Grief and Holidays: Thanksgiving Plan

Thanksgiving is hard on my heart.

My birthday is usually close to, and sometimes on, Thanksgiving.  So we often celebrate them together.  What makes that especially painful for me since Dominic ran ahead to heaven is that the last birthday before he left was a surprise party at his apartment.

It was wonderful and loud and fun and filled with laughter and love. 

So all those good but achingly hard memories are wrapped up with the turkey and dressing.  

Read the rest here:  Holidays and Grief: Thanksgiving Plan

I’d Still Choose You

Some of us only felt tiny hands and feet pressing against the inside of our body.  

Some of us saw first steps or first grade.  

Some of us watched our child drive away to college certain it was the beginning of an adventure, not the beginning of the end.

Some of us have grandchildren reflecting back a smile or gesture or tone of voice that it so much like the one we miss.

All of us know what it is to lose more than any heart can bear-and yet we DO bear it-every. single. day.

None of us would give up whatever time we had even knowing how hard it is to go on without them.  ❤

even knowing id still choose you

Picking Up The Threads

Life after child loss can be described in various ways.

But any that ring true convey a sense that in an instant, everything is different, shattered, scattered, obliterated, changed.

I like this quote by Tolkien:

how do you pick up threads of an old life frodo at desk

It’s the threads, the shards, the broken bits that I will spend a lifetime trying to gather, save and weave or glue back together.

It will never be what it was, but it can still be something.  

I will always carry the scars.

The scars are proof of my love.  

it has been said that time heals all wounds rose kennedy clock

Silent Joy and Hidden Treasure

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and author who actively opposed the Nazi regime. 

He was imprisoned for a year and a half and executed just two weeks before American soldiers liberated the prison where he had been held. 

Bonhoeffer was no stranger to loss. 

Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote while in prison (emphasis added):

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so.

One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.

Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy.

One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain. “

[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. ]

memories are a way of holding onto the ones we love

We Remember Them

Since Dominic ran ahead I collect poems, sayings and quotes that help my heart put words to what it feels.  

I consider each one a gift.

Over the next few days I will share some of them with you-I hope you find them as beautiful and helpful as I do.

This is a beautiful, traditional Jewish blessing often shared with mourners.

No matter what I’m doing or where I am, I always remember Dominic.  ❤

In the rising of the sun and it’s going down, we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and the chill of the Winter, we remember them.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of Summer, we remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn, we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

As long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

~Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer

at the blueness of the skies we remember then

Bit By Bit: We Don’t Lose Them All at Once

I cannot speak for others but in my case, it seems that I did not lose Dominic all at once.

In fact, I’m still losing him.

Bit by bit, a little at a time, nearly molecule by molecule, his mark on my life, my walls, my world grows smaller.

Of course the space he occupies in my heart is safe-a mother’s heart grows larger with each birth and never shrinks again!

But in the physical world, the observable world, the world outside the safe sanctuary of my own soul-his presence THERE is fading.

And that’s it’s own brand of grief that must be recognized, felt, mourned and laid to rest.

fading-away

Every time Dominic SHOULD be here but ISN’T means another memory made without him, another photograph with a missing piece, another family milestone celebrated a bit more quietly because his booming laughter doesn’t join the chorus.

Every decision that would ordinarily involve consulting all four children’s schedules and desires is one more opportunity to count down two, skip one and go to my youngest.  I never can remember that there are only three phone calls or texts to make. My heart hurts each time I don’t check in with Dominic.

desimones uab family

Odd pieces of mail come in his name-leftover from mass mailing lists that have not yet been purged of deceased individuals.  Still a little shocking, always sad, I carry it up the quarter mile to the house and lay it on top of the pile of other things that prove he once walked the earth.

Digging through the toolbox in the garage for a screwdriver and there’s that funny little part he took off a car years ago and tucked inside the drawer-just in case we could use it for something.  I smell the grease and gas and feel him near.

Then my mind drags my heart back to reality and he’s gone again.

Dozens of moments make me miss him anew.

I’m not delusional.

I know he has run ahead to Heaven.

But my heart holds on to every shred of physical connection as long as it can.

And then he’s ripped from me all over again.any place we ever walked i miss you

 

Hard Stops: When You Can’t Ignore the Missing

Most of the time I’m just kind of rolling along.

There are things to do, places to go, people to see, animals to feed.

I get up, get going and get on with it.

But there are some days that are what I call “Hard Stops” on this journey.  They are the days that force my heart to take special notice of the fact that Dominic isn’t here.

Sometimes they are milestone days like birthdays or holidays or the anniversary of that awful knock on the door.

Sometimes they are events where he should be there-like seeing his brother one more time before he deploys half-way around the world.

These days make my heart measure the time since I last hugged his neck, heard his voice, saw his strong, square hands reach across the table for the salt shaker-and I am overcome with how long it has been!

Then my heart shifts to the months and likely years I will have to live with this aching empty place where he should be but isn’t and I fear I just can’t do it!

Many days I’m able to distract myself from the sorrow and to live with the missing.

But these “hard stop” days force me to face it head on. and it is overwhelming. 

Every. Time.

So what do I do? 

When my heart is overwhelmed, I take it to the Rock that is higher than I.  

rock that is higher than i

I run to the Refuge of my Faithful Father.  

sing of strength you are my refuge

I turn my eyes to my Savior Who will redeem and restore.

restore after season of suffering

I put my hand firmly in the hand of my Shepherd Who will not leave me in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

And I pray for myself-and every heart having a hard time holding onto hope today-that we will feel the Father’s loving arms around us and that He will give us strength to stand.  ❤