Grief is a Family Affair

One of the things I absolutely LOVED about having four kids was the way they pinged off one another.  There were evenings when the comments were flying so fast I could barely keep up.  Sly looks, secret texts, funny faces and friendly punches made up most of our times together.

That’s how families are-each person is just a little “more” when surrounded by folks that love and understand him or her.  

When Dominic left us, we didn’t only lose HIS companionship, we also lost the part of each of us that was reflected back from him.

dom looking up with camera

And just as each one of us had a unique relationship with him in life,we have a unique relationship with him in death.

Sure he was brother to all his siblings.

But he was a younger brother to the older two and older brother to our youngest.  He was a middle son but a third child.  He was close to his sister who shared his love of musical instruments, bonded with his younger brother over cars and butted heads with his older brother when he felt like he was bossed around.


Dominic and I were both political junkies and loved to debate policy and current events.  We listened to NPR and compared notes.

He enjoyed talking sports with his dad and trying out different guitars and sound effects pedals as they jammed to the radio.

So how we remember him, what we miss, what we long for and what we hold onto is a reflection of the different way we interacted with him.

How much and how loud we express our grief is also a combination of our relationship with him and our innate personalities. 

Sometimes that is helpful-like when one of us can sit and listen to another because we are not so emotional at the moment.  Sometimes it causes frustration or even conflict when one or more of us feels that we need to DO a certain thing to remember Dominic and one or more of us is uncomfortable doing that very thing.

We’ve got to respect our differences, embrace them, make room for them even in this Valley.  

We ALL miss him.  That’s something we can agree on. 

We ALL would give anything to have him back.

And we are ALL in this together, even in our unique expressions of the same pain.

Grief is a family affair as much as life is. 

We learn, we grow, we adapt.  

And together we survive.  


Remembering the Missing: Four Candles

I have always loved candles.  Something in the flickering light speaks to my heart.

It’s one of my favorite parts of early evenings-watching the candles I light on every flat surface cast a soft glow and chase the darkness.

Even a small light offers hope.  

Christmas Eve is a natural time to gather with family and friends, to honor the ones no longer present, to share our love, our memories and our sorrow.

So when I ran across this post on a Compassionate Friends site, I wanted to share it.  I hope it blesses your heart like it blesses mine.  

This four candle ritual is a beautiful way to create space for tears and also invite laughter and hope into hurting hearts.  

four candles

Time and Time Again

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven we have celebrated four graduations and a wedding.

Wednesday night was another one.  My daughter, Fiona, graduated nursing school.

We are so excited for her!

fiona grad jumping

And, as usual, our family rallied round, pitched in, showed up and made a great fuss over the accomplishment.

It was beautiful and hard all at the same time.

Because time and time again we join hands and hearts to celebrate an achievement, a milestone, a special moment or a holiday and there is always, always, always one missing.

Every photo is just slightly askew- one daughter, three two sons.

family fionas grad (2)

We’ve gotten good at closing ranks, squeezing out the space where he should be standing.  But our hearts mark the gap.

Our hearts will always mark the gap.

I am much better now at actually enjoying these things-I love the way my daughter’s friends surround and encourage her, I laughed at the antics of the children that enjoyed running from adult to adult, getting more attention than they knew what to do with.  I sat and listened with great pride as Fiona gave the closing remarks to her graduating class, drawing from a deep well of wisdom that includes heartache as well as hallelujahs.

And it was all good.  Really, truly  good.

But you have to go home eventually.

Hugging necks and saying “good-bye” is when it always hits me-I hug harder, cling longer, make sure to whisper not only “I love you” but everything I need to say-just in case.

And grown children text their mama so she knows they are safely home.

Dominic’s legacy is this:  We never miss a chance to celebrate one another.

We cling to the good and try to let go of the bad.

We love fiercely and openly and are not ashamed for one minute of our tears or our laughter.

Because you never know.

love the ones god gave you


A Faint Echo

Just out of earshot my heart strains to hear the faint echo of Dominic’s voice-his humor, his lively sarcasm and biting wit I can almost convince myself that he’s there in the room as the two other boys banter back and forth. 

I’m used to a trio, not a duet. 


It’s like the blues without a bass line. 

How can it be the same song and yet a different one altogether?

Oh, how I miss him!

for the rest of my life I will search for moments full of you


The Reality of Ongoing Grief in Child Loss


One of the most difficult things to explain to anyone who has not buried a child is this:  I didn’t just lose Dominic ONCE, I continue to lose him.

dom looking up with camera

I lose him every single time there is a moment when he SHOULD be here but isn’t.

I lose him when his friends graduate, get married and have children.

I lose him again on Christmas morning when HIS face isn’t around the breakfast table and HIS name isn’t on the presents around the tree.

I lose him when I need to call and ask a question about my computer or need his opinion when trying to make a decision.

I lose him when everyone else is making their way home for the holidays or a birthday or just a visit-his car never rolls up the lane, his smiling face never emerges, his arms never reach out to wrap me in a bear hug.

I lose him when his siblings line up for photos-the space where he SHOULD be but ISN’T looms large.


I will never know the joy of standing at his wedding.

I will never be able to congratulate him on his first court victory.

I will never see his children

I won’t have his companionship in my old age.

He is gone-out of reach.




i will always wonder what you would have been

Reality Check

I’ve struggled since the beginning of this journey to convey others the ongoing open-ended emptiness of burying a child.  

There is simply no way to fill the void left by my son’s leaving.  

No job, no hobby, no ministry, no person, no exercise regimen, dietary discipline or medical intervention can fix this pain.  

So when people think I will

“get over”,


“move past”

my son’s death,

they profoundly misunderstand my experience.