A Whole Series of “Lasts”

One of the things even the most uninformed person understands about loss is that the first birthday, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas and all the “firsts” after loss will be hard.

But one of the things no one tells you about is that a heart will mark the “lasts” just as much.

The last time I saw him.

The last time I spoke to him.

The last time I hugged his neck and smelled the unique fragrance that was my son.

missing child from arms

 

Every year as I approach the anniversary of the day Dominic left this life and stepped into Heaven, I also remember all the last times.

It’s hard on a heart to think about and wish that somehow I had made more of those moments.  I long to have just one more opportunity to say what needs to be said, to see his smile, hear his voice, and hug his neck.

But there’s no going back.

So part of the pain of marking the milestones is knowing there is no way to change a thing.  Not only the FACT that my son is gone, gone, gone.  But also the FACT that whatever I said or did or left unsaid or undone is utterly and undeniably carved in stone.

I don’t know why this anniversary is hitting my heart harder than last year.  Maybe it’s because I recognize how much life has happened since Dominic left us.  Maybe it’s because I think in terms of decades.  Maybe it’s because there are so many exciting family celebrations that he won’t be part of.

I have no idea.

But it’s nearly five long years since my son crossed the threshold of his family home.  It’s nearly five years since I heard that familiar deep “Hey!”.  It’s nearly five years since I waved him down the driveway and hollered, “Be careful!” as he drove back to his apartment.

I am thankful for the faithful love of my God and my family.  I am thankful for the compassionate companionship of friends.  I am thankful that I am still standing after the awful blow that I was sure would knock me so far down I’d never get up again.

But I miss him.  I miss him.  I miss him.

I will never be able to watch the early spring flowers bloom again without also remembering that it was those blossoms that heralded the good weather that lured him to take his motorcycle that night.

I will never hear Spring Break plans without counting the days between his last Spring Break trip and the day he met Jesus.

dom and julian spring break

I cannot step outside and smell the grass growing, feel the breeze blowing and hear the birds singing without my heart skipping beats and doing the math.  Today marks less than two months before the day he left us.

I understand that for others-if they remember at all-Dominic’s departure is a day circled on the calendar.

For me, it’s an entire season.

I mark every single day that led up to that day.  I remember every single conversation, meeting, text and phone call.  I remember all the things I did and regret all the things I didn’t do.

While the world is celebrating new life, I’m remembering a life that ended.

miss-you-every-day

Child Loss: Good Days, Bad Days-All Part Of The Journey

Will today be a good day or a bad day?

Not sure yet.

Mainly because what usually determines THAT is something that happens (or doesn’t happen) at some point after my morning quiet time.

But whether it’s a good day, a bad day or somewhere in between, it is absolutely, completely, utterly NORMAL for my emotions to change as I make my way down the path called “Child Loss”.

As long as I am doing the work grief requires I will continue to have some better days.  

But grief still comes in waves in response to triggers or in response to nothing at all and it may be a bad day.  

waves-of-greif

How well did I sleep, rest, eat or exercise? My body affects my emotions in ways I don’t fully understand but absolutely experience.

Stress can bring tears to the surface.  Even GOOD stress can do it.  Looking forward to things, planning a party, large meal, trip or event is stressful, even if it isn’t sad.  All stress weakens my defenses and makes it harder to employ the techniques I’ve mastered for diverting my thoughts or controlling my tears.

Sunshine or rain? I have learned to count the number of recent cloudy days if I wake one morning feeling bluer than normal.  I often realize that a week or more has passed since I’ve seen the sun.

Too much interaction or too little interaction with other humans makes a BIG difference. My introvert self loves long afternoons alone, sitting in silence with a book or crochet, quiet walks in the woods and chore-filled days without music blaring.  But healthy solitude can turn to withdrawal if I let it and sometimes I realize my sudden sense of overwhelming grief is, in part, due to lack of human company.

The list is endless.  

Thankfully, at nearly five years, the better days outnumber the worse ones for me. 

But  no matter what kind of day it may be, I no longer worry if it’s normal. 

Because it’s ALL normal. 

you will have good days bad days keep showing up

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Prayer for Hurting Hearts

Some of us enter trembling through the door of a new year. 

This last year wasn’t so good and our hearts are broken.

What if the next year is worse?  How will we manage?  Where can we hide from bad news, bad outcomes, disastrous trauma?

Truth is, we can’t.  

So here we are, bravely marching in, hanging on to hope and begging God for mercy.  

Father God,

I admit that I am scared.  No matter how many times I read or someone reads to me, “Fear not!” my heart screams, “Easy for YOU to say!”  I know deep down that You are here.  I know that nothing happens without You seeing.  But I am still trembling.  

Help me feel Your Presence.  Help me hold onto the hem of Your garment.  Help me reach out and take possession of the promises You give me-to guide, carry and strengthen me.  When I am weak, You are strong.  If I forget everything else, don’t let me forget that.

Lord, even if no new disaster takes shape in the months to come, I’m left holding the broken pieces of a broken life and I am oh, so tired of plodding through my days trying to put it all back together.  Bring light into the dark corners.  Bring hope into the desperate places.  Bring tangible help to my doorstep so I can find a little rest in these weary days, weeks, months.

Whatever this year brings, You are already there. 

You know the end from the beginning.  Nothing takes You by surprise.  

And when I want to give up and give in, speak courage to my soul.  Lift my head and help my heart hold on.  ❤

strength made perfect in weakness ant

 

New Year’s Eve and Auld Lang Syne

There is something about the song, “Auld Lang Syne” that strikes a chord in the hardest heart.  

You don’t have to understand the words to understand the meaning behind them.  

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?”

Every new year since Dominic left us my heart screams, “NO!” in answer to that question.  We CAN’T forget!

But we do.  No matter how carefully I mine the memories, I find the details beginning to escape me. 

I have boxes of photographs but even nearly five years out I find some of them too hard to look through.  When I see the innocent laughing eyes in pictures of six year old Dominic it breaks my heart.  Why oh why was I worried about so many things other than simply experiencing life in the moment?

But then I bring my heart back to reality and sternly tell myself that I had no idea what the future held.

And that’s really the crux of it, isn’t it? 

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  We plot and plan and hope and dream but in the end we have very little control over how our story ultimately plays out.

So we are left each New Year’s Eve with some good memories, some not so good ones and some we cling to like gold from a treasure chest because they are all we have.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?

Never. 

As long as this heart beats. 

I will not forget.   

This Is What I Want You To Know About A Grieving Parent’s Heart

I wrote this three years ago and it was probably one of the first posts where I was bold enough to bare it all.

I was afraid to hit “publish” because I was afraid it would be misunderstood or seem pushy or too raw.

But then something amazing happened-I was out shopping later that day and had an email come through from the Huffington Post.

I thought it was a joke.

It wasn’t-they wanted to publish this on their blogging website platform.   And they did.  (You can read it here.)

It’s still one of my favorite posts-not because it was picked up by them but because it’s been shared by many, many grieving parents in an attempt to open the door of the closet full of emotions we often keep hidden.

People say“I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

It isn’t nostalgia for a time when things were different or better or you talked more: it’s a gut-wrenching, breath-robbing, knee-buckling, aching groan that lives inside you begging to be released.

Read the rest What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know.

 

The Importance of Silence: Holding Space so Hearts Can Speak

We do it all the time in the physical world-leave the shopping cart in line with the admonition to the person behind us to “hold our place” while we run to get that forgotten item.

We leave a gap for that minivan to pull in just where the construction cones narrow a highway from two lanes to one.

We open a door and step aside so the elderly lady with her hands full can manage to get through without dropping the load.

But most of us are not as good at it in relationships.

Read the rest here:  Holding Space

Homesick

I remember the first time I felt homesick.  

I had been away from home before but never without the company of someone I knew well and loved.  

This time was different-I was at a sleepover camp populated with strangers.  Kind strangers, yes, but not a familiar face among the crowd.  

It had sounded like a great idea when I signed up.  So much to do and see:   horses to pet and ride, crafts to be made, campfires to sit around and cook over.

But I soon found that no amount of excitement or distraction could undo the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was not where I should be.  It was all just a bit “off”.  Everything was slightly skewed.  I never got comfortable enough there to truly enjoy myself.

Instead, I kind of simply endured.

Since Dominic left for Heaven, more than a few days have been spent with that same feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Although I am (very often) surrounded by people I know and love, I still can’t shake the sense that things aren’t quite “right”.

Of course I’m perfectly aware that part of the feeling is generated by Dominic’s absence.

But there’s more to it than that. 

desire-for-another-world-c-s-lewis

I know the Bible teaches that this world is not our home.

Still, I think most of us get so comfortable here that we forget. 

I know I had. 

As my family grew in number and years, I was able to bring “home” with me wherever I went.  Together, we created a bubble of love and companionship.  It seemed nearly perfect-until one of us left suddenly and unexpectedly.  

Immediately, Heaven as my true home become so much dearer to me. 

I know that the correct “Sunday School” answer is that I’ve always longed to see Jesus.

But if I’m honest-and I try very hard to be honest here-as long as my family was intact, Heaven could wait.  

It took the life-altering, heart breaking reality of child loss for me to recognize that this world is NOT my home.  No matter how beautiful, wonderful and fulfilling my life on earth may be, it’s never going to be free of hardship and heartache.

I am homesick-utterly, inconsolably homesick. 

So I point my face to the east-just as Dominic and other saints whose bodies await the resurrection face east-and look forward to that Glorious Day when Jesus will return and make every thing that’s wrong. right.

I admit that my homesick heart won’t ever be satisfied in this world.  

And I lean in and hold on to the hope I have in Christ-trusting Him to redeem and restore.  

I began to try to define the pain I felt. Yes, it was sorrow, but it was something more, something infinitely deeper. I felt it all the time, even when I was happy. It wasn’t just sorrow. It was a longing; a pining for a better place and time … no, not just a better place and time, a perfect place and time; a different reality. It felt like longing for home, but not for a home I had ever been to. I began to see that it was something like homesickness …. Perhaps Christians are the most consistently homesick people in the world because they know this world (as it is) isn’t their true home. Yes, I was home, but I was still homesick.
~Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home