Time Travel

This may come as a shock to my city-dwelling readers, but there is not a UPS store on every corner in rural Alabama.

In fact, there isn’t one in the whole county where I live. 

So when I had to return something with a prepaid label,  the nearest place to do it was up the highway and off an exit that I probably haven’t taken in a decade.  After dropping the package, on a whim, I scooted across the street to the Winn Dixie store for just a minute.

As soon as I entered, I knew I’d made a dreadful mistake.  The store had not changed even a little in the years and years since I was last there.  

And the last time I was there was with all four children.  

Those were the days when we piled into our Suburban and did marathon shopping runs to take advantage of every sale in one day.  My kids were experts at finding the right size item specified on whatever coupons we might be using to drop the price even further.  I would dispatch the boys to get heavier things as I went up and down the aisles loading the buggy with canned goods.

So when I walked in and the store even SMELLED the same, I was instantly transported to those days.  I could almost hear the laughter of my sons, see my daughter next to me and feel that blessed togetherness I cherished even then but long for painfully, desperately NOW.  

I’m not sure that my heart didn’t stop for just a second or two.  I know I held my breath.

It was both beautiful to remember and more painful than I could have imagined.

I was utterly unprepared for the grief wave that swept over my heart.

I forced myself to walk slowly to grab the item I needed.  I got in line, made small talk with a friendly customer and a chatty cashier.  And then I practically ran out the door and to my truck in an attempt to escape the sadness.

At home, I let the tears fall.  Sat in silence and gathering darkness and let myself FEEL all the feels.

I am oh, so grateful for every single moment I can remember but oh, so sad there won’t be any more.

it has been said that time heals all wounds rose kennedy clock

 

 

 

 

Consolation

I was caught unaware mid-morning by tears.  

No reason, just my heart remembered that this life I’m living is not the life I expected.

Nowhere to go but to God.  

No hope to cling to but His Word.  

It’s the best I can do.  

still my consolation is this

Amazing *FREE* Opportunity for Bereaved Parents

If you are a bereaved parent and can fly,

drive

or walk to Hot Springs, Arkansas October 6-7

you will want to make the journey.

April Wendland, a bereaved mama with a heart to reach others with hope and love has organized a conference just for us.  

And it’s *FREE* to bereaved parents.

leaf heart

From the website:  

“THROUGH THIS VALLEY is a faith based conference designed BY bereaved parents, FOR bereaved parents.

We know the deep pain. We know the longing.

We know the questions. We know the heartache.

But we’ve also found some healing. We’ve found some peace for our hearts.

We’ve found some answers.

And we understand the Healer in new & grateful ways.

It is our desire to share what we’ve learned with other bereaved parents who are searching for answers. And being together with others who have gone through similar experiences somehow gives us all a little more strength & comfort too. You are not alone. There is hope. This conference will change the lives of those who have open hearts & ears to hear.

There is no charge to the bereaved parents for the THROUGH THIS VALLEY conference.

All speakers, attendees & most staff are bereaved parents.”

I’m going.

Wanna join me there?  

Click here for more information or to register:  Through This Valley

me too sharing the path

 

 

I Don’t Cry Every Day Anymore

I’ve never really been much for lots of tears.  

Most of my crying before Dominic ran ahead to heaven consisted of silent tears slipping down my cheeks and onto my chin. Every now and then I would have a good, old-fashioned sob.

But between April 12,2014 and that October or November, I cried every day.  I cried so much I thought surely I would run out of tears.  I cried so much I needed to drink more water to remain hydrated.  

Then it stopped.  

The ache settled deeper into my bones and tears no longer came as an easy outlet for the pain I was feeling.

I still cried a few times a week, but not as long or as loud as those first months.  I could tell (most of the time) what had triggered the tears-a photo, a song, an item his hands had touched, a memory or even a whiff of someone who wore the same cologne walking past in a crowd.

Then THAT stopped.

just because no tears doesnt mean heart doesnt hurt

I got so good at stuffing the immediate emotional response I hardly ever cried anymore.

Except that sometimes-random moments-the heavy lid I keep screwed down tight on all those feelings comes undone.  And I am helpless as the sorrow, missing and horror of child loss creeps up my spine, raises my heart rate and settles as a silent scream at the back of my throat.  

A sob escapes.  The tears flow.  Usually I’m done for that day-left a quivering mass of emotional jello, unable to pack it all up and get on with things.

And that’s OK.

I don’t cry every day anymore, but when I do, it’s a necessary and important part of the healing process.  

I won’t apologize for my tears.  

grief-is-loves-souvenir

 

 

Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?

“Stuck in grief”-it’s a theme of blog posts, psychology papers and magazine articles.  The author usually lists either a variety of “symptoms” or relates anecdotes of people who do truly odd things after a loved one dies.  “Complicated grief” is a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis.

But who gets to decide?  

What objective criteria can be applied to every situation, every person, every death to determine whether someone is truly stuck in grief?  How do you take into account the circumstances of a death, the relationship of the bereaved to the deceased, trauma surrounding the event or any of a dozen other things that influence how long and how deeply one grieves a loss?

Obviously there are certain signs that someone needs professional help, medication or intervention.  If a person is abusing drugs or alcohol, acting out in ways that harm or threaten harm to themselves or others, or is experiencing depression or uncontrollable anxiety then please, please, PLEASE get them to a doctor who can diagnose and treat them.

But for the rest of us, “normal” grief covers a wide variety of behaviors, feelings, attitudes and timelines:

Posting photos or videos of our missing child is normal.  It’s the last visual link we have to someone we can no longer see.

Mentioning my son in conversation is normal.  I mention my other children and his life is still intertwined with ours.

Crying-even years or decades after the loss-is NORMAL  Grief waves can hit with tsunami force from out of nowhere and slam me to the ground. The only thing I can do then is let them wash over and around me until they pass.

Keeping space for my son in my home, at my table, in my heart and on holidays is normal.  Some parents do this with a special candle, photo or ritual. Some do it with a stuffed animal or other item that represents their child. Some do it with words or deeds of kindness done in honor of the missing one.  No one has sat in Dominic’s space at my table in these three years.  It’s my silent witness to his ongoing influence and irreplaceable presence in our family circle.

Keeping a room exactly as it was is normal.  Boxing everything up is also normal.  Every heart is different and every heart has to decide what helps it heal.

Sleeplessness is normal.  Some parents never return to pre-loss sleep patterns.  I wake every morning at about the time the deputy came to our door.  Every now and then, if I am extremely tired, I may fall back asleep for an hour or two.  Sleeping the day away is normal, too.  Sleep may be a welcome relief to a weary heart and some parents find that when they can, they sleep a lot.  (Note:  if this continues for days or weeks, please check with your doctor about the possibility of depression.)

Anxiety is, sadly, VERY normal.  The worst has actually happened and that makes the possibility that it could happen again oh, so real.  Anxiety may well spread to things that seem to have no relationship to loss.  It’s also normal to have a “devil may care” attitude. The worst has actually happened, so what could be worse?  Might as well live life to the full.

Withdrawal is normal.  So is over-scheduling and staying busy.  Both are ways someone may try to deal with heartbreak.

You don’t have to be “stuck” in grief to still feel the pain and have it continue to affect your life.

I am and have been highly functional since the morning the deputy arrived with the news of my son’s fatal motorcycle accident.

But I am a very different “me” than I was before that doorbell rang.

Some things I can’t do anymore. Some things I do differently and some things are brand new and I have only done them since he left us.

Labels are rarely helpful when applied to people.

Every person is unique, every relationship unique and every situation unique.

And every grief journey will be unique as well.

roller coaster 2 better image

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday Singings and a Mama’s Broken Heart

Fifth Sunday Singings are a tradition down South.

We gather in the evening or afternoon every time there is a fifth Sunday in a month and sing, sing, sing.

Sometimes there are featured groups but often it’s just the faithful few who enjoy picking favorite hymns that might not get much air time on Sunday mornings.

Inevitably the hymns that are chosen most often include a verse or two about “when the roll is called up yonder” or “the streets of gold” or “amazing grace”.  Because almost all of us have a hymn etched on our hearts during a time of trial or sorrow or deep suffering.

And it’s the promise that God is faithful, His word is true and this life is not all there is that gets us through.

But for this mama’s broken heart, a few choruses in and I’m in tears.  

While I am thankful, thankful, thankful that I know I will see my son again, these hymns remind me that a lifetime may lie between here and there.

The waiting is hard.  

waiting with hope water

 

 

Repost: Grief is NOT Sin

Grief is not sin.  

It wasn’t until another grieving mom asked the question that I realized there are some (many?) in the community of believers that think grief is sin.

Not at first, mind you-everyone is “allowed” a certain amount of time to get over the loss of a dream, the loss of a job, the loss of health or the loss of a loved one.

But carry that sadness and wounded heart too publicly for too long and you better be ready for someone to question your faith.

Read the rest here:  Grief is Not Sin