Help! My Family Won’t Talk About My Missing Child.

 

At first everyone talked about him.

It’s what people do just after a person leaves this world and leaves behind only memories.

It comes natural before the unnatural fact of child loss settles in and begins to make everyone uncomfortable.

But at some point after the funeral and way before the tears dried up, people stopped feeling easy mentioning his name.

And when I mentioned him, they weren’t sure whether they should just let those words fall with a “thud!” between us or pick up the conversational ball and run with it.

It’s a bit easier to understand when friends do it.

But so, so many bereaved parents lament the fact that even family members stop saying their missing child’s name aloud.

They stop sharing memories and stop acknowledging the place he or she holds in a parent’s heart regardless of their permanent address.

It hurts.  A LOT. 

I realized after the first six months or so that most people (including my family) didn’t know HOW to talk about my missing son.

So I began modeling it for them: I spoke of memories in past tense as I would for anyone, I spoke of character traits in present tense– because he is still all that plus some in Heaven-and I refused to ignore the elephant in the room.

grief is often the elephant in the room

I told them it was impossible to make me sadder by mentioning Dominic but it was very possible to make my burden heavier by NOT mentioning him.  They were not reminding me that he was gone, I breathe his absence in and out like oxygen all day long.  

miss-you-every-day

 

I know it seems unfair that we must simultaneously learn by (awful and heartbreaking!) experience and also educate those around us, but it is what it is.

If I’m honest, though, before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I didn’t really know how to talk about a young person who died.  It’s natural to reminisce about Grandmama’s favorite recipe or the old-fashioned way she did her hair.  It’s positively Unnatural to speak in past tense about a young, vibrant human being that you never expected to outlive.

There are always going to be some folks-even family-who cannot or will not speak about my child in Heaven.  

I can’t force them to do it.  

But I can encourage the ones who do by telling them what a beautiful gift it is to hear his name on their lips.  

 

mention them teddy bear

Repost: The Loudest Silence

No matter how busy or how noisy or how frantic, in the middle of my chest there is a quiet place that holds space for my missing child.

It was true last year in the craziness of my mother’s health crisis and it’s been so very, very true this past eight weeks full of anxiety, discomfort, challenge and unbelievable stress.  

Read the rest here:  The Loudest Silence

It’s a New Chapter, NOT the End of the Book

Here they come. 

It’s time for the First Day of School photo contests on social media. Shot after shot  of little ones and not-so-little ones posing with new book bags and new clothes holding a chalkboard sign that indicates their grade.

And then the pictures of college freshmen toting boxes into dorm rooms, waving good-bye to mom and dad, beginning their adult lives unfettered by curfews and parental oversight.

Then the laments, “I can’t believe they are growing up!”

I hear you, mama.  It IS a challenge to watch them grow up.  But you aren’t really saying,  “good-bye”.

I see it from an entirely different perspective.

Read the rest here:  It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Waking Up Is Hard To Do

Just after I got my driver’s license I was using the family station wagon to run some errands.  

I remember thinking, “Should I pull into that space between two parked cars or should I just go a bit further and make it easy on myself?”  I channeled my dad’s voice which was always pushing me past my comfort zone, threw off my fear and started into the smaller space.

Bad choice.

I kept trying to convince myself it was a dream.  I was not going to have to go home and tell my father what I had done.  It would disappear if only I wished hard enough.

But that was silly and untrue.

Denting the family wagon is small potatoes next to many other, bigger things I’ve faced in life.

And it is absolutely a zero on a scale of one to ten when considering the death of my son.  

You can fix a dent.  Even if it costs money and time.  

You can’t fix child loss.

Because of that FACT-I wake every morning to the same awful reality:  My child is dead.  He’s not coming back.  My life is forever changed.  My family forever altered.  My heart will carry this burden to the grave.

That makes waking up hard to do.  

Each morning I must force myself to push through an invisible wall and set my feet on ground I’m not sure I want to walk upon.

I must open my eyes and abandon the sweet release of dreamless sleep.

I have to face the light and embrace reality.

Four years and it is still a shock.  

Every

Single. 

Morning.

sometimes cant believe you are gone

Mind the Gap

My youngest son worked hard to retrieve some precious digital photos from an old laptop.

Being very kind, he didn’t tell me that we might have lost them until he was certain he had figured out a way to get them back.

So he and I had a trip down memory lane the other evening.

It was a bumpy ride.

Because for every sweet remembrance there was an equally painful realization that Dominic would never again be lined up alongside the rest of us in family pictures.

The British have a saying, “mind the gap” used to warn rail passengers to pay attention to the space between the train door and the platform.  It’s a dangerous opening that one must step over to avoid tripping, or worse.

I was reminded of that when I looked at those old pictures-my children are stair steps-averaging two years apart in age.

But now there will always be a gap between my second and fourth child-a space that threatens to undo me every time we line up for a picture.

I cannot forget that Dominic SHOULD be there.  I will never, ever be OK with the fact that he is missing.

To be honest, I miss him most when the rest of us are all together.  The space where he should be is highlighted because all the others are filled in.

No one else may notice, but I have to step carefully to keep from falling into a dark hole.

Mind the gap.

Be careful.

Don’t fall.

us at matts sunscreen

 

Why is the Second Year SO Hard?

I remember very well the morning I woke on April 12, 2015-it was one year since I’d gotten the awful news; one year since the life I thought I was going to have turned into the life I didn’t choose.

I was horrified that my heart had continued to beat for 365 days when I was sure it wouldn’t make it through the first 24 hours. 

And I was terrified.

During that first year there were multiple punctuated stops along the way-the first major and minor holidays scattered throughout the year, a family wedding, two graduations, Dominic’s birthday and on and on.  I’d muddle through and then turn my face forward towards the next one looming in the future.

There was so much emotional upheaval, so many things to process that I was unbalanced, focused only on survival without a thought to anything beyond the next hill.

But when I realized that I’d made it through one year, was still standing, was still breathing and was (apparently) going to survive this horrible blow, I began to think about living this way for the rest of my days.

And it was overwhelming.

Facing something for a defined period of time-even an awful something-is doable.  There’s an end in sight, relief on the way, endurance will be rewarded-just hang on.

But when a heart can’t lay hold of the finish line-well, that’s enough to undo even the bravest among us.

exhausted-over-trying-to-be-stronger-than-i-feel

All the things I muddled through the first year were just going to circle back around over and over and over for decades!

My grief took on a new dimension-it wasn’t something that was going away-it was life long.  

I spent the entire second year and most of the third just wrapping my mind and heart around that FACT and trying to develop tools to carry this burden for the long haul.

Every heart is different, every family unique.  

The second year is NOT harder for everyone. I’m not even sure it was HARDER for me.  But it was definitely different and full of new challenges.

It forced me to dig deeper than the first year when I was mainly in survival mode.  

The crying tapered off but the reality of my son’s absence loomed larger.  The breathless agony of his death really did grow more manageable but the prospect of this being a life sentence weighed more heavily on my heart.

But God’s grace has been sufficient in every season of my grief.  He has sustained me, strengthened me and carried me.  

i made you and i will carry you

Here I am-six weeks into year five-still standing, still fighting and still holding on to hope.

God is faithful.  

What He did for me,

He will do for you.  

god is always listening

Not Funny Anymore

Dominic had a habit of managing to travel on his birthday and often into the summer months.  

He’d jump at every opportunity to go here, there and everywhere.

He had the heart of an adventurer and life on our little farm in the middle of rural Alabama didn’t often offer the excitement his heart craved.

So just after his first year in Law School, he chose to study abroad for a short semester in the spring of 2013.

The rest of us gathered for the traditional Father’s Day photo with my husband and I thought it would be funny (and probably irritate Dom a bit) if I held up a photo of him as a two-year-old since he wasn’t there.

all of us on Fathers day except dom 2013 sunscreen

 

It WAS funny at the time.

And he saw it half way around the world and thought so too.

It popped up in my Facebook memories yesterday.

It’s not funny anymore.  

Those broad smiles have been wiped right off our faces.  

Because the ONLY way we can include Dominic in ANY family pictures anymore is with a photograph.

And while we’ve yet to have as many years between us as in the picture I held up that day, they’re coming (if we live and the Lord tarries).  

I hate that.

grief is great