Some May Wonder: Why Am I Still Writing?

Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.

They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.

They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.

So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).

It was an excellent exercise.

Read the rest here: Challenge Accepted: Why Am I Still Here?

Have You Tried Journaling Your Grief?

Journaling has been and continues to be a very important part of my grief journey.

Putting thoughts on paper gets them out of my head.

Writing them down helps me understand them.

i-write-because-i-dont-know

Reading them back is an excellent reflective exercise.

It’s a way to track progress, recognize repeating patterns and see where I need to do more grief work.

Read the rest here: Grief Journaling Prompts

How Grief Continues To Shape My Life Eight Years Later

It would be lovely if life were neatly divided into seasons or sections.

But like so many things, there are no clean lines between now and what used to be.

Who I am today is shaped by who I was the day before.

I think that’s one of the things I enjoy most about fiction-authors are free to wander back and forth among character’s thoughts, past experiences and present reality.

It makes for a more complete story.

Each year about this time (in the waning days of my Season of Sorrow) I usually stop and take stock of how far I’ve come and how grief continues to shape my life.

There are many, many ways I’ve healed and am healing:

  • I no longer cry every day.
  • I feel true joy!
  • The pain of losing Dominic doesn’t dominate me although it plays like Background Music-not always demanding my attention.
  • I celebrate my family and my family’s milestones with genuine excitement and once again enjoy planning get togethers, birthdays and (most!) holidays.
  • I function at a higher level and am able to rejoin some groups and participate in some activities I just couldn’t manage in the early years.
  • I’ve made peace with the questions that won’t be answered this side of eternity.
  • I’ve incorporated traumatic loss into my understanding of Who God is and how He may work in world while accepting I don’t always like it.
  • I attend baby showers, weddings and even funerals without bringing all my lost dreams or personal sadness to the event.
  • I laugh-a lot. It feels good again to belly laugh at family memories or new jokes.
  • I can extend hospitality once more. That was a core component of my pre-loss life and personality and I missed it.

But there are many ways in which grief and loss continues to inform how I walk in the world:

I absolutely, positively cannot multitask! I have to break daily chores into single actions so I can focus and accomplish one thing at a time. I used to be able to cook, talk on the phone, bend over and motion to a child needing help with school all at once. Not anymore! Just recently I lost an important piece of mail most likely because I was looking at it while chatting to a family member. I put it down and cannot for the life of me remember where it is.

I become anxious when around too many people-especially if they are people I don’t know or the venue is one with which I’m unfamiliar. This even happens in the car driving in new places. I was never an anxious person before. In fact, I was typically the voice of calm in a group of friends panicking over some small detail that went awry. I try not to share my anxiety, but it’s there and it takes a huge amount of energy to corral it and keep it from escaping into wild demonstrations like running from a room. (I do a lot of counting/visualizing/breathing and self-soothing.)

I don’t like noise. To be fair, I never really did but now it’s exacerbated. Shopping can be a real trial when stores insist on blasting music in hopes it makes patrons feel like spending more money. I, for one, just want to get what’s on my list and get the heck out of Dodge! I love children but I can’t tolerate the incessant chatter little ones bring to a Sunday School classroom or a Vacation Bible School craft table. I used to be the first one to volunteer for those posts but I just. can’t. do. it. anymore.

I crave predictability. I know, I know, of all people I should understand control is an illusion. I do. But the tiny details of life-like planning meals, choosing clothes, cleaning routines and evening quiet times- are things I want to be able to count on. Routine is my friend. It helps my mind (such as it is) operate on reliable pathways. I’ve never been a big fan of random, but now it’s something I try to avoid at all costs.

I need solitude. I’m still processing some things. I imagine I’ll be doing that the rest of my life as different experiences from NOW interact with my loss. I cannot do that in the presence of others. I need to think, reflect, write, read and walk it out. That means I have to devote time and space to being alone. If circumstances prevent me from quiet solitude for too long my blood pressure climbs, my patience disappears and little things grow large.

I don’t sweat the small stuff (usually-see above!). If time, effort or money can remedy it then it’s just. not. a. problem. I’ve learned the hard way that life and love are the most important things in life. Everything else might be nice but it’s not essential. I’m not minimizing the stress and strain of broken pipes, wrecked cars or lost jobs. It’s just that eventually those are situations that can be fixed. And lest you think I’ve not experienced any of those, I have. My first thought whenever anything happens I once perceived as “the worst thing that could happen” is, “It’s absolutely, positively NOT the worst thing that can happen”.

I need to observe a careful rhythm of commitment and freedom on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I always kept my big calendars each year and tossed them into a box of “if I ever need to know these things”. When I look back on how busy we were as a young family I’m astounded at the pace we kept, the places we went, the hours I was frantically working to fulfill all our obligations along with the things we just wanted to do. I’m sure some of this is a function of age-I’m no spring chicken any more-but I know in my bones it’s also a function of the ongoing toll grief takes on my body, mind and soul. I can only manage a few days of busyness in a row until I need a complete shut-down for at least twenty-four hours or more. I refuse to schedule any but the most difficult to get appointments in a week where I’ve already inked in other commitments.

Sleep, regular exercise and good food are necessary for me to face life with a good attitude. This is probably true of most folks but just a day or two of fast food, no outdoor walks or interrupted nights and I’m toast. I’m not a whole foods, organic everything kind of gal but I try to eat a variety of fresh and less-processed meals. When I’m home I have an almost two mile path through woods and up gentle inclines that builds muscle, exercises my lungs and body and gives me ample time to drink in the beauty of birds, wildflowers and leafy trees. If you’ve ever been to my home you know that the rest of the crowd can stay up as long as they want to but I’m headed upstairs between eight and nine. Of course I get up before the sun, so my total hours are roughly the same but there’s something about that pre-midnight sleep that restores me like no other.

I could probably list dozens more, less obvious, ways grief still shapes the me of today. But it no longer binds me like it did in the early days. I’m better able to work around the difficult bits and still make a meaningful life with the people I love.

But it’s Ok to not be OK some days.

Those days are fewer and farther between.

I’m very thankful for that.

Patience Appreciated Fellow Travelers!

I am always flabbergasted by the comments and messages folks send me here and via Facebook.

So, so many kind words sail through cyberspace and lend courage to my heart.

Truthfully, I think in six years I haven’t had a whole handful of what I would deem surly, rude or mean remarks. Folks may be thinking it but apparently they think better about writing it down!

I know this year’s posts have been mostly recycled words from years past and I imagine it might be a bit confusing for some who have followed this site for awhile as it seems I jump back and forth between early days and latter, stronger days of this journey.

I’m sorry for that.

Major life adjustments (husband retiring), lots of traveling (can’t keep me away from my grandbaby!), a number of health issues (changing meds for RA plus a hospitalization) and just the whole effort of reentering society post Covid craziness have wreaked havoc on my previously predictable routine of morning writing and afternoon musing which gives way to writing.

So I want to take a minute to say, “Thank you!” to every heart who chooses to gather round this meagre campfire of hope.

I (like the rest of the bereaved) am girding my loins for the holidays which will undoubtedly include some wonderful new memories with family and friends but also highlight the longing in my heart to make new ones with Dominic.

That empty chair is always there regardless of how many bodies crowd around the table.

But after that (Lord willing!) I am going to make space to write again. I have tons of ideas in my draft folder and I want to share how grief has changed over time AND how it is still part of my everyday life.

I feel like I have more to say and as I’ve written before, will continue to post as long as I am able. So stay tuned.

I have learned so much from my fellow travelers.

One of the most important is that I need to be able to receive grace as well as give it.

Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being patient and extending grace.

I love y’all. ❤

Why I’m Still Writing Seven Years After Loss?

I first shared this two years ago when I was reflecting on half a decade of living without one of my children beside me. I’ve now had another year to think about why or if I’ll continue to write.

Every so often I take a day or two to reflect on whether I want to keep posting. I have to admit sometimes I worry that if I bang the same drum it will sound too loud or obnoxious in some people’s ears.

But then I get a message or comment from someone fresh on this journey and they feel seen, heard, validated and safe. So I write on.

And I find that writing still brings clarity and comfort to my soul. I still have things to say and I hope what I say still brings some small measure of light, love, life and hope to other hearts.

❤ Melanie

If someone had said, “Pick any topic to write about”, child loss wouldn’t have been in the first million choices.

No one CHOOSES child loss (Thus the name of the blog:  The Life I Didn’t Choose).

But untold numbers of parents EXPERIENCE it every year.  This very day,  parents somewhere got a knock on the door or a phone call or sat next to a hospital bed as life slipped slowly from their child’s tired body.

Since I was already journaling and had walked this Valley for nearly a year and a half, it dawned on me that the ramblings I’d put down might be helpful to another heart.  So I started THIS blog in September, 2015.

And I’ve been here ever since.  

Read the rest here: Why Am I Still Writing About Loss Five Years Out?

Challenge Accepted: Why Am I Still Here?

Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.

They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.

They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.

So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).

It was an excellent exercise.

I looked back over social media posts and blog posts from the half-decade and more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I could trace progress from breath-robbing, body-wracking, all-consuming sorrow to a gentler, muted and tender missing that made room for joy and beauty alongside the ever-present tangible absence of one of my children.

I also noted a transition from “spilling my guts” to “trail guide”.

I’m no longer primarily using this space to release feelings and thoughts I’m not comfortable tossing out in day-to-day conversation. Instead, I’m mostly thinking about and sharing what I’ve learned along the way-pointing out the pitfalls and (hopefully!) encouraging hearts to keep on keeping on.

I’ve given myself permission to repost earlier entries (please note dates when you click through) that represent more raw emotions without making apology for either the lack of time or energy to write something new or the angst I once felt.

I’m also choosing to limit my online interaction to an hour in the morning and maybe an hour in the evening.

I absolutely desire to speak encouragement, grace and hope to hearts that are struggling but still need to guard my own from overload.

And as for friends, family or strangers who think, “Goodness, gracious! She needs to MOVE ON!”.

I say, “How can I hide or hoard this hard-won wisdom and experience?”

This is my ministry.

I didn’t ask for it, but it’s mine.

I won’t run away.

So until the Lord tells me definitively He has another path for my life I’ll be here.

Every morning.

Crazy Busy

Life has been crazy busy lately. Mostly in a good way.

But any way that shakes up my routine is hard for me to take.

Some folks live for the next adventure, the next exciting social opportunity or the next chance to get out of the house and do something different.

Not me.

I’m a rut lover. Like cows walking to water I’ll follow that same trail morning til night and never feel like I’m deprived of a single thing.

Life is changing on my little piece of ground. And some of the changes are here to stay. My husband is retired now and home all day.

Quiet space I used to command from morning until night is no longer mine alone. I rarely turn on the TV or listen to music. He loves background noise. I take phone calls the old-fashioned way. He always uses the speaker phone.

It’s an adjustment I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with. But I will.

And there are some good things too!

We don’t have to schedule visits with our children around his work schedule.

We can come and go when we want and stay as long as they will tolerate us.

I have help with heavy lifting.

When I want or need to talk, he’s available and willing to listen.

But writing requires a certain amount of solitude and a huge amount of free headspace to allow ideas to float around, merge, solidify and ultimately flow out onto the page.

All the busy-ness of the past weeks and months have robbed me of the daily rituals of quiet hours to read, to walk and simply think.

And as my faithful readers have noticed, I’ve been sharing old posts more frequently these past weeks. I could simply stop posting each day but I don’t want to do that. As long as I maintain the habit (even by the seat of my pants!) of queuing up something I am fighting to keep my creative juices flowing.

I’m sure that eventually all these new ways of being will work themselves into a routine that allows me time for writing again.

Until then, I appreciate your patience my friends.

Thanks for showing up.

❤ Melanie

Why Am I Still Writing Six Years After Loss?

I first shared this last year when I was reflecting on half a decade of living without one of my children beside me. I’ve now had another year to think about why or if I’ll continue to write.

And this year has, in many ways, been one of the most difficult since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. Today marks nine months since my mother joined him. Fresh grief has once again visited my heart.

The whole pandemic thing has wrecked havoc around the world and death fills the airwaves. My family has faced several unexpected changes and we are still trying to sort those.

But I find that writing still brings clarity and comfort to my soul. I still have things to say and I hope what I say still brings some small measure of light, love, life and hope to other hearts.

❤ Melanie

If someone had said, “Pick any topic to write about”, child loss wouldn’t have been in the first million choices.

No one CHOOSES child loss (Thus the name of the blog:  The Life I Didn’t Choose).

But untold numbers of parents EXPERIENCE it every year.  This very day,  parents somewhere got a knock on the door or a phone call or sat next to a hospital bed as life slipped slowly from their child’s tired body.

Since I was already journaling and had walked this Valley for nearly a year and a half, it dawned on me that the ramblings I’d put down might be helpful to another heart.  So I started THIS blog in September, 2015.

And I’ve been here ever since.  

Read the rest here: Why Am I Still Writing About Loss Five Years Out?

Giving Sorrow Words


The morning Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, after I made the awful phone calls I reached for my journal. 
 

I knew if I didn’t start spilling the grief onto paper my heart would explode with sorrow.  

Since I learned to hold a pencil I’ve been writing. 

It’s how I sort my thoughts, figure out my feelings and express my heart. 

Read the rest here: Give Sorrow Words.

Not Quite Writer’s Block

If others had access to my view of this WordPress site they’d marvel at the number of post drafts I’ve left unfinished.

As of today, it’s over a thousand.

But I won’t let them go until I feel like I’ve gotten them right. And lately I haven’t been able to do that.

Unblocking Writer's Block: 10 Ways to Free Your Mind | HuffPost

It’s not traditional writer’s block because I still have lots to say, still put words on [virtual] paper and still dictate random notes onto my phone when walking or driving.

I just can’t finish the thoughts.

Good grief! Snoopy has writer's block. | Writing humor, Writing ...

I’m not sure if it’s a function of the unprecedented times in which we find ourselves, the sudden and unexpected change of having my husband work from home or what I call my “season of sorrow” that lasts from the end of March through the end of May but something is definitely mucking up the works.

I hope to find a few hours soon to sit down in silence with my own thoughts and my computer and finish up new posts I’ve started.

I really do have things I long to share.

So bear with me friends.

I aim to be back in the swing of things soon.

A Reading Technique to Eliminate Writer's Block - The Writing ...

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