I don’t know how to do this


I sit at the corner of the garden, fighting back tears as the world seems to come crashing in. I can’t cope, I’m overwhelmed and I can’t even think straight. My soul cries out the words I no longer say aloud, but are no less a part of every thing I do and every decision I make.

“I don’t know how to do this.”

“I can’t do this.”

“I’m done.”

“I give up.”

“I don’t know how to do this.”

That thought — that I don’t know how to do this — haunts me, and is how I know that I am not crying because my son went up a tree when I called rather than coming to help. Nor am I crying over the argument that ensued when I told my daughter to stop hammering boards together because her father needed to be involved in the building of a new chicken pen. Nor over the time spent looking for the clover seed I wanted to spread as a cover crop. Nor over the dog food that L.E. dumped in the bathtub while I was looking for the seed. Nor even over the missing duck I fear may have met the same fate as the one whose mutilated body we found only yesterday.

“I  don’t know how to do this.”

It was the first intelligible thing I said after the surgeon informed us they were not able to save our son.

“I don’t know how to do this.”

I repeated it over and over with each impossible decision we were asked to make leading up to his funeral.

“I don’t know how to do this.”

It haunts my thoughts whenever grief tears at my soul. I don’t know how to do this. But I do know that if I sit here long enough, the intensity of the feeling will pass. And it does.

The pressure on my chest releases and I can breathe. The tears subside before they even make much of an appearance, and my thoughts turn to the goose standing before me, looking over me with his blue eye. He honks and for a moment I worry that he might bite me as I sit there looking at him at his own level.


But I know better. He waddles over, nibbles at my jeans, nibbles at my shirt, nibbles at my hair.

“Does it hurt, mom?”

My daughter asks.

“No, it actually kind of tickles.”

My son comes over and we get up off the ground. I explain what we’re about to do and they almost seem to enjoy the work of cultivating and planting all 3,000 square feet of the garden as we talk about cover crops and what they do for the soil. I find my stride, scraping the hoe back and forth in time with my step as I cover the seed my son is broadcasting along my daughter’s furrows. Push the hoe, pull the hoe, step; push, pull, step; scrape, scrape, step. The rhythm feels good. The motion feels good. Even the soreness of my muscles feels good as the light exercise releases the tension.

A brief interruption. Commotion down by the barn. Bug runs out screaming. I can’t understand her, but she’s clearly excited. A few moments later, she is followed by wild flapping and Faithful herding the missing duck out of the barn and back to its flock.

I smile. This day is not going to be lost. My plans for this garden are not going to be lost. Dare I even go so far as to say that though they have been deeply shaken, the dreams we have had for our family here on this land are not completely lost?

Because this much I do know how to do:  scrape, scrape, step; scrape, scrape, step; scrape, scrape, step; stretch and do it again.

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  1. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    Sometimes it is one day at a time… but more often I believe that we must take it one HOUR at a time… sometimes one MINUTE at a time is all we can handle. That is the nature of grief. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, but I know grief. Continuing to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Bless you and your little ones. I know that your dear Tiggy smiles on you from the heavenly realms.

  2. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    It will be five year for me in July Dana and I still have those moments, they are less overwhelming but there are always tears. Tadhika’s right its the nature of grief and might i add the love of a mother.
    Thinking of you, Jen

  3. Reply

    Susan Beth

    March 18, 2011

    Our capacity for grief and joy at the same time is beyond human understanding, but it is there. Thank you for sharing your personal journey through the push and pull of life full of these emotions. Part of me wants to find a way to take away the grief, but somehow I know that God will use it for you and others. He works in our lives with a plan we can trust, although what you are experiencing is proof that trusting and understanding the plan are not one and the same thing. I pray for you continued strength to scrape, scrape, step through each and every day. I don’t know how it gets better, but I do know the character of God is such that your suffering will not be wasted.

  4. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    Dana you are such a gifted writer! The eloquence with which you share your joy in the midst of grief is so beautiful. I continue to pray for you and your family that God will continue to give you the strength to step and scrape your way through each new day He gives you!

  5. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    “…though they have been deeply shaken, the dreams we have had for our family…are not. Completely lost”. Wow I absolutely love that. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    No one knows how to do this….you just learn by trial and error and lots of tears, prayers and many hugs from friends.

  7. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    I am so glad that through the grief, you are able to do what you do know how to do and live your life with purpose. God is carrying you. And once again, you reminded me of the small things like a child pouring dog food into a bath or something of the sort that really is not something worth being troubled about. You write so beautifully and are able to convey how you are feeling in a way that speaks right to the heart. Much love to you today.

  8. Reply


    March 18, 2011


    You are right. You don’t know how to do this. But God does and He is walking right now with you, carrying you when you need strength, and comforting you when you need comfort. Keep on keeping your eyes on him amidst the process of the path of this grief.

    Thank you for your honest, powerful and profound words.


  9. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    I am daily drawn to your family and to your words. My heart is broken for all you have endured, but I know that this is when we need to lean on God harder, pray harder, trust Him more – but how hard when it is hard to even breathe. I am so impressed with how you have continued living when I think it would have been easier to just give up. You are such an inspiration!

    You are an amazing Mom and are obviously devoted to your children. Thank you for reminding me why I homeschool…if only in part because there is no promise to the number of days we will have our children.

  10. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    No, we don’t know how to do this. We aren’t supposed to. It’s not the normal order of go. But we learn, not on the job, but in the life. And you ARE doing it, and you’re doing fine. Just like you said . . .

    . . . scrape, step, scrape, step, inhale, exhale . . .

  11. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    Thanks, everyone. Sometimes, the unpredictability of it all just hits and I don’t know how to do the simplest things. I get overwhelmed so easily and I’m not used to it. Trying to be patient with myself. I don’t think I would want to be able to just go back to normal after losing a child, but sometimes it takes so much to do so little.

  12. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    It’s enough…what you’re doing.
    To just keep walking…even one step…
    To just keep taking that next breath.

    I remember that…in a way not wanting the pain to lessen.
    Not wanting “normal”.
    Because at least the sharp sting, the jolt of pain each morning when I remembered…kept things from… moving on.

    But it will come in time…His time…your time.

    This is so fresh Dana.
    And today.
    That is enough.

  13. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    Your rhythm makes me think of what my husband teaches our kids when they start to help him plant: ‘pasa, mata, pasa, mata’ which means ‘step, sow, step, sow’ to space out the seeds as they walk down the row.

    Your courage is unbelievable. How much you must yearn to throw all of this in a dark hole and never look at it again. But every day, there is something new to face. When you think of how long it takes to get back to ‘normal’ after giving birth, we certainly can’t expect to be ‘back to normal’ after losing a child.

    You can’t feel me with you, but my family prays for you and yours, every day. Your ache is shared here.

    Oh, and your nibbiling goose made me laugh!

  14. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    Kara, sometimes it is so hard to just take that one step. Sometimes I wish it were easier, and other times I don’t even want to try. I used to have difficulty focusing my thoughts on the present and the “next step” because I’m a bit of a dreamer, always seeing my plans as they come to fruition and having trouble slowing down to see the steps I need to take to get there. Now I have a hard time looking beyond what I’m doing in this very moment.

    And thank you so much, Mary. These geese are amazing and very bonded to me. I think if we’re successful in getting ours to breed, I may incubate the eggs just because it is so fun to have little goose children following me around wherever I go.

  15. Reply


    March 18, 2011

    Dana,what a roller coaster of emotions. Way to work through the “I can’t” thoughts. My , my what a time of soul sarching and then to that place of resolve for a tme. You expressed it well. Lord bless you in your continued trials and triumphs. I have had time where all that would come out was,”Lord help me,” with desperation, and hopless seemed was all I had left to give. The Lord came through as he has and will continue to do for you. Praise Him in the tough times,…too.

  16. Reply


    March 19, 2011

    This sounds EXACTLY how I would be. Dana, I have a feeling that you won’t be saying this as much next month, or the month after, or the month after. Hold on! – Tracey

  17. Reply

    A Mamaw

    March 20, 2011

    Breathe. People are praying.

  18. Reply

    Jay Wile

    March 20, 2011

    I wouldn’t know how to do it, either, Dana. You will never know how much inspiration I get from the fact that you find a way!

  19. Reply


    March 23, 2011

    I came by way of my Blogher sidebar. I am so sorry about the loss of your sweet boy. Jesus is victorious for you, dear sister. He can handle it for you. There is grace–I see it even in your words–that you’re even willing to blog about this–THAT is grace. Surely He has borne all our griefs and sorrows. He will carry you. I can’t wait to see His healing in your family. Much love.


January 25, 2011