When Loss and Sadness Won’t Stay Pressed Down

I didn’t plan to write about loss today because I’m trying not to feel – pushing away the emotions threatening to bubble up and overtake me.

I think, “I don’t have time for this. I can’t spend a day crying, and if I start, I’m not sure I’ll  be able to stop.”

What does loss feel like to you? Do you try to hold it off, or press it down?

Zoe came in the door after school with an unexpected Amazon box from the front porch. I sifted through my mind, but couldn’t think of anything I’d ordered.

It was addressed to me and the word “gift” in the corner of the shipping label caught my eye.

My birthday isn’t for three months, there are no holidays…oh, wait.

Kalkidan’s birthday is October 29th, maybe someone remembered her.

I opened the Amazon box to find a smaller box with the word “heaven” on the label. Inside was a candle with a quote curving around the ceramic holder. She wasn’t forgotten; she was loved and we were loved.

Her birthday is coming, whether I’m ready or not.

I remember the first birthday she was gone. I would love to say I was so fully at peace with God, I was just fine. In fact, I was an anxious mess; I couldn’t bear it as the day approached.

Then the 29th came and our family wore her favorite color (orange), as did friends, family, and many of you (thank you). Together we posted pictures on Facebook and Instagram, and you know what? We weren’t alone.

One of the worst things about losing a child is the fear she’ll be forgotten.

Other kids are growing older, year by year, but Kalkidan will never be older than 13. Just typing that creates a weight in my chest. I want to walk away from this computer and not come back for days.

How could this have happened?

If we hadn’t stopped to put overdue Christmas cards in the mailbox, if I hadn’t let Kalkidan sit behind me, if we had left just a few minutes earlier, everything would have been different. I didn’t keep her safe.

I can’t seem to escape the way grief and the feeling of not being a good enough mom are entwined.  Do you ever feel that way?

I should write something like, “I know these are lies from the enemy of my soul, the one who accuses me at every turn,” but I can’t quite say it today.

Losing a child changed me.

Parenting children living with the effects of early trauma brought me to my knees. Everything I believed about myself seemed to fall away in the face of constant failure. Judgment from people, especially people who also love Jesus, broke me.

And then, we lost her.

I’ll probably edit this tomorrow, removing the soul-baring questions. I’ll feel stronger; maybe I’ll have pushed the emotions down a little bit better. Or maybe not.

One thing I know, I’ll be wearing orange and have Kalkidan’s Ethiopian cross around my neck on October 29th. I’ll reach up to touch it many times during the day, just as I do every time I wear this treasure.

This morning Wogayu asked for a chain to wear with a small silver “K.” The charm was originally tied to a stuffed animal, a gift from his aunt when Kalkidan died. Today he left for school with it around his neck.

We wear our love for her close to our hearts.

On her birthday, I’ll do my best to honor her life and all she taught me.

Friend, if you’ve lost someone you love, I’m with you. If you have hopes that will never be realized, I understand. If you have prayers that seem to be unheard, know that you are not alone.

I don’t understand many things, but I know we’re loved by a good Father and we’re still in the middle of God’s story for our lives.

With love and a tender heart,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

12 Comments

  1. Cindy
    October 15, 2018

    <3 <3 <3
    You are so often in my thoughts and prayers. Praying for your comfort and peace today and that the vulnerable words you share bring comfort to others who also are grieving today.
    Love,
    Cindy

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 15, 2018

      I’m always grateful for your prayers, Cindy. I hope this post speaks to other moms like me.

      Reply
  2. Becky
    October 15, 2018

    Lisa, This morning I saw the word miracle and I felt a twinge of anger and cynicism. I prayed for a miracle for Rebeka, we all did. Most of the time I can believe that her very life was a miracle because she lived way longer than she should have. Most of the time I can believe that a little girl abandoned at birth getting to know the love of a family before she died from a mostly terminal illness is a miracle. Most of the time I can believe the way God used her to rip my heart wide open is a miracle. Most of the time I can believe that everything about her life was a miracle. But, some days, I see or hear that word and I get mad. She wasn’t healed here on earth. She isn’t here anymore. It’s easy for me to focus on what MY idea of a miracle should have been for her. I wasn’t expecting to be sad today either, but I was. Thank you for sharing your heart. It helps me.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 15, 2018

      Becky, I was reading today about unanswered prayer and the author said when we think everything has gone wrong, it’s just that we’re in the middle of the story. This life is not all there is, I know that, but it’s still hard. I love hearing from you.

      Reply
  3. Emily
    October 15, 2018

    Thank you for this post. It brings tears to my eyes, and all I can say is, “yes.” Yes to all of this. Sometimes having someone else say the words in your heart is the best encouragement you could hope for. I needed to hear this today. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 15, 2018

      I’m so glad it came at the right time for you, Emily. Glad to know we’re not alone.

      Reply
  4. Samantha
    October 16, 2018

    Lisa,
    I am so thankful for finding your podcast and now I live to for each new thing that you send out, somehow you know and aren’t afraid to share what is just needed for encouragement each time. October is a big hurdle for us each month as we lost my father tragically 11 years ago. Our kids weren’t born yet but each year the sadness settles in and we try to get through the anniversary as composed as possible, as our children grow they hear so many good stories of their grandpa that they feel like they knew him, so finally I feel as though I can invite them into the grief a bit. I love how your family made a special place to do this with your girl too. Thanks again, I am so encouraged by you!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 16, 2018

      I’m so glad you found me and my podcast, Samantha. I love hearing from new people! I’m sorry for your loss; I know you must miss your father. Many blessings to you in this tender month.

      Reply
  5. Karen Grove
    October 16, 2018

    Your post hit me in the heart, Lisa. My younger brother’s birthday is also October 29. He died of cancer at age 10, in 1966, back when a cancer diagnosis was always a death sentence. He is forever 10 and I still remember him every year on his birth and death dates. I wonder what his adult life would have become. His death shattered my family but started me on a path that led me to a personal relationship with Jesus, a year and a half after he passed.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 16, 2018

      Thank you for sharing this, Karen. Grief is so much about the lost future we thought we would have. I’ll think of you on the 29th.

      Reply
  6. Joanne Coriell
    October 16, 2018

    My sweet girl was profoundly disabled, a victim of a violent assault by her biological father, came to us upon discharge from the hospital and adopted shortly after.
    I always worry that she will be forgotten, her name is on my lips everyday and every chance I get. Sweet Emme Grace.
    I suffered great guilt after she died, it was my job to keep her safe, she depended on me for everything, my job was to protect her, then she got sick and she died.
    Everyone told me it would happen, that she was fragile, but I just knew it wouldn’t happen to her, that she wouldn’t suffer the same fate of so many disabled children, but she did and I was devastated.
    If it wasn’t for my faith and knowing in my heart that she was dancing and happy in heaven I don’t know how I would’ve survived.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 18, 2018

      Thank you for sharing your story and your girl in a tiny way. I also find comfort in thinking of Kalkidan fully healed and whole. Blessings to you, Joanne.

      Reply

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