The language of heartbreak


Today I had one of the most powerful, heartbreaking, interactions with someone that I can recall. This someone was a total stranger to me, yet I somehow knew who he was the moment I stepped into the hotel lift. I asked him a question, and with a gentle smile and two words of very broken English, learned there was no language to be shared between us. We got off the lift, he went his way and the boys and I went our way, which was over toward the front desk to check out of the hotel.

As I turned to head out the main door, the young man was coming back inside. He smiled and nodded at me. With a bit of a tremble inside, I held out my mobile phone which showed the photo of another young man. He looked up at me, nodding again, and my hand went to my heart…”I am so sorry” I said to him. Our hands reached out for each other (I don’t know who extended their hand first) both of us, our eyes welling with tears, just held hands.

We just stood there in the hotel lobby as we continued to quietly hold each other’s hand, tears ever growing, and with no words able to be exchanged.

But words aren’t always needed in the language of heartbreak.

After a minute – or was it a few? I don’t know – our hands began to release from the other’s, with a gentle squeeze a time or two as they fell apart. There were tears that came in the understanding gaze between us, then the respectful bows of the head to one another, and with that, we began to move apart.

He took a few steps and turned back around…hands with palms close together at his chest, he bowed to me. And in absolute respect, solidarity and the aching empathy of heartbreak, I returned the bow.

With that, we parted ways. I loaded the boys into our van, sat on the driver’s seat, and sobbed. Uncontrollably sobbed. I don’t think I have ever felt so powerfully the emotion, the pain, radiating from a grieving person’s hand up through my own hand as I held it, and as our eyes connected in that unspoken language of heartbreak.

It shook me, hard.

I don’t know his name, although what came to me as I held his hand was the word “brother” so my heart tells me that this was, either biologically or emotionally, his link to the smiling young man whose photo I held out hesitantly to him on my mobile.

Heartbreak doesn’t need the same language to be understood when there is compassion, empathy, and genuine caring between people who have experienced grief. One touch, many tears, and the silent expression of love can bridge the absence of spoken language amongst those in pain.

My heart goes out to this young man in the hotel who travelled to our island country under the most horrific of circumstances – to bring home someone he clearly loved but who had been taken from him in an incomprehensible and terrible act of violence. I wish him, and his family, the healing peace that I think only time can bring. But I also want to thank him for sharing so much with me on a level that we don’t often get to experience with others with whom we cannot share via the spoken word. Whether he knows it or not, today he gave me this rare and special gift.


Rest in Peace, Yosuke Sasaki





It’s only 5 days into 2018, and here I am writing about being in crisis. The hashtag about this on Twitter as of late is #carersincrisis and it says it all. But who is actually listening? More importantly, who amongst those listening will take any action to resolve the crisis?

I often write from a raw, unfiltered place, exposing my personal world at the risk of judgement and the subsequent ridicule or unsolicited advice to more devotedly follow Jesus or the comparisons of who has the worse lot in life. That’s not my reason for wearing my heart on my sleeve.  I do it for starters because that’s just who I am by nature, but I also do it on the off chance it will help others who walk a similar journey with me…that journey of caring for a child with a life-limiting illness. It is a journey unlike any you could fathom. Indeed, it is one you must actually be on to fully comprehend…and to have absolute compassion and empathy for those on it.

Last month, I knew I was near a breaking point. I was once again having panic attacks, had a breakout of shingles due to stress, and found myself crying far too much. I did what I knew I should do and I reached out for help from a respite provider’s psychologist. I was refused any additional respite nights because there were other families who were requesting the extra nights as well. Now I, of all people, can understand that fact. However, not providing emergency care for carers in crisis leaves those carers – like me – in a very vulnerable position. This is exactly why we have #carersincrisis.

And hear this:

When carers are in crisis, it cannot help but result in the loved ones they care for being put in a potentially less than optimal situation for the best care they require and deserve. (Read that line again)

Confession: Last night I discovered I had not reordered one of Brendan Bjorn’s seizure meds. As such, he only got a partial dose. This morning, his disability social worker is picking up the new bottle of medication from the pharmacy on her way out to see us. The amount of guilt I felt last night, and the resulting mental self-reprimanding I gave to myself, was noteworthy. I could list a dozen excuses about being stressed out, overworked, etc, etc, etc, but none of them are acceptable. I failed, full stop, and I am ashamed at my failure.

Today is day 73 of Brendan still being bedridden due to the terribly slowly healing pressure sore. 73 days and I am exhausted physically, mentally and in many ways, spiritually. My soul is tired and needs recharged in a way that only time away from caring can provide…but I can’t get it. I’ve had no in home respite nursing since July 2017 (I’m approved for only 10 hours per month, even so there is no staff to provide it). I do have 3 nights of respite coming up this month but it will be used moving my family to a different city, different county, and that, my dear reader, is more stressful than you can imagine when you have a highly medically complex disabled child’s care needs to transfer and re-establish! I won’t be recharging anything but my mobile phone. 

carers in crisis pic