Grief Journey Update: Eight Plus Years and Counting

In the years since I started sharing in this space I’ve had many challenges in addition to the ongoing burden of missing Dominic.

Our family has gained members, lost members, my health has declined, my husband has retired and all my earthbound children have experienced lots of important and sometimes uncomfortable or unwelcome life changes.

For some reason the past two and a half years have been more difficult to navigate in certain ways since the first two years after Dominic’s death. In fact, the past six months have been particularly hard but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

Maybe it’s fatigue-emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational-or maybe it’s what marathoners know as “the wall”. That place when you’re fully committed to running the race but suddenly wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into.

I don’t run marathons (just look at me and you’ll know that!) but I do tend to push through pain and discouragement and what others consider unbeatable odds to reach whatever goal I’ve set for myself. I haven’t been able to employ the usual pep talks or psychological tricks or external cues to do that of late.

People running in city marathon on street

I’m spending too much time thinking about what I need to get done and not enough time doing it.

I’ve got tons of half-written blog posts in my draft folder and too few finished ones lined up to publish.

I remember feeling a bit like this when I graduated from college three months pregnant with my daughter. One giant task was accomplished but one, largely unknown, task was staring me in the face.

That summer is a blur.

I know I did some practical and predictable things to get ready for Fiona’s arrival but I’m not sure I really had much of a plan.

I’ve been walking the road of child loss for more than eight years now. I’m committed to sharing the journey with whomever it might help. I have a basic daily routine that at least includes finding old posts to re-share if not carving out time to create new ones.

The other hours of my day are spent talking or messaging with family and friends, moderating an online bereaved parent community, trying to keep my house relatively clean (no white gloves allowed!), walking two miles each morning, doing research, cooking meals and handling five or six (typically) other random and/or pressing issues along with caring for our menagerie of pets and livestock.

And while my life is good, I’m definitely experiencing dissonance between what I thought it would be like at 58 and what it actually IS.

I thought I’d be writing books or making quilts or teaching craft or cooking classes in my local church.

I absolutely, positively didn’t think my story would include child loss! I couldn’t have imagined that fused bones in my hands and wrists would keep me from doing so many of the things I love to do.

I’m not complaining (well, I’d complain to anyone who’d listen about Dominic not being here) but I am just being honest.

I know the saying, “Grieve the life you thought you’d have and then move on with the life you actually have and be grateful for it”.

Trust me, I have and I am.

I am so, so grateful for each day’s beauty, blessings and the grace and strength to appreciate them.

I am beyond grateful for a loving family, my precious grandsons, the gift of modern medicine and compassionate companionship of friends who help make my burdens easier to carry!

I do wake every morning thankful for the breath in my body and the promise that this body is not the only one I’ll ever have.

I look forward to the final and complete redemption of every pain, every tear, every sad and awful thing, and the restoration of all that has been stolen.

This life continues to be one I didn’t choose but one I choose to make as joy-filled and as productive as possible.

A challenge?

Absolutely.

Celebrations After Child Loss-Life at the Crossroads of Joy and Sorrow

I want to be everything my living children need me to be.  

I try hard to celebrate them, be available, listen closely and love them well.  

I never, ever want them to feel they are competing with their missing brother for my affection or my attention.  

But I’d be lying if I said it was always easy.  

Read the rest here: Crossroads: Celebrations After Child Loss

Guiding My Heart Home-Flickers of Light


A fellow bereaved mom commented on a recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

Read the rest here: Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

Wildflowers In The Weeds: Finding Joy Again

I’d like to encourage my fellow travelers in this Valley today.

Often I write about and share the hardest parts of this journey. Because there are so, so many hard parts!

And they are rarely spoken about above a whisper (if at all!) in greater society. I am determined to be as honest as possible lest I know of a hidden danger along the way and fail to warn you.

But there are also precious joys tucked away along the difficult path.

The trick is to train your eye to see them and your heart to receive them.

I’ll be the first to admit that for months (probably two years) despair and sorrow and loss were all I could truly feel.

Bereft is the word I’d choose if forced to choose only one.

I became so adept at finding the sad in every situation I fell out of practice in finding anything else.

To be honest, it didn’t take much to find the sad. Holidays were duller, celebrations were always missing one, even a sunrise didn’t shine as brightly knowing Dominic was never going to set eyes on that day’s bright glow.

At some point, unbidden, a tiny spark of gratitude-like a wildflower among weeds-drew my heart to joy. Even if I tried, I couldn’t help responding to the fact that not every moment of every day was clad in mourning clothes.

Little by little color seeped back into my life.

I found that if I grabbed those bits, held them close and meditated upon them, they soon came closer and closer together. They grew to fill not just moments but sometimes hours.

Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I become so mired in yesterday’s hurts, that I miss entirely the living gifts this day might hold.

“Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow” from Every Moment Holy Vol. II: Death, Grief & Hope

I’ve written before that Gratitude and Grieving coexist.

I can’t weigh all my blessings on a giant cosmic scale against the bruising of child loss and make it balance. But I have also realized that I don’t have to live in a constant state of bitter sadness just to prove I love my son.

Life continues.

It brings good things, hard things, beautiful blessings and awful bruising. I have-in the years since Dom left us-had challenges and triumphs.

I’m learning that if I pluck the flowers of joy when I see them, I’m better able to survive the moments of despair when they overtake me.

Lifting The Cup of Sorrow

See, here’s the thingto the outside world, my son’s death happened at a single point in time.

But to me, his death is a continuous event.

I must lift the cup of sorrow every day to parched lips.  I must choose to take it to the One Who can help me lift it.

Jesus knows this cup.

Read the rest here: My Cup Overflows

Looking Forward: A New Season of Grief

For a long, long time I couldn’t bear to see a monthly calendar.

I didn’t want to be reminded that time refused to stand still for my broken heart and I hated there were no more “Dominic” events to scribble in on the blank squares.

Around the third year I was able to once again mark major events like birthdays, holidays and short family trips. But it was even longer before I was able to truly look forward with excitement to those things.

Seven plus years, multiple family changes, a pandemic, retirement and a grandchild have reshaped my heart so that I’m genuinely thrilled to prepare and participate in most things from family meals to “Granny Camp” (which I get to host next week!).

I’m not forgetting nor minimizing Dominic by diving into these events with gusto. In fact, I’m sure he would approve.

So I’m entering a new season of grief-one which makes room for current joys and celebrations while still holding space for Dominic.

I can be present and participate without reserve.

I am making memories with those who are still here.

Enjoying every moment.

Tiny Flickers of Light


A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

Read the rest here: Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

Prisoner Of Hope

When Jesus claimed me as His child, I was liberated from darkness and made a prisoner of hope.

No matter how black the night, there is a pinhole of light. No matter how crushing the despair, there is a sliver of strength. When I want to stay under the covers, He beckons me to come out and I cannot resist.

I am a slave to the promise of Heaven.

I am bound by hope to the One who makes the rain, the One who spoke the mountains, the One who breathed the stars, the One who gives and takes.

And in that hope I find perfect freedom.

Glory.

My fears were drowned in perfect love

You rescued me

And I will stand and sing

I am a child of God

No Longer Slaves by Joel Case / Jonathan David Helser / Brian Mark Johnson

The music reminds me of the Glory to come, and I know Dominic would approve.

Music was his passion.

I like to think of him surrounded by songs and sounds of unimaginable beauty. So I count the days, and I count it joy that I will see him again.

I can hear him saying, “Do you really believe, Mom?”

Yes, sweet boy.

I do.

Can I Feel Joy Again?

In case you’re wondering if joy will ever return, I want to assure you that it most certainly can.

It will take a lot longer than you wish it might, but it is there, waiting for you to welcome it.

At first it just felt WRONG to have a moment of happiness because if the pain of missing Dominic somehow didn’t fill my heart I was afraid it meant my love for him was fading. If the broken pieces were knitted back together then maybe one day they’d mend so well I couldn’t find the spot where he fit in.

But I’ve learned no amount of present joy will squeeze out that space where Dominic lives.

I can love him, miss him, sorrow over his absence and still revel in the beautiful blessings the Lord brings into my life.

Just this week I had the privilege of watching my grandson while his mother and father had a little time away. It was so much fun (and hard work!). I had forgotten how exciting it is to view the world through a young child’s eyes. Everything is new, everything is wonderful, everything is worthy of exploration and comment.

The little fellow walked down the hall my great-grandmother walked, my grandmother walked and my mother walked pointing a finger and asking, “This?” as he passed photos and paintings, doo dads and doorways.

The sixth generation to hear the creaking hardwood and learn about life.

What joy!

We showed him family photos and talked about Uncle Dominic. It raised a lump in my throat each time but it also helped me place Dom in his story-helped me learn how to talk about the uncle he will never know except for what we share.

I’m not going to lie.

More than a few times tears threatened to make their way down my cheek as I held his little hand and remembered holding another one just like it decades ago. Nostalgia can be hard to swallow when it’s all you have left of someone you love.

But I reminded my heart that it is big enough for both.

I can miss what I once had AND delight in what I have now.

Both are gifts I cherish and hold dear.

joy and sorrow | Poetry Joy

Celebrating the Good Things

Our family’s experience was a bit unusual though hardly unique.

In the two months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven we had Easter, two graduations, a wedding, Mother’s Day and his birthday.

So we were thrust right into the uncomfortable whirlwind of celebration and mourning from the start.

I remember having to dig deep to let the happy come out through the muck and mire of sorrow.

But even then, it was there.

Six years later and it’s much easier to let laughter loose and produce a genuine smile for those Kodak camera moments.

Six years later there are a heap of things to be happy about not the least of which is the addition of this little fella to the family circle.

From frightening beginnings to a first birthday full of love, laughter, food and fun my grandson has come a long, long way.

A couple of days ago was the one year anniversary of his coming home from NICU-what a glorious day when he made that trip safely and slept the first night in his crib next to his parents’ bed!

I am still in awe of how this story (that could have had a much different ending) has a beautiful one.

Last night his dad FaceTimed us and we got to see our little Captain cutting up, laughing, taking a few tentative steps, reacting to our voices and generally having a great time.

It’s balm to my soul.

It doesn’t fill the space where Dominic should be but it has enlarged my heart once again.

If you are wondering if you will ever feel joy or gladness again, hang on.

Celebrate the good things even when it’s hard.

It’s not treason to let love and laughter back in.

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