When People Think You Don’t Cry Anymore

I’m approaching five years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and I’m pretty sure that most folks think I don’t cry anymore. 

I don’t blame them really-I haven’t broken down in public in more than a year.  

But I’ve still spent plenty of nights softly sobbing myself to sleep. 

And when no one is looking, no one is listening and no one is close enough to notice, more than one tear has slid down my cheek during daylight.  

I am no more reconciled to this life I didn’t choose than I was five years ago.  

I know I cannot change it.  

I endure it.

But I hate it. 

breaks your heart in ways you can't imagine

Choosing Joy

“I will choose to find joy in the journey that God has set before me.”

For my friends fresh in loss or other hard life circumstances, this statement may hurt your heart.

I get it!

It still hurts mine.

But what I’ve discovered is that while I cannot control the things that happen TO me, I can decide-by an extremely difficult and costly act of will-where to place my focus, trust and hope.

I no longer have unadulterated joy in my heart.

It’s tinged with sorrow and informed by pain.

But it’s still there-deep inside-where I know, know, know that my tears are seen and all of this will be redeemed.

you keep track of all my tears

I can choose to remind my heart that God is good, kind and loving.  He has not abandoned me nor is He punishing me.

This life is hard and I’m struggling.

But there are still beautiful people and beautiful moments along the way and I don’t want to miss them.

 

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United By Tears

I think broken hearts have a unique gift to offer the Body of Christ.  

When we choose to be open about our wounds, our tears, our fears and our struggles we invite others to do the same.  

Working through them together we are ALL stronger and better able to face the next battle.

Paul often wrote in his letters about  a particular hardship he faced or was facing. He shared so others could see not only that he struggled, but that the Lord stood with him and would do the same for them if they held on.

How encouraging for hurting hearts to know that they are not alone!  

Our tears unite us. They make us safe. They allow us to whisper, “The Lord helped me survive and He’ll help you too. I’ll hold your hand while you find your way to Him.” And when we make one other human simply see they aren’t alone, we make the world a better place.  ~Lysa Terkeurst (twitter)

 

heaven knows we need never be ashamed of tears

 

Refuse to Hide: Lament As Worship

We usually think of worship as songs of joy and happiness extolling the virtues of God and Christ.  

While that is most certainly a form of worship, it is absolutely not the only one.  

Biblical lament is an honest, vulnerable expression of pain, a crying out to God in faith as we are suffering.
― Cindee Snider Re

Worship is also the broken whimper of a scared and wounded child, crawling into the lap of her Abba Father.  

There is no less adoration in this ultimate act of confident trust than in the most eloquent declaration of theological truth in word or song.  

Lament is worship.  

Christian lament is not simply complaint. Yes, it stares clear-eyed at awfulness and even wonders if God has gone…Yet at its fullest, biblical lament expresses sorrow over losing a world that was once good alongside a belief that it can be made good again. Lament isn’t giving up, it’s giving over. When we lift up our sorrow and our pain, we turn it over to the only one who can meet it: our God.”
― Josh Larsen

Bringing my brokenness to God as an offering, trusting Him to receive it, to keep it and to begin to weave even this into the tapestry of my life is perhaps the ultimate act of worship.  

you keep track of all my tears

When I refuse to pretend, refuse to hide, refuse to run away and look for an answer somewhere else, I affirm that He is my God, and there is no other beside Him.  

A lament is an act of worship, a faith statement of trust, in the face of difficulty. It’s a wonderfully honest way to acknowledge our trouble to God as we also acknowledge our hope is in him.
― Linda Evans Shepherd

lamenting is a painful process

 

God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers. … It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is splendor. … Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.
― Nicholas Wolterstorff

Should I Let My Young Children See Me Cry?

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.

May I first say that there is NO way to shield even an infant from the overflowing emotions, stress and strain of child loss in his or her family.  If we stop and think about it, we know this.  And older children may look like they aren’t paying attention, but they are.

mother and child painting

So the question is not really, “Can I shield them” but is instead, “How do I help them understand what’s happening”?

Grief in this life is inevitable. 

Allowing our children to watch us grieve helps them understand how it’s done.  When we share openly, we give them tools and models for sharing too.

I think it’s important to be honest with even the youngest among us. 

When a parent speaks of the deep pain of loss, expresses love for the missing ones and looks longingly at photos and mementos, he or she is saying to the watching child: “Love lives.  Love is important.  Love lasts even when our bodies don’t.  I will always love you just like I love your brother (or sister).”

grief only exists where love lived first

Young children will create their own script if adults don’t help them write one.

Because their minds are not fully developed, they will often connect odd bits into an unhealthy whole.  Just as some children decide they are responsible for their parents’ divorce, some surviving siblings think that a random act of disobedience resulted in the death of a sister or brother.

And if a parent is modeling secrecy or a stiff upper lip, that child may never reveal her dark and weighty secret.

We can help our children by providing a safe space where they can express themselves freely without fear of correction or being silenced.  It might get ugly.  Our grief gets ugly.  It’s part of the process.

But children should never become the burden bearers for adults.

Crying in front of your child is OK.  Screaming, yelling, blaming and violence is not. 

No child should feel threatened or unsafe in his own home.  If you are out of control, THAT is the time to go to a room and close the door.  Or call a friend to come get the kids so you have a few hours alone.  Or send them outside to play.  It is NOT the time to unload on your surviving child(ren).

I wish that grief was not part of life.

But it is.  

How I deal with it, what I say about it, when and how I express it will impact my children for good or ill.  

I want to offer them tools they can use and build resilience for what they may face in the future.  

Letting them see me-especially the grieving me-is an important part of that process.  

ann voskamp love will always cost you grief

 

I Don’t Have to Choose Between Sorrow and Celebration

Our family is looking forward to Spring and also dreading it.  

This year we will welcome a new baby (my first grandchild) and also celebrate my daughter’s wedding to a wonderful man. 

Our family is growing again!

brandon and fiona engagement

But we will also mark the fifth year anniversary of Dominic leaving for Heaven and another birthday that he won’t be here to greet.

dom on mountaintop

I’m pretty sure tears will be shed on each of these days and they will be salty-sweet, sad and happy, sorrowful and celebratory-all at once.  

There are no more hard lines in my life that separate events into distinct categories where only a single set of emotions is appropriate.  Instead my heart’s a watercolor mosaic where one feeling washes into another, darker colors make the lighter ones brighter.

My daughter recently wrote her own blog post, Guest Books & Memory Tables: A Sibling’s Perspective on Love and Loss.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Even Hobby Lobby reminds me that if I’m remembering anyone at my wedding it should be the family legends of generations past, not current. Somewhere in my carefully- packed boxes of wedding decorations, sits frames and mementos for mine and my fiance’s grandparents and my forever-frozen-in-time 23 year old brother.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing.  She’s done a beautiful job sharing from a sibling’s perspective.

Her wedding day will be full of great joy and celebration and also some sorrow as we take pictures of the whole family minus one.

 

you should be here

I might be laughing one minute and crying the next.  

And that’s OK.  

No need to fake it.  

It’s ALL part of life. 

sorrow and celebration can coexist authentically

Leaky Grief

Even though I purpose to be authentic and open about how Dominic’s absence impacts my life, I find that I may go days or weeks without realizing I’m stuffing things again.

Most of the time I figure it out because the grief has found the path of least resistance and leaked onto other people or has made me sick, tired or both.

When I catch myself overreacting to the less than attentive store clerk or avoiding phone calls or snapping at family members I need to take a moment and search for what’s behind that.

When I dread another day, sit for too long in my chair instead of getting up and getting going, procrastinate over simple and easy tasks, have trouble sleeping or am achy all over I need to reexamine my week and see what grief triggers I overlooked or tried to ignore.  

At first I was very aware of carrying the load of grief and sorrow-tears made it obvious and impossible to ignore.

But as time has progressed (now 4 1/2 years) I find I can seem to breeze right past things that would have stopped me in my tracks during the first twelve months.

Still, they DO pluck at my heart even if I think they don’t.  

best way out is always through

And if I refuse to drag those feelings out into the light, they will find their own path.

Grief will not be denied forever.  

It leaks out somewhere.

Better for me to face up, own it and choose how it comes out.

re_set as many times as you need to