Lessons Learned

I don’t believe for one minute that child loss is a test or curriculum or punishment.  

But I  do believe there are things I can learn from it. 

I absolutely believe there are things I HAVE learned and am learning in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

What are some of those lessons?

I know life is hard.  Not just for me or for those who suffer my particular tragedy or difficulty.  Life is hard for everyone.  If I can’t see the burden someone is carrying, that’s either because they are good at hiding it or I’m not looking closely enough.

I know many things remain broken for a lifetime.  They simply can’t be fixed, put back together or patched up to even resemble what they used to look like.  And there’s no shame in that.  Brokenness is not failure.  For most of us, the brokenness is a result of what has happened TO us, not choices we made ourselves.  For those whose brokenness is magnified by poor choices,  it’s no less devastating.

I know people give up on you.  Some folks simply cannot bear to see another person’s pain so they leave.  Others are too self-absorbed to make room for long term compassionate companionship.  A few turn away, disgusted because they are convinced it can’t happen to them and if it did, they’d handle it so. much. better.

I know people stand by you.  If you had asked me to write a list of the ten people (outside my family) that would still be walking with me over four years later, I’d have only gotten two of them right.  People I would never have imagined have stepped up and stepped in and refused to run away no matter how ugly it gets.  They are gifts from God and I treasure them.

I know that time is not on our side.  We think that tomorrow is the perfect day for sending the card, writing the note, making the phone call.  But tomorrow may not come-not for me or for the person that means so much to my heart.  Bless today.  Give today.  Be present.  Today.

I know that, for me, my faith has been shaken but not destroyed.  I have dragged out every single thing I believe and held it up to the glaring light of child loss.  It burned away the superfluous, decorative and/or foolish things but has left the rock-solid foundation of my faith intact.  I am as convinced today as ever that God will redeem, restore and resurrect what the enemy has stolen.  I am not forsaken.

I know that love lives.  I never imagined I would have to love a child of mine from earth while he or she was already in Heaven, but I do.  And I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter whether I have his physical companionship because all the love I’ve ever felt is still there.  I miss him like crazy.  I can’t wait until we are together.  I hate our broken family circle.  But the circle of love we weave in and out through our hearts and our stories cannot be broken.  It is eternal.

I’ve learned that I can hold out and hold on. 

I can keep moving forward even with a limp or at a snail’s pace. 

I’ve learned that if I lean in and latch on to love, life can still have beauty and purpose. 

learned a lot this year deer

Feet of Clay

God is not offended by my human frailty.  He isn’t looking down from Heaven, shaking His head at my halting steps forward on this long, hard road.

we are dustHe understands my fear, my sadness, my longing for wholeness.

But sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that.

I’m surrounded by messages that scream,

“You can do better!”

“Be all that you can be!”  

“Try harder, practice more, do this, do that and you can attain your dreams!”

Even in Christian circles we tend to rank one another based on hours spent in Bible study, Sunday School lessons taught, singing in the choir, serving on committees, showing up at services.

That was the way of the Pharisees-impossible burdens piled high that crushed precious hearts so that they couldn’t imagine a Father in Heaven Who loved them.

That made Jesus angry.

They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Matthew 23:4 NLT

He didn’t come to mock my limitations or make light of my struggles.

He came to Shepherd my heart past those very things to see His heart for who He created me to be.

He reaches out and reaches in.  He sings love and courage and hope when I’m desperate to hear it.  

For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. “I have gathered your wounded and taken away your reproach.

Zephaniah 3:17 TLB

Reality is this:  I AM broken.  I AM frail.  I AM burdened by this life on earth.  It is absolutely too heavy for me to carry.  I will be crushed to dust beneath its weight.

But He offers to take that burden for which I was never made and replace it with the one perfectly fitted for my shoulders.

His yoke is easy.

His yoke is light.

And He is the One Who pulls alongside me to bear it.

you who are weary come to me

 

 

Grief and Grace:What I Need from Friends and Family

You cannot possibly know that scented soap takes me back to my son’s apartment in an instant.

You weren’t there when I cleaned it for the last time, boxed up the contents under the sink and wiped the beautiful, greasy hand prints off the shower wall.  He had worked on a friend’s car that night, jumped in to clean up and was off.

He never made it home.

So when I come out of the room red-eyed, teary and quiet, please don’t look at me like I’m a freak.

Please don’t corner me and ask, “What’s wrong?” Or worse-please, please, please don’t suggest I should be “over it by now”.

If you were reading a novel or watching a movie, you’d show more grace.

You would nod in understanding as the main character made choices that reflected the pain of his past.  You would find his behavior perfectly predictable in the context of a life lived with a broken heart.

I can’t control what makes me cry.  I can’t stop the memories flooding my mind or the pain seizing my heart.

I might be OK one minute and the next a blubbering mess. Grief doesn’t mind a schedule.

But there are some things you can do to help:

  • If you are aware of the circumstances around my child’s death, be thoughtful when highlighting similar situations in conversation, in movie choice, in recommending books or news stories.  I bump into reminders all the time, I don’t need to have them forced upon me.
  • It can be particularly hard to celebrate milestones in another child’s life when that child is about the same age as the one I buried.  Feel free to invite me, but give grace if I choose not to attend a birthday, graduation or wedding.  I’m doing the best I can and I don’t want to detract from the celebration so sometimes I bow out.
  • Ask me if, or how,  I would like my missing child included in family gatherings. Sometimes I want his memory highlighted and sometimes I want to hold it close like a personal treasure.  It might be different one year to the next. Just ask.
  • Be sensitive to the calendar.  Make a note of my child’s birthday, heaven day, date of the funeral or memorial service-these are important dates for me and they will be as long as I live.  In the first months, maybe for years, each month is a reminder that I am that much further from the last time I heard his voice, hugged his neck or saw his living face.  Those days are especially hard.
  • Don’t pressure me to move faster in my grief journey.  And don’t interpret a single encounter as the measure of how I’m doing.  Be aware that it is often a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of experience.  It is MY experience and will go as fast or as slow as it does.  I can’t even hurry it along even though sometimes I am desperate to do so.
  • Understand that the things I may share don’t paint a total picture.  There are pains too deep, thoughts too tortuous, experiences surrounding my son’s death and burial too hurtful for me to speak aloud.

I admit that I never thought of any of these things until it was MY son missing.

But now I think about them all the timenot only for my sake, but for the sake of others like me. I try to walk gently and kindly, extending grace and love.

And honestly, that’s really all I want from anyone else-grace, abundant grace.

I will be weepy when it’s inconvenient.  I will react when you can’t fathom why.  I will stay away when you want me to come near.  I will make choices you don’t understand.

I am truly sorry.

But child loss is not something I chose for myself, it was thrust upon me.

I am walking this path the best I know how.

When you extend grace and love me through the roughest places it makes all the difference.

heart and wood

It Changes Everything

Part of the reason I share my story is to provide insight for people who haven’t lost a child into the hearts and lives of those who have.

But mainly it is to be a voice for and to encourage other parents walking this valley by letting them know they aren’t alone, their feelings and experiences are perfectly normal and that just as welcoming a child into your family is a life-altering event, saying good-bye to a child is a life-altering event. 

We do not expect a mom to “get over” the changes having a baby brings to her everyday experience, and we should not expect a  bereaved mom to “get over” the changes burying one brings either.

Want to help?  Read:  Loving the Grieving Heart

Inseparable!

In the first days and months after Dominic left us I copied this verse dozens of times-in my journal, on notecards, on posterboard to plaster across the refrigerator and stick on mirrors and doorposts.

I had to remind my heart that even death could not separate my son from Him.  

That even the most wily schemes of the enemy could not rip me from the hand of my Savior and that even my own doubts or fears or questions were not stronger than God’s love through Christ to hem me in and keep me safe within the confines of His protection from eternal damnation.  

God’s Word is living and active.  

It is part of my inheritance in Christ Jesus and I can appropriate it for my own life.  When I am afraid and when I doubt, I try to repeat truth until my heart can hear it:   

“If God is for [Melanie and Dominic] who can be against us?

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for [Melanie and Dominic]—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give [Melanie and Dominic] all things?

33 Who will bring any charge against [Melanie and Dominic] whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

35 Who shall separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

37 No, in all these things [Melanie and Dominic] are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8: 31b-35,37-39 NIV

nothing can separate1

Changed

I’m not the same me  I was two years ago.

I no longer look with confidence down the driveway as friends and family pull away, certain that we will see one another soon.

I whisper, “Be safe” when we part, but know that they are not the keeper of their days and that “being safe” doesn’t mean everyone escapes deadly peril.

Read the rest here:  A Different Me

You Just Never Know

Just last week another mother in my community joined the ranks of those who bury a child. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and without warning, her son was gone.

It happens every day.  

We toss a casual “see you later” to the person heading out the door without thinking it might be the last thing we say to them.

matters how you liv

 

I am determined not to live in fear of loss-even though I have experienced it first hand.

But I am also determined to live so that should I lose someone else, they will be assured of this:

 I love them and I value them.

 

 

I don’t take things for granted anymore-What if Tomorrow Never Came?