Until Then-Stories of Loss and Hope

I was asked awhile back to be part of a project shepherded by fellow parents-in-loss, Laura and Gary House (https://ourheartsarehome.org/).

They wanted to gather and publish stories from other child loss survivors in hopes of encouraging hearts and strengthening the faith of parents facing the unimaginable.

I don’t mind saying that in spite of all I’ve written in this space for the past seven (!) years, it was challenging to distill my thoughts about that night, the days that followed and my own faith journey since into a single chapter.

But I, and a dozen other parents, did just that.

In our own words we tell our stories. We share our struggles and our triumphs. We write honestly about how our faith was challenged and how it carried us through.

Every chapter was written by a parent who has a child (or children) in Heaven. Several chapters were written by dearly loved and greatly admired friends.

One chapter is mine in which I share Dominic’s story.

It was a long process but I’m happy to report that the book is now available on Amazon!

Eleven different chapters full of heartache, hope and help written BY bereaved parents FOR bereaved parents (and those who love them).

Until Then: Stories of Loss and Hope would be a blessing to any bereaved parent, to friends and family of bereaved parents (to help them understand the journey) and also to ministry leaders who will, at one time or another, be in a position to shepherd and counsel bereaved parents.

This is a labor of love.

All proceeds above production costs go to ministry to bereaved parents, not the authors.

Consider purchasing a copy or two for yourself or as a gift. ❤

I KNOW He’s Really Gone. But Still…


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.

We haven’t received a phone call, text, message or new photograph. Weeks, months and years pass and no word.

Of course this child is gone.

But a mama’s heart still hopes. Somewhere deep down there is a part of me that longs for connection to this child I carried, nurtured and loved.

So sometimes my heart will play tricks on me.

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

Eight Years, Sigh…

The calendar is relentless. There’s no respect for seasons of mourning or grief anniversaries or weeks of sickness or unexpected early births of grandchildren.

The sun rises, the sun sets and another day is crossed off into history.

So somehow-without my permission-I find I’ve woken to mark the eighth anniversary (do you call such a horrible thing an anniversary?) of Dominic’s death.

It’s humbling to realize I (and my family!) are not only still standing but flourishing. It’s horrifying to comprehend I’ve continued to live and breathe for 2922 days since Dominic left us.

Most days are pretty good.

Today is hard.

❤ Melanie

When the numbness wore off (maybe around six months) I remember vaguely wondering what years down the road would feel like.

I tried to project the “me” of that moment into the future and imagine how I might deal with life changes, new circumstances, an empty nest, grandchildren (if there were any) and growing older alongside the heartache of burying a child.

But just as it’s impossible to comprehend how the addition of a child utterly transforms a family, it’s impossible to understand how the subtraction of one changes everything just as much.

We are all so very different than we would have been if Dominic were still here.

Life most likely wouldn’t be any more perfect because we would each grow and change, find common ground and find points of conflict, make new memories and drag up old hurts.

Still, none of us would carry the deep wound and traumatic injury of sudden and out-of-order death.

THAT is impossible to ignore. Even eight years later it’s a red flag, a sticky note, an addendum to every family gathering and holiday.

So we carry on.

Like generations before us who have walked this world dragging loss behind them, we keep going. It shapes us but doesn’t limit us. It informs our views but isn’t the only thing that molds our opinions and frames our choices.

My faith in God’s larger and perfect plan helps me hold onto hope even as I continue to miss my son.

But today is a hard day and I don’t think that’s going to change as long as I live.

I’m getting better at remembering Dominic’s birthday in ways that honor who he is and the man he might have become. I can’t say I’ve figured out any good way to walk through the yearly unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of the day he left us.

I’m learning to allow the grief waves to simply wash over me without resisting them.

Eventually the hours tick away, the day is over and I find I’ve survived yet again. 

The Last Day Before It All Fell Apart

I fell asleep last night thinking about that Friday evening eight years ago when I closed my eyes on the world I knew only to open them to a world I wish I could forget.

It’s odd how these anniversaries play out-there’s the actual date (which, if I’m honest isn’t nearly as hard for me) plus the litany of days that lead up to the date and reconstruct the weekend that ended in tragedy.

The Friday night/Saturday morning combination bring me to my knees even eight years later. Only someone who has endured the doorbell or the phone call can truly understand how dozens of tiny prompts create a mental, physical and emotional response that can neither be ignored nor controlled.

It was raining last night and all I could think was, “Why wasn’t it raining THAT night? He wouldn’t have taken his motorcycle.”

Useless, futile and ill-advised pondering that simply made it harder to close my eyes and go back to sleep.

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Julian and I went to a college honors banquet and came back to the house to find Fiona home for the weekend.  I called Hector and texted with James Michael.

I turned out the light and went to sleep.  

No warning shots across the bow of life rang out to let me know what was coming.

But that Friday was the last day I spent misunderstanding the awfulness of death and the absolute uncertainty of life.

Read the rest here: The Day Before It All Fell Apart

Lenten Reflections: Letting Go of the Need to “Fix It”, Making Space To Watch God Work

As a people-pleasing firstborn pseudo-control-freak I’m all about fixing it.

I’m pretty sure I chose Psychology as one of my college majors because I figured it would better equip me to fix relationships around me.

But life intervened with first smaller unfixable crises and then the ultimate no-way-on-earth-to-fix-it death of Dominic. So I’m not nearly as inclined toward even trying now as I was a few years ago.

Still, I can find myself falling into the old habit of offering up advice instead of offering an ear. I might quickly delve unasked into my own experience and silence a heart that simply needs to be heard. I may well toss out trite “reasons” that “explain” why awful visited my friend while God seemed silent.

Part of the compulsion results from the author’s observation:

The church in general panics when miracles miscarry. We scurry clumsily about to prop up God’s sagging reputation. There must have been a problem, we offer. God must have something even better around the corner, we propose. Must He? Here, then is my Lenten plea for the day: let the mourning mourn. Grant those who grieve the dignity to ask questions. Bestow upon the bewildered permission to not edit their honesty.

Alicia Britt Chole

Recall miracles that ended in heartbreak…when, if ever, have you felt the need to “prop up God’s sagging reputation”?

How might you choose a different approach that grants grace and space to those who mourn?

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Refusing To Speed Past Sorrow

There are several recorded incidents where Jesus withdrew seeking solitude and solace. 

One of them is upon hearing of John’s beheading at the hands of Herod. 

If we accept that our Shepherd was a perfect model in all things  (and I do!) then this is a model for dealing with sorrow and loss. 

There have been specific individuals instructed by the Lord to ignore mourning  (always for a prophetic purpose) but the general  pattern in Scripture is to make room for the necessary work of processing grief.

So today’s fast is speeding past sorrow.

So often those of us who have wounded hearts are pushed by ourselves, by friends and family, and by a “look on the bright side” society to rush past our sorrow and sadness. But that is not only futile, it’s unhealthy.

While time, by itself, does not heal all wounds.  Time is a necessary component of healing.

As much as we might wish it otherwise, there is no speedy way to wrap up the bits of a broken heart.  Speeding past sorrow only means it festers, not that it is magically erased or truly forgotten. 

It has been brutal, time-consuming and energy-intensive to force my heart to sit with the sorrow of Dominic’s death. 

But every moment and every effort has borne fruit.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12: 24)

In many ways active grieving is it’s own kind of death and that may be why we often run from it.

Bring to mind the names and faces of loved ones who have died.  What deposits did they make in your life?  How did you feel when you first learned of their deaths?…Today, honor the losses  in your life.  Instead of speeding past sadness, slow down and be present to your emotions. With Jesus, sit with your sorrow and let loss do its eternal work in your soul.

Alicia Britt Chole

Some of us are very vocal with our grief and some suffer in silence. 

Either is perfectly normal. 

The important thing is to face it.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional).  If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Some Things Just Hurt, No Matter How Bravely a Broken Heart May Bear Them.

In the first days, weeks and months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was a giant walking nerve-it didn’t take much to bruise my already grievously wounded heart.

As time progressed, I learned to accept the intention behind a comment or action even when it fell flat or hurt instead of helped.

But there are some things that simply shouldn’t be said and some things that shouldn’t be done no matter how bravely a broken heart may bear them.

Before I lost Dominic, I know that I, like others who had never experienced the death of a child, undoubtedly said and did things that were hurtful instead of helpful.

Loss will enter everyone’s life at some point–there is no escape.

We educate ourselves (as we should) on so many issues–work hard not to offend, to understand, to reach out. Bereaved parents don’t want pity, they would like to be better understood.  

We did not choose this journey, it was thrust upon us.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: Some Things Hurt

Love Poured Out: Tales of Friendship and Encouragement After Child Loss

I am well aware that not everyone is blessed by an outpouring of love and support in the wake of child loss. In fact, depending on the circumstances, some families are practically shunned.

It breaks my heart every time I hear of such an experience.

Because if there is one thing I’ve learned in this Valley, it’s this: when a heart is shattered, my ONLY job is to show up and do whatever is helpful-even if that means sitting silently and holding a hand.

When I asked other bereaved parents to share the things people did that blessed them in the wake of losing a child, I didn’t expect so many stories of extravagant love–of acts surpassing anything I could have thought of or imagined.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

When we lost Dominic, there were many who blessed us in ways that I can only describe as offerings poured into our lives from the bountiful love of Christ.

Read the rest here: Extravagant Love: Tales of Friendship and Encouragement After Losing a Child

Seems Like Yesterday and Forever…

The human heart is a funny thing-always working hard to protect itself from grievous injury yet prone to exactly what it tries to prevent.

I honestly believe that one of the gifts of early grief is disbelief.  Because if I could have understood at once what it meant that Dominic was really, truly GONE, I would have never lasted the first 24 hours.

Even now, going on eight years, my head plays games with my heart.

Read the rest here: Just Yesterday and Forever

A Modern Lament: A Reason Can’t Wipe Away Tears

I have lots and lots of questions.

And I don’t think ignoring them or shoving them in a chest and sitting on the lid is helpful.

But I’m far enough along in this journey to admit that if I let my heart and mind focus on the questions I’ll drown in sorrow and despair.

Read the rest here: A Reason Can’t Wipe Away Tears: A Modern Lament

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