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 

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

Child Loss: The Power of [Context]

This is how I like to think of us-together and strong.

Our circle is broken now and it is a continuing struggle to figure out how to navigate life in the wake of our loss.

This time of year is especially challenging as all the lasts leading up the final last come flooding back.

This picture was taken for a story in UAB Magazine featuring my husband and oldest son who graduated together in December 2009. You can read the original article here: Like Father, Like Son

It is one of my very favorites. I was surrounded by my family, filled with pride and promise.

This is how I like to think of us-together and strong.

Our circle is broken now-it is a continuing struggle to figure out how to navigate life in the wake of our loss.

And some of the greatest challenges present themselves in unexpected ways.

Read the rest here: [Context]

Grief is a Family Affair: Tips for Interacting With Bereaved Families

I think the mama is often the first person others think about when they hear a child has run ahead to Heaven.

But child loss affects dads too.

And it’s often sibling loss as well.

Grief is truly a family affair-each member is changed by the experience and they ALL need support.

I firmly believe that our friends and extended family want to reach out, want to help, want to walk alongside as we grieve the death of our child

 I am also convinced that many of them don’t because they don’t know how.  

It may seem unfair that in addition to experiencing our loss, we also have to educate others on how to help us as we experience it, but that’s just how it is.

The alternative is to feel frustrated and abandoned or worse.  

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Helpful Tips for Interacting With Bereaved Families

Should I Cry Around My Young Children?

This was not my experience-all my children were adults when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven-but so many grieving parents want to know:  Should I let my younger children see me cry?

How much is too much for them to witness, process and hear?

Do I need to shield them from the awful truth of how much this hurts?  CAN I shield them?

It depends.

Read the rest here: Should I Let My Young Children See Me Cry?

Panic Is Always Only a Breath Away

This happened three years ago but when I read the account, my adrenaline rushes again.

When the worst thing you can imagine becomes reality, your heart is never far from panic.

I’m learning to take a breath, think logically and try hard to contain wild ideas when my phone rings in the dark but I’ve got to admit, it’s not easy.

Last night I woke to my youngest son’s ringtone at nearly midnight.

I missed the call but when I looked, realized it was the third time he’d tried.  

My heart skipped several beats as I dialed him back only to have it go directly to voicemail.  I tried again and a second later, he answered.

“What’s wrong??!!!”

Read the rest here: When Your First Thought Is, “Oh No, Not Again!”

Christmas and Surviving Siblings

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

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

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