No Degree in Grief

I get comments from time to time that chastise me for presenting my child loss experience as universal or for stating things emphatically as if I’m an expert on grief.

That is never, ever, ever my intention.

I try to frame every post with personal details that make plain I’m talking about myself, my family or, sometimes, well-documented research I’ve found and want to share in hopes it helps someone else.

I’m no expert on anything other than my own experience.

I’m even hesitant to share things about my surviving children or my husband because I don’t want to assume that what I observe from the outside accurately reflects their inner world of missing and mourning Dominic.

That’s the nature of a personal blog-it’s personal.

And while I could couch every sentence with qualifiers like, “in my experience” or “for me” or “this is what I felt but might not be what you feel” that makes for tedious reading and clumsy writing.

So I don’t.

I assume anyone who chooses to read what I share wants to read it. I hope that he or she takes what is helpful and tosses the rest.

I do not have a degree in grief.

I am not a professional author.

I am a bereaved mama who has committed to tell my story of loss as honestly and openly as I am able and to share ideas and insights that have been helpful to my own heart.

If it helps yours, I’m thankful.

If you have a different perspective, please share it!

I have always wanted this space to spark a two-way conversation-a dialogue, not a monologue.

Your Story Can Be 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?

When I began writing here I decided to share what I was learning, what I was wondering, what I was feeling and what I was struggling with in hopes it might help another heart.

Even then I was uncertain how authentic and vulnerable I could afford to be as I spilled my words across the Internet for all to see.

But nearly five years later I’ve discovered that telling the full tale, publishing the ugly, hard, unsavory bits as well as the shining moments and victories is the only real way to be of help to anyone else walking this path.

My story can be someone else’s survival guide. Yours can too.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/09/09/your-story-someone-elses-survival-guide/

I Have A Question: Can We Talk?

Can we talk about my missing son and quit pretending that just because he’s no longer present in the body, he’s not still part of my life?

Can we say his name without also looking down or away like his death is a shameful secret?

Can we share stories and memories and laughter and tears just as naturally about HIM as we do about anyone else?

Read the rest here: Can We Talk?

Why Am I Still Writing Six Years After Loss?

I first shared this last year when I was reflecting on half a decade of living without one of my children beside me. I’ve now had another year to think about why or if I’ll continue to write.

And this year has, in many ways, been one of the most difficult since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. Today marks nine months since my mother joined him. Fresh grief has once again visited my heart.

The whole pandemic thing has wrecked havoc around the world and death fills the airwaves. My family has faced several unexpected changes and we are still trying to sort those.

But I find that writing still brings clarity and comfort to my soul. I still have things to say and I hope what I say still brings some small measure of light, love, life and hope to other hearts.

❤ Melanie

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.  

Read the rest here: Why Am I Still Writing About Loss Five Years Out?

Repost: Your Child Matters

I know many of us bereaved moms and dads edit ourselves on a daily basis. While others post freely on social media platforms, we write and delete post after post because we feel like if we put it ALL out there other folks will think less of us.

Or worse-they might think less of the child we miss.

Why oh why would we want to continue to share that same tired old photo some people might ask.

Well, because it’s all we have. We don’t have the luxury of another birthday, Christmas or happy family gathering to snap new pictures of our growing, thriving child.

We wish we did. Believe me, we wish we did.


I know many who read this blog belong to closed online bereavement groups.

That’s a beautiful thing- a place where we can share our pain with others who understand it in a judgement-free zone.

Read the rest here: Your Child Matters

Be Brave: Own Your Story

Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.

Brene Brown

We CAN hold some of it in.

For awhile.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/23/you-cant-hold-it-in-so-let-it-out/

Repost: What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

There’s a kind of relational magic that happens when people who have experienced the same or similar struggle get together.  

In an instant, their hearts are bound in mutual understanding as they look one to another and say, “Me too. I thought I was the only one.”

It was well into the second year after Dominic ran ahead to heaven that I found an online bereaved parent support group.  After bearing this burden alone for so many months, it took awhile before I could open my heart to strangers and share more than the outline of my story.

But, oh, when I did! What relief!  What beautiful support and affirmation that every. single. thing. that was happening to me and that I was feeling was normal!

Read the rest here:  What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

In Case You Didn’t Know: Why It Hurts To Steal Someone Else’s Words

Over a year ago (maybe two now?) there was an incident in which a bereaved mom took my words and passed them off as her own.  

It was painful.  

Not because I’m pridefully invested in getting credit for the words but because I am emotionally invested in this blog as a record of my own grief journey and as a way to honor my son.  

It’s simply NOT OK to copy/paste and pass another’s words as your own.  

Just the other day a mom posted on a closed site that she had questioned another mom when the words she claimed as her own sounded too familiar.  Mom #1 googled the text and found that, sure enough, it was a direct quote from Angela Miller, a published author and fellow bereaved mother.

Mom # 1 challenged Mom # 2 but was shouted down by others because, after all, “everything is fair game on the Internet”.  

That’s untrue.    

Online publishing is subject to copyright laws as much as print publishing.  The fact that an author is willing to make the work freely available and easily shareable does not remove the obligation to give appropriate credit and use accurate citations.

sharing-economy-650x400

Grief is not a “free pass” to bad behavior.  

This blog is a record of my own grief journey and honors my son and my family.   

What grieving parent would want another person to steal (yes, steal!) his or her expression of the long, dark tunnel that is child loss?  What grieving parent would think that it’s alright to take a beautiful arrangement from the resting place of one child and put it on the resting place of another?

It’s out there, unprotected, in plain view, so what difference does it make?

The same common courtesy we expect to guide behavior in cemeteries should be the same common courtesy we can expect to guide behavior in online grief groups. 

I, and others. put our thoughts and emotions out there for parents to read in the hope that by reading them they will feel less alone.  

Most of us never make a dime from what we write.  

But we hope that whoever reads it, finds it helpful and then shares it, will honor our efforts by acknowledging the source.  We hope they will honor our child by using quotes and leaving his or her name in place.

It’s a beautiful thing to find words to express something deep in your heart.  

Just make sure to let folks know you found them and didn’t author them.  

Such a small act of gratitude for an amazing gift.  

me too sharing the path

Choosing To Be Seen

It’s tempting to hide.

All I have to do is stay home or plaster on the “I’m fine” mask before I leave my driveway and venture out into the world.

Because, frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to explain why I’m crying again, struggling still, walking wounded and not “healed”.

But it’s not healthy.

I cannot selectively numb my emotions.  When I push down the painful, I slam the lid on all of it-joy and love included.

cannot selectively numb emotion brene brown

It takes courage to choose to be seen.

It’s hard to choose to walk honestly and openly in the world.

It’s risky to offer my authentic self up to an often inattentive, insensitive and critical audience.  
vulnerability brene brown

But if I am to be truly known then I must choose to let others see my struggle and allow them to witness my failures and heartache.  

courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen brene brown

Truth is, when I hide I forfeit real connection. 

There’s no authentic relationship without vulnerability.  

connection brene brown

I want deep and authentic bonds with family and friends.  

I don’t want to hide.  

I want to be seen.

 

Pressure Relief Valves and Blowing Off Steam

I use a pressure cooker when canning some things from the garden.  It’s the only way to ensure food safety for low-acid, low-sugar foods.

It took me awhile before I could work up the courage to use that contraption-when a pot comes with warning labels about “check to make sure seal is intact before every use” and “always be certain pressure cock is seated properly and working”-well, that’ll make you think twice about how much you want canned beans come winter.

I imagined all kinds of awful scenarios the first time I fired up the stove under that big cooker.   But none of them came to pass.  Sixty minutes later and all was well.

Pressure-canner

I’ve thought a lot about my pressure canning days recently and how that pot is uniquely created to allow just enough steam to escape to keep it from exploding.  Sure, it gets mighty hot (that’s the point-to kill the bacteria) but not so hot that it bursts into lethal metal shards all over the kitchen.

I feel like so many of us (bereaved parents or not!) are like that pressure cooker-boiling and roiling with heated emotions getting hotter and hotter and threatening to explode.

Some of us do.

It’s messy or even dangerous.

angry

I’ve thought about how critical that relief valve is to the proper function of the pressure cooker and how people need relief valves too.

Some of us find relief through hobbies or exercise or journaling or praying.  But many of us can only relieve our sense of building pressure by talking to another person. 

We need to be HEARD and SEEN in order to let off steam.

We need someone to be the relief valve for our pent up feelings so they don’t spew uncontrollably over everyone and everything. 

So when you are thinking about what YOU can do for someone going through a tough time, here’s a thought:  Offer to meet them and let them talk.  Just let them say whatever they need to say without correcting them or judging them or steering them toward safer topics of conversation.  

Just listen. 

Offer appropriate comments now and then so they know you are paying attention but let them empty their hearts of the pent up steam of strong emotions.

Then keep all the secrets they shared in your own heart.  Don’t spread them around to others and don’t use them later as ammunition or leverage.  

listening is a postive act

Listening is love in action.

Providing a safe space for a heart to let go is one of the best gifts of all.  ❤