So…Yeah, The Holidays.

I will confess: I’m no better at this than the first set of holidays after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Every. Single. Year. has brought changes and challenges on top of the empty chair round the family table.

Since Dominic left us we’ve had additions (a grandchild and various significant others) and sadly, more subtractions (my mother joined Dom in 2019). We’ve dealt with distance, deployment, healthcare and retail work schedules, a pandemic and lots of other, less easily defined tensions and difficulties.

When I ran across this quote awhile back my heart screamed, “YES!!!”

Gathering an entire family (which may include teens and young adults) for any extended length of time is a feat of scheduling, negotiation, and preference management. International treaties have been worked out in fewer steps. The sheer number of details that have to line up is mind-boggling.

Elizabeth Spencer

There are the absolute parameters forced upon any family by distance and availability. Negotiating THOSE is truly a feat.

But when your family story includes profound loss, a mama often has additional hoops to jump through. Surviving siblings bring their own grief to the table and what that looks like can change over time. So something that worked one year might be rejected this season.

I wish I had some magical insight that could guide every wounded heart through these next, treacherous months.

I don’t.

What I can tell you is that it’s better to start earlier rather than later. Nothing falls into place without some planning. Old habits are hard to break and traditions are well-worn habits so don’t expect anyone to give them up easily.

No one can read your mind (are YOU telepathic?). Tell your friends and family what you need (even if it is that you have NO idea what you need!).

And then make space in your celebrations for times when you can grieve the absence of your child. It may be a shared moment or it may be you remember in solitude.

If you have surviving children, remember they are grieving too. They have lost a sibling, their innocence regarding death’s ability to steal even the young and the family they once knew.

Extend grace to others when you can.

Extend grace to yourself when you must.

Be honest and do the best you can.

Then remember that even these days are only twenty-four hours long. They will pass.

The sun will rise and you will, undoubtedly find out you survived.

The Forgotten Ones: Bereaved Siblings

I always like to share this post around the beginning of each school year. I think it might be especially helpful THIS fall when so many are heading back to classrooms after an extraordinarily stress-filled and unpredictable eighteen months.

Siblings are often forgotten grievers. But they shouldn’t be.

They have not only lost a brother or sister but also the family they once knew and relied upon. They (if young) may not have the capacity to express or process these losses in ways adults comprehend or recognize. And if older, they may work hard at hiding grief so as not to add to their parents’ burden.

It’s so, so important for those that love bereaved siblings to pay attention, to offer support, to grant space and grace and freedom of expression. They are grieving too.

❤ Melanie

I am always afraid that Dominic will be forgotten.  

I’m afraid that as time passes, things change and lives move forward, his place in hearts will be squeezed smaller and smaller until only a speck remains.

Not in my heart, of course.

Or in the hearts of those closest to him, but in general-he will become less relevant.

But he is not the only one who can be forgotten.  I am just as fearful that my living children will be forgotten.

Read the rest here: The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: Siblings Grieve Too

I first shared this post a couple years ago when it became obvious in our closed bereaved parents groups that many moms and dads were struggling to help their surviving children deal with grief.

One of the hardest things as a parent-any parent-is to have to stand idly by while one or more of your children are suffering.

Child loss is so very often sibling loss too. And the familiar structures kids come to depend on have shifted and sometimes disappeared as parents try to process their own grief.

This post is longer than many and more detailed than most. But I think it’s really important for parents to realize that children’s grief responses vary by age (right now) and change over time (as they get older).

Feel free to skim and only focus on what might be helpful. Skip the rest.

❤ Melanie

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: Bereaved Parents Month Post: Sibling Grief Reactions By Age Group

My Eighth Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

When it first happened all I could think about was getting through a minute, then a day and then all the decisions and days leading up to a funeral or memorial service.  

There’s no road map.  

Even when others come alongside (and many, many did!) there’s just no easy way to navigate that part of the journey.

And then I realized that in addition to all the “regular” days that absolutely, positively  break your heart, I had to forge a path through “special” days.

It was overwhelming!

Read the rest here: My Seventh Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

Mother’s Day 2021: A Letter From the Child Not Here

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.

Walking Through Grief With My Children

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.

Read the rest here: Helping My Children Walk Through Grief

How To Face Scary And Uncomfortable Tomorrows

I first shared these thoughts a year ago as the world began to shut down in an attempt to quell the pandemic.

Here we are, more than twelve months later still facing not only an uncertain future but dealing with concrete and life-altering changes that have many of us despairing of brighter days ahead.

It’s tough waking up to a world you don’t recognize and don’t like.

If you wonder how to make it through, ask a bereaved parent or sibling. They’ve learned to courageously step forward into scary and uncomfortable tomorrows.

Many of you are waking up each day and facing a world you don’t recognize.

I’ve been doing this for over half a decade.

Almost seven years ago my family’s world was shaken in much the same way everyone’s world is being shaken today.

Read the rest here: Welcome To My World

Safe? What Does That Really Mean?

I remember as a  young mother of four working hard to keep my kids safe. 

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

Next to fed and dry (two still in diapers!) that was each day’s goal:  No one got hurt.  

It never occurred to me THEN to add:  No one got killed. 

Read the rest here: What is Safe?

An Open Letter To My Living Children *

I shared this for the first time four years ago.

Before my mother’s illness and death, before the frighteningly early arrival of our little Captain, 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.

photo (20)

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*

*I am absolutely convinced that Dominic is very much ALIVE today in the presence of Jesus.  But for now, I’m denied his daily companionship.

Gratitude Doesn’t Undo Grief

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned in child loss is that while gratitude is important, and helps my heart hold on, it does not undo grief.

I truly look for and rejoice in every good thing, every tender moment, every smile, hug and bit of laughter shared with those I love.

But I can never stop looking for Dominic’s face around the table or longing to hear HIS voice in the chorus of chatter from the other room.

Oh, how I wish it were different!

The odd bits that break my heart-

The  moment my three living children are in the family room, joking and laughing-but his voice is so obviously missing.

dsc_0343

The moment I say to one son, “Have you texted your brother?” and don’t have to give a name, because there is only one brother left to text.

boys

Read the rest here: The Odd Bits That Break My Heart