As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.
So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.
But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optional, they are necessary for survival.
So what are healthy boundaries?
Read the rest here: Healthy Boundaries in Grief
I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels.
And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.
So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.
It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.
I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess…
Read the rest here: Dealing With Anxious Thoughts
I know that when I first stumbled onto a bereaved parent group, it was one of the things I was looking for: evidence that the overwhelming pain of child loss would not last forever.
Some days I was encouraged as those who had traveled farther down this path posted comments affirming that they could feel something other than sorrow.
Some days I was devastated to read comments from parents who buried a child decades ago asserting that “it never gets better”.
Who is right?
What’s the difference?
Do I have any control over whether or not this burden gets lighter?
Read the rest here: Will It Ever Get Better?
Shame is one of the most crippling aspects of child loss.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your child’s last days on earth, it can be compounded by friends, family and even strangers who speculate, comment or simply give a parent “that look”.
It’s true that we all MAKE mistakes but none of us ARE mistakes.
Grief work is, in part, embracing this life we didn’t choose.
But it is also letting go of feelings, identities and burdens placed upon our broken hearts by ourselves and others.
Shame tells us we are unworthy of love and belonging and that is simply a lie.
Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.
And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.
Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons:
- Circumstances surrounding the death of their child-suicide, alcohol, drug abuse;
- Inability to provide the funeral or burial they want due to financial constraints;
- Missing signs or symptoms of an illness that may have led to death;
- Family dynamics that pushed a child away from home or relationship.
The list could be endless-on the other side of child loss our brains pick apart every interaction, every choice, every moment that could have gone one way but went another.
Read the rest here: Shake Off the Shame
There are lots of opportunities for offense surrounding the death of a child.
Once your heart is broken open wide with great sorrow, there’s no defense against the bumps and bruises that are a natural product of human relationship and interaction.
- Friends and family that didn’t show up.
- Friends and family that showed up but said or did the wrong thing.
- Friends and family that abandoned me as soon as the casket closed.
- People that make me feel guilty for grieving or question my sanity or my “progress”.
But I’m learning to let go of offense.
Not only because it is too heavy to carry in addition to my grief, but because the Lord has commanded it.
I grew up reciting what’s commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer” without much thought to the individual phrases or their meaning. It wasn’t until adulthood that I read it in context and continued on to the rest of the chapter.
Read the rest here: Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us
My first instinct as a mother and a shepherd is always, “How can I help?”
I routinely set aside my own needs for the needs of others. Not because I’m so selfless but because that’s how I’m made-I’ve always had the heart of a caretaker.
That’s not a bad thing, most of the time.
But if taking care of others means NOT taking care of myself, then in the end, I’m of no use to anyone. When I allow every bit of energy-emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual-to drain away until there’s nothing left, I am unable to meet my most basic needs, much less the needs of others.
I’ve written before that grief puts a hole in my bucket. It guarantees that no matter how much is poured in, I’m never truly full.
Read the rest here: Grief and Self-Care: Surviving the Unthinkable
I’ll be honest-there are definitely times when “faking it” is the easier path. Chatty neighbors, standing in line, professional meetings or chance encounters lend themselves to light conversations that don’t need to include ALL my feelings or current grief experience.
But there are other times when being real, honest and authentic is not only preferable, it’s necessary.
I cannot fake it forever.
It took me awhile to figure that out.
Child loss is hard. Child loss impacts a family forever. Child loss is not “curable” or “solvable” and it’s not helpful to pretend it is.
So for the relationships that matter, I try to be transparent.
There’s a common bit of advice in grief circles: Fake it until you make it.
It’s not bad as far as it goes and can be pretty useful-especially just after the initial loss and activity surrounding it.
Like when I met the acquaintance in the grocery store a month after burying Dominic and she grabbed me with a giant smile on her face, “How ARE you?!!! It’s SO good to see you out!!!”
I just smiled and stood there as if I appreciated her interest, a deer caught in headlights, silently praying she’d live up to her talkative past and soon move on to another target.
BUT there comes a time when faking it is not helpful. In fact, it’s downright dangerous.
Read the rest here: Can’t Fake It Forever
When I wrote this a few years ago I had fallen outside when feeding the animals.
But I was reminded of the post when I fell-hard!-on sharp rocks in our creek playing with my grandson. I was holding his hand and both of us went down when my foot slipped.
I hobbled up the bank with a giant bleeding gash on my knee and I’m still living with a permanent knot on my kneecap. Poor little guy was frightened but not hurt.
He has recited that incident over and over and always ends it with, “I’m okay. Mama D okay. We’re okay.”
He can’t wait to get in again when it’s warmer.
I absolutely love, love, love that my sweet little boy has already learned the lesson of getting back up, even when it hurts.
It’s something I need to remember every. single. day.
I hate that question that every doctor’s office asks now, “Have you had any falls in the past twelve months?”
I always say, “no” even though that’s rarely true.
Because I know what they are looking for is evidence of disease that might be impacting balance and I’m perfectly free of that so I don’t want to place a red flag in my medical chart.
But I fall down pretty regularly.
Read the rest here: Falling Down and Getting Up Again
A little review as we get to the last post in our series: Trying to stuff or hide my pain from myself, God and others is fruitless and unhelpful.
I’ve got to breathe out the sorrow, doubts, angst and disappointment to make room for the life-giving breath of Truth and the Holy Spirit.
And then I need to do one more thing. I must appropriate the strength and courage of my Savior-the Author and Finisher of my faith.
It is possible to endure. It is possible to finish well. It is possible to hold onto hope and follow the Light and Love of Jesus through this Valley.
My friend and fellow bereaved mom, Margaret Franklin, Ryan’s mom, shared a beautiful Dutch word with me “Sterkte” (pronounced STAIRK-tah).
It literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more. It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insumountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.
Not MY strength, but HIS.
It’s the strength Isaiah meant when he wrote:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 KJV
This is what it means to appropriate God’s strength:
Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Appropriate God’s Strength
Have you ever walked away from a conversation and thought, “My goodness! I talked WAY too much”?
I can become so wrapped up in sharing my own experience, spilling my own feelings, trying to communicate my own point of view that I don’t leave space for the other person to get a word in edgewise.
Sometimes I do the same thing when talking to God-I can’t stop chattering long enough to hear what He wants to speak into my pain.
When I choose to listen, He is faithful to remind me of truth. He is faithful to lead me to the green pastures of His word where I can feast on His promises and be filled with hope.
“I wake before the morning light. Every. single. morning.
I get my coffee, sit in my chair and wait for sunrise.
I never worry that today it might not happen.
I’m never concerned that after all these years of faithfulness, this day may be the one where daylight fails to make an appearance.
There is no fear in this darkness because I know it will not last forever.
Morning is coming.
Morning. Is. Coming.
And that’s the hope I cling to in this longer darkness of the Valley of the Shadow of Death-no matter how many years it may be, the Valley has an end.
Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Access the Truth