Repost: When Self-Control Is In Short Supply


Have you ever tried to squeeze into too-small jeans, managed to get them over your hips, sucked in and zipped up only to realize that all that extra “you” is now spilling out over the top of the waistband?  

toddler squeezing into jeans

Sometimes that’s how life after loss feels.  

Too much emotion, too much baggage, too much EVERYTHING that has to fit inside a very narrow set of other people’s expectations and tolerance for self-expression.

I find that I CAN squeeze my words and actions into that skinny space-for awhile.  

But then sure as anything, the real me pops out the top and there I am-exposed to the world- warts and all. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/07/29/when-self-control-is-in-short-supply/

Repost: They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

I remember the first couple times I ventured out in public after Dominic left us and the flurry of activity surrounding his funeral was over.

I felt naked, afraid and oh, so vulnerable.  

The tiniest misplaced word or random glance could undo me and I burst into tears.  

They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Grief and Grace:What I Need from Friends and Family

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.

So when I come out of the room red-eyed, teary and quiet, please don’t look at me like I’m a freak.

Please don’t corner me and ask, “What’s wrong?” Or worse-please, please, please don’t suggest I should be “over it by now”.

If you were reading a novel or watching a movie, you’d show more grace.

You would nod in understanding as the main character made choices that reflected the pain of his past.  You would find his behavior perfectly predictable in the context of a life lived with a broken heart.

I can’t control what makes me cry.  I can’t stop the memories flooding my mind or the pain seizing my heart.

I might be OK one minute and the next a blubbering mess. Grief doesn’t mind a schedule.

But there are some things you can do to help:

  • If you are aware of the circumstances around my child’s death, be thoughtful when highlighting similar situations in conversation, in movie choice, in recommending books or news stories.  I bump into reminders all the time, I don’t need to have them forced upon me.
  • It can be particularly hard to celebrate milestones in another child’s life when that child is about the same age as the one I buried.  Feel free to invite me, but give grace if I choose not to attend a birthday, graduation or wedding.  I’m doing the best I can and I don’t want to detract from the celebration so sometimes I bow out.
  • Ask me if, or how,  I would like my missing child included in family gatherings. Sometimes I want his memory highlighted and sometimes I want to hold it close like a personal treasure.  It might be different one year to the next. Just ask.
  • Be sensitive to the calendar.  Make a note of my child’s birthday, heaven day, date of the funeral or memorial service-these are important dates for me and they will be as long as I live.  In the first months, maybe for years, each month is a reminder that I am that much further from the last time I heard his voice, hugged his neck or saw his living face.  Those days are especially hard.
  • Don’t pressure me to move faster in my grief journey.  And don’t interpret a single encounter as the measure of how I’m doing.  Be aware that it is often a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of experience.  It is MY experience and will go as fast or as slow as it does.  I can’t even hurry it along even though sometimes I am desperate to do so.
  • Understand that the things I may share don’t paint a total picture.  There are pains too deep, thoughts too tortuous, experiences surrounding my son’s death and burial too hurtful for me to speak aloud.

I admit that I never thought of any of these things until it was MY son missing.

But now I think about them all the timenot only for my sake, but for the sake of others like me. I try to walk gently and kindly, extending grace and love.

And honestly, that’s really all I want from anyone else-grace, abundant grace.

I will be weepy when it’s inconvenient.  I will react when you can’t fathom why.  I will stay away when you want me to come near.  I will make choices you don’t understand.

I am truly sorry.

But child loss is not something I chose for myself, it was thrust upon me.

I am walking this path the best I know how.

When you extend grace and love me through the roughest places it makes all the difference.

heart and wood

What I Want You to Know About My Grief

I am so very thankful I live in a country where the vast majority of parents do not know what it’s like to bury a child.

I am part of a relatively small group.  Bereaved parents make up a tiny segment of the population.

It’s possible that you may never be close friends with someone who has lost a child.

And because death and dying are unpopular subjects, and because grieving parents can become very good at hiding the pain, even if you DO meet someone whose child has died, they may never tell you about it.

So, so many of the friends I have made on this journey live each day bearing the weight of grief AND the heavy burden of being misunderstood-at work, in church, even in their own extended families.

One of the first posts I wrote was born out of this angst-birthed in pain as I realized that even well-meaning friends and family members who have not experienced child loss really don’t have any idea how it feels :

People say, “I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

Read the rest: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know

 

Defining Moments

I recently read a young bereaved mother’s blog post and it saddened me.  She had suffered two pre-term losses and in addition to bearing that pain, she had been pressured to dismiss her babies’ deaths as unimportant.

This grieving mama was told that she was “not defined by her tragedies” and encouraged to “rise above them” and to “move on”.

Along with the natural questions about God that arise in the wake of loss, her believing friends didn’t offer the support she needed to persevere in faith.  She now defines herself as “faith-less”.

I told her I was so very sorry that this was her experience.  And that we ARE defined by our tragedies, just as we are defined by our joyful moments, our exciting moments and our fearful moments.

Only people who have never suffered a great and deeply scarring loss can afford to say something as flippant as that.

I am a wife.  I wasn’t always a wife.

But one day I went into the church in a white dress and walked out of the church a wife. No one would argue that the moment my husband and I stood before God and witnesses didn’t redefine both of us in ways we wouldn’t fully comprehend for years.

I am a mother.  I wasn’t always a mother.

But one day a little life began growing inside me and nine months later, my daughter was in my arms.  Three sons followed soon after. Even though they are all grown and one son lives in heaven, I AM STILL A MOTHER.

I am a college graduate, a Southerner, a shepherd, a follower of Christ–all parts of who I am that were declared in a moment, that define who I am today and will continue to shape who I am tomorrow.

So when my son died suddenly in an accident and a deputy came to my door to give me the news,  it changed me.  It modified who I am and who I will be.

Bereavement became part of the fabric of my life, altered the color of the threads and changed the pattern of the weave. It is impossible to pull out that thread without unravelling the whole cloth.

I can make choices about HOW tragedy will define me, but I can’t pretend it didn’t happen or that it doesn’t affect my very soul.

It’s easier to acknowledge pleasant milestones and moments because they affirm our hope that life will be joyful and happy.  We wear symbols to remind us of them–wedding rings, school rings, crosses–and invite people to share how life has changed because of choices made.

It’s much harder to offer hospitality to the hurting heart.  It takes more energy to listen to the tragic tale.  It requires more understanding to allow a broken soul into our living room and bear witness to the pain.

But the most beautiful art is defined by contrast between light and dark. The most moving music contains major and minor keys.  The most compelling story includes tragedy and triumph.

There are many things that define me and bereavement is only one of them.  But it IS one of them. My life can only be understood by including them all.

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