Best Christmas Gift EVER

I’ve had plenty of beautiful Christmases.

I’ve had almost a decade of more somber ones.

But when our pastor recently asked, “What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?” I didn’t have to think hard at all.

It was my daughter, Fiona.

She wasn’t born ON Christmas but a week before-today is her birthday-and I was oh, so glad to finally hold that tiny bundle in my arms instead of in my belly.

My first successful pregnancy (I’d miscarried a year before) was a long, hard and difficult one. I never achieved that “glow” so many women enjoy while hormones guaranteeing baby’s health and safety surged through my system.

Instead I was desperately ill for the first four months as I wrapped up my college degree. (In hindsight, taking biology at six in the morning was a bad choice.) I spent many of those days in close communion with the toilet or a bowl when I couldn’t muster the energy to get to the bathroom.

I had a few short golden weeks before my body revolted once again and I developed a serious case of preeclampsia. Now my doctor visits were weekly and included fetal monitoring.

Back then there were few interventions for this condition so it was wait and see, wait and see all the while I counted days and weeks until I could reach the magic “thirty-four week” mark of likely viability.

Thankfully, we made it!

But then that little Miss decided to assert her personality and refuse to make an entrance.

So…finally…I was scheduled to deliver ten full days after her due date of December 8th.

It was a long day of pitocin, contractions, no progress and a swift trip to the OR for what ended up being an emergency C-section. Drama all the way!

She was here, safe and sound, in my arms at last.

There are lots of things I don’t remember in detail about that day or even the week that followed but I remember this: I knew in my bones that life would never be the same. This precious child made me a mama and my heart would forever be wrapped around hers.

I’m so very thankful I had the blessing of three more little ones after that.

I’m grateful for the lives they’ve lived and the ones they are living now.

I miss my third-born, Dominic. His birth story is woven just as firmly into the fabric of my being as Fiona’s and that of her other brothers.

I can’t pick out his threads without unraveling the whole cloth.

And I don’t want to.

I celebrate today the gift of motherhood and the gift of children.

Even when one of them leaves too soon.

Love is always costly, but love is always worth the price.

Christmas 2022: Surviving Siblings and the Holidays

I first shared this post in 2016 when we had muddled through the first two holiday seasons after Dominic left us and were headed for a third.

Now facing our ninth, there are some things that have changed a lot (adding grandchildren and losing my mama) and some things that remain the same (the ongoing struggle to balance everyone’s needs and expectations with the reality of sorrow).

I still find the principles I outlined years ago to be the best way to approach the season. We certainly don’t always get it right but we continue to strive to honor one another, to honor the true meaning of Christmas and to honor Dominic.

❤ Melanie

How do I honor the child for whom memories are all I have and love well the children with whom I am still making memories?

That’s a question I ask myself often.

And it is especially difficult to answer for celebrations and holidays, special events and birthdays.

Read the rest here: Surviving Siblings and Christmas

Children’s Grief Awareness Day 2022

Last Thursday was Children’s Grief Awareness Day.

I missed posting then but it’s too important to forget!

I’m thankful a day is set aside to focus on children’s grief because it’s so easy for their grief to be overlooked, underrated and even dismissed.

Grown ups often tout the line, “Kids are resilient. They will adapt.”

And while it’s true that from the OUTSIDE it might look like a child is OK or even thriving, on the INSIDE she may be curled up into a ball or he may be angry and resentful.

Read the rest here: Children’s Grief Awareness Day

Bereaved Parents Month 2022: Surviving Siblings-Age Makes a Difference

Grieving parents often face the additional challenge of trying to help their surviving children process the death of a sibling.

While there are many factors that influence how a particular child understands and works through his or her grief, age at time of bereavement plays a significant role.

Children’s grief can look very different than that of the adults around them.

And that grief may resurface later on as the child grows and matures, even long after the death of a loved one.

Read the rest here: Sibling Grief Reactions By Age Group

Always Minding the Gap: How Families are Changed in the Wake of Loss

I think often about the things my children know that others don’t have to know.

The fact that life is precious, short and never guaranteed no matter how young or healthy you may be.

The reality that doing everything right or keeping your nose clean or staying “prayed up” doesn’t guarantee you’ll be spared from death, destruction or devastation.

It’s true that several generations ago folks grew up knowing all these things as a matter of course. But we’ve forgotten so much of this with antibiotics, life extending interventions, emergency medicine and abundant food, water and other resources.

I never interact with my earthbound kids without thinking about all the ways we are changed because death has invaded our home and our lives.

❤ Melanie

My youngest son worked hard to retrieve some precious digital photos from an old laptop.

Being very kind, he didn’t tell me that we might have lost them until he was certain he had figured out a way to get them back.

So he and I had a trip down memory lane the other evening.

It was a bumpy ride.

Read the rest here: Mind the Gap

Mother’s Day 2022: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day

I post this around Mother’s Day every year since my daughter, Fiona, wrote it in the voice of her brother who is in Heaven.

It helps my heart sort the mixed emotions that this day stirs up.

I’m not ONLY a bereaved mother. I’m a mother and grandmother of earthbound children too.

I’m grateful for all of them. So very, very grateful.

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this several years ago, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day 2022: A Letter to My Living Children

I shared this for the first time five years ago.

Before my mother’s illness and death, before the frighteningly early arrival of our little Captain and the less-frightening and less early arrival of his brother, LT, before an overseas deployment, a destructive hurricane, Covid19, and too many other stressful events to list.

I have watched my kids meet every challenge-sometimes with grace, sometimes with grit, sometimes with both.

They are different people than they would have been if Dominic still walked beside us. They know things their peers can’t even guess.

We all lost so much when we lost Dom. But we still have each other.

And that’s a treasure.

I never thought it possible to love you more than I already did.

But I do.

Your brother’s untimely departure has opened my heart in a whole new way to the glory that is your presence.  It has made me drink you in like water in the desert.

Read the rest here:  A Letter To My Living Children*

Walking With My Surviving Children Through Grief

One of the most challenging things I’ve had to do is walk alongside my surviving children in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Not only have they been forced to face and deal with death earlier than many people, they’ve also been forced to face and deal with the fallout for themselves and their family.

Sometimes I feel like an ineffectual first aid worker just trying to minimize damage and hopefully pass them off to a professional who can actually work on repairs and healing.

Other times I’m a young mama once again kissing boo-boos, applying bandages and invoking magical thinking to distract them from their oh, so very real wounds.

I’ve not done it perfectly or even adequately sometimes. But I’m trying.

Bereaved parents often have several tasks before them in the days and months and years following the death of a child.

One of them is to help their surviving children navigate loss.

I have three earthbound children.  And they are grieving.

Their world changed in the same instant mine did.  Their hearts are broken too.

I found it hard to watch the pain I saw written on the faces of my kids.

Read the rest here: Helping My Children Walk Through Grief 

Five Ways You Can Support a Grieving Parent and Their Family

In yesterday’s post I confessed I can look for excuses not to reach out.

When I feel like what I may say or do might make things worse instead of better it’s particularly intimidating.

Child loss is a uniquely challenging event for friends and family and even when someone longs to “be there” for the bereaved parents or siblings, they are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.

So here are five very practical, very helpful ways to support a grieving parent and their family.

❤ Melanie

It’s oh, so hard to know what to do when you are watching a heart break.

You want to reach out and make it better, make the pain go away, make a difference.  But it seems like nothing you can do will matter much in the face of such a huge loss.

While it’s true that you cannot “fix”  the brokenness in a bereaved parent’s life, there are some very important and practical ways you can support them in their grief.

Read the rest here: Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent

Please, Please, Please! Ask Me, Not My Kids How I’m Doing.

It may seem like the easiest way to get an inside scoop on how I’m REALLY doing-but don’t do it.

Please don’t ask my kids how I’m doing.

Respect the fact that they have their own grief burden.  Respect family privacy and understand you are putting them in an impossible position.

Read the rest here: Please Don’t Ask My Kids How I Am Doing

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