Book Review: Joy in the Mourning

My friend and fellow bereaved mom,  Leslie Lamm Harder, has published a book chronicling the first months after the sudden death of her son, William.

I’ve not met Leslie face-to-face but have had the blessing of her long distance friendship for over a year now and am constantly and consistently encouraged by her words.

I believe you will be too.

Leslie has written a memoir that takes an honest yet hope-filled look at life after child loss. I appreciate that she chose not to edit out the questions, the hard days, the words that reveal the struggle a heart has to go through when tragedy strikes.

While always clinging to and pointing the reader back to her hope in Christ, she doesn’t hide the truth that hope cannot take the pain away.

It makes it bearable, but it does not remove it.

faith says i will sit with you in the pain

Many books about child loss are written so long after the event that some authors’ words are inaccessible to the parent who has just started down this path.  The author has reached a point of healing that a freshly broken heart can’t comprehend.

Healing does happen.

But it is very slow and incremental and not without setbacks.

Leslie’s book is an excellent aid for any heart seeking to hold onto hope in the dark Valley of child loss. She walks us quietly, gently down the path without insisting on an early declaration of “victory in Jesus”.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

It will be on my shelf forever and I will be giving copies to parents for years to come.

(Available at Amazon.com)

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

 

The Elephant in the Room

I’ve often been the person who refused to go along with some group’s plan to ignore a real issue and try to talk around it.  

I usually begin like this, “I know it’s hard to talk about, but let’s be honest and…”

I’m even more inclined in that direction now. If my son’s instant and untimely death has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s no use pretending.

So I’m not going to pretend:  Western society doesn’t do grief well.  

grief is often the elephant in the room

I’m not sure that was always the case but like so many other unpleasant, sad and/or uncomfortable aspects of life, we’ve sequestered grief to separate buildings and specialists. We’ve tried to clean it up and clear it away from the everyday.

Like they say, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If we can hide it, we don’t have to deal with it. 

But I’m here to tell you, you WILL have to deal with it.  One day, one way or another, death will come knocking at YOUR door.  No one gets out of here alive.  

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  

Let’s stop ignoring death and grief and how one person’s departure for Heaven leaves others behind trying to deal with the loss, the pain, and the hole that missing life leaves in their hearts.

I know it will take effort to learn the language of grief.  It’s a lost language and it will feel strange on your tongue.  

The more you use it, the more you will realize that it’s really just the language of love with a slight accent.  There are a few more pauses between words, a bit more emphasis in some places and less in others.

And when you don’t know what to say, it’s fine to admit that. 

Just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Because that means you see the elephant too.  

Love in Action: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief

A funeral or memorial service seems like a final chapter.  We close the coffin, close the doors and everyone goes home.

But for bereaved parents and their surviving children, it’s not an end, it is a beginning.

Much like a wedding or birth serves as the threshold to a new way of life, a new commitment, a new understanding of who you are, burying a child does the same.

Read the rest here:   Loving Well: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief

Repost: Blessed are Those Who Mourn?

I must remind my heart every day that Jesus Himself declared the blessing in mourning.  I must remember that there is comfort available at His feet.  Not in running from my pain, but in embracing it and trusting Him to redeem it.

What blessing is there in mourning?  What comfort in distress?  What good can come from pain and brokenness?

Good questions.

Honest questions.

Questions I have asked God. 

Read the rest here:  Blessed are Those Who Mourn?

Ten Ways to Love a Mourning Heart at Thanksgiving

We are all on a journey through life and each carry some sort of load.  Mine is child loss.  Yours may be something else.

We can help one another if we try.  

Love and grace grease the wheels and make the load lighter.  

Here are ten ways to love a mourning heart at Thanksgiving:

1. Let them grieve.  Give space and grace for any outward display of grief or emotion.  It doesn’t require comment.  Maybe an outstretched hand or a tissue or maybe not.  Sometimes silence presence is best.

2. Begin conversation with statements that are true for you and then listen.  I appreciate someone sharing their heart with me.  It’s really OK to say, “Hey, I’ve wanted to reach out but I just didn’t know how.”  I would rather hear that than excuses.  ❤

3. Share a memory of their child or their pregnancy (if a child was born straight into heaven).  Whenever I hear a story about Dominic I may not have heard before, it is a gift.

4. Speak their child’s name.  It may make me cry.  But I cry anyway.  And if no one says his name I cry because I think they’ve forgotten.

5. Give them room to step away.  Sometimes I’m overwhelmed and I just need a breath of fresh air or a moment to gather my strength.  Don’t send the cavalry to “rescue” me and don’t make me feel bad by drawing attention to my absence when I return.

6. Find a way to commemorate their child in company with the living.  Light a candle, place a photo, set an honorary place at the table, give a gift in his memory to a charity and display the card-there are many ways to make him part of the holidays.

7. Allow them to participate/ not participate as they are able.  This will be our fourth set of holidays and I still don’t have a routine that feels “right”.  I do enjoy and even crave cooking meals so I appreciate being asked to do that.  Some other things are still hard so I appreciate not being forced to do those.

8. Don’t use this once or twice a year gathering to require an extended debrief of how they are feeling/coping/doing.  Invite me to share and then respect the boundaries I establish in my sharing.  It depends on the day whether I’m going to give you a brief response or a long one.  Let me lead the dance.

9. Try not to make assumptions about what is best for their heart.  Ask questions instead of making pronouncements.  Like I said, I still don’t have any traditions that feel right after nearly four years.  I need space to think about and make choices about what may work for THIS Thanksgiving.

10. Remember that all holidays are hard.  When the whole family gathers, it highlights even more that my son is missing.  Other times it’s easier to play a mental game with myself and pretend he’s just off somewhere.  But when the chairs are drawn around the table and his is empty, there’s no denying that he is gone, gone, gone.  Lots and lots of grace makes it easier for my heart. 

empty chair prayer

 

 

 

 

Lesson From the House of Mourning

Our  culture consumes death like candy bars-video games, violent television series and gory movies.  Halloween is one of the biggest “holidays” celebrated in America.

We are desensitized to news stories of destruction and devastation because we’ve “seen” it all.

Yet we are a society that shuns mourning.

We can’t stand to hear the keening wail of mothers following the linen clad bodies of their fallen children.

We segregate funerals to special buildings that look like low-slung country clubs complete with ornate light fixtures, clean bathrooms and temperature controlled environments.  In many places we no longer bury our dead next to a church where the living and the gone before mingle, waiting the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All this so we can ignore the lesson of Solomon.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:2 HCSB

woman-mourning

I was only three but I remember my great-grandaddy laid out in the living room.

My parents didn’t hide me away in some corner and allow me to grow up pretending death didn’t exist.  They didn’t shield me from visiting my ailing relatives or from standing by the gravesides of my ancestors.

I brought my children to funerals from an early age.

There’s no use pretending that people’s bodies don’t die.  Sooner or later it catches up to you.

But while our bodies don’t last forever, our spirits do.  We are eternal beings, you and me.

It’s not a question of IF we will live forever, but WHERE.

And that was Solomon’s point:  decide while you still can who and what has your heart.

Because that choice determines where you spend eternity.

There is only one way to the Father’s House-through Jesus.

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.

C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Do you know Jesus?

He KNOWS you.  He LOVES you. And He died for YOU.

He rose to conquer death for you.

He has made a Way where there was no way.

No one gets out of here alive…choose this day whom you will serve.

It makes an eternal difference.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of alland richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-13 NIV

hand-and-without-faith-it-is-impossible-to-please-god