It is scary to speak aloud what you hope will never happen to you. It’s unbelievably frightening to admit that we really have no control over whether, or when, we or the ones we love might leave this world.
But I am not going to keep silent.
Not because I want pity or special treatment, but because I want that parent who just buried his or her child to know that you. are. not. alone.
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.
You’d think that seven YEARS would be time enough to adjust to missing my child, to the changes child loss and sibling loss have wrought in my family, to the awful, unavoidable giant HOLE left in every photo, every gathering, every holiday, every everything.
But it isn’t.
That’s largely why I’m still writing. It’s why I fill my social media profile with invitations to those who share my experience and reminders to those who do not (thankfully!!) that this continues to be the Life I Did Not Choose.
I’m not looking for sympathy, just raising awareness.
Because, really, isn’t the whole point of being human to try to make one another’s journey just a tad bit lighter?
Child loss rips through a life like a tornado-wild, unpredictable, viciously destructive.
It drops from the sky like a meteorite-no warning, no defense, just crushing weight.
I first shared this two years ago when I was reflecting on half a decade of living without one of my children beside me. I’ve now had another year to think about why or if I’ll continue to write.
Every so often I take a day or two to reflect on whether I want to keep posting. I have to admit sometimes I worry that if I bang the same drum it will sound too loud or obnoxious in some people’s ears.
But then I get a message or comment from someone fresh on this journey and they feel seen, heard, validated and safe. So I write on.
And I find that writing still brings clarity and comfort to my soul. I still have things to say and I hope what I say still brings some small measure of light, love, life and hope to other hearts.
If someone had said, “Pick any topic to write about”, child loss wouldn’t have been in the first million choices.
No one CHOOSES child loss (Thus the name of the blog: The Life I Didn’t Choose).
But untold numbers of parents EXPERIENCE it every year. This very day, parents somewhere got a knock on the door or a phone call or sat next to a hospital bed as life slipped slowly from their child’s tired body.
Since I was already journaling and had walked this Valley for nearly a year and a half, it dawned on me that the ramblings I’d put down might be helpful to another heart. So I started THIS blog in September, 2015.
Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.
They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.
They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.
So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).
It was an excellent exercise.
I looked back over social media posts and blog posts from the half-decade and more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I could trace progress from breath-robbing, body-wracking, all-consuming sorrow to a gentler, muted and tender missing that made room for joy and beauty alongside the ever-present tangible absence of one of my children.
I also noted a transition from “spilling my guts” to “trail guide”.
I’m no longer primarily using this space to release feelings and thoughts I’m not comfortable tossing out in day-to-day conversation. Instead, I’m mostly thinking about and sharing what I’ve learned along the way-pointing out the pitfalls and (hopefully!) encouraging hearts to keep on keeping on.
I’ve given myself permission to repost earlier entries (please note dates when you click through) that represent more raw emotions without making apology for either the lack of time or energy to write something new or the angst I once felt.
I’m also choosing to limit my online interaction to an hour in the morning and maybe an hour in the evening.
I absolutely desire to speak encouragement, grace and hope to hearts that are struggling but still need to guard my own from overload.
And as for friends, family or strangers who think, “Goodness, gracious! She needs to MOVE ON!”.
I say, “How can I hide or hoard this hard-won wisdom and experience?”
This is my ministry.
I didn’t ask for it, but it’s mine.
I won’t run away.
So until the Lord tells me definitively He has another path for my life I’ll be here.
It was one of the things I shared with Dominic since both of us were Political Science majors and had aspirations of a legal career.
In recent years I’ve found it healthier to eschew most newscasts and instead selectively choose printed news stories based on interest, relevance and headlines.
Yesterday I was blindsided by what seemed innocuous enough, “Gas Prices Expected to Rise in Wake of Cyber-attack on Pipeline”. Curiosity led me to click and read the article.
Everything was just fine until I read this line, “Gas prices will soon reach levels not seen since 2014.” That’s when it hit me.
So. much. life. has been lived between Dominic’s leaving and this moment.
Of course I’m always aware to some degree that time is passing and he is drifting further and further behind relative to my family’s everyday experience. But I’m not often required to stop, take stock and really count the days and ways he hasn’t been part of all the things that fit between his last breath and my most recent one.
2014. My goodness that’s working it’s way to a decade!
And when you consider that college degrees are (ideally!) completed in four years, babies are in the womb for nine months before making an appearance, jobs can be won and lost in a week and retirement declared in thirty days-well, seven plus years is a very, very long time.
Sweet Ryker has only been part of our lives for just over two years.
My mama joined Dominic in heaven eighteen months ago.
The pandemic has forced uncomfortable changes and choices for more than twelve months.
My husband’s official retirement date was half a year ago.
And that’s just a few of the bigger changes since Dom left for Heaven!
I am thankful (didn’t think I’d ever really mean that) to have survived and, in many ways, thrived, since burying one of my children.
It’s been hard.
But I don’t want to rush my precious family into further grief and pain.
Even so I’m prone to sit, bewildered, that time refuses to stand still in light of the giant loss we’ve all suffered.
And sometimes even headlines remind my heart of that.