across the bow of life rang out to let me know what was coming.

But that Friday was the last day I spent misunderstanding the awfulness of death and the absolute uncertainty of life.

Read the rest here: The Day Before It All Fell Apart

Some Things I Wish I’d Known

I’ve written before that I am oh, so thankful I had NO IDEA Dominic would leave us that early April morning in 2014.

It would have cast an awful shadow over all those years we were blessed with his presence.

But there are some things I wish I’d known.

Read the rest here: Things I Wish I’d Known

How To Survive Grief Anniversaries


I know I’m not the only one who carries a calendar in my head that threatens to explode like a ticking timebomb.
  Days that mean nothing to anyone else loom large as they approach.

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The date of his death.

The date of his funeral.

His birthday.

My birthday.

The day he should have graduated from law school

On and on and on.

How can I survive these oppressive reminders of what I thought my life would look like? How can I grab hold of somethinganything that will keep my heart and mind from falling down the rabbit hole of grief into a topsy-turvy land where nothing makes sense and it’s full of unfriendly creatures that threaten to gobble me whole?

Read the rest here: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

Six Years: For You, A Moment; For Me, A Lifetime


I used to look at tombstones in cemeteries and do the math between the dates. 

I was most focused on how long this person or that person walked the earth. 

I still do that sometimes.  But now I do something else as well. 

I look to the left and the right to see if the person who ran ahead left parents behind.  My eye is drawn to the solitary stones with the same last name next to a double monument clearly honoring a married pair.

grieving mother at grave

And then I do a different kind of math. 

Read the rest here: For You, a Moment; For Me, a Lifetime

It’s a Process, Not a State of Being

I wrote this last year about this time. As I approach the six anniversary of Dom’s leaving, it still describes my journey.

We want grief to be something we can work through, get over, move past, neatly incorporate into our present life without untidy ends poking out all over.

But it’s not.

It’s an ongoing process that sometimes takes more energy and effort and sometimes less but always drawing away some resources from the here and now.

Melanie ❤

C. S. Lewis gave voice to so much of human experience in ways that help us understand ourselves and one another.

His book, Mere Christianity, began as a series of radio talks that were later compiled, published and sold millions and millions of copies.

I think Lewis managed to use a conversational, inviting voice in all his works.

When I read them I feel like I’m chatting with a friend (granted, an extremely erudite friend!).  He and I are discussing a thing, reasoning through it together.

He’s not teaching me something, he’s guiding me to learn it for myself.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/05/not-a-state-but-a-process/

When Grief Sneaks Up On You

Dependable routine is one of my most important coping mechanisms.

I like slipping from one familiar chore to the next without thinking.

It keeps my mind busy in an effortless way that leaves little room for random thoughts, little space for grief-inducing memories to sneak in and trip me up.

Change Aversion And The Conflicted User - Usability Geek

Change is really not my friend.

Still, change is upon me (and millions of others!) because of this virus. So I’m doing the best I can to cope.

Instead of a house to myself, now my husband is working from home. Instead of quiet mornings alone, conference calls echo off the walls and follow me out open windows to the yard. Instead of before dark breakfast and early lunch with the kitchen closed by noon, I eat early, he eats later, I eat lunch and he eats supper. Kitchen open til eight.

None of those are things I can’t get used to.

After all, I’m blessed he’s here, has a job and we have not only enough to eat but a wide variety . I like cooking and love finding creative uses for leftovers.

Creative Ways to Use Leftovers - Bites for Foodies

What no one but me knows about all the change is this: I’m walking places I tend not to go-in the house, in the yard, down our paths-and every place I set my foot holds memories I’ve been avoiding.

When we moved an old pen a couple weeks ago for new chickens we found a rusty chain attached to its base. While my husband and son were digging it out to use again I was transported to the day Dominic moved the pen years ago with the tractor. It was just me and him and he was a little perturbed with me that I needed it moved. I saw him in my mind’s eye plain as day on the tractor. I could hear his baritone voice above the trusty thrum of the engine and picture him hopping down from the seat, unhooking the chain and driving off to park the tractor.

It was a flash. Here and gone in an instant. But the rest of the day I suffered from a grief hangover that I just couldn’t shake.

These are challenging days.

So much of the routine I depend on to guide me through has been shredded. So many of the habits I’ve developed over years are unavailable right now.

Image may contain: ocean, cloud, sky and water, possible text that says 'FACEBOOK.COM/ SILENTGRIEFSUPPORT THE GRIEF ATTACKS OF CHILD LOSS ARE so UNEXPECTED. THEY COME CRASHING LIKE A WAVE THAT TRIES TO SWEEP US AWAY CLARA HINTON'

So I’m doing the best I can.

One day and one memory at a time.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Repeat.

So Many Grief Anniversaries: A Survivor’s Guide


There are more than you might think.  

Most folks would count the date of death and maybe the date of burial or memorial service.

But a mama’s heart counts it ALL.

I count the day he left, the day I was first able to view his body, the days of visitation, the day of the funeral and burial.

  • I count the day we cleaned out his apartment.
  • I count the day I notified credit card companies he would no longer require their services.
  • I count the day I received the death certificate.
  • I count the day I got his posthumous diploma.

And every year these dates roll around again to remind my heart of the pain I felt then and to pierce it afresh. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/02/12/how-can-i-survive-grief-anniversaries/

Post Holiday Blues: When The Grief Comes Crashing Down

It’s a paradox really-that grieving hearts can be more anxious and more sorrowful BEFORE and AFTER a milestone day, birthday or holiday than on the day itself.

That’s not true for everyone, but it’s a frequent comment in our closed bereaved parent groups.

Fearful anticipation of how awful it MIGHT be can work me up into a frenzy.

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The day of whatever it is usually passes quicker than I thought it could especially if there is a big meal involved and lots of people milling about.

Then everyone leaves and quiet darkness ushers in space and silence.

That’s the moment my heart recounts all the places Dominic should have been but wasn’t. That’s when I think of how his baritone voice was missing from the conversation, his laugh from the chorus of merry makers, his opinion from the slightly heated volley over politics or another current event.

I guess it’s kind of a holiday hangover without the booze.

But there’s no strange concoction I can drink to rid me of these symptoms.

Instead I have to give my heart permission to take out each feeling and FEEL it. I have to acknowledge that even when I spend the day laughing and enjoying family and friends, I still miss Dominic.

So I try to build a day (or two!) of recovery into my holiday planning.

And that’s OK.

Whenever possible that’s exactly what I do.

So you won’t find me rushing out to shop the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas or any of our own family’s unique grief anniversaries.

Instead I’ll wake slowly, drink coffee and watch the sunrise.

I might take a walk, read a book or write in my journal.

I will definitely find moments of solitude to acknowledge that once again I have survived what I thought I might not.

And for that, I’m grateful.