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.

A Bit Of My Heart

“People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

It’s easy when you’re scared to shout loudly at whatever scapegoat crosses your path. But it’s hardly helpful.

My earnest hope in this season of worldwide fear is this: that people will show themselves to be more compassionate than they think they are, that communities will come together instead of falling apart and that while politicians may work hard to spin headlines one way or the other, citizens will insist on helping one another instead of hating one another.

❤ Melanie

A friend recently posted that not all the lessons of grief are bitter.

Some are sweet.

She’s right.

I’ve learned a lot on this journey.  And one of the sweet things I’ve learned is that the best thing to offer fellow travelers is a bit of my heart instead of a piece of my mind.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/09/a-bit-of-my-heart-instead-of-a-piece-of-my-mind/

Repost: 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?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/03/lessons-learned/

Repost: Refuse To Cause Pain


I’m a kinder, gentler person than I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

It’s a high price to pay to learn to walk more grace-filled through this life.

I’ve come to find out that every heart has a story.  Every heart is carrying a burden.-perhaps not the same as mine, but a burden nonetheless.

And what causes the most pain in this life (next to the burden itself) is when another person runs over my heart without thinking about the burden it may hold inside.

So I have purposed not to do that to other people.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/29/refuse-to-cause-pain/

Man Proposes, God Disposes

I learned this lesson years ago.  

As a matter of fact, I had a cute little picture on my fridge of a sinking ship that said. “Another day, another disaster”.  

That was before I had actually lived through disaster. 

Now it’s engraved on my heart as well as my mind.  

I think I’m in control.  I think my “to do” list determines a day.  I think I can set the alarm and set my agenda.

But I’m not.  It doesn’t and I can’t.  

loved by the one in control

Last week I was rocking and rolling, moving and grooving.  Making molehills out of mountains and working my list.

Today I’m sitting in my chair, heating pad on my back, barely able to move. 

My body hates me.  

This is the hardest part of chronic illness and lifelong grief-I want to be able to plan ahead, make progress, achieve momentum and finish tasks.  But I just can’t.  I can’t be sure when I go to bed that the next day is going to be anything like what I hope it will be.

If you think weather forecasts are unpredictable, they are solid compared to my life.

And while I absolutely, positively accede God is in control, is sovereign, does not answer to me or anyone else and can order my life and the world as He sees fit; I would love, love, love to have two days in a row that followed a pattern of positive progress.

dear stress lets break up

So I’m just a *little* bit frustrated.  

I know I need to adjust my expectations.  

I’m trying. 

Really.  

 

whenyoucan27tcontrolthewindadjustyoursails

Repost: Lessons in Grief-Learning to Listen

I admit it:  I’m a fixer.

It’s probably genetic (won’t mention any names!) but it has been reinforced by training and life experience.

When faced with a difficult or messy situation, my mind instantly rolls through an inventory of available resources and possible solutions.

And I tended to cut people off mid-sentence with my brilliant (?) plan to save the day.

But there are things you just can’t fix.

Read the rest here:  Lessons in Grief: Learning to Listen

A Bit of My Heart Instead of a Piece of My Mind

A friend recently posted that not all the lessons of grief are bitter.

Some are sweet.

She’s right.

I’ve learned a lot on this journey.  And one of the sweet things I’ve learned is that the best thing to offer fellow travelers is a bit of my heart instead of a piece of my mind.

a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind

We all have pet causes, pet peeves and personal opinions.  Social media makes it oh, so easy to promote them. 

That’s great.

But too often one person’s post leads to another person’s comment which leads to snarky remarks, replies and reactions.  Pretty soon what began as an exercise in free speech devolves into a free-for-all.  The only thing stopping physical blows is the distance between keyboards across the Internet.

I don’t have to make a point every time I make a comment.

I can simply scroll past that tasteless meme or sarcastic political post.

Life’s too short to be offended over every. little. thing. 

Really.  

It is.  

 

 

kindnesslikeconfetti

 

Repost: Flying Lessons

I wrote this last year when thinking about how easy it is for me to get lost in the clouds on this journey.

Like a disoriented pilot flying without any visual cues, I have to make a decision:  do I trust my unworthy feelings or do I trust the utterly reliable compass found in the Word of God?

I can’t deny that I FEEL certain things, but I can choose not to ACT on every feeling.

It was a lesson I saw my father teach many young pilots as they learned to trust their instruments instead of their own faulty sense of direction.

My dad is a pilot and flight instructor.  

He’s flown everything from a single engine private plane to a fighter jet in all kinds of weather-good and bad.

When I was a little girl, he’d take me with him sometimes while he gave a flight lesson.  If he was teaching instrument flying, the student would wear a hood that restricted his vision to just the plane’s instrument panel.

No external visual cues allowed.

Read the rest here:  Flying Lessons

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

Lesson Learned

It’s a lesson you never forget once you’ve learned it.

It’s lesson you never learn unless you have to.

The destruction of property-even every single thing you own on this earth-is awful, frightening and life-changing. 

But it’s still LIFE.

My parents were caught in the fury that was Hurricane Michael.  They were miles inland, a community that had never seen anything like this in four generations that had lived in the house where they rode out the storm.

Their property and home took a hit, but they are OK.

mama and papa at james wedding filter

And for this mama with one son in heaven and one deployed half-way around the world, that’s ALL THAT MATTERS.

We can rebuild a house.  We can buy more stuff.  

But I can’t replace the people I love.  

Life and Death.

I know that lesson well.

where theres life theres hope