Headlines and Heartstrings

I am a bit of a reformed news junkie.

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.

Success Kid Meme - Imgflip

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.

Living on a farm I’ve buried a lot of things in this Alabama dirt, I never thought my brother would be one of them. I miss you so much Hector Dominic DeSimone! ~Julian DeSimone

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.

I Know My Child Is Gone, But…

Seven years and most days I accept that it’s real like I accept the Theory of Relativity-factually true but I don’t really understand how it fits in my life.

When I pause and focus on, ”Dominic is gone” it’s just as shocking today as the very first day.

Even therapists get it wrong sometimes.

Especially therapists that only know what child loss is supposed to look like from books and lectures.

I understand how logical it seems that a parent should be able to accept his or her child is no longer alive. After all, most of us saw our child’s lifeless body and performed whatever rituals our hearts find most comforting.

Read the rest here: Am I Refusing To Accept My Child Is Gone?

So What Can I DO? Show Up.

I absolutely understand how it feels to be frozen between “I want to DO something” and “I have no idea WHAT to do”.

It’s where most of us find ourselves when we hear of a loved one compelled to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It seems pushy to force help on a fragile heart and yet it feels cowardly to stand by while that same heart struggles to complete all the tasks necessary surrounding death.

So what can a caring friend or family member do? Start by showing up.

I remember the morning I got the news and as the sun was coming up, a truck pulled down our lane.  It was Robbie-our “adopted” son.  As soon as my oldest son (who was in WV at the time) got the call, he called Robbie.  Because he knew I would be able to bear Robbie’s presence and accept Robbie’s help.  

I cannot describe the relief I felt when he came to the door-another shoulder to help carry this burden until we could gather all our family together to lift it in unison.

And after him came a couple we had known since the kids were little. 

Both rushed to our doorstep to offer companionship, practical aid, listening ears and simple reassurance that though this was NOT a dream-oh, how I wanted it to be a dream!I was not going to walk this Valley alone. 

They stayed until my husband, son and parents had made it here.  I will never, ever, ever forget that gift of unconditional love and time offered just when I needed it most.

Read the rest here: What Can I DO? Start by Showing Up.

Seeking Peace/Battling Anxiety: A Stout Heart

So here we are a year later and the headlines still proclaim, “Just wait! It’s going to get better!”

In some ways things ARE better-there are vaccines, treatments and protocols that can chip away at the virus. Toilet paper is back on the shelves. Working from home is working out for a number of folks who love the flexibility.

In many ways we are still in a holding pattern. Waiting for life as we once knew it to once more be available.

Young people have lost important opportunities and are anxious to not lose more. Old people have lost precious time with children and grandchildren and are oh, so aware that every passing day is one less to spend with them and build memories.

So we’re still practicing this whole waiting thing. And it’s hard.

It’s hard to wait.

It’s harder to rest patiently for something you desperately want .

That’s why children shake the presents under the Christmas tree and grown-ups dip into their savings.

It’s also why we so often doubt that God has things under control.

When circumstances require sacrifice I want the Lord to step in and fix them. I want my omnipotent God to use a little of that power to make my life more bearable. And when He doesn’t, I’m more likely to call His character into question than to doubt my own motives.

Psalm 27 helps turn my heart back to truth.

Read the rest here: Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: A Stout Heart

Wrestling Back To Trust: Access The Truth

Have you ever walked away from a conversation and thought, “My goodness! I talked WAY too much!”?

I have.

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 the green pasture 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 faithfulnessthis 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 bethe Valley has an end.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Access the Truth

Missing Him Is Background Music

Sometimes I write a post for other folks. A topic pops up in a group and my mind starts whirling.

Sometimes I write a post for me. My heart is so full there’s nothing left to do but release its contents.

And sometimes, like this one, it’s a combination of the two.

This post is one of my favorites even it if never touches another soul. It’s both proof of healing and proof of the limits of healing in this life.

❤ Melanie

Another bereaved mom wrote that she was better able to cope now than she had been a year ago.

And thanks to Facebook memories she had proof.

Several comments down a second mom wrote something that got me thinking-when, exactly, did Dominic’s loss move from the forefront to the background?

I’m not sure I can pinpoint a day or moment when I realized that sorrow was no longer ALL I feel and Dominic’s absence no longer ALL I see.

Read the rest here: Background Music

How Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

I’ve just had the privilege of a house full of family for the first time in over a year. My son, wife and his son (our only grandchild!) came for an extended visit and it has been wonderful!

But after such a long stretch of only us older, predictable (read boring) and relatively quiet folks rattling around this place, the vibrant, noisy, slightly chaotic frenzy of a nearly two-year-old has been a little challenging.

I’ve really had to work hard on centering my focus and being present in the moment. And I don’t mind telling you, I’ve missed the mark several times now.

I know better-I know I have absolutely, positively GOT to set aside some quiet time each day but I’ve let my “to do” list rob me of it.

So here I am, preaching to myself. Again.

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

Befriending A Grieving Heart Is Hard Work-But We Need You


I’ve thought a great deal about friendship since losing Dominic.  I’ve been blessed by those who have chosen to walk with me and dismayed by some who have walked away.

It takes great courage to sit in silence with those who suffer. We must fight the urge to ward off their pain with chatter.

Quiet companionship requires that we allow our hearts to suffer too.

For fifty years I was on the “other side”-the one where I looked on, sad and sometimes horror-stricken- at the pain and sorrow friends or family had to bear.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: Being a Friend

Making Our Churches Safe Havens for Hurting Hearts

If you have lived a blessed life where the greatest challenge to your faith has been disappointment and not destruction then I am so, so happy for you. Really.

Some of us have dragged our broken hearts through the church doors out of habit with little hope we might find the genuine comfort we need to survive inside.

Because experience taught us that while it is perfectly acceptable to raise a hand and ask for prayer one or two weeks in a row, it better not become a predictable pattern. Patience with unsolvable and messy ongoing situations runs thin as leaders turn the discussion toward “victory in Jesus”.

But that isn’t what Christ came for-not that we don’t have ultimate and even some temporal victory through Him.

He came for the broken and breathless. He came in the flesh because our flesh is weak and life is hard and bad things happen.

We’ve got to do a better job welcoming and ministering to hurting hearts.

We have to.

❤ Melanie

I am a shepherd.  My goats and sheep depend on me for food, for guidance and for their security.

And every day I am reminded that a shepherd’s heart is revealed by the way he or she cares for the weakest and most vulnerable of the flock.

But most of us are far removed from the daily reminder of pastoral life that was commonly accessible to the authors and readers of the Bible thousands of years ago.  So it’s no surprise that we tend to forget the connection between a shepherd’s life and a pastor’s calling.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: How the Church Can Serve Grieving Parents and Other Hurting People

Understanding A Grieving Heart

In the last post I shared the difference between mourning and grief. While the outward ceremonies have long passed, the inward struggle to embrace and understand the pain and sorrow of losing my son continues.

If you love someone who has lost a child, perhaps these thoughts might help you understand a bit of their pain and how completely it changes the way bereaved parents encounter the world.

Please be patient. Please don’t try to “fix” us. Please be present and compassionate. And if you don’t know what to say, feel free to say nothing-a hug, a smile, an understanding look-they mean so very much.

❤ Melanie

A bereaved parent’s grief doesn’t fit an easy-to-understand narrative. And it flies in the face of the American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.

You can’t beat it–it’s not a football game-there is no winning team.

You can’t lose it–it’s not the extra 10 pounds you’ve been carrying since last Christmas.

You can’t get over it–it’s not a teenage love affair that will pale in comparison when the real thing comes along.

You can only survive it.  You can heal from it, but it will take a lifetime and require very special care.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: Understanding the Grieving Heart