A Single Red Balloon

Your classmates moved up to middle school yesterday. They reached a major milestone in their lives. It is one they will remember forever. You weren’t there in the flesh. Yet floating right next to the row of seats was a single red balloon. A powerful reminder that you were there in spirit. Your friends’ faces lit up with smiles as their names were called to receive certificates and awards. Under those smiles some of them saw the balloon and it touched their wound. You will forever be remembered as the boy who died right before first grade started. Over the past few weeks of seeing your friends it has become clear that this event has touched all of their lives. Those who were closer to you struggling with the idea that one day they can be on a playdate with their six year old buddy, saying they will see him on the first day of school, and the next day he can be gone. The uncertainty and fragility of life plaguing their six year old selves.

Your own brothers are obviously not immune from this either. While we openly discuss you and our emotions surrounding losing you, I often question how they truly are feeling. Sometimes they are transparent in their feelings and other times it is a mystery. Leading up to yesterday’s moving up ceremony many emotions coursed through me. As the mother of the family, I believe this means that many emotions coursed through the entire family. Unfortunately when children are younger their emotions often manifest behaviorally. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) states that children under 5 may, “cling to a parent, return to behaviors common to being younger and show signs of fear”, among other symptoms. These are behaviors that I have seen present themselves in my youngest son. The NIH states that children 6-11 may, “have nightmares or problems sleeping, have outbursts of anger and start fights”, among other symptoms. Again, I have seen these in my 7 year old. These behaviors are also common in children who have not seen and experienced what they did. The uncertainty and fragility of this situation plagues me as a mother.

Child loss sets a ripple in motion that affects many people, some for a lifetime. Your brothers are forever at risk to falling prey to their emotions. The fear this ignites in me is raging. What if one day they turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the pain they experienced when they were younger? We will always give them unconditional love and support but what if that’s not enough? This is where my trauma manifests itself. In knowing that nothing can be controlled, my fears arise. Uncertainty, fragility.

There is no telling where time will take any of us. We have learned that nothing is guaranteed. Life is precious and each moment truly counts. We can’t control anything. We simply are not that powerful. All we can do is use the past to guide us in the present. We can let the visual of that single red balloon remind us to do our best to stay present and appreciate life. We can carry on your spirit by spreading kindness and love. We can recognize that the uncertainty and fragility of life is truth, but not let it take over. Love to heaven…

It’s All Relative: RIP Kate Spade

As I opened up my computer to write this post yet another piece of sad news was absorbed. Kate Spade is dead at 55 due to suicide. Heartbreaking. The news blurb stated that she is a mother and a wife. The entire world knows she was successful. Looking in one may question what could have been so bad that she would take her own life? That’s when my dad would pull out his favorite phrase, “It’s all relative”. Oddly enough that was going to be the topic of this post before I read about Kate Spade. Her death makes it even more relevant.

Obviously Kate Spade was in such a severe depressive state that she was unable to see the possibility of hope. Tragic, simply tragic. While members of the public view her life as charmed, it is all relative. Fame, fortune and success mean nothing if you are unable to reap the benefits of joy. As my readers know from my last post, there are times when my own life seems void of hope. Thankfully I have never reached the point that Kate Spade reached. While the thought of ending it all to be reconnected to Christian has passed through my mind, it has also receded fairly quickly, even at my worst. Just those short glimpses into how terribly hopeless depression makes me feel is enough to comprehend how someone would think suicide makes sense.

Over the past week there have been moments of joy and their have been moments of sadness. I have cried tears over all that has been lost. I’ve watched a friend lose an amazing family member to ALS, yet again too young. I’ve witnessed the generosity  of those around me in bittersweet acts of kindness. I’ve rejoiced over my first article being published. I have watched my son’s classmates celebrate their last field day as elementary students. I’ve had my seven year old tell me that when he gets older he will go sky diving and purposely not put up his parachute so he can go to heaven and see his brother. It has been an emotional roller coaster. And yet, it’s all relative. These are incredibly difficult situations to face, but someone has it worse than me. It’s all relative. Someone has it better than me too. None of this truly matters as much as the outlook you have on your situation.

We all have things that we go through. No one escapes this life unscathed. Some of us are more fortunate in this area and have less tragic things affect us, but either way we all have our troubles. You never know what someone else is going through, so please remember to treat everyone with kindness. Things may look picture perfect on the outside and be broken beyond belief on the inside. Be kind. Pass it on. RIP Kate Spade. Sending prayers and love to your family, especially your daughter. Love to heaven…

Nothing Lasts Forever… but Love

Usually my posts have an upbeat message. They mirror my life. Despite the tragedy and loss I have experienced, I strive to find the positive in each day. Today I am struggling. The waves of depression and anxiety have knocked me down hard and I’m only capable of coming up for survival breaths. These waves have knocked down before and I’ve emerged even stronger. They won’t last forever.

Grief in its rawest form looks like hopelessness. It feels like no happiness will ever fill my heart again. The physical drain has rendered me exhausted. The mental and emotional drain makes it hard to concentrate on anything. These are the symptoms of grief that come and go. They won’t last forever.

For almost four years now I have been a grieving mom. I have inhabited this Earth without my oldest son. Tears have poured out of my eyes for all that has been lost. They won’t last forever.

I will make it to the other side of these tough days. There will be smiles again. There will be happiness again. There will be laughter again. They won’t last forever. Love is the only thing that lasts forever. Love to heaven…

Heart Scavengers

Spirituality has played a large role in my journey through grief. Many things happened in the days following Christian’s death that proved to me that energy never dies. One of the most powerful was the repeated image of a heart popping up in my mind. It appeared and reappeared almost daily. I assumed this was a sign from him. My assumption was confirmed to be correct when one morning, on one of my early walks, I found a perfectly shaped heart rock. Immediately I knew it was from him. I felt it was from him. Even my children pick up heart rocks from their brother now.

Our collection of heart rocks has grown quite extensive over the last few years. We are picky with the rocks we accept as gifts from Christian! They must be a heart on both sides. Those are the ones that are truly from him.

On Friday at my youngest son, Nicky’s school, they were taking sibling photos. I dressed my boys in matching outfits and brought them for their photos. As we were walking Nicky to his classroom, we found a small, heart shaped puddle. Of course, we stopped to take photos and send kisses up to heaven. After a breakfast date with my middle son, Anthony, he and I went on a hike. We found a few heart rocks to add to our collection along the way. We also found a beautiful heart rock, positioned perfectly in a stream.

Christian also made it perfectly clear that I was not forgotten yesterday, on Mother’s Day. On the way to a mini photo shoot with my boys and my mom, my youngest stopped in his tracks. “Look, Mom! A heart rock”. Honestly, I think it was more of a chunk of pavement, but it was in a perfect heart shape. Christian made sure I felt the love from him. He also made his way into the photos!

These are not coincidences. Our angel is forever with us, walking beside us. I am confident that he places people on my path at the right times, just like the heart rocks on our hiking path. I cannot see him anymore, but I feel him. When I sit quietly, and deliberately invite him to speak to me in my heart, I can hear his messages. He is very much a part of me, my family, our friends and our community. Since losing my son, my sense of spirituality continues to evolve and change. It is my connection to him. Love to heaven…

What “Grieving Mom Brain” Has Taught Me

We have all heard about “Mom Brain”, the condition that occurs when a woman is pregnant and continues while she is raising her children. I, myself, had Mom Brain pretty bad during pregnancy. One day my best friend arrived at my house to find me sitting calmly on the couch, while my car door was wide open in my driveway. Just one of my many examples.

Grieving Mom Brain” is just as bad! When I first lost my son, it set in and remained for some time. As I began practicing daily stress relieving routines, I found the condition improved. Just like millions of other moms, grieving or not, I don’t always sleep well. It is on the day after a poor night’s sleep that Grieving Mom Brain returns. Thinking and concentrating is extremely difficult. If I have something I am particularly worried or stressed about, Grieving Mom Brain sets in.

So, if you ever see me staring at you with a blank look on my face, it is likely I am lost inside my own brain. We all make jokes and laugh about this, but it can sometimes be frightening to feel your brain shutting down. It is only further proves to me how damaging stress can be! For this reason and many others, I practice self care on a daily basis. As Mother’s Day approaches, I urge all moms to examine their own self care routines. If you don’t have one in place, start small. Maybe take 15 minutes a day to do something that feeds your soul; take a walk, read, call a friend, journal, etc. You won’t regret it! Love to heaven…

Hugs From Heaven

Albert Einstein said, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” When we lose someone we love, we quickly learn this lesson. Yesterday this idea was further strengthened for me when a mom from the school where Christian attended Kindergarten, and where Anthony goes now, approached me. She asked if she could speak to me for a moment, assuring me that nothing was wrong. She proceeded to tell me a story about how her dog ran away last weekend. The last place he had been was the playground built in Christian’s memory.

It took four long hours and then she miraculously found him in some thick brush a little ways away from the playground. When she reached this point of the story, I had an idea of what she was going to say. It did not come as a surprise when she said that she truly believes that Christian helped her find her dog. I won’t go into the details. That is her story to tell. The thing that did come as a surprise was how she described Christian’s energy. She had never met him before. In fact, she and her family had only moved to the community when the playground had just been completed. Yet, she was able to describe his spirit and his energy in the exact same way I feel him. She even commented that he “has such a large presence for a young boy”. She also said, “it’s like a big hug”. It was invigorating to hear someone who never knew him describe him as I feel him. In a way it was validating that he is watching over the community. It was validating that others who were not connected to him in the Earthly realm find connections to him now.

As a bereaved mother, I wish with all my might that Christian was still here. It has been a long process to actually accept that. I’m still not sure I am fully there, even though I live it. Of course intellectually I know he will never be in my arms again, but to know that he actively lives on in spirit, makes my heart sing. Love to heaven…

Memorials, Memories and Mugpotato

I am sitting quietly in my bed, hoping if I don’t breathe too loudly my son won’t hear me. As far as I can tell, he only came in to change his clothes and pee. My mind and body are exhausted to the core. My husband travelled all week and is finally home. The kids are outside with him and I am writing in pure silence.

Not once, but twice, today I found myself in tears. Funny when those things spring out of your eyes and you are not expecting it. In hindsight, on the heels of all of my achievements yesterday, I should have seen it coming. There was a lot of emotion attached to them.

Tomorrow proves to be another exciting and emotional day. The customized backs will finally go on to the buddy benches at Christian’s Adventure, the playground built in memory of him. These backs are complete with his drawings and his name written in his own handwriting. So, yeah, more tears tomorrow.

I have been asked a few times since my post yesterday if all of these tributes to him evoke more happiness or sadness. The truth is both equally. My main quest as a mom of a child who has passed away is to make sure he is never forgotten. These projects and tributes ensure that he will not be forgotten. They are also extremely emotional because there would be no reason for them if he was still here.

Today, as I was sitting on the bench at school, one of Christian’s Kindergarten classmates came over. He said, “Do you remember me?” I said, “Of course! How are you Mateo?” We talked for a little bit and then I said, “For the first 2 days of Kindergarten Christian came home telling me that he had a boy named Mugpotato in his class. Of course I said, ‘can’t be Christian.’ He swore your name was Mugpotato.” Finally on the third day he came home and his little voice said, “Mom! His name is Mateo!” We had a good laugh about that one!

Mateo and I talked for a little longer and then I said goodbye. As I walked down the steps to sign my son, Anthony out as a walker, I passed more of Christian’s classmates. I heard one girl say, “Hey, there’s Christian’s mom!” That’s right, I thought, I will always be Christian’s mom. He may not be here to tell me funny stories anymore or to give me the gossip about who likes who in his class, but I will always be his mom. He will always be in my heart, and in his friends’. For that, I am eternally grateful. Love to heaven…

Just as I was finishing this post, there was a familiar ring, letting me know the front door had opened. Then breaking the silence, “Mom?” My time is up!