I was asked a few months ago to record a short video sharing about how my son’s death impacted my faith.
It was the first time in the more than seven years since he ran ahead to Heaven I’d tried to tell the story in so few words.
And while I’ve shared much of this same material (plus even more details, thoughts and feelings!) here on the blog, I thought a few of you may want to watch this short video to gain some background you might have missed.
I DID misspeak in one instance-my eldest son was not yet in the Air Force at that time. He was out of town though when I got the news of his brother’s accident.
When my mother suffered a stroke, brief hospital stay and then joined Dominic in Heaven just over two years ago it brought it all back.
The crowded house, telephone calls-repeating, repeating, repeating the necessary details to friends and family-decisions and bone-tired weariness that never leads to sleep. This time, though, I had the sad advantage of experience.
I didn’t think I’d write at all that week but then this list of truly helpful things came to mind so I jotted it down. I believe if we share more openly with the nonbereaved, they will be better equipped to come alongside.
I have learned so much since that day when Dominic left us suddenly for Heaven.
Some of the things I know now are things I wish I didn’t know at all.
Many serve me well-not only in how I respond to my own pain and loss-but also how I respond to the pain and loss in the lives of those I love.
Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.
I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.
And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.
I will confess: I’m no better at this than the first set of holidays after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
Every. Single. Year. has brought changes and challenges on top of the empty chair round the family table.
Since Dominic left us we’ve had additions (a grandchild and various significant others) and sadly, more subtractions (my mother joined Dom in 2019). We’ve dealt with distance, deployment, healthcare and retail work schedules, a pandemic and lots of other, less easily defined tensions and difficulties.
When I ran across this quote awhile back my heart screamed, “YES!!!”
Gathering an entire family (which may include teens and young adults) for any extended length of time is a feat of scheduling, negotiation, and preference management. International treaties have been worked out in fewer steps. The sheer number of details that have to line up is mind-boggling.
There are the absolute parameters forced upon any family by distance and availability. NegotiatingTHOSEis truly a feat.
But when your family story includes profound loss, a mama often has additional hoops to jump through. Surviving siblings bring their own grief to the table and what that looks like can change over time. So something that worked one year might be rejected this season.
I wish I had some magical insight that could guide every wounded heart through these next, treacherous months.
What I can tell you is that it’s better to start earlier rather than later. Nothing falls into place without some planning. Old habits are hard to break and traditions are well-worn habits so don’t expect anyone to give them up easily.
No one can read your mind (are YOU telepathic?). Tell your friends and family what you need (even if it is that you have NOidea what you need!).
And then make space in your celebrations for times when you can grieve the absence of your child. It may be a shared moment or it may be you remember in solitude.
If you have surviving children, remember they are grieving too. They have lost a sibling, their innocence regarding death’s ability to steal even the young and the family they once knew.
Extend grace to others when you can.
Extend grace to yourself when you must.
Be honest and do the best you can.
Then remember that even these days are only twenty-four hours long. They will pass.
The sun will rise and you will, undoubtedly find out you survived. ❤
I hid this post in my draft folder for months before I published it the first time.
It seemed too raw, too full of all the pain inside my mama heart to put out in the wide world for everyone to see.
And then it was time (like now) to change the flowers on the place where my son’s body rests and I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS IS NOT ALL THERE IS OF MY BOY!”I wanted to stop people on the street and make them listen to his story, to give away a piece of him for others to carry in their hearts.
I first shared this years ago in response to some parents’ comments about friends and even family who simply would not relent in offering unsolicited advice or worse, graceless observations on how they “should be” handling their grief.
While I am all for assuming the best about folks, I am not an advocate of submitting oneself to bullying.
Boundaries are not only helpful, they are absolutely, positively necessary for anyone. And especially for wounded hearts.
You do not have to be anyone else’s punching bag!
There are some people who make it a habit to be insensitive.
They are the ones who delight in speaking their mind regardless of how it hurts another heart. They pride themselves on “telling it like it is” and justify the fallout as a necessary consequence of “opening the eyes” of people they consider “blind to the truth”.
And while I believe that it is my duty as a Christ follower to forgive these folks when they hurt my feelings, I do not believe that I am required to continue to offer my heart to them to be tossed to the ground and trampled.
I’ve thought long and hard about that season of “un-feeling”.
Why did my heart shut down? Why the long silence when no emotion pierced my soul?
I think it was necessary.
I think a body and mind and heart can’t operate for too long at warp speed. I think that just like fainting is a response to the brain needing oxygen, numbness is a response to the soul’s need for respite and time to heal.
So if you are in the season of numb, you’re neither crazy nor alone.