Lament Makes Room For Thanksgiving

When I first began writing in this space, “lament” had only just come into vogue.

Now, it’s everywhere.

If this year has taught hearts a single thing, I hope it has taught them there’s no use pretending life doesn’t hurt sometimes. We were not created to carry that kind of pain alone.

And thankfully, we don’t have to.

God, in Christ, invites me to speak it, to sing it, to release it as an exhale so His grace and strength can rush in to fill that empty space.

You’re invited too.

Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday.

I loved everything about it:  the color scheme, the food (I love, love, love to cook-it was never a burden), family and friends gathered around the table, and the wonderful slowness of the day as it lingered into nightfall.

It was more flexible than Christmas for including all sorts of folks who otherwise didn’t have someplace to go. Living near colleges meant that  we welcomed students from around the world-we might have two or three dozen laughing faces milling about.

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It was wonderful.

And I loved going around the circle, tummies bursting, to share what people were thankful for and why.

When Dominic left us everything  changed.

Oh, I was (and still am) so very thankful for so very many things

Read the rest here: The Power of Lament to Make Room for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Plan Modified, Again.

We were pretty sure Thanksgiving was nailed down this year.

Several of us have spent months doing work down at Papa’s place creating the perfect space for the whole family to gather. Food was ordered, menu planned and travel coordinated.

But no one can plan for the unpredictable.

So when Covid cases skyrocketed and we did the math, it became too risky for four separate households to spend five days eating, sleeping and playing together under one roof.

We called it off.

It was and is heartbreaking.

But not as heartbreaking as adding another empty chair around the table or missing another face in our family circle.

Perhaps you’re faced with some equally hard choices this year, this season.

I’m so sorry.

It seems especially unfair to those whose hearts are already lonely from loss to be forced to give up the chance for fellowship and encouragement in company of family and friends!

I wish there were some magic to make it all better.

There isn’t.

And one thing I’ve learned in this life I didn’t choose is this: you have to make the best of what you have left.

Thanksgiving with the family before loss. ❤

So I pray no matter how small, how unusual, how disappointing your own Thanksgiving may feel this year that you find space in your heart for hope.

We are not doing what we planned, but we are doing something.

It won’t be what we wished for, but we will still have a day.

I’ll take it.

Gratitude Doesn’t Undo Grief

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned in child loss is that while gratitude is important, and helps my heart hold on, it does not undo grief.

I truly look for and rejoice in every good thing, every tender moment, every smile, hug and bit of laughter shared with those I love.

But I can never stop looking for Dominic’s face around the table or longing to hear HIS voice in the chorus of chatter from the other room.

Oh, how I wish it were different!

The odd bits that break my heart-

The  moment my three living children are in the family room, joking and laughing-but his voice is so obviously missing.

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The moment I say to one son, “Have you texted your brother?” and don’t have to give a name, because there is only one brother left to text.

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Read the rest here: The Odd Bits That Break My Heart

“Just Think About The Memories” Doesn’t Comfort My Heart

It has taken me a lot of time and a lot of energy to do the work grief requires. There’s no short-circuiting the process. No way to rush through the painful and necessary steps.

For years I struggled with why, “Just think about the memories” didn’t comfort my heart. I treasured them. I tried hard to hold onto them. But that wasn’t enough.

And then I realized that a mother’s heart is not prepared to go on without the company of her child. I never, ever expected that it would be ME reminiscing about Dominic. I was sure it would be HIM thinking about me.

I pull out the memories like treasures from a locked strongbox.

“Handle With Care” because they are all I have left.

But they are not enough.

They will never be enough to satisfy this mama’s heart.

We are supposed to have to remember our elders, our grandparents, even, maybe our spouse at some point-but not our children.

Read the rest here: Why, “Just Think About All The Good Memories,” Doesn’t Comfort My Heart

Be The Difference

It’s so easy to withdraw and hide.

It’s so easy to decide that since the world isn’t what I want it to be, I’ll just ignore the greater “out there” and create my own little corner filled with people and things that suit my preferences.

But that’s not who I’m called to be.

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Jesus has called me as a conduit of His love, mercy, compassion, truth and grace to a hurting world.

I am inundated every day with comments or messages from struggling hearts. They are hungry to know that God sees, that God cares and that His people are willing to listen and minister His love to others.

So when God tells me to reach out- I DON’T resist.

I may be the only hope a hurting heart can hold onto.

If God is calling you to lend a hand, lend an ear or lend your time, DO IT.

Be the drop of His love in the ocean of another’s need.

Be the difference.

Bouquet of Blessing

I have the privilege of being trusted with my grandson for over a week while his parents work on getting ready to move.

I recognize not all moms and dads are comfortable leaving their not-yet-two-year-old with grandparents several hundred miles away so I am very thankful my son and his wife are OK with it.

I won’t sugarcoat it and say it’s all rainbows and butterflies. But I will say every minute is a blessing-even the ones that stretch my nerves or my muscles.

I understand NOW what my friends with grandchildren have told me for years-it’s wonderful to be freer from everyday responsibilities and to focus exclusively on relationship and experiences.

When I was a mama to four children six years old and under by age twenty-eight I didn’t have the luxury of spending morning hours exclusively on interactive play.

But now I do.

And it is a lot of fun.

Even when my hand and wrist don’t work as well as they should and screwing on sippy cup lids hurts like all get out. Changing a soaking wet nighttime diaper is a real trick for these arthritic fingers. But my little man is learning to help his ol’ grandmama by lying extra still while I get it done.

I know not every parent on this road of child loss has grandchildren. I didn’t have one until almost five years after Dom ran ahead to Heaven. And I’ll never have one that carries HIS genes, HIS personality, HIS unique quirks.

So it might not be a grandbaby that feels like a blessing in your day.

It might be a pet or a friend or an opportunity to pursue a passion or hobby or pour your life into your community or family.

Whatever it is, take the opportunity to pick those blessings like blossoms, gather them into a bouquet and take a deep sniff.

You’ll be surprised how even a tiny budvase of blessing can spread the fragrance of hope in your life.

And hope helps a heart hold on.

Why I’d Still Choose You

Some of us only felt tiny hands and feet pressing against the inside of our body.  

Some of us saw first steps or first grade. 

Some of us watched our child drive away to college certain it was the beginning of an adventure, not the beginning of the end.

Read the rest here: I’d Still Choose You

It’s Kind of Tender Just There

I’m pretty sure most everyone older than five has suffered a bump, bruise or sprain that left them tender for more than a few minutes.

And if you have, then you know the slightest brush up against that sore spot can elicit quite the reaction.

There’s an emotional correlate to physical bruising. And when someone hits that nerve it hurts. Really, really hurts!

It’s impossible to know where all those places are on another person’s body, much less their heart. So we often cause accidental pain to one another.

Many bereaved parents share some emotional bruises others might never see or think about. Lots of everyday interactions press hard against the tender places and make them hurt all the more.

I don’t expect family and friends to walk on eggshells around me, second-guessing everything they say or do. That would be awful for all of us!

But just in case you wonder, here are places my heart is tender:

  • Talking about Dominic’s “legacy”. I am still not prepared to discuss my not yet 24 year old son in terms that should be reserved for someone who has lived a long life and left a better documented trail behind. I don’t want him to have a legacy. I wanted him to have a life.
  • Ignoring his absence in family gatherings. Yes, we’ve added to our number since he left us. But it was never about absolute numbers! It was always about the faces around the table and shared laughter. HIS voice is unique. And I always hear the silent space where it should be no matter how loud and lively the celebration.
  • Weddings and children among his friends. No, I’m not sad at all that these precious people are living life, expanding their families and doing all the things young folks SHOULD do. But even as I rejoice for every single exciting milestone I also mourn the fact that I will never have the same opportunity with Dominic.
  • The smaller and smaller space Dominic occupies in daily life as time goes by. This is simply a function of human existence. Over six years of life have come and gone since he was here to make a memory, share a meal, comment on social media, be included in photographs. I can force the issue and bring him up in conversation or have someone hold a giant picture of him for family portraits but that is not. at. all. the. same.
  • Unexpected and unanticipated grief triggers. I still gasp inside when I see a young man speeding by on a motorcycle. Mention of certain topics, plans, courses of study take me straight back to conversations I had with Dom about what he wanted to do when he finished law school. Sometimes it’s the smell of soap or shampoo or coffee or grilled chicken-all things I strongly associate with his last couple years on earth and his first apartment.
  • Photographs of myself this side of child loss. Other people can say what they will but I see the toll grief has taken on my body, in my eyes and in the way my smile lies lopsided on my face. I want all the pictures I can get! I’ve learned too late that begging off because I’m not in the right clothes or don’t want to stop long enough to snap the photo is a mistake. But I’ve yet to line up for one where I didn’t feel Dom’s absence and wish he were there.
  • Crowds and unfamiliar places. I can’t claim to ever have loved being smashed together with others unless it were family. I used to be able to tolerate it better though. I guess it’s my last ditch effort to carve out control in a world that feels out of control that I avoid large groups and unfamiliar places. I can feel my heart pound faster at even the thought of such a thing.

I know specific circumstances and life experience make each heart’s tender places a little different.

Mine may not be yours.

I don’t expect (really, truly, do not expect!) that everyone (or even anyone) around me might take note of my own.

But I am still tender. And I may well still react.

Bruises are bruises even when we try hard to cover them up or protect them.

Why Don’t I Feel A Thing? Sometimes Grief = Numb.

Many bereaved parents will tell you that after the initial shock of loss hits hard, a blessed numbness falls over a heart.

It happened to me.

The pain was still there, of course, but a fog descended that allowed me to maintain some distance between what I was feeling deep down and what I had to do in order to get through the decisions and days that follow death.

Nighttime was still hard because when the house went dark and quiet, all the emotion I’d managed to push away in the daylight came flooding back. I spent months falling into fitful sleep with tears on my pillow.

And then the fog lifted.

I’m not sure how long it was that I sobbed uncontrollably for some portion of every day and some days all day long.

A whiff of fresh air reminded me Dominic no longer drew breath into his lungs. A random sound upstairs or outside jolted my heart into hoping maybe, just maybe, he was coming home. Everywhere my eyes landed held a memory that screamed, “He was here! Where is he now?”

I felt everything. All the time. No respite.

It was exhausting.

But at some point-maybe in the middle or toward the end of the second year-a blanket of profound emotional silence wrapped itself around my heart and I could not feel a thing.

Really.

Not one single thing.

I could conjure up appropriate facial expressions so those around me didn’t have a clue. I could remember what I was supposed to feel. I could almost-almost-touch a spot deep inside that used to feel. But if there had been a meter on my heart it would have displayed a flat line.

This was more frightening than the prospect of living with overwhelming sorrow and pain for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to hurt like that forever but I didn’t want to give up feeling love and happiness and excitement and awe either.

I don’t really know how long that lasted.

Maybe most of a year, I think.

And then one day I realized some color had crept back into my daily life.

I was beginning to look forward just a bit to a date on the calendar. A smile crossed my lips without effort in response to a joke. Sadness once again took up residence in my heart next to the place Dominic always lived. But joy eased its way in around the edges.

I’ve thought long and hard about that season of “un-feeling”.

Why did my heart shut down? Why the long silence when no emotion pierced my soul?

I think it was necessary.

I think a body and mind and heart can’t operate for too long at warp speed. I think that just like fainting is a response to the brain needing oxygen, numbness is a response to the soul’s need for respite and time to heal.

So if you are in the season of numb, you’re neither crazy nor alone.

It, too, will pass.

Feeling will find its way once again to your heart. Pain, yes, but also joy.

When you are ready.

Nothin’ Easy About Death

I wrote this post a year ago after my mother joined Dominic in Heaven. Her passing reminded me once again (as if my heart needed reminding!) that there ain’t nothing easy about death.

One year later and I’m no more willing to pretend it’s anything but awful even as I’m resigned to admit there’s nothing I can do about it.

I miss you both so very much.

I remember the moment I realized I was going to have to summarize my son’s life into a few, relatively short paragraphs to be read by friends, family and strangers.

It seemed impossible.

But as the designated author of our family I had to do it so I did.

Today I wrote my mama’s obituary and though her death was not as surprising as Dominic’s it was just as hard to swallow.

Read the rest here: Ain’t Nothing Easy About Death