Bereaved Parents Month Post: There Is NO Shame In Getting Help

Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.  

And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.

Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons…Shake Off the Shame

 

Repost: Help! I Need Somebody!

So, almost twenty years on a farm and I can NOT back a trailer.  Nope.  Can’t do it.

One day I spent hours trying to teach myself how to do it.  Never was able to do anything other than manage to jackknife the trailer, go unhook it and start over.

So when I go somewhere with a trailer I do one of two things:  (1) I find a space where I can drive in and be able to just make a loop or (2) I find the nearest person who CAN back a trailer, hand them my keys and ask them to do it.

I feel NO shame.

But that’s not the case with other things I can’t do.

Read the rest here:  Help! I Need Somebody!

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Shake Off the Shame

Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.  

And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.

Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons:

Read the rest here:  Shake Off the Shame

Refuse Shame

I remember the night of Dominic’s visitation-a few of us, including our pastor were there early and prayed together for strength and for God’s Presence.

In that circle of loving friends and family I was overcome with the need to kneel. My body had to acknowledge the fact that my heart was humbled as it never had been before.  I was in the dust and ashes were my food.  

What could be worse?

But in the days and weeks and months that followed, as the fog of disbelief lifted and the reality of pain, sorrow and missing became undeniable, it did get worse. Part of the “worse” was a sense of shame.

A sense that I should have been able to protect my son, keep him safe, make sure he lived-but I couldn’t.

The pain of child loss is often accompanied by shame:

Shame that I couldn’t save my child.  Shame of suicide, addiction, being in the wrong place, with the wrong people at the wrong time.  Texting while driving. Not wearing a seat belt. The shame of missing something. The shame of waiting to intervene.  The shame of pushing too hard.

The shame of just not being there when it happened.

The list is endless…

Often that shame keeps bereaved parents from reaching out, imprisons them in their own minds and sometimes in their own homes.

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process

But it shouldn’t be that way.

Child loss is a tragedy, not punishment.

It highlights the fact that I am not in control-and neither are you.  It happens even when a parent or a child does “everything right”.  And some kids survive to old age even when they have done “everything wrong”.  

Shame tells me that I am unworthy of love and unworthy of belonging.

And that is a lie.

It “erodes our courage and fuels disengagement” (Brene Brown) If I allow shame to overwhelm my heart it drives me away from the very help I need to make it through this awful Valley.

I have to shake it off.

I have to refuse it’s cold creep into my soul, toss it out and bar the door so that it can’t come back inside.   I will name it and drag it from hiding for others to see.  

It cannot survive the light of day.  

shame-cannot-survive-being-spoken

There is NO shame in burying a child. 

Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing! PART TWO: Coping Strategies

So now that you know you aren’t going crazy, what to do?

Give yourself grace-understand that the old you is not the new you.

griefbrain

You will not be able to overcome these very real changes by sheer force of will. No matter how talented or together you used to be, it’s unlikely you can operate on that high plane right now. If you try, you will only exhaust the resources you have left.  

So slow down and make room for how grief has impacted your mind.

talk-to-yourself-as-someone-you-love-brene-brown

There are some basic self-care techniques that bear fruit in every area, not only mental acuity:

  • Eat balanced meals or snacks-It doesn’t matter if you WANT to eat.  Consider that you are fueling your body so that it can feed your mind.  Find a protein bar you like or eat easy-to-make salads or sandwiches.  When blood sugar levels are stable, your mind works better.
  • Get as much quality sleep/rest as possible-This is very hard, I know, when the setting sun brings memories and thoughts that make sleep almost impossible.  But research “sleep hygiene” and apply the techniques that might work for you.  Herbal supplements and teas can help as well as prescription medications.
  • Drink enough water-hydration is so very important and easy to ignore.
  • Limit alcohol and/or other stimulants/depressants -any of which can interfere with your ability to think and remember. (Do NOT stop medication unless you do so in concert with your doctor)
  • Exercise-There’s no need to run a 5K. Just a walk around the block or even around your house can get your blood pumping and providing more oxygen to your brain.
  • Get a physical exam to rule out hypothyrodism, diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical cause for your symptoms.  If prescribed treatment, follow the protocol.

brain-cogs-and-light-bulb

Develop work arounds:

  • I simply admit to people I’m meeting for the first time that I will not remember their name unless and until I use it multiple times, and even then I might forget.  It takes the pressure off so I don’t have to pretend when I see them again.
  • I write down EVERYTHING.  If I put something “someplace safe” I jot down the location in my calendar.  If I make an appointment or need to make a phone call, I write it where I can see it.  If I commit to bring something to a potluck meal, I put down what I promised and when it needs to be there.
  • I ask for help.  Like I said before, if I make lunch plans with friends, I ask that they text me the day before to remind me.  If I need extra time to fill out a form, I speak out-I’ve never had anyone refuse.  If I can’t remember something important, I admit it and look it up.  I have given my family permission to tell me when I’m repeating myself.
  • I maintain routines and habits.  Keys-same place,always. I have a carabiner on my purse to attach them when I leave my truck.  Glasses-same place, always.  Medicines in those little seven-day sorted containers.
  • I use the Internet, mail and telephone calls to expedite things and minimize stressful interactions with people.  If I am going out to a restaurant, I look up the menu online so I’m not forced to make a decision on the spot.  I look up and print directions even though my phone can navigate on the fly.  I call ahead to learn how long a repair will take, if items are available and if my prescriptions are actually ready.  I send letters and cards instead of visiting when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

take-control-of-your-life

Lifestyle choices:

  • I aim for balance:  Harder tasks with easier ones; stressful outings with quiet moments; reading with sewing; outside and inside; work and play.  Switching up seems to help keep me sharper somehow.
  • I don’t overcommit.  When someone asks me to do something, unless it is truly an emergency requiring an immediate answer, I consult my calendar.  If I already have a couple commitments for a week, I beg off or reschedule for another time.  I realize that those working outside the home have far less control over these things but perhaps you might ask your boss for some leeway.
  • I group similar tasks and do one thing at a time.  I find that doing things that require the same skillset on a single day increases my ability to do them well.  Shopping, writing notes, cleaning house are things I schedule for one day at a time.  I am absolutely NO GOOD at multitasking anymore.
  • I’m realistic about what I can and can’t do.  It is humbling to admit that I’m no longer tolerant of small children and large crowds.  I used to be able to handle both.  But I just can’t do it, so I limit my exposure.  I won’t serve in the nursery at church and I don’t attend concerts.  That’s just the way it is now.
  • I plan for laughter.  If it doesn’t happen organically, I seek something uplifting and funny to tickle me into laughing out loud at least once a day.  Laughter helps me cope and releases all kinds of feel-good hormones.  With the world of memes at your fingertips, this is an easy thing to do.
  • I refuse to apologize.  Yes, I might say, “I’m sorry” when I forget someone’s name, but I don’t make it a habit to make excuses for my inability to live up to others’ expectations.  I learned early on that anyone who has not walked this Valley can’t really understand anyway.  It frustrates me, adds to stress and does no good.  So I let my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no”.  I’m beyond being embarrassed.

I do the best I can as long as I can.

And when I reach my limit, I admit it without being shamed.

 

shame-is-the-intensely-painful-feeling-we-are-unloveable-brene-brown

 

 

 

 

 

Shake Off the Shame

shame

Shame is a shackle as sure as any chains forged from iron.  

And it often finds its home in the hearts of those who bury a child.

Bereaved parents may feel shame for lots of reasons:

  • Circumstances surrounding the death of their child-suicide, alcohol, drug abuse;
  • Inability to provide the funeral or burial they want due to financial constraints;
  • Missing signs or symptoms of an illness that may have led to death;
  • Family dynamics that pushed a child away from home or relationship.

The list could be endless-on the other side of child loss our brains pick apart every interaction, every choice, every moment that could have gone one way but went another.

Grief is WORK.

But it is impossible to make my way through the pile of emotions if I’m shackled by shame.  I can’t move freely and effectively if I’m bound hand and foot by things I can’t control and can’t change.

In the midst of all this work, some bereaved parents find they are immobilized by depression and/or anxiety and need medication to help them through.

woman looking through rainiy window.jpg

And they feel ashamed.  

Can I just say this? 

There is NO shame in seeking help.

There is nothing shameful about using whatever tools are available to make this awful journey more manageable.

A wise and kind doctor friend said, “Medication does not make the sorrow and pain go away, but it can calm the mind and create space so you can do the work grief requires.”

You are not a failure if you need medical help to quiet your mind.  You are not weak if you take a pill to keep from feeling like you’re going to come out of your skin.  You have done nothing wrong if you can’t sleep and require a sleep aid to allow your body the rest it needs to carry on.

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

You are unique.  Your path through this heartache is your own.

Do what you need to- for YOU.  

Shake off the shame.  

grief-is-not-linear

 

 

Not Ashamed to Wait

“Those who wait for Me with hope will not be put to shame.”

Isaiah 49:23c NLV

We love stories of overcomers.  We invite testimonies that end in victory.

We applaud members of the Body who have a “before” and “after” tale of how Jesus plus willpower took them from the dust of defeat to the pinnacle of spiritual success.

But we hide the strugglers and stragglers in the back pews.

If suffering lingers long, whether or not it is in the hands of the one who suffers to do anything about it, we cringe and pull back and hope they go away.

We don’t offer them the pulpit or the Sunday School hour to speak of how Christ continues to be the hope to which they cling.

Because deep down, we think there must be something wrong with them, something wrong with their brand or quality or strength of faith.  If they only got it “right”, they too, would have the victory.

We would rather shush the suffering than face the tension between God’s goodness and His sovereignty.

We shame them to silence by implying they have nothing to share until they are able to wrap their story with a perfect spiritual bow.

We add insult to injury when their need for help exceeds the allotted three weeks or six months or whatever arbitrary deadline we impose on the prayer list and our patience.

But maybe what God has for me and others who suffer long is not a victorious tag line that can be slapped on a photo or shared on social media.  

Maybe it’s only in the continued press of suffering that God reveals Himself in ways the non-suffering never see.

Maybe a dash to declare victory is actually rushing past what God has for us in deep pain and ongoing struggle.

Maybe waiting in hopeful expectation for what God is doing and will do in me and through me IS the victory.

We wait for Yahweh;
He is our help and shield.
For our hearts rejoice in Him
because we trust in His holy name.
May Your faithful love rest on us, Yahweh,
for we put our hope in You.

Psalm 33:20-22 HCSB