November: Four Years of Sharing And Counting

This month marks the beginning of the fifth year since I committed to write every single day in this space.

No one could be as surprised as I am that I’m still here.

I honestly don’t know what response I anticipated when I showed up and started sharing. I just knew that I could not let this heartache go to waste.

Dominic’s death had to count for something.

I had five goals in mind when I started the blog:

  • To be as honest and transparent as possible;
  • To encourage others and help them hold onto hope;
  • To provide a voice for the child loss community in a format that was easy to share;
  • To acknowledge and admit that faith did not make child loss any less painful, only more bearable; and
  • To chronicle my own progress toward healing.

Of course, I am a biased source, but I feel like I have met those goals in one form or another.

As I continue to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I find there are always new things to say. I am bombarded daily with queries or comments from other bereaved parents that raise a new issue, offer a different perspective or beg for an advocate along this lonesome road.

I’ve discovered that there are many ways life breaks a heart, many ways sorrow enters a soul.

Life is hard.

Love often ends in heartache.

Sorrow can overwhelm a soul so fast there’s no time to grab hold of a lifeline.

But reaching out, reaching back, choosing to be a lighthouse and beacon for the ones so lost they’ve forgotten that light exists, is as much a balm for MY heart as it is for theirs.

Every story matters.

You don’t have to write a blog to share yours.

Speak up. Speak out. Share the hope and strength that has helped you hold on.

You may be the lifeline the next heart needs to choose endurance instead of ending it all.

Stolen Words, Again. Sigh…

This morning I opened my social media as I always do-checking in on the pages I administer and the private groups I moderate.

I consider it a sacred duty to watch after the precious hearts who choose to be open and honest and expect a safe, secure space in which to do it.

As I was scrolling and reading, I came across this meme:

From “Unnatural” published August 17, 2016 on thelifeididntchoose.com

No quotation marks, no author cited.

These are MY words written about MY son and very, very personal.

You can read the original post here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/08/17/unnatural/

I’ve written before about how painful it is when people steal words. Not because I want recognition myself. If that was my desire I’d have collected the posts into a book by now. Not because I seek monetary gain. If that was true, I’d have advertisements or sponsored links. Not because I’m so naive to believe people can’t steal them in this wild, wild world of Internet freedom and piracy.

No. It’s painful because it’s disrespectful of me, my family and my son about whom they are written.

I write and share so that others have words to help their hearts. The only thing I ask in return is that the origin of them is acknowledged.

Is there no shame anywhere?

Is there no honor among parents who also share the pain of child loss?

I can’t imagine that a stranger, ignorant of the burden we bear, snapped up these words randomly to make a meme.

I don’t want to spend my time searching the internet and bereaved parent sites looking for instances where someone has stolen my words and dishonored my son and misused my trust.

I’m not going to do it.

But I am going to publicly point out that it happens.

And if it’s you who has done it-

shame on you!

Your Story-Someone Else’s Survival Guide

Hey-I get it.

Who wants to air the good, the bad and the ugly for everyone else to see?

In today’s world where photo filters on our cellphone cameras can turn a pretty rotten picture into a magazine worthy masterpiece no one is anxious to be seen as less than polished and put together.

The pressure is on to pretend that all is well even when all is, well, going quite the other direction.

If you are trudging through a tough patch, let folks know.

You might be surprised by who reaches out saying, “That was me just a while ago. Would you like to know how I made it through?”

If you’ve already walked the long and lonely road of grief, loss, trauma, depression or other difficult circumstance-share your story!

Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t clean up the messy bits. Don’t gloss over the hard spots.

How can anyone learn to walk the hard roads, the rocky paths, the treacherous terrain of life unless someone else is willing to be a guide? And who can trust a guide that hasn’t also made that journey?

Tell it like it was.

Then tell it like it is.

Map the path from there to here.

Shine a light for a soul that thinks darkness is all there is.

Reach back and take a hand.

Help a heart hold on to hope.

Why Am I Still Writing About Loss Five Years Out?

I was one of those people years ago who set her sights on starting and maintaining a blog.  

I thought I would post a few times a week and share anecdotes about my family and critters, insight into daily living and inspiration from Scripture and interesting quotes. 

No, not THIS blog-the other two I started and quickly abandoned to who-knows-where in cyberspace.

Trouble was that the subject matter, while near and dear to my heart, wasn’t personally compelling enough to keep me disciplined and actively writing. 

If someone had said, “Pick any topic to write about”, child loss wouldn’t have been in the first million choices.

No one CHOOSES child loss (Thus the name of the blog:  The Life I Didn’t Choose).

But untold numbers of parents EXPERIENCE it every year.  This very day,  parents somewhere got a knock on the door or a phone call or sat next to a hospital bed as life slipped slowly from their child’s tired body.

Since I was already journaling and had walked this Valley for nearly a year and a half, it dawned on me that the ramblings I’d put down might be helpful to another heart.  So I started THIS blog in September, 2015.

And I’ve been here ever since.  

I’m not in the raw, breathless place I once was.  But grief and loss are part of every breath I take, part of every moment I experience.

whole in my heart mama

I miss Dominic.  I still consider death an enemy.  Every day I hate what was stolen and long for what was.  I mourn the changes grief has wrought in my family.  I wish things were different.  I discover new ways loss impacts my life and new ways of coping with it.

So I keep writing.  

I don’t want anyone to feel alone in this journey.  I don’t want anyone to think there’s no way to survive.   I don’t want a single broken heart to doubt that God is here and that He will help you hold onto hope. 

me too sharing the path

I’ll spill my heart out in words until the words are exhausted. 

It helps me.

I pray it helps others too. 

hope holds a breaking heart together

 

Grief is a Family Affair

Child loss is also often sibling loss.  

In addition to their own heartache, bereaved parents carry the heartache of their surviving children.  

The family everyone once knew is now a family no one recognizes.  Hurting hearts huddle together-or run and hide-and it is so, so hard to find a way to talk about that pain. 

There is definitely a time and place for professional counseling.  Many, many families benefit from having a trained individual, outside the immediate grief circle, guide them in exploring feelings, developing coping strategies and learning to live life this side of loss.

But there is also something to be said for arranging casual open-ended activities with surviving siblings, parents and even grandparents where space and a more relaxed atmosphere often leads to honest sharing.

This graphic has lots of excellent suggestions for how to craft such a space.

Not all will be suitable for every family, but every family should be able to find a few that fit.

I’ll add these guidelines that may help your family make the best choice for YOU:

  • Don’t force it.  If you make an offer of an activity and it drops with a thud to the ground, let it go.  You might be able to do it another time.
  • Don’t make it (what my kids like to say!) a “mandatory option”.  There must be no guilt or coercion invading this space.  If one or more of your family members consistently refuse to join in, consider asking a close family friend to take that individual out alone and see what might be going on.
  • If you choose a movie or other story-themed activity, LOOK UP THE PLOT!  I can’t tell you how many times we were sideswiped by a death scene or some other heavy emotional plot twist.  There may be a time when your family is prepared to experience those things together (we can now) but it may not be yet.
  • Mix and match more structured activities with open-ended ones like walks outside, watching the sunset, sitting on the beach, hanging at the pool, playing a game (not too competitive-that will sometimes bring out hidden anger).
  • If you have a family with a broad range of ages you might have to do some things with the littles and some with the older kids.  You can always add one or two activities a month or quarter where everyone (or as many as are available) gets together.
  • If your children, spouse, parent or other close griever begins to talk-let them.  If tears flow-that’s progress!  If ugly feelings are expressed, listen.  Try not to be defensive.  Try to hear the hurt behind the words.  It’s OK to set ground rules like using “I” statements and not blaming.  But don’t shut them out or shut them down.  

These are just ideas.  

Google is your friend and your phone is probably already in your hand or pocket-use it.

Find things that fit YOUR family. 

The only way through is through.  

You have to feel and deal to heal. 

selfcare for families

Instead Of Fixing, Offer Space To Share

I didn’t realize until I was the person who needed comforting how unhelpful and sometimes painful my own past comments were to my suffering friends and family.

There are many important and necessary conversations going on right now about how we talk to and talk about our fellow humans.  I’m thankful folks are learning that words are rarely (ever?) neutral.

They build up or tear down. 

And we are responsible for them.

I wish that along with other areas, we would consider how we discuss and address those who experience painful life circumstances.  But we rarely do.

This is one place where the right words can make such a difference.

Instead of shutting down the broken heart or lamenting soul, we can choose to invite them to share and then stick around to listen.

We can create safe spaces instead of closing the door to further conversation.

We can participate in healing instead of perpetuating the pain.

 

instead offering compassion.png

Only Natural

Whether surrounded by friends or strangers, I sift through the words threatening to fly out of my mouth very carefully.

Like most of us, there’s a script in my head that doesn’t always bear sharing.

But unlike many, part of my script involves a child that lives in Heaven.

And I’m constantly weighing whether or not I should mention him even though the conversation leads my heart to a memory I very much want to speak aloud.  It often makes others uncomfortable, awkward and upset when I do.  So sometimes I just don’t.

I hate that I edit myself like that.

I hate that another person’s response or lack of response makes me cautious.

If Dominic were still walking among us, I’d be sharing away.  His life, his work, his challenges, his accomplishments would all be fair game as I sat with fellow mothers and grandmothers talking about our families.  No one would bat an eye if I mentioned his name, said I missed him since he moved away for that job, admitted that I counted the days until the next family get-together or holiday and I could host a full table.

But because he moved to Heaven, I’m supposed to be “over him”.  I’m supposed to bow to convention and quietly stop talking about the son that’s missing from all the photos we’ve taken since 2014.  I should shush my heart and silence my lips because it makes other people uncomfortable.

I’m not doing it.

talk about them better image

Our family just welcomed the first grandchild.

Little Ryker will never see Uncle Dominic, hear his amazing drum skills or be the brunt of his snarky jokes.  But Ryker will know about Dom.  I will tell him stories and show him pictures and let him know that the chair at the end of the table is where Uncle Dom used to sit.

ryker smiling

I’ll help Ryker learn something everyone needs to know:  It’s perfectly natural to include and talk about ALL our family-the ones that are here AND the ones in Heaven.

Even when we no longer enjoy their earthly companionship, we love them and they are still very much part of our lives.

So when I’m reciting all the exciting news, be prepared.

I am mom to four, grandmama to one.

Always and forever.

Amen.

desimones uab family