Speaking From Experience…

If you’ve joined me here for more than a minute you know I am a fierce advocate for bereaved parents in particular and all grievers in general.

But you’ve probably also noticed that, at least in my own life, I recognize how traumatic and/or difficult circumstances can make it hard to see past the hurt and the shattered world a broken heart inhabits. I can judge others harshly without meaning to.

A couple of recent incidents have reminded me how easy it is to interpret every offhand comment or heartfelt opinion as targeted at ME when, in fact, they are simply a reflection of that person’s experience in the world.

I can’t insist that others see the world through MY eyes if I’m not equally prepared to try to see it through THEIRS.

Look, I know how painful it is to scroll through social media posts and feel the darts land square in the center of my heart. Parents bemoaning their children leaving home (all the while I’m thinking, “yeah-but you can call, visit and still hug your child”); folks complaining about how hard it is to manage schedules and meals or trying to figure out family vacations with teens or young adults (“gee, I wish I had the privilege of including ALL my kids for holidays“); and then there are the “miraculous deliverance from a wreck” posts (I’m wondering why Dom wasn’t delivered).

But NONE of those folks are posting or commenting with me in mind. They are simply sharing their thoughts and feelings just like I share my own.

I’ve learned to just scroll on past.

It’s neither healthy nor helpful for me to type some long (or short!) snarky comment trying to “correct” them. I’m not entirely sure they need correcting.

Before it was ME that sent a child to Heaven I had No. Idea.

They don’t either.

So save your energy for the work grief requires. Save it for the family you’ve got left. Save it for a rainy day when tears fall as fast as drops from the sky.

You’re gonna need it.

Unwanted Assignment: Enrolled in the School of Suffering

I have written before that Grief is Not a Hammer in the Hand of God.

I do not for one minute believe that the Lord I love inflicted this pain on me for the purpose of “teaching me something”.

But I absolutely, positively believe that He can use it (and HAS used it) to make me more compassionate, kinder and more grace-filled than I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Still, “becoming” is painful and requires that I submit to the hand of the Potter.

Grieving is not passive. Suffering isn’t something that happens to you and then you ride a wave of emotions until the circumstances quell. Suffering is like school, and grieving is how we accomplish the coursework. It’s not the kind of education anyone signs up for. But, when devastation enters our lives, we are automatically enrolled into the seminar on suffering. And, just as we would prepare for any class, we must download the syllabus and begin to faithfully complete the assignments.

Ann Maree Goudzwaard

This is truly insightful.

I think that’s what makes the difference between finding a meaningful way to live in the “after” or not.

Of course, at first NO ONE is keen to “download the syllabus”.

Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.

James 1:2-4 TLB

So for those of you fresher on this journey, don’t be dismayed or discouraged!

But at some point, what I (and others) refer to as “grief work” must be done.

In the meantime, I pray that the God of all hope fills you with His grace and strength and helps you hold onto hope-even on the days you feel overwhelmed and abandoned. 

Fragile Vessel, Mighty God

I was asked by a precious fellow bereaved mama to write a guest post for a new and exciting ministry her family is launching in honor of their son, Rhett.

It was an interesting and challenging assignment to create a single entry that might give enough background to make my voice an authentic source of hope based on shared experience.

I spent over a week working it out but settled on what you have below: The essence of my story is I am a broken, fragile vessel whom God chooses to use to share His light, life and hope in a world full of searching hearts.

Child loss is MY cross. Yours may be something else.

But our great and faithful Lord can and will use us, if we let Him.

“But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. “

~2 Corinthians 4:7-10 VOICE

As a young mother of four stairstep children I copied out these verses and taped them to my bathroom mirror for encouragement.

I knew Paul was talking about his own hard times and troubles as he carried the Gospel to those who hadn’t heard but I felt certain God would allow them to minister hope and life to my fragile, worn out heart even if the pressure was coming from another place.

And He did.

Paul’s words became a touchstone I returned to many times over the decades between those early years and one very, very awful day.

When a deputy rang my doorbell in the wee hours of April 12, 2014 I was startled from sleep, unsure of why he was there and generally confused until the words that shattered my heart fell from his lips.

My third child would never be coming home again.

I can’t claim that my mind went immediately to a holy place. I didn’t rush into the arms of Jesus or feel overwhelmed by supernatural peace.

I simply felt overwhelmed.

Undone.

Broken.

In a little while-maybe ten minutes or so-I remember taking the hands of the two children who were with me and saying, “We will survive this. This will not break us. This will not end us.”

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was reminding my heart of the truth I’d been clinging to for all those years: We might be cracked and chipped but we would not be crushed. We might be confused but we were not abandoned. We were definitely knocked down but we would not be destroyed.

That night was only a beginning. I didn’t have the tiniest clue how much more challenging, painful, desperate and frightening things would become and how often I’d have to return to these verses.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I clung tightly to the promise of preservation in those verses. Now, I am drawn just as much to the promise of pain redeemed.

Paul never pretended that all those trials didn’t scar a heart. He never shied away from giving details about the suffering he endured. He never suggested that death wasn’t real or awful or hard.

I am not the woman I once was. Child loss has chipped away at my edges, poked holes in my self-sufficiency and revealed oh, so many fragile places.

Pain has definitely left its mark.

It’s tempting to try to cover up the tattered edges of my worn out soul but I’m convinced I’m a more authentic herald of the Good News precisely because of the loose threads and broken bits.

This journey is a hard one. There are no shortcuts, no detours, no easy paths through the tangled briers and over rocky steppes.

But my Shepherd King never leaves me.

I think sometimes our desire to demonstrate the power of Christ in our lives makes us long to tie things up into a perfect package.

I know I do-I want desperately to be able to say that I can see the good that can come from Dominic’s death. I long to be able to point to a finished monument of redeemed pain and restored joy.

But I’m compelled to tell it like it is.

And it is just plain HARD.

But God uses the broken things of this life to display His glory.

Because then there is NO DOUBT as to the Source of strength.  He leaves no room for boasting.

He declares His power and faithful love by taking those of us who are weak and stumbling and leading us home, redeemed and victorious.

“For look at your own calling as Christians, my brothers. You don’t see among you many of the wise (according to this world’s judgment) nor many of the ruling class, nor many from the noblest families. But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world calls weak to shame the strong. He has chosen things of little strength and small repute, yes and even things which have no real existence to explode the pretensions of the things that are—that no man may boast in the presence of God. Yet from this same God you have received your standing in Jesus Christ, and he has become for us the true wisdom, a matter, in practice, of being made righteous and holy, in fact, of being redeemed. And this makes us see the truth of scripture: ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

I Corinthians 1:26-31 PHILLIPS

Here’s the link to this new ministry: https://www.archwayofhope.org/

Check them out. ❤



Is It ALWAYS Going To Feel Like This?

I belong to several bereaved parents online communities and this question comes up again and again-it was the first thing I asked a bereaved mom just after Dominic ran ahead to heaven:

“Will this suffocating pain remain sitting on my chest, smothering the breath and life right out of me?  Will I ever be able to stop crying? Will it ALWAYS feel like this?”

The short answer is, “No, it won’t.”

Read the rest here: Will It ALWAYS Feel Like This?

Why We Turn Away


The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

Read the rest here: Why Do We Turn Away?

Grief: A Forest of Sorrow

One of the things I realized early on this journey was that I did not possess the vocabulary for the deep pain, unbearable sorrow and relentless longing I was experiencing.

So I sought out quotes, fellow travelers and groups of others who shared this awful path.

It helped.

It didn’t take away the pain but it gave me words to express it. It gave me courage to believe I could survive it.

I will never forget those who chose to come back with a torch in the dark and light the way.

There are so many ways to describe grief.

So many ways individual hearts walk this path.

For many of us there’s a sense of being locked in time, stuck in space, unable to leave the moment one received the news or the few days before and after.

It’s maddening that the earth still turns, the sun still rises and people go on with life when in so many ways our world is frozen in place.

Read the rest here: Forest of Sorrow

Wrestling Back To Trust: Admit The Pain

Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe I’m just more attentive to the questions of others right now.

Whatever the reason, I’ve encountered so many hurting hearts recently struggling to square their experience of devastating loss with their faith in a loving and all-powerful God.

I write about my own struggle over and over in this space but this series of posts is an orderly exploration of doubt, pain, faith and the hope I’ve found in Christ Jesus.

I pray it helps another heart hold on.

❤ Melanie

Child loss is Unnatural-no way around it.

Out of order death is devastating.

When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart.  My heart shattered into a million pieces.  And after three and a half years, I’ve yet to even FIND all of those pieces much less put them back together.

So what does a heart do when that happens?  Because, try as I might, I cannot stop time. 

Even THAT awful day only lasted 24 hours.

When the sun rose again, the pain was still there.  And behind that pain and mixed with it was something else-disappointment, disaffection, distrust.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Admit the Pain

Take All The Time You Need

Time, by itself, does not heal all wounds.  

But of all the factors that promote healing, there is NO SUBSTITUTE for time–not in the physical world of surgery and broken bones and deep wounds and not in the inner world of  emotional pain and brokenness and sorrow.

Read the rest here: No Rush

Denying Pain Diminishes the Power of the Cross

To deny the presence of pain is to diminish the power of the cross.  

Dying, Jesus honored His mother’s courage by acknowledging her pain. She was losing the Son she loved and it hurt in a way that only mothers can comprehend.  He didn’t tell her that it would “be alright” or that “the ending is ultimately victorious”.

Instead, He looked upon her trembling figure and saw her broken heart.

Read the rest here: denial

Some Things Just Hurt

Before I lost Dominic, I know that I, like others who had never experienced the death of a child, undoubtedly said and did things that were hurtful instead of helpful.

Loss will enter everyone’s life at some point–there is no escape.

We educate ourselves (as we should) on so many issues–work hard not to offend, to understand, to reach out. Bereaved parents don’t want pity, they would like to be better understood.  

We did not choose this journey, it was thrust upon us.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: Some Things Hurt