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

Holidays 2020: Surviving Siblings

Surviving siblings are often called “forgotten grievers”. It’s natural and understandable for folks to focus on parents who lose a child.

But many, many grieving families include siblings who are not only grieving their brother or sister but also the family they once knew.

Sometimes holiday traditions are comforting and siblings long for things to be as close to “normal” as possible. Sometimes they are an uncomfortable reminder of how very different things have become.

Either way, it’s important for parents to remember that surviving siblings need an opportunity to speak aloud whatever may be in their hearts.

❤ Melanie

I have never wanted to make my life journey with blinders on.  I realized young that MY perspective is not the only one.  I understand that more clearly now. 

So I try hard to think about, acknowledge and accommodate the feelings and needs of others.

But it’s especially challenging since Dominic left us.  And doubly so this time of year when every sight, smell and song screams, “It’s the holidays and HE IS NOT HERE!

I may not be as thoughtful to some in my circle as want to be, but I will expend every ounce of energy and effort I can muster to make space for my living children’s needs during this season. 

Read the rest here: Holidays and Grief: Surviving Siblings

Holidays 2020: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

This is the most shared post on the site.

When I wrote it, I was writing my personal feelings after a couple of years trying to fumble through holidays with friends and family. It was an honest expression of how hard it was and continues to be to navigate the stress-filled season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

I’m not sure I’ve grown any more skillful in fitting all the pieces together-especially as our family grows and moves in different directions-but I continue striving to keep the lines of communication open and to try to acknowledge and accommodate everyone’s needs as best I can.

❤ Melanie

“I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

Read the rest here: Grief and Holidays: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Holidays 2020: Blessing the Brokenhearted

The question is starting to pop up with greater frequency in our closed bereaved parent groups: How do you make it through the holidays after child loss?

So for the next few days I’m going to share again from the many posts I’ve written in the past five years addressing different aspects of holiday planning, celebration, family dynamics and just plain survival for grieving parents, siblings and those who love them.

❤ Melanie

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

Read the rest here: Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Another Bend In The Road

Life may be a highway but it’s not a straight one.

It’s full of bends, curves, switchbacks and long stretches with distant horizons.

For a gal who likes knowing where she’s headed and how long it might take to get there, it’s more than a little challenging.

Sometimes I’d want to get out and camp on the side of life’s highway, take a pause and just catch my breath before the next set of roller coaster hills forces me to hold on tight for the ride.

In nearly fifty-seven years I’ve hardly ever been able to do that. So here I am, barreling down the road again toward more curves and more changes.

My youngest son and my husband are on their way right now from the Left Coast driving a truck toward home. When they get here we’ll have to unload an apartment full of stuff from my hubby’s place out there into our already pretty stuffed house. We’ve lived a lot of life in these walls and I readily admit I’m a saver of memories and things that signify special moments.

So while they were packing and loading, I’ve been cleaning around here.

It’s been physically, mentally and emotionally difficult to drag my body and heart down memory lane.

A Short Walk Down Memory Lane from the 1990s | Chris Mercer

It’s just so hard-STILL– to touch things Dominic once touched and it takes my breath away. My heart has broken again over not only losing HIM but also losing the family I once had. We’ve all changed so. very. much. A mother can’t help but wonder if life for my surviving children might not be much brighter and easier if their brother were still here to share it.

Tiny bits of this and that force me to face things I’ve forgotten (sometimes on purpose) and feel things I’ve suppressed. It’s a grueling process.

I’ve had to take multiple breaks and simply walk away from the mess I’m creating in an effort to organize and downsize but I know it will be worth it in the end.

So I’ll keep on keeping on.

I’m sure this curve won’t be the last one.

Retirement here we come!

Learning To Bear The Burden


I told the two children with me that morning that we were going to survive this awful blow.

And we have.

It has been hard and ugly and more painful than anything else we’ve ever had to do. 

But we’re still standing.

And I want to encourage the hearts that are just starting down this broken road:  You really CAN make it.

Some of you reading this are saying, “But I don’t want to make it.  I want to lie down and give up and be out of this pain.”  

I don’t blame you. 

Read the rest here: Shifting The Weight, Bearing the Burden

Children Grieve Differently: Sibling Grief Reactions By Age Group


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

Repost: Mind The Gap

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

Standing At The Crossroads: Celebrations After Child Loss

I want to be everything my living children need me to be.  

I try hard to celebrate them, be available, listen closely and love them well.  

I never, ever want them to feel they are competing with their missing brother for my affection or my attention.  

But I’d be lying if I said it was always easy. 

Read the rest here: Crossroads: Celebrations After Child Loss

If It Happened Once, It Could Happen Again

I was reminded today how close fear sits to the door of my heart and to the door of the hearts of many bereaved parents.

Once again a mom shared an experience of not being able to get in touch with a surviving child and how that quickly spiraled downward to a frenzy of fear.

To some it may seem like an overreaction. But to those of us for whom the one thing you think won’t happen, HAS happened, it made perfect sense.

Before Dominic was killed on his motorcycle I had the normal parental misgivings about my kids driving here, there and everywhere. I always prayed for them and tossed a, “Be safe!” as they walked out the door with keys in hand.

I shook my head sadly, teared up and felt awful when I saw an accident report on the news.

But I lived in the protective bubble of never having actually experienced sudden, tragic loss and I was blissfully unaware of how quickly and how completely life could change.

Now I know.

And fear creeps up my back and takes hold of my heart in an instant if anything unusual prevents a loved one from answering his or her phone when I think they should.

In the first couple of years I could not stop it. I was at the mercy of my feelings and my mind was quickly overwhelmed with all the “what ifs” and would imagine every possible awful outcome.

Knowing Fear. | Still Standing Magazine

So our family put some simple protocols in place to help everyone’s heart.

We text or call when we arrive safely somewhere; we offer alternative phone numbers if traveling with others so there’s a second means of contact; we know that if one of us calls another repeatedly it’s important and regardless of where we are or what we are doing, we need to pick up; and if we are on a longer trip with multiple stops we provide an itinerary.

Now I’ve learned a bit better how to push irrational thoughts away, to focus on the probable and to allow a little time and space for someone to get back in touch with me.

It’s hard and requires great effort.

But I was reminded just the other day that no matter how hard you try or how much you work to push those feelings away, they can threaten to overtake you regardless.

My dad and I talk every morning. He texts me when he’s up and I call him when I’m done with morning chores. On his end, two texts, one hour apart, had gone through to my phone with no response. He finally called me because he was afraid something was wrong.

The same day, I began a conversation with my daughter by saying, “Your brother called…” at which point she immediately asked what happened. I realized my mistake for starting with those words and quickly assured her everything was just fine.

You never forget making or receiving that phone call delivering the unchangeable and unbelievable awful news.

I am still prone to jump to conclusions.

If it happened once, it can happen again.

But I’m trying hard to learn to live in a less friendly, less safe world than I once depended upon. So I aim my heart and mind in the direction of the most likely instead of the most awful.

On the best days, it works.