Healing is a process that takes as long as it takes and may never be complete this side of eternity. It’s a folding in of the hard parts of my story, an acknowledgement of the way I am changed because of the wounds I’ve received. It involves scar tissue and sore spots and ongoing pain.
Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.
So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.
Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.
I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.
Lately my trusty tool has let me down.
I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.
Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.
Part of it is the time of year.
Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.
But I’m not.
Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.
Last year’s Facebook post:
2:53 4/7/2019 ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.
I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.
So today, breathing is enough.
2:53 April 7, 2019
And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.
Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.
How my heart hurts!
I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.
I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.
“People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
It’s easy when you’re scared to shout loudly at whatever scapegoat crosses your path. But it’s hardly helpful.
My earnest hope in this season of worldwide fear is this: that people will show themselves to be more compassionate than they think they are, that communities will come together instead of falling apart and that while politicians may work hard to spin headlines one way or the other, citizens will insist on helping one another instead of hating one another.
A friend recently posted that not all the lessons of grief are bitter.
Some are sweet.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey. And one of the sweet things I’ve learned is that the best thing to offer fellow travelers is a bit of my heart instead of a piece of my mind.
Sometimes I’m envious of folks hobbling along in those plastic boots designed to support an injured leg or ankle and aid healing.
Not because of the injury–I’m thankful I’ve never broken a bone-but because it’s an outward warning to anyone who might otherwise be impatient or insensitive that they just can’t go any faster.
I think there ought to be some kind of t-shirt, pin or banner that gives the same kind of warning for those of us walking around with broken hearts and broken lives.
But there isn’t.
Except for the first shell-shocked days immediately following Dominic’s death, I look pretty much the same as I always have.
Most of us do.
If you lined up a hundred parents and scattered ten in the group who had suffered child loss, very few people would be able to single them out.
The giant heart wound we bear is barely noticeable to the uninitiated.
Yet even years later, we need extra support, extra care, extra grace to help us continue to heal.
There’s no plastic boot to fit around a broken heart. But there are things friends and family can do to create safe spaces that protect it.
Remember my heart is tender and easily bruised.
Speak about my child in Heaven. When I hear his name it is music to my ears.
Allow me to graciously bow out of activities or gatherings that are noisy, busy or filled with people I don’t know.
Don’t change the subject when I become emotional because you are uncomfortable-acknowledge my pain as a perfectly acceptable response to an unfathomable loss or just hug me.
Help me carry the light and life of my missing child by sharing memories, photographs or mementos. It’s a great gift to know that my child is spoken about, remembered and loved by others.
Recognize that while I am stronger, the absolute weight of my burden isn’t lighter. On some days it’s heavier than others so don’t be surprised by tears that seem out of place or out of time.
Remember important dates like my child’s birthday or memorial service day or even when he or she would have graduated high school or college if denied that opportunity. My heart mark all those silent grief anniversaries even when no one else recognizes them. It can be awfully lonely. Compassionate companionship expressed in a note, text or call helps so very much.
Please don’t give up on me! There may be seasons when i isolate in an effort to protect my heart. I know it’s hard to continue to reach out to someone who won’t reach back, but sometimes I just don’t have the strength to do it even when the distance is short. Try again in a little while.
If you know someone whose child has run ahead to Heaven, don’t ignore the wound.
Don’t insist that they walk as fast or as unencumbered as you might.