Grief and Holidays:What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it.  I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

So I’m trying to make it easier on all of us.  

I’m trying to be brave and think ahead and offer up what I can to help you understand.

I’m not asking you to stuff your feelings.  But I am asking you to weigh your disappointment in things being different against my unfathomable sorrow in burying my child.

And this is what I need from YOU:

Acknowledge my loss.  It doesn’t matter if it has been a few months, a few years or even decades-every single time the whole family gets together, the hole where my child SHOULD be is highlighted.  Other people may have moved on, and I am stronger now than I was, but the missing is as hard today as it was the day he left.  I need you to acknowledge that even if you don’t understand it.

Be flexible.  Every day is different for me.  And even if we did a certain thing last year, it may not be something I want to repeat.  Life circumstances continue to evolve-living children grow and marry, grandchildren make their appearance, health issues may emerge and change physical capabilities-life keeps on regardless of loss.  So this year is DIFFERENT than last year.  For everyone.  If we all embrace flexibility, there’s less opportunity for breakage.  Rubber bounces.  Glass shatters.  I don’t want my loss to be the central focus, but it’s a huge part of my experience and I can’t ignore it.  Help me, please.

Give me space.  Grant space in the larger picture-don’t make showing up to every family event a “mandatory option”.  Understand that even with planning and the best intentions, I may wake up and realize that I. just. can’t. do. it.  Or I may come, but leave early.  And grant space in the details-if I walk out of a room, let me go.  It may be helpful for one person to check on me after a few minutes but don’t send the calvary to drag me back.  I don’t always want to detract from a gathering and I may need to cry, or gather myself, or just sit silently remembering my son.

Give me time.  Time by itself does not heal anything.  But time is a critical component of healing.  If this is the first holiday season after loss, don’t pressure me with artificial deadlines about what I want to do or whether or not I’m going to participate in this or that. And even if it’s not the first season, I still need time.  It will be the third set of holidays after my son’s departure and I’m still feeling my way in the dark.  Don’t force me to decide if I can’t.  Just go on with your plans.  If I can join in, I will.  If I can’t, then I won’t.  That’s the best I can do.  It’s how I have to live every single day right now.

Grant mercy.  I will mess up.  I will say things in the passion of loss that I regret.  Overlook it.  Don’t lash out or hit back.  My emotional tank is so empty sometimes that it’s a wonder I can still feel anything.  I am truly trying. Grant mercy.

Extend grace.  Grace is lavishing love on the unlovely. Forgiving when someone doesn’t ask for it.  Doing something for someone and not expecting anything in return.  Step up and step out in faith that loving me will help me heal.  Even when you can’t see that it makes a difference. Don’t stop.  Don’t withdraw.

Know that this is not what I would have chosen.

Child loss happened TO me.

It is out of my control.

And the calendar pages keep turning.  Every holiday season means another year gone without the companionship of the child I miss.

I want to continue to embrace life, to enjoy my loved ones, to make new memories.  But I need your help to make it happen.

Don’t abandon me now.

compassion is a choice

When Routine Wears You Down: Encouragement for the Worn Out Heart

It may not be this way around the country or around the world, but here in Alabama school has been in session for several weeks and the hot weather along with added commitments makes life a little harder.  

After the excitement of posting “first day” photos wears off, routine sets in.

Carpools, music lessons, homework, getting everyone ready to rush out the door...it’s enough to wear anyone down.  

That’s when it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important.  That’s when the enemy whispers, “You don’t make a difference.”

He’s wrong.  

You are shepherding eternal souls. 

Don’t give up!

The tyranny of the urgent can push what’s important past the fringes of our attention.

Our vision can be so consumed with the day-to-day until there’s no space for long-term goals or ambitions.

But God has ordained that our children, eternal beings, be set in families.

 Read the rest:

Sowing in Tears, Reaping in Joy

Surrender

“Follow Me,”  Jesus said to the twelve.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said to me when I was just a child.

“Yes,” I replied-not knowing or counting the cost. 

If it was a single commitment without opportunity for turning back then it would be easy.

But it’s not.  

Every day I have to face the question, “Did God REALLY say?” Boy that serpent knew just where to aim the spear of doubt so it would cause the greatest damage.

Can I believe that God is in control?  Can I believe that He is good?  Can I believe that He loves me?

Can I believe all those things when my circumstances scream, “NO!”

But I HAVE to believe.  

Because if I can’t trust God, then I am without hope.  If I can’t rely on His Word then there’s no foundation and no future.  If He is not Who He says He is, then I should just quit now.

So I find myself at the foot of the cross, again.  Facing my fears and having to choose: Who shall I serve?

choose this day lion

Surrender is hard.  Daily surrender is harder.

I cannot remake my heart.  I cannot breathe life into my own breathless soul. 

I can only place myself on the altar and allow God’s Spirit to do it for me.

So here I am.

Again.

Brothers and sisters, God has shown you his mercy. So I am asking you to offer up your bodies to him while you are still alive. Your bodies are a holy sacrifice that is pleasing to God. When you offer your bodies to God, you are worshiping him in the right way.

Romans 12: 1 NIRV

 

 

Encouraging My Heart

It’s easy to be discouraged.  

Look around.

If I listen to the news, the world is falling apart. When I look in the mirror-I’m falling apart.  

And not a minute goes by that I don’t miss my son in heaven.

But the world-not the WORLD- nor my personal world rests on MY shoulders.

And it doesn’t rest on the shoulders of some ancient made-up god either.

It, and I, were created by and for Jesus Christ.  He holds it and me together.

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 PHILLIPS

So when I lose courage, I will look to the Author and Perfector of my faith.  I will cling to the One Who has died, was buried, resurrected and rose to sit at the right hand of my Father in Heaven.

I will take my eyes off the storm and fix them on Jesus, Who calms the storm.  

Because He Who began a good work in me, will be faithful fo complete it.

began a good work

Can’t Hide the Ugly

Yesterday I was impatient and ugly with someone I love.

When you are hurting, physically or emotionally or physically AND emotionally, you just don’t have the energy to hide the ugly.

But the pain didn’t create the ugly-it just revealed it.

And I am sorry to say that even burying a child did not cleanse me of some ugliness I wish I didn’t have in my heart.

I keep asking God to fill me with His love, mercy and grace.  And I am more full of those things than before.

But there is still plenty of (if not hate then) less-than-love, judgement and impatience. Trials don’t automatically lead to refinement or stronger faith.

Tribulation can drive someone away from God as easily as it can drive them to their knees.

If I’m not careful-if I’m not very careful-I can use my pain as an excuse for all kinds of bad behavior.

So I’m here to confess:  I am so, so sorry.

I’m sorry that when my glass gets tipped, anger and bitterness spills out. I’m sorry that I’m not more faithful to extend grace when I hope grace will be extended to me.  I’m sorry that speaking truth so that I prove my point and wound a heart is sometimes more satisfying than speaking truth in love.

I wish every  deed I did  and every word I spoke was full of life and never full of death.

I hate death.  I. HATE. death.

It has taken enough from me. And I want no part of it.

Father, I want to be a beacon of light and life.  Lord, make me so.  Fill me to overflowing with YOUR love, YOUR life, YOUR grace, YOUR mercy.  Left to myself I have no hope.  But by Your Spirit, it can be so.

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

James 1:2-5 PHILLIPS

 

It Changes Everything

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.

Want to help?  Read:  Loving the Grieving Heart

Please-Just. Listen.

It’s hard-it’s hard to stay the words that come unbidden to mind and threaten to fly out of your mouth.

It takes restraint.  And patience.  And wisdom.

But when I finally open my locked box of hurt and pain and memories and heartache-please, please-just listen.

I know better than you that nothing anyone says, or does or hopes to do can change the facts.

Dominic’s not here-he’s there.

And I also know that makes you feel helpless.  I feel helpless too.

I’m not looking for pity.  I don’t want attention.  I have no desire to make you sad.

I have to let it out or I’ll burst.  If others saw the fullness of emotions brimming in my heart they would stand amazed that I could push them down and keep them inside so much of the time.

But speaking my sorrow is empowering.  

It provides a witness.  It means that he matters, that I matter and that this awful reality is recognized by someone other than just me.

When you shut me down or shut me out I. am. crushed.

Again.

In the end, you can walk away.  You have another life to go back to.  My pain is tangential to the reality of your every day.

It is central to mine.

So, please-encourage my heart with compassionate presence and just listen.

presence best gift

 

 

 

More Grieving Hearts-What Grieving Parents Want You to Know

Two weeks.

Two families added to the roll call of those who have lost a child-suddenly, without warning.  

Two more sets of parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins plunged beneath the sea of sorrow.

And those are only the ones I know about-the ones whose lives touch my own.

Every day we are shoulder-to-shoulder with people carrying a load that threatens to undo them.  If you haven’t experienced child loss you probably think you can imagine how it feels.

I know I did.

But I was wrong.

THIS is what it feels like:  What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know

hands and coffee

My Heart Hurts

Every time the headlines scream death and destruction, I feel like I’ve been punched.

My heart hurts.

It hurts for the community of people who feel targeted by police.

It hurts for police officers and their families who feel targeted for simply doing their jobs.

It hurts for the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and others who will bury someone this week.

It hurts because the possibility for constructive conversation around what has been done, what should be done and what might be done is drowned out by wailing and yelling and strident protests and incendiary social media posts that leave no room for real change.

We are all on one side or the other.

And that is beyond sad. It is diabolical.

Jesus said that the thief comes only to “steal, kill and destroy”.  (John 10:10)

I refuse to be part of the enemy’s plot to destroy us by dividing us into opposing camps.

No matter where I fall on the political spectrum, if I add my voice to the screaming and drown out reasonable and meaningful discussion, I join with those advocating anarchy instead of progress toward positive change.

We are making choices right now that will affect ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

I choose to listen.

I choose to learn.

I choose to try to understand different perspectives and to work toward our common goal of protecting all lives.  

Everywhere.  

Every. time.

 

 

 

Loving the Wounded

God bless the inventor of Band Aids!

That little tacky plaster has soothed more fears and tears than almost any other invention in the world.

Skinned knee?  Put a BandAid on it.

Bee sting?  BandAid.

Tiny bump that no one can even see?  Oh, sweetie, let me give you a BandAid.

Simply acknowledging pain and woundedness is so often all that is needed to encourage a heart and point it toward healing.

It’s the same in the world of emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds.

But we have yet to invent the BandAid for those.

band aid and heart

Instead, frequently we ignore, refute, minimize and pass over the one in our midst who holds out a hand or a heart saying, “I have a boo boo.”

Believe me, I understand-so many of these wounds are incurable, they are uncomfortable to think about, hard to look at.compassion and stay with you

But often the only thing the hurting heart wants is acknowledgement, a moment of time, a face turned full into theirs, eye-to-eye and unafraid to remain alongside through the pain.

Just as a BandAid bears witness to the wound underneath, our compassionate presence can bear witness to the deeper wounds no one can see.

When we choose to lean in and love, to listen and learn, to walk with the wounded we give a great gift.

compassion is a choice

 

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