How Transparent Should I Be When Sharing?

I am committed to authenticity but I am also committed to my own privacy and the privacy of my family.

So while I share freely here and in other places, I don’t share everything.

Sometimes I withhold because it’s not my story to tell.  Sometimes it’s because I can’t tell it without harming or defaming others.  And sometimes I don’t bare all because I just can’t weather other people’s reactions to what I have to say.

But for the most part, I’m pretty transparent.  Because secrets don’t serve anyone well.  

If I pretend to be stronger than I really am, I hide the truth that it is Christ in me that gives me strength.

If I don’t admit that certain words or actions hurt my heart, I enable thoughtless behavior.

If I only parrot “Sunday School” answers when someone asks about my faith in relation to my loss, then I silence other hearts wrestling with questions and pain in light of God’s sovereignty and love.

If I hide my tears, my pain, the missing then I minimize this great loss, And I will not make losing Dominic small.

business-authenticity

 

But if I am honest about my feelings,

honest about my weakness,

honest about what helps and what hurts,

then I can redeem part of this pain.

I can use it to make space for other hurting hearts.

 

Transparent is hard because it makes me vulnerable.  

But transparent is good because it makes my pain useful.

I didn’t choose this life, but I won’t waste it.  

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth

 

25 Ways to Give Holiday Hope to the Grieving

This will be the fourth Christmas without Dominic.

I’m certain that for some of my family and many of my friends, they are less and less aware of his absence.  That’s completely natural and understandable.  

But for me, his absence looms just as large THIS Christmas as it did that FIRST Christmas.

Even if you do realize how hard it is for grievers during the holidays, you might not have any idea how to show you care.

I came across this list originally published Family Life Today that gives 25 ideas to give holiday hope to the grieving and wanted to share it because I think it is wonderful.

I can promise you that any hurting heart would be delighted to have a friend or family member reach out in one or more of these ways. 

25 Christmas Gifts or Remembrances for the Brokenhearted

1.  A tree that can be planted in the family’s yard in memory of the loved one (or a gift certificate to a nursery that can be used to purchase a tree in the spring)

2.  Bibles, Christmas Poinsettias, or library books given as memorials

3.  Memorials to the local church or charities

4.  Home videos of the loved one (especially ones of activities that the family may not have)

5.  A scrapbook filled with pictures of the loved one

6.  Special Christmas ornaments (for example, if the child played the piano, see if you can find an ornament in the shape of a piano)

7. Books such as Streams in the Dessert and When Life is Changed Forever

8.  A personal item that would become a memento about the loved one’s personality or gifting

9.  Gift certificates to a cabin or lodge, or to a place that the loved one once enjoyed

10. An original poem about the deceased

11. A journal from friends and family with written memories about the deceased

12. A written tribute to the deceased (The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents by Dennis Rainey and David Boehi, explains how you can do this.)

13. Addressing their Christmas cards or notes

14. Joining them in holiday shopping or doing the shopping for them

15. Asking if you can help decorate their home for Christmas

16. Sharing homemade Christmas cookies

17. Arranging family photographs in albums

18. Inviting them to decorate a gingerbread house

19. Picking them up for Christmas services at church and holiday get-togethers

20. Helping them shop for that “perfect gift” that they can give to others in memory of their loved one

21. Decorating a small tree with ornaments that have special memories of the loved one

22. Helping them write holiday memories

23. Organizing a candle-light memorial for close friends and family

24. Having a family-time of singing some of the deceased’s favorite Christmas carols and hymns

25. Giving the brokenhearted blank journals to write Bible verses that remind them of God’s presence, such as 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a and Jeremiah 29:11

NO One is “Strong Enough”

I’m kind of an overachiever. 

I grew up in a family where the motto was “You can do whatever you want to do if you want to do it badly enough”.

If you promised to go somewhere, do something, make something, provide something-well you better go, do, make or provide.

NO excuses allowed.

That kind of work ethic does set you apart and help you get ahead.

But it can also set you up for ultimate, catastrophic failure. 

Because there will come a moment in every life when events beyond your control overwhelm your heart and prevent you from going, doing, making, providing.

And if your self-worth is built upon a foundation of never letting anyone down, never asking for help, never being needy-well, then you go from feeling worthy to feeling worthless in a heartbeat.

Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I had short seasons of helplessness due to illness.  Those few days and weeks were hard but I knew that I would soon return to the woman I was before and could resume the work that was essential to my feeling worthy of love and respect.

These last years since his departure have proven to be an extended period of helplessness and brokenness that continue to prevent me from doing, doing, doing.

And worse, that have required me to ask for help-over and over and over again.

But you know what I’m learning?  I’m learning that my worth is not based on what I can give.  

I do not have to earn love.  If what I’m getting from others is because of what I do for them, then it’s not real love.

I do not have to justify my existence by working myself to death.  If that is the only reason people want me around, then it’s a lousy one.

I’m also learning that refusing help is pride.  Pure and simple.

I can wrap it up in any excuse I want, but the root is self-importance and insistence that I can “do it myself” like a defiant two-year-old.

NO ONE can do it all themselves.

We ALL need help.

Asking for it and receiving it gracefully is strength, not weakness.

you are never strong enough that you dont need help

 

 

You Are Not Alone

Grief is isolating.

Even in our immediate family, differing grief styles, personalities and gender can separate us from one another in our sorrow.

And out in the world, well-THAT separation is as long and tall as the Great Wall of China.

But I’m here to tell you that you are NOT alone.

I felt so very alone after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  I only knew a couple of bereaved parents and their losses were many, many years prior to mine so they were at a different place.  Although they reached out, I didn’t have the courage or words to access their wisdom.

I live in a very small community and though I expanded my search to the nearby larger cities, there were only two grief groups I could find and neither exclusive to child loss.

In addition, I wanted a group founded on and looking toward the promises of God in Christ.  I was already discouraged, disheartened and on the verge of hopelessness-I couldn’t bear to have that part of my experience reinforced without the counterbalance of hope in Jesus.

I read, read, read.

And those books helped so much.  But they still lacked the give and take I needed.  I longed for a safe space to share my heart and have others share theirs.  I wanted to be able to ask questions and hear how other bereaved parents handled similar feelings, fears and situations.

I needed community.

It was 17 long months before I found it through While We’re Waiting support group for bereaved parents.

What a breath of fresh air!

Even though the closed group is peopled by broken hearts there is understanding and compassion and HOPE.  Those further along in this journey speak courage to the hearts freshly shattered.  Tender, vulnerable moms and dads know that HERE they are SAFE.

Last week I attended and spoke at the Through This Valley conference for bereaved parents held near the While We’re Waiting Refuge.

I got to meet some of the very special people who have helped me on this journey.  It was a preview of Heaven-hearts united in love for one another and love for our Savior.

Lots and lots of tears.  But lots and lots of hugs.  Lots and lots of sorrow over missing our children.  But lots and lots of joyful anticipation that we WILL be reunited.

You are NOT alone, dear heart.

There is a community of parents waiting to embrace you.

None of us would have chosen this painful path yet we choose to walk together on it.

Come, join hands with others who will speak courage to your heart.

while were waiting

NOBODY Does it Alone

Even if you think you are the Lone Ranger-riding the hills and vanquishing enemies all by yourself, you aren’t.  Heck, HE wasn’t alone either (thus my confusion over his name).

Lone_ranger_silver_1965

Every single one of us has people in the background making life as we know it possible.

And when life as we know it takes a sudden left turn, all those “invisible” people become oh, so important.

It happened when Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  The eleven days between the knock on the door and his funeral were filled with friends, family and even strangers who came by, brought meals, cleaned my house, made phone calls, and did all the things I just. couldn’t. do.

These last weeks have been the hardest season since Dom left us.  When I got the phone call Mama was being life-flighted my heart dropped to the floor.  Having been there once before, I was not at all ready to revisit the awful pain of loss.

So I gathered what I needed, made a few phone calls of my own and my children and I raced down to be with her and my father.

Thankfully, the ending to THIS story, though hard, isn’t tragic.

After the first eleven days in hospital and only a few at home before a second hospital admission, Mama is back at home getting stronger.

mama and me at beauty shop

Things are different.  Changes are required. 

But she is smiling and beautiful.  Still with us. 

Hallelujah!

But in order for me to stay with my folks for 27 of the past 31 days I have had to call on and depend on the help of others.

For me to leave MY responsibilities at home, someone else had to pick them up.  Horses and goats and dogs and chickens don’t feed themselves.  The church deposit has to be made each week.

My husband has graciously accepted that our communication is limited and sporadic.  What used to be long phone calls every day turned into short bursts and quick texts that let him know I was OK and still breathing.

My youngest son, Julian, laid aside his own project of remodeling his first home to pick up all the things I normally do around the farm-no complaints and no questions asked.  He is patient with me when my tired brain can’t think of words while trying to give him yet another chore that needs done.

My daughter, Fiona, finishing a tough last semester in RN school, as well as working and putting in required clinical hours, has called to check on me and her grandmother, offered excellent medical tips and helped me ask for the things we need for Mama.  She shoots me funny memes and encouraging texts that provide laughs to boost my immune system and bolster my courage.

My eldest son, James Michael, has squeezed in a weekend visit to my parents’ house in between helping his AF base recover from Hurricane Irma and a hundred other responsibilities as the Public Health Officer for a large command.  He drove the tractor and helped bale hay.  He brought flowers for Mama and BBQ ribs and sweet tea for me. 

My friends at church have graciously given me space and taken up slack so that I didn’t have to worry about my duties as treasurer.  No pressure and no tacky comments-only love and understanding from folks who KNOW how important family is.

My very special friend, Laura, sent me back from my brief three day stint at home a couple weeks ago with helpful herbal tinctures to brace my body for stress and hard work.  And she always listens without trying to fix me.

Dominic’s example as a strong advocate gave me the backbone to stand and insist that Mama get the care she needed when in hospital and at home.  I could hear him say, “Don’t let them get by with that!” to my often trembling heart.

And many, many of my parents’ friends and our extended family have phoned, sent notes and stopped by to encourage my heart and theirs.

People keep saying, “You are doing a good thing for your parents”.

I appreciate that.  But I want them to know that I am not doing it alone.  It goes back in a long chain to those who choose to take up the slack I leave behind when I drive out my lane.

I would not be free to help if others didn’t choose to help ME be free.

So I want to give a loud and public shout out to each one that has done this hard and necessary work in the shadows.

You are amazing.

I love you.

heart stone

 

No Contest: There’s Enough Heartache to Go Around

I may get jeered by my fellow bereaved parents but I’m committed to honesty so here it is: there is no hierarchy of grief and loss.

Now, am I saying that losing a dog is the same as burying a child?  Absolutely not!  I’ve written about that here.

But what I am saying is that grief, sorrow, loss and heartbreak comes to us in all shapes and sizes.  And what may be small to me may be huge to someone else.

In the past weeks I’ve been exposed to a number of people who were waiting for those magic minutes of visitation allowed for intensive care units.

Each one had a story.  

Each one had a cross to bear and a complicated life they were trying to maintain outside the additional stress and strain of a loved one hooked up to tubes and heart monitors.

None of them revealed (to me at least) that they were bereaved parents.

But I could clearly see pain, sorrow, grief and weariness etched in their furrowed brows. I could hear exhaustion in their voices as they placed phone call after phone call to update people that wanted to know how things were going but couldn’t make it to the hospital.  I noticed hope spring to life in each heart when the clock ticked toward the assigned visitation window and how they leaned forward willing those last seconds to fly by faster.

heart and wood

I knew they were hurting.  It didn’t matter if they hurt as much or less than me. There’s enough pain to go around in this life.

It isn’t a contest.

And I realized that because of my great grief and sorrow, I had a gift to share.  I could reach out and take a hand, listen to a story, hug a weary shoulder empathetically, gently and without judgement.

I understand the weight of hard things.

I know by experience that life can change in a single breath.  I carry both the ongoing burden of missing my son and the traumatic memory of life changed instantly by a knock on the door.   It’s made me stronger in ways I would not have chosen.

I will not squander that strength.

I will put my shoulder to the harness alongside my fellow humans and offer to help carry some of their burden.  I will extend my hand to the stumbling, strengthen the heart of the hurting and offer a listening ear to the one who has no one to talk to.

yoke-of-oxen

I cannot undo what I know.  I cannot undo what has brought them here or may take them to places THEY don’t want to go.

But I can be present.

I can refuse to turn away because I think their grief is small in comparison to my own.   

I can choose love.  

hands-passing-heart

 

Give What You’ve Got

If you had asked me four years ago where I’d be and what I’d be doing in life, I can guarantee you that writing a blog and ministering to bereaved parents wouldn’t have been in the top 1000 answers I might have given.

But here I am.  

Because it is where I have been sent.

Not where I would have gone-oh, no!-I would have taken a ship in the opposite direction like Jonah if God had given me a heads up.  Instead I was whisked away on the waves of grief right out to sea.  

Gasping for breath and trying to keep my head above water, I realized that what I had needed early on were two things:  (1) assurance that what I was experiencing/feeling/thinking was normal; and (2) encouragement from others farther along in this journey that I could endure this awful pain.

So I stepped out in faith hoping that being authentic, transparent and sharing MY journey might help another heart desperate to know she wasn’t alone.

I decided that even if others misunderstood or took issue with or didn’t like what I wrote,  I would not pull any punches.  

It was going to be the good, the bad and the ugly.  

No holds barred.

Emotional nakedness-even if it meant embarrassment.  

And I pray every single time I hit “publish” that what I send into cyberspace is what at least one heart needs for THAT day.

It’s all I’ve got, and I’m giving it away.

go where sent stay where put give what youve got