When faced with the upcoming holidays and already rapid heartbeat and fading strength, the last thing a bereaved parent wants to hear is , “Make a plan”.
But the truth is, if you don’t it will be so. much. worse.
No one can tell YOU what the plan should be. Each family is unique. Each year brings different challenges-declining health, moves, children or grandchildren born and a dozen other variables that must be accounted for THIS year versus years past.
I realize yesterday’s post was somewhat out of character.
I was angry and hurt and utterly dumbfounded that another parent might take my words exactly as I wrote them (emphasis and all) and simply lift them out of context and plaster them across the Internet.
My heart is especially vulnerable right now.
My mother just died. It’s only been three weeks. And her death has reopened wounds I’d grown skilled at ignoring.
While I’ve been encouraged by many of you who understand the way I feel, I’ve also been hurt by many who seem to think that if I protect my intellectual property I’m petty and unkind.
So I’m just gonna put this out there-I’m tired, y’all. Worn out.
I’m more exhausted than I’ve been since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
The past two years have drained every ounce of reserve I had (and that wasn’t much).
This week has finished me off.
I’m not going to fight to try to get anyone who can’t understand to see my point of view. My debating days are over.
I might just lay the blog aside for awhile. I don’t really know right now.
So, “thank you” to everyone who has come along for the ride. Thank you to every heart that has reached across the miles or across cultures to comment and join in on the conversation. You have encouraged me more than you will ever know.
I try to limit the time I spend perusing old photos and old social media posts of my missing son.
I’ve learned that while they remind me of sweet memories and happy times they also prick my heart in ways nothing else can.
I was looking for something specific the other day and had to scroll through Dominic’s Facebook page to find it. As I did, I began reading some of the back and forth comments under the posts and pictures.
This time it wasn’t what was said or where the photos were taken that hurt my heart.
Instead it was the tiny little time stamp underneath the words that took my breath away.
Nothing more recent than five years ago was recorded.
Because that’s when his voice went silent.
That’s when whatever he was going to say was either said or never would be said. That’s when all the brilliant, not-so-brilliant, snarky, funny, sad, silly and sage thoughts Dominic ever had or ever would have were cut off.
I firmly believe that Dominic is safe in the arms of Jesus-more alive now than he ever was here. I know he’s got things to say and when I join him we will have eternity to chat together.
But right now, what I wouldn’t give for one more conversation in the here and now.
I’ve got things I want to ask him.
I’ve got things I want to tell him.
I’d love to hear his voice or read his comments or see a new picture.
The years of silence echo loud in my ears and louder in my heart.
I think it was second grade when I started a notebook dedicated to them-carefully copying out the words of others that spoke the truths of my own heart. Although the topics which draw me are different now, I’m still collecting them.
So here are fifteen quotes on grief that I hope will help another heart:
I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache and about lying awake.’
That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.
I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over.
Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it… Every lament is a love-song.
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son
You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.
They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite
Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince
What an awful thing then, being there in our house together with our daughter gone, trying to be equal to so many sudden orders of sorrow, any one of which alone would have wrenched us from our fragile orbits around each other.
Paul Harding, Enon
This was how to help a family who has just lost their child. Wash the clothes, make soup. Don’t ask them what they need, bring them what they need. Keep them warm. Listen to them rant, and cry, and tell their story over and over.
Ann Hood, The Obituary Writer
I guess I always thought it would be bigger, when a terrible thing happened. Didn’t you think so? Doesn’t it seem like houses ought to be caving in, and lightning and thunder, and people tearing their hair in the street? I never – I never thought it would be this small, did you?
Dan Chaon, Stay Awake
There are no words, not in English, Spanish, Arabic, or Hebrew, that have been invented to explain what it’s like to lose a child. The nightmarish heartache of it. The unexplainable trepidation that follows. No mother loses a child without believing she failed as a parent. No father loses a child without believing he failed to protect his family from pain. The child may be gone, but the years the child were meant to live remain behind, solid in the mind like an aging ghost. The birthdays, the holidays, the last days of school—they all remain, circled in red lipstick on a calendar nailed to the wall. A constant shadow that grows, even in the dark. As I was saying…there are no words.
I have to admit that I’m not nearly in the fog as much with my mama’s death as I was with Dominic’s death.
I’ve found this time around I can kind of stand a little apart and be a little more objective.
It’s no less horrific or painful or sad, but it IS an orderly death (parents before children) and gives me space to take a step back and observe some things instead of having to filter every single interaction through my emotions.
So can I share a little secret?
It literally takes five minutes or less to encourage a broken heart.
I know people often think that if they don’t have the perfect words or lots of time it’s better to do or say nothing.
That’s just not true.
Send a text, a private message, an email, a card. Make a quick phone call (believe me, the bereaved will not keep you on the line!) or leave a voicemail.
What grieving hearts want to know is that someone sees their pain, someone has taken notice of the drastic and unwelcome change that’s been thrust upon them.
We don’t want to feel invisible. We don’t want to be overlooked because it makes you uncomfortable.
Face your own discomfort (which is microscopic compared to the heartache of the bereaved!) and make the call, send the message, write the email or card.
I promise you will waste more than five minutes today.
So take that tiny bit of time and focus your efforts on speaking courage to a hurting heart.
You don’t have to have the perfect words- “I’m so sorry” is just fine.
Then your head can hit the pillow tonight knowing you helped a heart hold onto hope.
You made a difference between someone giving up or going on.