Christmas 2022: Nine Years. Sigh…

When I was a little girl I never thought about how the holidays impacted the adults around me. I figured it was all about ME. Or at most, me plus my brother and Santa Claus.

I was blissfully unaware of budgets and baggage.

Now I know better.

The holidays require us to wrap more than presents. They force us to wrap all the pain and expectation and hope and heartache in a giant package and serve it up hot and ripe for dissension and disappointment.

It’s relatively easy to figure out what to put under the tree (or give for the nights of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa). It’s much harder to figure out what to bring to the dinner table or the family gathering or the we’re-doing-something-different-this-year NON-gathering.

I’ve written a lot about the holidays in previous years and I will be sharing those posts again because there is always someone who hasn’t read them or who is just now in need of them. But I wanted to add something to the canon this year-on the ninth set of holidays with one child in Heaven.

It’s not easier just because I’ve had practice.

We have yet to settle into a system that makes space for all the feelings and changes that time brings to lives and loves and hearts and homes.

I’m just as jealous TODAY of whole families as I was the first Christmas without Dominic. I’m just as likely to sit for hours wondering what, exactly, I should cart down from the attic, what I should set up in the living room, how I should honor him without making him a “saint” and when tears are appropriate or distracting and indulgent.

I don’t want to discourage anyone.

I have developed many more coping skills and ways to make it through the season than I had that first awful Christmas when every song, every memory, every EVERYTHING stung like driving snow on frozen faces.

I’m just being honest which is the first and most important commitment I made when I started sharing in this space. And I don’t want any heart who still struggles to think he or she is unusual or defective or weak or “less than” the hearts that declare unmitigated victory over grief and sorrow.

Life is life.

It’s not less treacherous because I’ve developed bigger emotional biceps as a result of child loss.

There is, in fact, a greater gap between what I expect from myself and what I find I’m able to give.

But I keep trying.

I’ll buy the presents, deck the halls, make the meals and cherish every moment I’m with the ones I love.

Because I’m oh, so aware that this Christmas may be the LAST Christmas.

A beautiful and terrible burden to bear.

There’s A Lovely Moment When the Light Makes it Through Again

A few years ago, I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

Read the rest here: There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

Birthdays Can Be…A Little Complicated

Today is my birthday.

And while I am truly grateful for another trip around the sun, since Dominic left us it’s not a simple celebration of life lived and the hope of years to come.

The last birthday I had with an unbroken family circle was a lovely surprise party for my fiftieth held in Dom’s apartment.

Nine years later and it seems a lifetime ago.

Read the rest here: Birthdays Are…Complicated

Don’t Let The Outside Fool You

What a blessed relief it was to drive up our winding lane and enter home after my husband’s surgery!

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the encouraging words and prayers lifted on our behalf. If you’ve raised your voice to Heaven, begging for relief, only to have your hopes dashed, then you understand how amazing it feels to have prayers answered.

I am happy, happy, happy to report that my husband is doing well.

A couple days ago he had a follow-up appointment to remove the staples from his incisions and there was no sign of infection. He was warned by the doctor not to mistake the lack of evidence declaring major surgery on the OUTSIDE with what they did to him on the INSIDE.

He was solemnly adjured to continue to take it easy for several more weeks so that deep and necessary healing could occur.

Because my mind is never all that far away from thinking about Dominic, loss, my own grief journey and the many who join me here walking the same broken road, I quickly found myself comparing Hector’s surgery to the experience of child loss.

From the outside-very soon after all the formal visiting, meal bringing and memorial service or funeral-most bereaved parents look “fine”.

We have to.

The world doesn’t stop turning because our world imploded.

Work, life, family duties, household chores, and all the ordinary things determined by hours and calendars keep rolling along.

But on the inside, every bit of who we are, how we feel, what we think has been devastatingly poked, prodded, ripped apart and rearranged.

And just like there is no substitute for TIME in physical healing, there is no substitute for TIME in emotional, mental or spiritual healing either.

So if you are fresh on this path, new to the rigors of trying to “do life” while mourning your precious child, recognize that there is oh, so much damage where people can’t see.

Even when (or if!) you are able to return to some semblance of normal, to carry on with duties and obligations and even muster a smile for special occasions, your wounded heart will require special care.

Don’t let others hurry you along or dismiss your very real need to maintain safe boundaries to protect it.

My husband’s body will bear scars from his surgery although the inner works will undoubtedly heal fine. I’m thankful for modern medicine that makes it possible.

It’s not so easy to heal a broken heart.

I’m convinced that while there is a measure of healing in this life it will never be complete until eternity.

But I’m certain that healing can only occur when we give ourselves the grace, space and time necessary to do the work grief requires.

Time-Not in My Hands

Every spring and every fall we dutifully make the rounds to our clocks and digital devices, putting them first forward an hour and then back in an attempt to make the days “longer”.

As if time was in our hands.

The sun rises and sets according to the Creator’s schedule, we can neither speed the world’s turning, nor slow it down.

We can only choose whether to be present in the moments He grants us.

Read the rest here: Time Change

I Miss Your Voice…Silent Echoes Haunt My Heart

I try to limit the time I spend perusing old photos and old social media posts of my missing son.

I’ve learned that while they remind me of sweet memories and happy times they also prick my heart in ways nothing else can.

I was looking for something specific the other day and had to scroll through Dominic’s Facebook page to find it. As I did, I began reading some of the back and forth comments under the posts and pictures.

This time it wasn’t what was said or where the photos were taken that hurt my heart.

Instead it was the tiny little time stamp underneath the words that took my breath away.

Read the rest here: I Miss Your Voice: Silent Echoes Haunt My Heart

How Are You Doing? I Don’t Really Know.

I first shared this post all the way back in 2016.

Most people I knew had experienced my son’s death as a moment in time, a single event, a date on the calendar but for me and my family it was an ongoing event.

His absence continued to shape our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined in the immediate aftermath of his accident.

Folks (meaning well but clueless) often began conversations with, “How are you doing?”.

What I really wanted to tell them was I had absolutely, positively NO IDEA but usually settled for, “As well as can be”.

Over eight years later I can say that most days are pretty good. I’ve learned to navigate the rocky territory of child loss and only rarely fall into a pit of despair.

But I’d still say that I don’t really know HOW I’m doing it-just that I AM doing it.

❤ Melanie

People see me, these years and months after Dominic left us and ask, “How are you doing?”

I come up with an answer because that’s the law of conversation-you ask something and I answer, then I ask something and you answer.

are-you-ok

Gotta keep that ball rolling.  

If it drops we are both forced to stand there wondering what to do with our bodies, our faces and our thoughts.

But right now, I don’t know HOW I’m doing.

Read the rest here: I Don’t Know How I’m Doing

As The Leaves Fall

We think leaves fall when we turn the calendar page to Autumn months.

Piles of red, gold and orange land beneath trees that grow increasingly barren until one day they are truly naked.

But leaves begin to fall as early as July-hardly noticed because they drift down lonely, one by one.  

single-leaf

We think people live to the fullness of years.  They begin in spring and pass through all the seasons before the cold winter claims them.

old-lady

But some survive only one season, or twonever enjoying the fruitful harvest of the latter years the younger years of hard work are meant to produce.

Read the rest here: Falling Leaves

Grace and Grief: What I Need From Friends and Family

I first shared this post six years ago when I was nearly two years into this journey and realized that for many of my friends and family Dominic’s death had faded into the background.

It was a date on the calendar for THEM but it was an ongoing experience for me and my family.

I was reminded of how time feels very different to the bereaved this weekend as I spent the third anniversary of my mother’s stepping into Heaven with my grandchildren.

So, so many things remind a grieving heart of the person we miss. So, so many everyday moments transport us back to THAT moment, THAT day.

You might not (I hope you don’t!) understand. It really costs little to extend grace to the grieving. But for those of us whose hearts are broken, it makes all the difference.

You cannot possibly know that scented soap takes me back to my son’s apartment in an instant.

You weren’t there when I cleaned it for the last time, boxed up the contents under the sink and wiped the beautiful, greasy hand prints off the shower wall.  He had worked on a friend’s car that night, jumped in to clean up and was off.

He never made it home.

Read the rest here: Grief and Grace:What I Need from Friends and Family

Little by Little: We Don’t Lose Them All at Once

I cannot speak for others but in my case, it seems that I did not lose Dominic all at once.

In fact, I’m still losing him.

Bit by bit, a little at a time, nearly molecule by molecule, his mark on my life, my walls, my world grows smaller.

Read the rest here: Bit By Bit: We Don’t Lose Them All at Once

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