For You, a Moment; For Me, a Lifetime

I used to look at tombstones in cemeteries and do the math between the dates. 

I was most focused on how long this person or that person walked the earth. 

I still do that sometimes.  But now I do something else as well. 

I look to the left and the right to see if the person who ran ahead left parents behind.  My eye is drawn to the solitary stones with the same last name next to a double monument clearly honoring a married pair.

grieving mother at grave

And then I do a different kind of math. 

I count the years between the last breath of the child and the last breath of his or her mama.

Because while that first date marked an end for everyone else, for the mama, it marked the beginning of the rest of her life- a life she never imagined nor would have chosen.  

I wonder how many lives have been cut short by the effects of grief.  I know some folks have tried to research it, but it’s so hard.  Because grief ends up doing things to bodies that look like aging or like other disease processes and it’s really difficult to tease it out.

But those of us who live this life know. 

We know.  

What’s a moment for everyone else, is a lifetime for us.  What is a date on the calendar, a trip to a funeral home, a casserole delivered to a door in hopes of lifting spirits for everyone else, is so much more for us.

grief as timeless as love

I don’t begrudge your ignorance. 

I celebrate it! 

My heart breaks every single time another name is added to the roles of “bereaved parent”.

I think a lot about the generations gone before.  Before vaccinations, before penicillin, before so many modern blessings that lengthen life and give hope where there used to be none.

I think about the families involved in WWI and WWII.  I understand the need to call the first war “The Great War” and assume such atrocities would stop mankind from falling headlong into them again.

But it didn’t.  

So, so many families that made the highest sacrifice. 

So, so many parents that hung that photo of their son or daughter on the wall and never moved it-because they were as frozen in time as their child.  

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

I have a friend who does home-based physical therapy.  She often goes to the homes of elderly patients and lovingly and gracefully listens to their stories.  If it is part of their history, they almost always point out the child who never grew older and tell the tale of how much they miss him or her.

It’s so, so hard for others to understand how very different child loss and out-of-order death is from any other loss in this life.  

But it is not a moment.  

It is not even a week or month or years.  

It’s a lifetime. 

We miss them and mourn them for a lifetime.  

grief is a pain that cant be spoken goes on and on

 

Life is a Gift-Celebrate! Every. Single. Day.

I have never been a crystal and china kind of gal.

I got a few special pieces when my husband and I married, but most of the things in my home are durable and useful.

So I don’t have many things tucked away for special occasions.

I’m glad that when my kids were young we made even ordinary days special by setting the table, using candles, cloth napkins, real plates and mugs for meals.

We foolish mortals sometimes live through years not realizing how short life is, and that TODAY is your life.
― Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking

I’m especially thankful this side of child loss that our memories include making many regular days wonderful by choosing to celebrate the smallest moments. 

I have an inexpensive set of Chinese plates, soup bowls and porcelain spoons I bought from a mail order catalog way before the Internet, much less Amazon.  It gave my homemade sweet and sour chicken an air of authenticity (and it was fun!).

When December rolled around, we ditched our everyday plates for Christmas ones we used for meals and festive coffee mugs that held everything from morning coffee to the evening’s soft drinks, tea and hot cocoa.

Birthdays, holidays and regular days were all reasons to make merry and make memories. 

I’m so glad we didn’t set things aside because they were too dear for everyday use.  

Life IS a gift. 

Celebrate it.

dont save for special occassion

Only Natural

Whether surrounded by friends or strangers, I sift through the words threatening to fly out of my mouth very carefully.

Like most of us, there’s a script in my head that doesn’t always bear sharing.

But unlike many, part of my script involves a child that lives in Heaven.

And I’m constantly weighing whether or not I should mention him even though the conversation leads my heart to a memory I very much want to speak aloud.  It often makes others uncomfortable, awkward and upset when I do.  So sometimes I just don’t.

I hate that I edit myself like that.

I hate that another person’s response or lack of response makes me cautious.

If Dominic were still walking among us, I’d be sharing away.  His life, his work, his challenges, his accomplishments would all be fair game as I sat with fellow mothers and grandmothers talking about our families.  No one would bat an eye if I mentioned his name, said I missed him since he moved away for that job, admitted that I counted the days until the next family get-together or holiday and I could host a full table.

But because he moved to Heaven, I’m supposed to be “over him”.  I’m supposed to bow to convention and quietly stop talking about the son that’s missing from all the photos we’ve taken since 2014.  I should shush my heart and silence my lips because it makes other people uncomfortable.

I’m not doing it.

talk about them better image

Our family just welcomed the first grandchild.

Little Ryker will never see Uncle Dominic, hear his amazing drum skills or be the brunt of his snarky jokes.  But Ryker will know about Dom.  I will tell him stories and show him pictures and let him know that the chair at the end of the table is where Uncle Dom used to sit.

ryker smiling

I’ll help Ryker learn something everyone needs to know:  It’s perfectly natural to include and talk about ALL our family-the ones that are here AND the ones in Heaven.

Even when we no longer enjoy their earthly companionship, we love them and they are still very much part of our lives.

So when I’m reciting all the exciting news, be prepared.

I am mom to four, grandmama to one.

Always and forever.

Amen.

desimones uab family

 

Repost: Breathe In. Breathe Out. Repeat.

Almost four years and I still have those moments. 

I know from other grieving mamas that I always will. 

But sometimes they catch me by surprise.

Motoring home from Walmart, a campaign sign catches my eye.  The candidate is young and running for District Judge in our county.  That could have been Dominic.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Read the rest here:  Breathe In. Breathe Out. Repeat.

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

 

Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

I have no doubt that if you asked my living children, they could give you examples when I’ve failed.  Some days are just too much.  Some events are too hard to attend.

Some moments I am overwhelmed

and undone

and there’s no way to hide it.  

But I’ve learned a few things that help me be present, attentive and joyful for the beautiful things that are happening around me.

One of those is to set aside time whenever possible to “pre-grieve” an upcoming celebration or gathering.

hand-coffee-roosevelt

I allow my heart to feel all the things it needs to feel.  I journal the questions and comments and (sometimes) anger that would otherwise overflow and ruin a moment.  I write to Dominic and tell him how much I miss him, how much I wish he were here and how very hard it is to mark another happy occasion without him.

I mentally rehearse walking in, greeting people, making small talk. 

I think ahead to any big moments that might tap emotions I need to hold in check.  I even plan an “escape route” should I need it. Just knowing it exists has always been enough so far. 

Sometimes I find a song that suits my mood.  

I cry.  

And then I choose a token I can wear or slip in my pocket to remind me that I’ve got this.

I can show up and smile (honestly) because I’ve already loosed the dam of grief and let the stored up torrent flow over the spillway.

engagement party group shot (2)

I’ve learned the hard way that memories are precious.  I don’t want the ones I’m making now to always be tainted by sorrow and loss.  

Dominic is never far from my thoughts and always in my heart.  

I’m not abandoning nor forgetting him.

I honor him by honoring his siblings.  

Love lives.  

happy birthday balloons no words

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child Loss: When It’s Been YEARS-How To Bless a Grieving Parent

Please hear me. 

I do NOT blame you that my son and my sorrow have drifted down your list of “things that need attention”.  Your life is as busy as mine once was and your calendar full of commitments and celebrations that require your attendance.

There is no way you would know it’s 69 days until the fifth anniversary of Dominic’s sudden absence. 

There is no reason for you to be aware that as the southern landscape turns to spring, my heart and mind turn to death.  

But it’s the truth. 

Read the rest here:  When It’s Been YEARS-How to Bless a Grieving Parent