There’s Hope in Every Scar

Sometimes people ask, “How can you cling to Jesus when He could have saved your son, but didn’t?”

I give the same answer Peter gave, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

He is light and life in the Valley and on the hilltop, in the fire and in the flood.

He will redeem every tear and restore every thing the enemy has stolen.

My scars tell a story: Yes, I’m wounded but I’m still walking. I’ve been hurt but I’m healing.

There’s hope in every scar.

Suffering is but a moment.

This is not forever.

Jesus is.

Hallelujah!

Many Kinds Of Grief: Eight Ways To Help Your Heart In Hard Times

Long time readers may have noticed that the past month there have been fewer original posts and more recycled ones.

I’m not sure precisely why, but it’s been a lot harder to put my thoughts and feelings into words than at any other time in this journey.

I’ve started and abandoned post after post. They languish in my “drafts” file and will, hopefully, eventually, be completed.

There’s just something about the rest of the world being forced to live in the no-man’s-land between what we used to take for granted and what we now have to face that makes it harder to talk about my personal experience.

Grief takes many forms and I believe the whole world is grieving now.

I can hear it. I can feel it.

All of us are facing (many for the first time!) the fact that control is largely an illusion. We climb into our vehicles and assume the person coming at us in the other lane will maintain their position but don’t know that he or she is distracted or medically impaired or drunk.

And then-BAM!-all bets are off. What we take for granted can change in an instant.

So I guess my challenge is in translating my particular grief into language others can understand and relate to.

For the first time I feel there’s a wider audience longing for the secret recipe to life after loss.

I know not every heart is suffering from physical loss of a loved one but I think there are some general principles I’ve learned that can help anyone who’s struggling to find a path through this difficult season:

  • Acknowledge what you’ve lost. It often helps to name what’s changed, what you miss, what you’ve had to give up. It may seem obvious but you might be surprised. When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I knew I’d no longer have HIM. But what I didn’t realize at first was that I also lost the family I once knew (we were all changed), the me I used to be and the life I thought I’d have. There are Secondary Losses hidden inside every grieving heart.
  • Face your feelings. Consider journaling your thoughts. Often speaking or writing out a feeling is the first step to dealing with it. Grief isn’t just one feeling-although we tend to think of it that way. It’s A Tangled Ball of Emotions. I had no clue until it was me trying to unravel the strands and understand what to do with them. Emotions will leak out somewhere. Are you short-tempered and cranky? There’s probably something underneath those outward signs.
  • Think about your strengths and coping skills. What has helped you get through tough times in the past? How can you use the same set of skills or tools to tackle this challenge? Child loss is the greatest and most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. If you had asked me in the first five minutes if I’d survive I would have told you, “no way”. But I have. Largely by leaning into my faith in Christ (which I know not everyone shares) and depending on coping skills I learned over the years dealing with chronic illness and other hard things. What have you survived in the past? Use that to get through this.
  • Stay connected to the people who matter most to you. Social distancing is an unfortunate label for what is actually physical distancing. Social media, smartphones, Skype, Zoom meetings and other electronic means of connection are widely available and can help a heart stay in touch with friends and loved ones. When someone feels isolated he or she is much more apt to give up and give in. Humans were made for community. If you can’t be physically next to people, find another way to get close and stay in touch. It might well require more effort but it’s worth it.
  • Make a new routine. It’s not just babies that thrive on schedules. We all need a semblance of control and normalcy. Eat at regular times. Set up a work station/school station if the virus is keeping you at home. If possible, make sure each day includes some physical activity and outdoor air. Exercise, hobbies, family story time or shared movies are all things that could be included. Try to go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. For several months after Dominic left us, I wrote each day’s plan on an index card. When I found myself at loose ends, sitting staring into space and sinking into despair, I consulted my card. I moved on to the next thing and eventually found I’d made it through yet another day.
  • Limit your media diet. Let’s face it-most of us are easily drawn into an “us vs. them” mentality. And once we begin to think in those terms it’s harder and harder to see beauty in the world. It’s one thing to remain informed and it’s another to be absorbed by all the things over which we have no control. Focus on smaller things-friends, family and community. That’s where a heart can make a difference.
  • Practice discernment and draw a line between what is inconvenient and what is truly tragic. Lots of things can FEEL like the end of the world but very few things actually ARE. Life has changed dramatically but it’s still life. Work and school look different. Masks are uncomfortable. Celebrations might be virtual. Shopping without trying on clothes is a hassle. But none of those things equate to death or loss of income or being unable to visit an elder in a nursing home. There are absolutely, positively tragic aspects to this experience and (sadly) one or more of them may visit your family. But unless and until they do, save your energy in fretting over (relatively) minor inconveniences.
  • Remember that there are more chapters to your story. All of us have dark pages in the books of our lives. Some of us have several chapters’ worth. But as long as there is life, there is hope. My family HAS survived child loss/sibling loss. We are different, we are wounded, but we have survived. Some of the things we have learned are truly beautiful (although we wouldn’t have chosen to learn them this way). If you listen and pay attention, you will learn things too.

Truth is, grief can drag you down so low you don’t remember which way is up, much less how to get there. No one knows that better than a bereaved parent.

Still, there are things you can do even there that will help your heart hold onto hope.

Where there is hope there is light.

And light will always, always chase away the shadows.

The Keepers

Those of you who have followed the blog for a bit know that I’ve said over and over and over: there is no limit to the heartache you may have to endure in this life.

The past three years have been the most difficult since the very first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven in 2014.

But this memory popped up in my Facebook timeline the other day and reminded me that along with all the hard, there have been some beautiful blessings.

Two years ago around this time I was listening to day after day after day of witnesses giving first one account and then another of events that happened three years prior trying to frame facts so that the twelve jurors would vote a certain way.

Only my friends and family from miles away helped me hold onto the thin thread of hope that truth would prevail.

It was brutal and not something I ever want to repeat.

If you ever wonder if a phone call, text, card or message make a difference, just ask me.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not have made it without them. 

Image may contain: one or more people, text and outdoor

Sighing Is My Second Language

Pale.  Flat. Tasteless. 

Yes.

They’d crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn’t. Colors bled pale. Music was just notes. Books no longer transported or comforted, not fully. Never again. Food was nutrition, little more. Breaths were sighs. And they knew something the rest didn’t. They knew how lucky the rest of the world was.

― Louise Penny

It was absolutely this way for more than the first three years. 

Read the rest here: All The Color Gone

Empathy: Let Me Hold The Door For You

I remember struggling mightily to get four young children to church Sunday mornings.

At the time we attended a larger church that had a couple of parking lots-one near and one not-so-near the entrance.

Of course, I was never early enough to park very close to the doors so had to shepherd all four (while carrying the youngest in his car seat) across a small lane, up a hill and finally to the foyer.

What a blessed relief when some kind person opened that door for me as we approached!

It wasn’t much in the whole scheme of things.

It didn’t relieve my aching arms of the load I carried.

But it said, “I see you. I want to do the little bit I can to encourage you.”

No photo description available.

I have never forgotten those days.

Opening the door taught me that sometimes the smallest act of kindness is the difference between a heart giving up or hanging on.

I’ve had a lot of people “hold the door” for me on this journey of child loss.

Most of them have not walked in my shoes but they could see my soul was worn and I needed encouragement.

For that I will be eternally grateful.

Only Twenty-four Hours


I remember the first summer after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

The days stretched interminably before me. I woke with a sigh and not a few tears as I realized I had to wait out another cycle of the sun before sleep (if it came!) would grant respite from the memories, the feelings, the ache in my heart.

Sometimes it was nearly unbearable.

But then I had a moment when I realized no day lasts forever. No matter how hard, no matter how long it seemed, it would end.

Even the worst day of my life only lasted twenty-four hours.

I had survived THAT day. I could survive any day.

I don’t know just when I figured it out, but somewhere in this Valley it dawned on me-NO day lasts forever.

Many feel like they do.  

The day I got the news stretched impossibly long in front of me as calls were made and people came to be wtih us.

But even THAT day ended. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/04/22/twenty-four-hours/

Here’s To You, Friends !

I have many friends who have chosen to get up when they could have stayed down, who have chosen love when they could have become heartless and who still smile even when life isn’t easy.

I love you. 

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Here's to all the people who get back up more times than they are Knocked down, who give more than they ever expect to receive, who still show love to others, even when their own heart is broken, who smile through the sad times, who light the way for others, who spread laughter and joy. Thank you for making the world a better place.'

Moms and Dads, this one’s for you.

For not giving up or giving in.

For refusing to become bitter and jaded and instead choosing to be love and light. 

Defying Fear: First Birthdays and New Memories

A year ago I was in the same city under very different circumstances.

My first grandson had been born at just over 28 weeks because his mama developed HELLP syndrome and was in mortal danger. Both he and she were in the hospital while we held our collective breath, begging for them to be OK.

We were filled with quiet but uneasy joy knowing as we do how death can come to steal it away.

This Sunday, family and friends gathered to watch this little guy grab his first birthday cake with gusto and smear his mama and daddy with blue icing.

You’d never know he got such a tentative start in life just by looking at him.

Grateful is too small a word for how we feel.

Melanie ❤


THIS YEAR:

LAST year:

Last week was a roller coaster.

My first grandchild-a boy-was born prematurely on Saturday after several days of heart stopping, breath robbing drama as his mama went back and forth to the hospital three times in as many days.

My son, his father, is deployed overseas and paddling as fast as he can to get home.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/11/fear-of-what-you-know/

A Study In Contrasts: Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday

I think I will post this link as long as I maintain the blog because I will always be a voice for those whose lives look more like Ash Wednesday than Mardi Gras.

I will continue to speak out for space in our congregations and fellowships that acknowledge life is often hard, often unfair and often more like a broken hallelujah than a high note.

I am not a member of the Church of the Perpetually Cheerful. 

I am a member of the Broken Body of Christ, limping through this world, holding onto hope with both hands.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/02/28/mardi-gras-and-ash-wednesday-a-study-in-contrasts/

Surprised By Sunshine

The chair I sit in to write faces east and I can see the sky lighten every early morning through my big picture window.

I love greeting a new day, watching the world wake up, hearing the birds twitter around my home scooping up random bits of grain and cat food left behind by the outside animals.

And for a period of about two weeks, twice a year, I love something else-the rising sun is positioned in the perfect spot to cast it’s first golden glow above the trees squarely in my face as I sit here pecking away at the keyboard.

I could move out of the glaring light and continue my work.

But I don’t.

Instead I pause and turn my face toward the sun, soaking up every bit of warmth and light and feeling the energy flow from it to me for as long as it lasts.

And then it moves on.

Doing the work sun does for the whole earth-providing warmth and light for every living thing.

Grief can feel like one long dark night. It can wrap itself so tightly around a heart that no light penetrates the heavy cloak of sadness.

Then one day, one moment, one tiny heartbeat, the sun of gladness or laughter or sweet memory or act of kindness will be positioned just so and make it through.

Don’t move out of the glaring light of hope.

Turn your face and heart toward the gift and bask in its warmth. Let the energy of an extended hand, a thoughtful word, a precious bit of joy energize you.

It will move on and sadness will once again be your close companion.

But if you let it, the hope planted by the light will grow.

It will strengthen you for the journey.

It will sing courage over your heart and remind you in those darkest moments that night doesn’t last forever.

The sun will shine again.