Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Repost: Curating Grief

I wrote this post 18 months ago after a number of incidents when friends and family members tried to tell me how long to grieve, what my grieving should look like and (most hurtful) how my son would want me to grieve.

I rejected that notion then, and I reject it now.

Most of us have taken a class or two in literature–we read other people’s writing and sit around discussing “what it really means”.  My husband has always scoffed at the notion that anyone but the author knows that.

Me–I love books, plays and poetry so I’ve spent a lifetime reading and trying to interpret the meaning of others’ words.

But now I find I’m leaning more toward my husband’s point of view.

One of the challenges I face as a grieving parent is finding that other people want to interpret my experience for me.

Read the rest here:  curating grief

What Does Faith Really Look Like?

Is faith always a never-faltering, wild “Hallelujah!”?

I don’t think so.

I think faith is essentially this:  turning my face toward the God I love even when (especially when!) I’ve stopped expecting an answer and maybe even when my heart has despaired of help.

I would argue that faith is precisely that step forward into the dark unknown, onto the broken road, lifting  the unbearable heaviness as an offering and trusting that

God sees,

that He hears

and that He will not abandon me.

We’re all encouraged when we read through Psalms. But what did David endure to experience the depth of love he has for God? What kind of heart-shredding pain did he go through before understanding how real and present God was and just how much God loved him regardless of his brokenness?

Understanding the whole story of the Bible, it’s much easier to see that my brokenness has a purpose.”

~Laura Story, When God Doesn’t Fix It

faith-deliberate-trust

Grief Groups and Echo Chambers

I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.

I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family.  I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.

Sadly, there are new members added daily.  New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.

I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.

And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death.  It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.

But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.

Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again.  Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.

what is an echo chamber

Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:

No one understands,

everyone has abandoned me,

I am unloved, alone and hopeless.

That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.

But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.

hope holds a breaking heart togetherSo I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable.  I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.

Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.

let-yourself-rest

 

Time Travel

This may come as a shock to my city-dwelling readers, but there is not a UPS store on every corner in rural Alabama.

In fact, there isn’t one in the whole county where I live. 

So when I had to return something with a prepaid label,  the nearest place to do it was up the highway and off an exit that I probably haven’t taken in a decade.  After dropping the package, on a whim, I scooted across the street to the Winn Dixie store for just a minute.

As soon as I entered, I knew I’d made a dreadful mistake.  The store had not changed even a little in the years and years since I was last there.  

And the last time I was there was with all four children.  

Those were the days when we piled into our Suburban and did marathon shopping runs to take advantage of every sale in one day.  My kids were experts at finding the right size item specified on whatever coupons we might be using to drop the price even further.  I would dispatch the boys to get heavier things as I went up and down the aisles loading the buggy with canned goods.

So when I walked in and the store even SMELLED the same, I was instantly transported to those days.  I could almost hear the laughter of my sons, see my daughter next to me and feel that blessed togetherness I cherished even then but long for painfully, desperately NOW.  

I’m not sure that my heart didn’t stop for just a second or two.  I know I held my breath.

It was both beautiful to remember and more painful than I could have imagined.

I was utterly unprepared for the grief wave that swept over my heart.

I forced myself to walk slowly to grab the item I needed.  I got in line, made small talk with a friendly customer and a chatty cashier.  And then I practically ran out the door and to my truck in an attempt to escape the sadness.

At home, I let the tears fall.  Sat in silence and gathering darkness and let myself FEEL all the feels.

I am oh, so grateful for every single moment I can remember but oh, so sad there won’t be any more.

it has been said that time heals all wounds rose kennedy clock

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Who’s Gonna Miss You Baby?

Busyness has become a national idol-we rush from commitment to commitment, signing up to fill every single minute with something, anything that makes us feel important, valuable, irreplaceable.

Of course we have job and family obligations-as we should-but we don’t feel fully accomplished until we have colored in the edges of our calendar until no white space remains.

Because we think that if we don’t show up, people will miss us.  We think that if WE don’t do this or that, it won’t get done.  We are absolutely certain that our input is critical to the success of every mission, every committee, every project.

Can I let you in on a little secret?  It’s not.

One of the inconvenient and difficult truths that has been burned in my brain since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven is this:  his absence didn’t make a bit of difference to the world at large.

It only made a difference to the hearts that loved him.

He was editor of a law journal-guess what?  It was still published.

He died days before final exams.  They happened anyway.

His apartment? Cleaned out and rented to the next in line.

His commitments? The hole closed up around the space he would have occupied or it was filled with someone else’s body and energy.

He is truly missed by those for whom his absence was inconceivable, not by those for whom his absence was an inconvenience.  

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So my take away is this:  I will not waste my time running here, there and everywhere.

I will not spend my life energy on things or projects or activities that don’t matter.

I am not going to invest the scarce resource of the rest of my life in busyness.

I will give everything I’ve got to hearts and lives and people.  I will pour myself into projects I’m passionate about, people I love and pursuits that will outlive my few years on this earth.

Because busyness does not define me.  

Love does.

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