Quick thought: Trust Yourself

If you follow my blog you know I post once a week on Thursday. I want to post more but I am struggling with finding the time. I’ve decided to start quick thoughts. When something inspires me or strikes a chord in me I am going to post! It will be shorter and less in depth than my other posts but it will encourage a stronger connection with my readers. Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

Today’s quick thought is about trusting yourself. It’s oh so hard! I struggle with this on a daily basis and it spans all areas of my life. When I first became a parent it CONSUMED me. Frantically I read through every parenting book to see if my parenting decisions were “right”. I second guessed everything, only to discover there is no one right way.

Losing Christian makes me question every decision I make. And yet the relationship I have with him now strengthens my trust in myself. When I am living a balanced life, in touch with my true feelings and aware of truth, not what the negative voices lie to me about, I have trust in myself. These are a lot of pieces that need to be aligned just right. I am working to make these pieces fit together more often than not. It is part of my journey. It is part of the positivity Christian is infiltrating into my life. Trust yourself. There is only one you and you know you the best! Love to heaven…

To My Children: My Tears Are For You Too

Children are incredibly perceptive about their parents’ emotions. My five year old can pinpoint sadness on my face even when I am not aware it is showing. Emotions run freely in our home since we lost our six year old son, Christian. My two younger boys are always encouraged to share their feelings. As a mom, I do the same, most of the time. I allow them to see me sad and crying. It’s important that they see me bend but not break.

My first experience with child loss was when my childhood friend lost her eight year old cousin. The vivid memories consist of the inability to breathe as soon as I entered the funeral home. The dark fog of unnatural death descended unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was palpable. The sight of a small child lying in a coffin was physically and emotionally jarring. There I stood alone in the midst of a crowd of mourners. Many thoughts ran through my mind. Of course my heart was filled with empathy for the family members, especially the parents. Anger coursed through my body at the thought of this small child no longer being filled with vitality. My heart was crushed for the other two children in the family. Although Christian was only two years old at the time, and had no siblings, it was the final thought that stuck with me. How would the parents have the strength to go on for the other two children? How would the children survive the death of their sibling? These thoughts consumed me as I drove home.

After losing Christian these questions and emotions immediately resurfaced. At the time my other two boys were three and one. They needed their parents. My husband and I were completely incapacitated. We were fortunate to have many friends and family surrounding us and providing my children with love and comfort. My boys still needed us. In my heart I knew my children deserved as much as I could give. Just days after we laid my oldest son to rest, Anthony, my middle son, began preschool. It is customary for the parents to attend the first day of school with their children so they can get situated. Anthony was at the same preschool Christian had attended. It was not an easy task to accompany him. Family and friends offered to stand in for us, but my husband and I felt strongly that we needed to be there for Anthony. We were determined to shape our new normal around our two living children. This is what has kept us going for the past four years. At the time of Christian’s death our sons were babies. Now, at five and seven, they have grown into beautiful little people.

As my children continue to grow, and their understanding of the tragedy we have experienced continues to grow, I shield them less and less. At one time their perception was that mom only cried when she was sad about Christian. Now they realize I cry for them too, in a different way. My five year old son knows that the song he is sung at preschool graduation makes me cry because it means he will no longer be little. My seven year old son knows that when he unexpectedly thanks me for “encouraging him to do something difficult” it brings tears to my eyes. Our emotional connection as a family had been undeniably changed. The tragedy we have endured and continue to survive as a family, allows us to be more emotionally vulnerable with each other. This vulnerability creates extremely close relationships.

Maintaining emotional transparency has opened the doors of communication about topics that typically would be considered above their level of understanding. Spirituality is a common conversation topic in our home. I do the best to explain heaven, souls, love after death and the forever connections we have with Christian. I am also entirely honest with them, letting them know that these are my beliefs. Following in my beliefs, they consider hearts and pennies signs from their brother. It fosters communication with our beautiful angel. My boys also know that I am actively engaged and involved in their lives. They know my emotions are affected by not only what has happened in the past, but also by things that happen in the present. The closeness we have gained as a family is a beautiful gift from our angel. Love to heaven…

Grieving Is Like An Ocean

How many times have we admired a body of water ranging in shades of turquoise from light to dark? The most desirable beach locations feature coveted ocean views where the white sand reflects the light of the sun. In areas where the depth of the water increases or where coral formations are found beneath the surface, the water color darkens. As I sit here admiring this exact view it occurs to me that these waters mirror my life.

During the bright spots in my life everything is clear. It is easy to see where I am going. My feelings are soft, like the sand. They sit below the surface with smooth waves washing over. As the sun graces me with its warmth it is met with a reflection of joy, happiness and contentment.

In the darker, deeper times my feelings are below the surface. They are complicated. The sun still shines on them but my positivity does not radiate back. The coral represents difficult situations and feelings. If I get pulled down too far or caught in the coral, difficulty arises. My breath runs out and I am unable to maneuver my way to the surface.

Life cannot be lived solely in the clear waters. At some point the undertow pulls us into deeper, darker waters. We all face this. Attempts to swim against the undertow, or ignoring the pull, will only lengthen our time away from clear waters. The strength comes in our ability and willingness to swim parallel to the shore. We must feel our feelings. We must stay with those feelings until they are felt and processed. Then we are able to return to clear, calm waters. We may get drawn back in to the deeper areas again, but the more we practice swimming parallel to shore, the more familiar this becomes to us.

We must always remember that the ocean as a whole is beautiful. The calmer, clearer waters are great for relaxing and reflecting on our lives. It is in the deeper, darker waters where we see the stunning underwater life. It cannot be seen above the water but under the surface there is living beauty.

Four years have passed since I lost my son, Christian. Many times I have been pulled into the deeper, darker waters. In the early days of my grief journey I fought the pull. I floundered under the crashing waves, unable to see the surface, let alone rise up for air. My mind could not comprehend a life without him. It took a long while to see any of the living beauty in those dark waters. When I finally did begin to see the beauty I slowly stopped floundering and rose to the surface. I remained there for a while. Occasionally I would take a few strokes parallel to the shore. Those few strokes left me completely depleted of energy.

It took time to build my stamina. Time, patience, practice and faith. Finding a good trauma therapist was key for me. He truly helped me to process my feelings in a safe space. He also pointed out to me that each time I had a setback and disappeared under the water, I always rose back up. When you are grieving that water is not just dark, it’s black and oppressive. You are not quite sure which way is up. There is a great fear that you will never make it to the surface again, but you do. You keep repeating this pattern as more and more time passes in between being pulled under. Slowly, finally, you gain faith that you will always rise back up. You learn ways to ensure that you will rise back up to the surface. You put those ways or routines into practice and follow through with them even if you don’t feel like it. They are insurance. Insurance that you will survive and thrive. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. Love to heaven…

Hold The Tears, Mom

My boys are off to school. Even Nicky, my Kindergartner, went off willingly. Not before telling me, “Mom, don’t cry. If you cry, you will make me cry”. His perception and true understanding of the situation was more progressive than I knew. Nothing but a smile was plastered to my face all morning. I held my tears. I did. I gave him a giant hug and kiss. Then he got on the bus, holding his big brother’s hand. He hesitated just the slightest bit, only enough for a mother to notice. Off the bus went and my tears started flowing.

I decided a few weeks ago that I would send Nicky on the bus with Anthony, his older brother. I contemplated meeting the bus at school but decided against it. Mother’s intuition told me that this would make for the best transition. Well, emotion took over and I hopped in the car to spy on him. Knowing that the Kindergarten classes line up outside before going into the building, allowed me to steal a glimpse of him. Luckily he didn’t see me. It was hard to tell the exact emotion on his face but I could see that he wasn’t crying. That was all I needed to know.

My anxiety has eased slightly but I will feel much better once he is home. My tears have stopped but his words resound in my head. You see, Christian said those same words to me just a few days before he was taken. The scene has remained one of my sharpest memories of his last days. It was a steamy August night and I was completely overwhelmed. While unsuccessfully attempting to get my three young children to go to bed, my middle son had an accident and my youngest son was crying and carrying on about something else. My emotions got the best of me and I burst into tears. Christian responded by speaking the same words Nicky spoke. In hindsight it feels as though he was foreshadowing the future. Hearing Nicky tell me not to cry today snapped me right back to the moment when Christian said those words. There have been many times I’ve heard Christian’s voice in my head when crying over missing him.

Obviously today’s situation differs from the one with Christian, but the heartfelt words spoken by both of my boys have been carved into my soul. Today my youngest child is spreading his wings. My middle child continues to successfully fly. My oldest child continues to spread his light. All three of my boys make me proud each day. I am no longer a mother to babies, toddlers or preschoolers but I am a mother to three children who are out in the world, leaving legacies. How can I cry about that? Love to heaven…

Season of Change, Season of Grief

Summer is officially over and school begins tomorrow. I am grateful that August is over. Each year August is a difficult month as it is the month when my oldest son, Christian, became an angel. This year is a particularly difficult one. My heart is grieving the loss of him, intensified by grieving my life as a mom to preschoolers, toddlers and babies. My children no longer fall into these categories. The loss of so much has left me completely bereft.

For the past ten and a half years part of my identification, okay lets be honest, most of my identification has been mom to preschoolers, toddlers and babies. With my oldest son never to surpass Kindergarten and my youngest son, Nicky, just starting Kindergarten, this angelversary has me feeling more lost than ever.

The start of Kindergarten is a milestone in both the child and mother’s life, especially a stay at home mom. It’s a time when each gains new freedom. For the child it’s a sort of freedom he has not had before. My son Nicky has never spent consistent full days apart from me since his birth. This will be a first for him. I have not had consistent full days of child free time in the past ten and a half years. Just as he will grow and blossom, I will too. The woman who became a mom almost eleven years ago is no longer the same person. This is a beautiful and sad thing all at once.

Many moms experience a sense of sadness when their youngest child goes off to Kindergarten. My grief further complicates these emotions. The largest thing I am mourning is that I am leaving behind the mom I was when Christian was alive. When he was still here I was a mom to a Kindergartner, preschooler and toddler. Now both my boys will be in elementary school. By the end of this school year, they will surpass the amount of years Christian spent enthused by learning. This is downright terrifying for a few reasons. He was my guide on how to mother. Sure Anthony, my middle child, is almost eight years old but his personality is way different than Christian’s. You can see the gleam of mischief in Nicky’s eyes a mile away, just like his brother. I was supposed to learn how to handle that while raising Christian. Not only that, but in five short years they will both be out of elementary school. They will be forging ahead into a school their brother never had the chance to attend. Tears prickle my eyes thinking about it. I will no longer be able to make parallels between Christian’s life and theirs.

All of this makes me mourn the door that is about to close. Every time life changes it is a reminder of just how much it has changed, just how different it is than expected, just how much we miss my Christian. During big life changes it hurts even more than usual.

I am leaving behind an identity of who I was, as my first child knew me. I am leaving behind an era and in essence a piece of me. I am NOT leaving behind my son. My head knows this, my heart knows this but it still hurts to leave the piece of me behind that was defined by his birth and growth. He was the first to make me a mother to a baby, toddler, preschooler and elementary schooler. Anthony will be the first to make me a mother to a middle schooler.

Moving into uncharted territories is always exhilarating and scary at the same time. Gone is a life that I will never return to. My day no longer dictated by nap time. No more mommy and me classes. No more afternoon visits to the playground or the library “before your brother gets home from school”. Gone is the life as my first born knew me. I guess it already is though. Growth and change are never easy but always necessary. So I will carry on and carry him with me. I will spread his love, light and messages. All the time feeling a mix of proud, devastated, honored to have been his mother and angry to have him taken away from me. Love to heaven…

Carrying On Is Different Than Moving On

One of my fellow members of the most undesirable club to be in, posted something quite interesting today. She made the distinction between carrying on and moving on as  grieving mothers. This really resonated with me. Her point was that we never move on from grieving our children. We carry on. We carry on raising our living children. We carry on as wives. We carry on as daughters, sisters, friends. Most of all we carry on, while carrying our children in our hearts. We carry on because our deceased children live on through us. Their legacies, messages and light live on through us. That can only happen if we carry on with our life.

I have said before that I still actively mother three children. It is not in the way I once expected it would be. My responsibilities to my living children include making lunches, showering them, driving them to camp and preparing them to start a new school year. These mothering tasks are responsibilities that all mothers can relate to. Mothering an angel is different. It’s not as demanding as mothering a living child and yet it is more demanding. If we don’t keep our child’s spirit and memory alive, he is really gone. Mothering an angel requires less responsibility, yet more. No longer do I need to worry about what time he will be home from school, but I need to make the time to honor him. No longer do I need to worry about if he is making the right choices, but I need to make sure my choices in honoring his life make him proud. Just like a mother never stops loving her child, she never stops mothering her child.

Grieving mothers carry on. We are warriors. Oxford Dictionaries defines warrior as “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.” That’s us. There are so many other ways we would have liked to earn our warrior status. We will never move on. We will never move past our child, his life, our experiences together. It will never be an event that merely occurred in the past. Instead we become experienced at carrying on. We become experienced at being a fighter. Every day that is lived without my child is a fight. It will never be easy. This is not to say that happiness and joy does not exist. Both coincide in my world. Sometimes the intensity of grief, and the feeling of fighting is stronger. Sometimes the intensity of happiness and joy is stronger. One never wins out, one never trumps the other. They exist together. That is how I carry on. Love to heaven…

Grief and Sickness

Christian’s 4 year angelversary is quickly approaching which means my emotions are running higher than usual. I have been inhabiting this state since June actually. In June he would have moved up from elementary school. Then came the summer, along with all the reminders of his final time here with us. And now it’s the dreaded August.

Our summer has been filled with lots of travel, which has been amazing. We have had more family time together than usual which is always healing. We have made many new memories. My husband and I even had a chance to get away. It’s been great. We have one more trip coming up this week to send the summer out with a bang.

All this travel means my schedule is way off. My self care schedule has not been very consistent. In combination with high emotions my immunity is way down. I know this because I am recovering from one of the worst bouts of sickness I have ever experienced.

Temporary sickness is something I can deal with. The more disturbing thing is that I now have high blood pressure. I am not even forty years old yet! Granted, I am not the picture of perfect health but I do work out on a regular basis. I eat healthy – much of the time. I work hard at managing my stress. Believe me, I am not saying this to give myself a pat on the back. It’s more of a realization that I just cannot outrun or out health grief. The extreme stress that has taken over my life has had serious health effects.

This realization about my health means I will only have to work harder at surviving and living. Quite unimaginable since living without my child seems like I am working just about as hard as possible. I’m certain that this is meant to be teaching me a lesson in some way. Right now, however, I do not want to learn! As a grieving parent I feel I should be able to do whatever I want! This is not reality, I know. It’s more of a sidebar rant. When you live every day without your child by your side you have very little extra to give to the rest of your life. Right now I am out of extra! Love to heaven…