It Changes Everything

Part of the reason I share my story is to provide insight for people who haven’t lost a child into the hearts and lives of those who have.

But mainly it is to be a voice for and to encourage other parents walking this valley by letting them know they aren’t alone, their feelings and experiences are perfectly normal and that just as welcoming a child into your family is a life-altering event, saying good-bye to a child is a life-altering event. 

We do not expect a mom to “get over” the changes having a baby brings to her everyday experience, and we should not expect a  bereaved mom to “get over” the changes burying one brings either.

Want to help?  Read:  Loving the Grieving Heart

Who Needs Hope Unless They are Broken?

The gospels don’t hide the fact that Jesus came to a broken world.

Religious leaders who were supposed to be guarding and guiding God’s people were instead protecting positions of power and leading others astray.

The masses were beaten down-helpless under the burden of Roman occupation and hopeless that they could ever “measure up” under the system of customs and laws that had been imposed by the Pharisees.

Jesus spoke truth to this reality, He didn’t deny it.

Jesus looked brokenness in the face and promised redemption and restoration.

But He admitted that in THIS world, the one we walked on, there would be tribulation.  He didn’t promise a pain-free existence, He promised His Presence in the midst of pain.

And that is the power of the cross-that an instrument of torture became a symbol of hope.

What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good.

When we try to soft-pedal the struggles of life, when we try to shape our stories into victorious narratives with tidy endings, when we deny the presence of pain, we diminish the power of the cross.

Read more here:  denial

Wow! Just. Wow!

I’m always a little frightened to expose my vulnerable underbelly to the sometimes vicious wilderness of the worldwide web.

So when I clicked “send” for yesterday’s post I had immediate regrets-was it too personal? too negative? too self-focused?

I am overwhelmed by the comments both on the blog and on Facebook-comments of encouragement, understanding and hope-not condemnation or condescension.

All I can say is,  “Thank you!”

And I was reminded that isolation is a powerful weapon in the hands of the enemy of our souls.

But godly community disarms it.

So I want to make sure that everyone who reads this blog knows about two online Facebook sites that offer hope and healing through the truth of Scripture and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Each has a public page visible to anyone on Facebook and features posts of interest to bereaved parents and those walking with them.

While We’re Waiting is a large, well established non-profit organization.  In addition to the online presence, it offers in-person support to bereaved parents through retreats and support groups.  I am very grateful to the Sullivans and Browns who founded the group after experiencing child loss-their obedience has been a blessing in my life and in the lives of many other grieving parents. 

Heartache and Hope is the name of a page I created as an additional resource, along with the blog, for those who are grieving a child.

To receive posts in your newsfeed, simply “like” the public page and benefit from the encouragement.

From each group’s public page, bereaved parents and grandparents can request admission to a closed discussion group.

The private discussion groups are just that-private. Only bereaved parents and grandparents may participate.  It’s a safe space where everyone understands and shares your pain.

As I read and was encouraged by each comment on yesterday’s post, I thought of an image many of us have seen-a defensive circle of elephants facing outward-the vulnerable calves safely tucked in the middle.

circle of elephants

A lion can prowl around the edges but knows it is already defeated.  Nothing can penetrate the powerful perimeter that protects the potential prey.

Peter warned early believers:

Most importantly, be disciplined and stay on guard. Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone.

I Peter 5:8 VOICE

That’s what community feels like.  

I’m surrounded and protected.  

That old lion-the enemy-can roar all he wants to.  He can’t touch me.

For God did not choose us to condemn us, but that we might secure his salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. He died for us, so that whether we are “awake” or “asleep” we share his life. So go on cheering and strengthening each other with thoughts like these, as I have no doubt you have been doing.

I Thessalonians 5:9-12 PHILLIPS

 

I am NOT Crazy!

It was just over a year after Dominic’s accident and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were “stuck’ in grief.  Along with the forward was a little tag, “Reminds me of you.”

It hurt my feelings.

And it was inappropriate.

Because not only had I not participated in any of the listed behaviors (most of which anyone would deem odd and some that were actually harmful) but as far as I could tell, I was doing pretty good, considering.

Considering I went to bed one night with four children alive and well and woke in the wee hours of the next day to the news that one was dead.

No warning.  No good-byes.

Just gone.

In the months since that day I had gotten up each morning and taken care of necessary tasks.  I was not abusing alcohol, drugs or food.  I was still exercising when I could.

And I was engaged with my family -working with them to put the pieces of our shattered lives and hearts back together again.

Yes, I cried.  A lot.  No, I didn’t like to be around crowds.  I stayed at home much more than before. I struggled with anxiety when anything out of the ordinary happened.  I found small talk hard to follow and forgot things (still do). And I was not participating in many “extra” activities.

I slept with Dominic’s pillows every night-it was a way to touch what was left of him.

But I was functioning.

My friend’s reaction to the fact that I was “still” grieving after a year is not all that unusual.

I speak to bereaved parents who are often made to feel by others as if they should “be over” the death of their child.

They are told to “move on”.

Or, in faith circles, to “be happy he is in heaven”.

Most mental health professionals agree that child loss is probably the most difficult loss anyone has to bear.  

A simple Google search will turn up dozens of articles that support this understanding of a parent’s heartache and lifelong struggle to embrace the pain of losing a child.

Yet most people are unaware of this fact.

So I’m here to tell you-grieving mama, grieving dad-you are NOT crazy!  

You are not overreacting to one of the most awful things that can happen to someone.  Out of order death is devastating!

When asked about his son years after he had died,  Gregory Peck replied:

every day

As I’ve written in a previous post Am I Normal?

No one thinks it strange that the ADDITION of a child is a life-long adjustment.

So, why, why, why is it strange that the SUBTRACTION of a child would also require accommodation for the rest of a mother’s life?

I understand that if you haven’t walked this path, you can’t REALLY know what it’s like-even if you try.

I don’t want you to know this pain by experience.

It’s awful and unrelenting.

What I do want you to know is I am NOT crazy for missing my son.  I am NOT crazy for wishing I could turn back the clock.

I am NOT crazy because this devastating, paradigm shifting, unbelievably painful event still impacts my everyday life.

Please don’t treat me like I am.

The best help a friend can offer is a listening ear-no judgement-and a hug that says, “I love you. And I’m sorry.”

changed for life

 

Grieving Together: Surviving Siblings

“Family means no one gets left behind or fogotten”~David Ogden Stiers

We are in this together, and part of my job as mom to the children still walking the earth with me  is to help them survive the loss of their brother.

I write about that here: Helping My Children Walk Through Grief

The Wrecking Ball of Grace

In the aftermath of loss, relationships suffer.

Sometimes it’s because of harsh words exchanged in the heat of emotional moments.

Sometimes it’s due to disagreements about how to deal with ongoing issues.  Often, it’s because most people just don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do in the presence of great pain and suffering.

Days and weeks and months pass and one day we wake up and realize that a previously close relationship is now distant and strained.

I know that in my grief I have felt abandoned by people I felt sure would stand with me, would never leave me, would be my most stalwart encouragers.

And I know, too, that I have shut some people out.  Some were too chipper or too quick to offer platitudes and others just seemed intolerant of my ongoing pain and sorrow.

Walls have been erected.

My heart sectioned off and my world divided into “us” and “them”.

I’m sorry for that.  That’s not the way I want it to be.

Walls between people are built brick by brick.

A word spoken or not spoken.  A call,  text  or message misinterpreted or mistimed.

But they can be brought down with one blow.

wrecking ball

Grace is a wrecking ball that breaks through walls and stone cold hearts.

Grace given and grace received.  

A call, a text, an email or message that says, “I’m thinking of you.  I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch.”

Or a card sent the old fashioned way filled with love to assure a wounded heart that it is not abandoned or forgotten.

Image result for image letter

“”I’m sorry.”

“I miss you.”

“I love you.”

It may not be easy and it might take several attempts.

 

 

 

But in the end, who can refuse extended arms and an open heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love: No Talent Required

So many times I choose to designate those who are doing great things for the Kingdom of God as having special talent, or a special calling or extraordinary grace.

In doing so I try to excuse myself from my obligations as a Christ follower.

I set those “super Christians” aside as “holy” and “other” to make it easier to trudge blindly on, ignoring the people God places in MY path as MY assignment.

And that is sin.

If my life is too busy to bend down,

if my calendar is too full to make room for helping my neighbor,

if my heart is too hard to break over the pain and suffering and hopelessness that is splattered across headlines and newsfeeds,

then I am not listening to my Savior.

When my heart is turned toward Christ, it is filled with His love, His compassion, His mercy and grace.

Loving others is not a special calling or talent or gift.

It is a command.

[Jesus said] So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.

John 13:34-35 VOICE

 

small things with great love