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.

Take A Minute To Remember How Far You’ve Come

It’s so easy to focus on the miles left to travel and forget how far I’ve come.

Life has a habit of reminding me that there are hills yet to climb, emotional hurdles still to come and (the ever looming threat) gray hair, wrinkles and an aging body with which to tackle them.

But every now and then I remember to take stock of just how many miles I’ve already traveled.

I pause, sometimes with pad and paper, and recount the bends, twists, devastating events and challenging circumstances I’ve already navigated (some by the skin of my teeth and ALL by the grace of God!).

Doing that helps my heart hold on to hope.

It helps me take one more step, one more breath, last one more sunrise to sunset. It’s a way of speaking courage to myself when I’m afraid I won’t be able to endure and might give up before I complete my course.

So if you are, like me on some days, feeling undone by long years stretching ahead or a particularly hard season already upon you, may I ask you to think back, to take stock, to answer a few basic questions?

  • Are you getting up each morning and caring for yourself and/or others?
  • Are you fulfilling job obligations (if you’re employed outside your home)?
  • Have you lost a job, changed jobs, found a job, retired or relocated?
  • Are you sending birthday greetings to friends, family and children or grandchildren (even if they are belated!)?
  • Have you celebrated important milestones with those you love (even if you cried before, during or after)?
  • Have you planned a wedding, baby shower, birthday party or other public event?
  • Do you pay your bills?
  • Have you resisted the urge to turn to food, alcohol, drugs or any other destructive habit or behavior in an attempt to numb your pain?
  • Do you take the garbage out?
  • Have you taken a shower recently?
  • Are you connected to a faith community/bereaved parent group/small group of some kind?
  • Are you still married or with a long term partner even though grief may have strained the relationship?
  • Have you or are you caring for an ailing family member?
  • Are you buying groceries/preparing meals/or otherwise feeding yourself and others in your household?
  • Do you practice self-care (exercise, journaling, prayer/meditation, rest and proper nutrition)?
  • Has your home life shifted significantly (empty nest, boomerang kids, elderly parents moving in)?
  • Do you/have you addressed health concerns and are you following recommended and prescribed treatments?
  • Do you maintain contact with those you care about (even with coronavirus limitations)?
  • Is there at least one thing you pursue that feels like a break from responsibility (reading, a hobby, pets, watching old movies…)?

Then you’ve covered miles, my friend.

You are making progress.

No matter how much is left to travel, you have it in you to make it!

Winnie the Pooh Braver Than you Believe and Stronger Than You | Etsy

Grace for Today. That’s Enough.

After the sharp stab of loss, I think helplessness is the most frightening thing I have felt in this journey.

When I am overcome with the sense that I will never make it, that I can’t go on, that I am not going to be able to put one foot in front of the other for even one more hour, much less one more day-I cry out to Jesus and tell Him that.

I have never gotten an audible answer, or a miraculous phone call or a perfect note in the mailBUT I think in the moment of absolute surrender, the moment when I know with certainty that I can not do this without His supernatural grace, mercy and strength- HE gives it to me.

Read the rest here: Grace for Right Now

Ten Grief Quotes That Speak To My Heart

When I find words for my feelings it helps.

So I collect quotes, copying them down in my journal and sometimes hanging them where I can see them throughout the day.

Here are a few that speak to my heart. I hope they speak to yours. ❤

I wish there WERE a secret to surviving this journey. But there isn’t. There is just one moment, one breath, one step at a time. I do the best I can each day.

Over time I’ve grown stronger and better able to carry the load. Over time I’ve learned how to shift my focus from my son’s death to his life.

Death ends so many things.

But it does not end the influence of my son’s life on my heart and it can’t steal the moments I shared with him.

As long as I hum the tune of his unique song I can still hear him.

Before I was the one in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I didn’t realize it’s a lifelong journey. I acknowledged that loss changed a person but I didn’t know that it keeps changing you. Grief influences how I experience the present not just how I view the past.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it instantly changed the landscape of my life. The future I thought I’d have was shattered and I was thrust into unfamiliar and often frightening territory with no road map. It has taken a long time to learn how to walk in this uncertain world and I still stumble.

There are no set standards for how or how long a heart grieves. Everyone brings his or her own personality and experience to the process.

It’s tempting to look for a structured guide to measure my progress.

Others can share how they are walking this road but ultimately I have to forge my own trail through the wilderness.

This is one of my very favorite quotes. Great love, great grief. How could it be any different?

When a child is born into a family, no one finds it strange that the addition changes everything. When that child leaves too soon they shouldn’t find it strange that it changes everything once again.

I didn’t just lose my son, I lost the family I used to have.

The place he should be but isn’t looms large every time we sit at the table, gather for celebrations or just line up for a group photo.

Part of the work grief requires is learning to hold onto the love and influence my son poured into my own life. I have had to redefine my relationship with Dominic-figuring out how I to mother a child I can no longer see or hold.

There’s a lot of pressure on grieving hearts to “get better” based on the medical model of illness, treatment, recovery. But grief is not a disease. It truly is the price you pay for love. I have experienced healing in the six years since Dominic left for Heaven but I won’t be fully healed until I join him in eternity.

Every single child is a unique gift to the world.

When death steals their presence, the light and love they shared with others lives on.

As long as we remember, as long as we speak their names, they continue to be a gift to those who love them . ❤

Picking My Path Through Sun And Shade


I walk the half-mile stretch down and back on my driveway at least four or five times a day.

In the winter I follow the sun.

In the summer I follow the shade.

The path I choose to take either adds to or subtracts from my ability to make the trek in relative comfort.

Read the rest here: Sun & Shade: Picking My Path

It’s All Part Of The Journey: Good Days, Bad Days

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”.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/02/11/child-loss-good-days-bad-days-all-part-of-the-journey/

Every Tiny Step Counts

When Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I felt like I was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually knocked to the floor.  I had no idea how I was going to make a life after this great blow.   I could barely get dressed, much less do anything that took more thought or energy than that.

I was overwhelmed.   I had to learn to walk all over again.

And I did it with baby steps, in a judgement free-zone I created for myself where I refused to gauge my progress against anyone else’s.

its all about the baby steps

Because baby steps count.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/28/baby-steps-count/

How I Long To Just Be Me!

I first shared this post two years ago when I was approaching the four year milestone of Dominic’s leaving for Heaven.

By that time most folks who knew me when he died had relegated that part of my story to some ancient past that surely I was over by now. I’d met others who had no clue my heart skipped a beat on a regular basis because one of my children was buried.

And even the closest ones-the ones I thought would understand forever-were sometimes impatient with my ongoing refusal to leave Dominic behind and be “healed” of my grief.

What I long for more than anything as the sixth anniversary of his departure draws near is simply this: Let me be me, whatever that looks like.

Don’t try to fit my journey into your mold.

Melanie ❤

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/01/26/can-i-just-be-me/

Grief Changes

This life is not all sadness and sorrow, death and darkness.  

It was.  For a very, very long time all I could see was distant flickers of light.  

They were just enough to keep me going but not enough to lift the utter blackness that surrounded me.  

Now I would characterize life as hazy gray-most things still filtered through a lens of grief but generally brighter.  

I can see and feel the change.  It’s not as hard to get up most mornings.  Not as hard to put dates on a calendar.  Not as hard to commit to social activities and to actually show up.  Not as hard to talk about family life with strangers and acquaintances.  Not as hard to do so many things that were practically impossible in the first weeks, months and years.

I am so, so grateful.  

And there are good things-very good things-happening in my family.  

I’m even more grateful for those.  

A baby who could have had a sad story has a happy one!  He is growing and grinning and getting ready (within the month, we think) to escape the hospital.  His dad is home from deployment.  His mom is healing like a champ from severe illness and from her surgery.  They are forming a happy trio and full of love.

ryker smiling

A wedding is less than two weeks away!  After some (typical) stress and struggle things are falling into place.  My daughter is joining her life to a good man and that fills my heart with joy.

fiona and brandon at farm

My niece is graduating high school.  All the kids in that generation are grown ups just as we finally added one to begin the next.

My mother and father are still here to enjoy these things.  

If you are afraid you will never, ever feel joy again, I understand.  That was one of the most frightening aspects of early days and months and years.  I could not imagine having that heavy, dark cloud envelope me for the rest of my life.

It seems impossible it could ever be otherwise.  

But I’m here to tell you-it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you reach for the tiny lights you can just barely see in the distance and make whatever feeble and faltering steps forward, your heart will learn to feel something besides sorrow again.

At first it may only be a split-second when a smile nearly, but not quite, crosses your lips.

Then it might be an hour when you realize you’ve actually been completely engaged and present with your family or good friend.

One day you will be slipping into bed and think, “Today was a pretty good day”.  It will shock you, sadden you  and encourage you all at the same time.

It’s not a smooth upward journey that lands you out of the pit of grief.

It’s a bumpy road that tosses you around.  Highs and lows, ups and downs.  And it lasts a lifetime.

But if you purpose to hold on with both hands, to stay the course, keep heading toward the bits of light, laughter, love and loveliness teasing you in the distance, you will make progress.

Bad things have happened-the worst, in fact. 

Bad things still happen. 

But good things happen too.  

Very good things.  

I want to be present for them, don’t you?

courage is always an act of love

God’s Provision is Adequate For My Pilgrimage

This is a hard, hard thing to grasp.

A painful lesson to learn.

But it is truth:

The provision of God is adequate for my pilgrimage. God does not fail to see, know, understand, care, love, and ultimately to work all things ‘in conformity with the purpose of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11). His love is constant, though sometimes unfelt. His presence is assured, though sometimes He seems far away. His plan is good, though sometimes I hurt. For this present time I see dimly, mere faint outlines of all God’s purposes and plans. Yet I believe that His ways are better and His thoughts are higher than my own. In my time of trouble, my understanding is not crucial. It is my confidence in the person, the goodness, and the sovereignty of God that is the great, indispensable necessity.
~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

When my children were young, we made a habit of listening to classic books on tape as we made the miles between our rural home and all the places we had to go.  It was glorious to learn together, explore together and build up a reservoir of common literary references.  

pilgrims progress cover

One of the books we listened to was Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

In it, Christian, the main character, is making his way toward the Celestial City.  Along the way he meets all sorts of characters representing various temptations and snares common to all of us as we journey through this life.

I learned much from that book, the most important of which was this:

“To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward.”

The road is hard.  The journey long.  The way perilous and uncomfortable.  

But I will go forward, trusting that the Lord has made every provision for my pilgrimage. 

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who’ve set their hearts in pilgrimage as they pass through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs. The autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.” 

~Psalm 84:5-7

blessed are those whose strength is in you