No Middle Ground: Faith After Loss

There is so much work to do in grief.  

I had to sort through feelings, sort through my son’s belongings and sort through the scattered shards of my faith.  

I picked each piece up carefully, turned it over and over and was forced to determine whether I could still believe.

It took time-not because God was elusive or silent-but because circumstances demanded that I figure out how child loss, God’s sovereignty, His goodness and His love fit together.

And what I realized was that there is no middle ground.  Either it was all true (even though I still had unanswered questions) and everything was going to be alright or none of it was true and nothing would ever be alright again.

Either God is God or He’s not.  

I love this quote from Elisabeth Elliot: 

Now if I had had a faith that was determined God had to give me a particular kind of answer to my particular prayers, that faith would have disintegrated. But my faith had to be founded on the character of God Himself. And so, what looked like a contradiction in terms: God loves me; God lets this awful thing happen to me … I had to leave in God’s hands and say okay, Lord, I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. But I only had two choices. He is either God or He’s not. I am either held in the Everlasting Arms or I’m at the mercy of chance and I have to trust Him or deny Him. Is there any middle ground? I don’t think so.

~Elisabeth Elliot, Suffering is Never for Nothing

Jesus told His disciples to expect life to be full of trouble.  

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

~Jesus  (John 16:33 AMP)

But He also promised they wouldn’t be alone.

And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.

~Jesus (Matthew 28:20 VOICE)

same God life is hard he is near

 

 

Child Loss: Missing The Family I Thought I’d Have

I miss a lot of things since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

I miss HIM-his deep voice, his perspective and his thump-thump-thumping down the stairs and the rhythm of who he is.

And I miss how his absence has reshaped the family I thought I’d have.  

Raising four children, investing my time, heart and energy into who they were turning out to be, I naturally projected into the years ahead.  All that love poured into them would create a legacy we’d all enjoy.  Marriages, careers, grandchildren and experience would blend together into a (if not perfectly harmonious) at least a shared future.

desimones uab family

I never imagined turning a calendar page without one of my children to turn it with me.  

Dominic’s death has touched each one of us.  His missing is as powerful a force as his presence.  We are absolutely NOT THE SAME as we would have been if he were still here nor as we were when he was still here.

When Dom first left us, I was primarily mourning him.  I still miss him like crazy.  

But a lot of my mourning during the past twelve months has been for the family I thought I would have.  I see each of my surviving children are processing Dominic’s absence in ways that influence their decisions.

In some ways it’s beautiful-I see twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings making choices with wisdom way beyond their years.  In some ways it’s brutal-they set up safeguards because they know by experience that leaving the house doesn’t always mean you return.  They have back up plans for everything.

Which wasn’t something I even thought about when I was their age.  

My husband and I expected to drift into retirement years full of energy and vigor.  Much of that has been stolen from us by child loss too.  Oh, how we long to be the fun grandparents, the traveling duo, the footloose crazy pair but it’s much more effort than we anticipated.

Sometimes we can’t muster that energy at all.  

I know some changes were inevitable.  Dominic’s death coincided with a natural progression toward an empty nest.  I’m not a helicopter mama and I’ve always said my goal was to raise children who could function well without me so I think that as much as possible, I prepared my heart for them to grow up and grow apart.

But in addition to normal changes, there’s an utterly unnatural and unwelcome transformation from nuclear family to brokenhearted family.

I am so, so thankful that we have chosen the hard path of running toward one another instead of running away.  

I’m grateful that we have grown from five left behind to a table for eight-two new spouses and a precious grandchild. 

I do not take a single second for granted because I know that seconds are not guaranteed.  

But I sure wish Dominic were here to share it with us.  

dominic at olive garden

 

 

 

Do This, Not That: How To Help A Grieving Friend

“Above all, show your love.  Be willing to stand beside the gaping hole that has opened up in your friend’s life, without flinching or turning away.  Your steadiness of presence is the absolute best thing you can give.”  ~ Refuge in Grief

I truly believe that our friends and family WANT to be helpful as they companion us in grief.  

But if they’ve never known great loss, they may well be clueless.  

I love to share ideas, graphics and stories that can help them learn how.  

Here’s a good list, just right for sharing: 

  • Don’t compare griefs, ask questions.
  • Don’t minimize, respect their experience.
  • Don’t give compliments, trust your friend.
  • Don’t be a cheerleader, mirror their reality.
  • Don’t talk about “later”, stay in the present moment.
  • Don’t evangelize, trust their self-care.
  • Don’t start with solutions, get consent.

I’m not computer savvy enough to make graphics like this so I love it when I find them. 

I especially like this one which puts so many good ideas in a simple to use, easy to remember format. 

These are absolutely perfect for anyone walking with a grieving friend. 

do this not that for grief

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

I Don’t Want To Remember My Son

I don’t want to remember my son. 

I want to make memories with him.  

I want him to watch me grow old, to watch him get married and have children and to hear his voice mingled with his siblings at my table.

I’ve tried dozens of times to write a post that describes the abyss that divides the life I thought I would live and what it’s turned out to be.

I can’t do it.  

A twenty-three year old isn’t planning his legacy.  A mom of a twenty-three year old isn’t carefully preserving daily moments in the event he suddenly disappears.

Whatever legacy Dominic has left behind is a function of his huge personality rather than careful planning.  And all I have left of his life are bits and pieces I’m trying to string together so he’s not forgotten.

I was not prepared to wake up one morning and learn that his earthly story ended.  

I didn’t get to say good-bye, didn’t get to look him in the eye and tell him how very much I love him, didn’t even get to hold his hand as he left this life and entered Heaven.

I know he is just fine.  He’s full of joy and perfectly content.  

But I’m not.  

I don’t want Dominic to be a memory.  

I want him to be here.  

 

Background Music

Another bereaved mom wrote that she was better able to cope now than she had been a year ago.

And thanks to Facebook memories she had proof.

Several comments down a second mom wrote something that got me thinking-when, exactly, did Dominic’s loss move from the forefront to the background?

I’m not sure I can pinpoint a day or moment when I realized that sorrow was no longer ALL I feel and Dominic’s absence no longer ALL I see.

I remember when more experienced loss moms posted and talked about grief being gentler and quieter I thought that they were out of their minds.

How in the world would this breath-robbing, heart-stopping, crippling pain ever be anything close to “gentle”?

How could the pulsating, blasting, all-consuming noise of loss become softer?

In the first days, months and even years, everything about loss was so loud it was all I could hear.

Rock concert, standing-next-to-the-giant-speakers-loud.

So loud it shook my body and made me want to cover my ears.  There was no way to block the sound, no silent corner where I could retreat and hide.  Just relentless pounding noise and pain.

But little by little, in imperceptible increments the volume decreased.

Now, missing Dominic is the background music to everything.  A quiet tune I hum in my head that keeps me company all day and invades my dreams at night.

If I take a moment and pay attention or when other things quiet down, it moves again to the forefront.

My head and heart are never free of the music Dominic brings to my life.  He is the soundtrack to my days, the lullaby as I fall asleep.

dominic at gray haven

No longer an ear-piercing scream demanding attention, grief is now mostly a quiet song in a minor key.  

Never silent.  

Always playing.  

music from dandelion

 

Repost: Halloween

Except for a few years early in childhood, I have never liked Halloween.  The combination of darkness and creepiness makes my skin crawl.

And now, this side of child loss it makes me angry. 

Read the rest here:  Halloween