Legs of Hope

Two little legs so innocently peeking out of the shopping cart. That was all it took to transport me back to a sweeter time in my life. His feet were snug in a pair of navy blue crocs. In a cotton, navy t-shirt, pair of shorts and a baseball cap, he chatted easily as his mom perused the aisles.

Instantly time was reversed and it was me shopping the store as Christian chatted away. We traversed the aisles, he snug in the shopping cart seat and me beaming with pride that this adorable little boy had been given to me. I trilled about products that we needed and didn’t, and time floated by.

The pace of life was reflected in the simple act of shopping. Shopping trips were born out of the necessity to replenish our home with staples, and the need to pass time. Occupying an overactive two year old was no small feat.

These simple moments are some of what I miss the most. Likely, this would be a cherished and missed memory at this stage of my life, despite my current circumstances. The nostalgia of these small, seemingly incidental moments reflective of feeling nostalgic over growing children.

As a grieving mom, it is certainly more complicated. I am mourning him at all ages.

I have a vague memory of the dichotomy present in my life during Christian’s toddler years. Fiercely I clutched on to the days we spent together in the first half of Christian’s life. These were also my first few years of motherhood.

Constantly second guessing myself, unsure of every decision I made, I feared that I was not a good mother. Sadly, this did affect my ability to be present and in the moment. Intermittently the fragility of life shook me to the core. When I discussed this with other moms, it seemed as though my fears were slightly deeper than others.

Possibly the reason for this was because everything Christian did was BIG. He was the kind of kid who demanded all of your attention as soon as he stepped into the room. He taught me patience, sheerly out of necessity. All he did, he did 110%. When apart from him, his absence was so stark it felt like a limb was missing.

Reflecting back I wonder whether certain moments were preparing me for the most devastating experience of my life. It seems to be so, but I don’t have faith that that will ever be confirmed. Either way I could never be prepared for what was to come.

I always believed that there would be more time. Belief in anything other than that would have been crushing. In June 2014 Christian participated in the last field day he would ever know. He had a broken arm so there were many limitations. Never dreaming that his Kindergarten field day would be his final one, I assured him that there were many more field days to come in which he would be able to participate fully. There weren’t.

No parents expects their child to be gone in body before they reach seven years of age.

Those tiny little legs dangling out of the shopping cart symbolized hopes, dreams and wishes that I had for Christian. They symbolized a kind of life that despite its ups and downs was still immune to the worst tragedy a parent can face. They symbolized vigilant optimism. I was aware of the worst tragedy but optimistic that my life would not be dealt that blow. Once you have been dealt this blow, you can never go back to the blissful state of child loss free parenting.

Some balloons are able to soar with joy. Child loss survivor’s balloons are always tethered down. Sometimes the weight is so heavy the balloon merely sways from side to side. Other times its a bit lighter and the balloon may rise, but it always comes back down. That is the scar of a grieving parent.

Hope Is Found In Other Grievers

If you are new to the grief of child loss and are asking yourself how you will ever be able to live another day in this new reality, you are not alone. Every single parent who has been in your position before you has had the same exact thought. As the the grief strangles us and the pain takes over our physical, emotional and mental health, the disbelief that you will survive this horrendous ordeal is all encompassing.

Many times people ask me about the best advice I received after losing Christian. It wasn’t anything people said. Instead it was meeting and connecting with people who had lost a child, but were able to continue living. They were shining beacons of hope for me. If they were able to do it, then so could I.

The pain was still unbearable, but their collective stories of survival showed me that the unthinkable was possible. Each person I met who had survived their child lifted me up. It was their resilience that sparked a light of hope in me.

There is no end in grief. There is no filling the hole that is in the exact shape of your child. It will always be there, but the edges of it will not always be as pointy and sharp.

It is so hard to reach into your heart when you first lose your child. Each excursion leaves you cut and raw. As time passes and you learn that your child is still with you, the jaggedness softens, allowing you to be blanketed more with love than cut by the edges.

Today I am 2,432 days post child loss. It will be 7 years in August and I am still here, living after the most heart wrenching experience of my life.

My living children inspire me every day to not only survive, but thrive. In the beginning my surviving was an act of love for them. Knowing the trauma they had already experienced, I knew I had to step up and be as present as possible for them. Some days that meant taking them to school and some days that meant crying alongside them as we played with cars. When my emotions were unable to be contained, they always inquired as to why I was crying. My honest answer remained the same. “I miss your brother”.

Mothering two toddlers while grieving my firstborn was beyond difficult, and I had a ton of support and help. Given all that help, I was the only person who was their mother. Being present for them meant being gentle with myself on those days that I just couldn’t handle school runs or playing cars or getting out of bed until the afternoon.

In the months following Christian’s death, my present not only included the day to day activities that my living children were involved in, but also attending to my grief. I had to learn to parent it, nurture it. We do this not to help it grow, but to help our heart grow around it, to help soften those jagged edges. The more we give it attention, nurture it, treat ourselves gently with it and honor it, the more we are able to hold it and carry it. Our grief and emotions need our attention too. If we just stuff them down, they become stagnant and manifest in other ways.

As a mother to all three of my boys, and a wife to my high school sweetheart, I made the commitment to work on myself. Mothers often apply a special version of glue that holds a family together. If I was going to be able to do that I knew I had to be the healthiest version of myself. First, that meant I had to handle my mental and emotional health. Working through the trauma and grief required me to seek professional help.

Weekly appointments with my therapist were a must (and still are). It was absolutely necessary that I have my own safe space to process my emotions, without worrying about hurting anyone else.

While this processing was amazing, my therapist had not lost a child. The connection with other individuals who had walked my actual path became essential. My husband and I found a few groups, but we really didn’t “gel” with them. It was more that we were just going through the motions because we thought it would help.

I was fortunate that I had connected with some other moms who had lost their children. I met with them on an individual basis and that helped more than the groups we were attending. For a while this was enough.

After a few years it became clear that my own healing was progressing well. The urge to help others began to build. I wanted to be the mentor for others, show them that survival is possible.

All the while one of the biggest things that plagued me was how I would be able to keep Christian’s spirit alive. As long as I was living, he would be remembered. It had to be in a big way, though. That was one of his defining qualities – big in every way!

My husband and I knew we wanted to pay it forward because we had received so much love, generosity and help from others. To match this, we formed Love From Heaven – Christian Martinisi Memorial Fund. It’s a non-profit that supports families grieving a child. Our outreach is local and extends across the nation. Once I felt secure that I had formed something that would live up to Christian’s ability to spread light, I was able to turn to my individual goals.

My journey led me to begin a grief group of my own. Then it led me to become a Certified Grief Coach. This met my desire to form a new purpose around my new identity. Helping others heal, sharing my story and being real about my life is my purpose.

As I continue to work on myself, I am learning and growing immensely. It’s the gift of grief. One that I would have never accepted if given the choice. Yet, it’s what I received. My grief is a lesson in the fact that we are all connected. In those connections is where healing lies. I am sure of it. There is not magic healing. It doesn’t happen quickly or easily. Over time, when we see ourselves in someone else, and we realize that we have the resilience too, is when we begin to heal. Love to Heaven…

Grieving Children and Emotional Dialogue

At the start of my grief journey tears would leak out of my eyes, sometimes without me being aware. Many days I would be driving with my two living sons, then 4 and 2, and a song would play on the radio, or a beautiful sight would greet my eyes or a memory would float across in my mind. It was impossible to hold in the emotion. The question, “Mommy, why are you crying?” transformed into an early teaching opportunity on emotions.

It was not one that I had ever planned to teach my boys. Sure, they had seen me express emotions, but these were intense emotions. Children can sense and feel the intensity. It was obvious to me that I needed to address my tears, and the intensity of my emotions, with these two precious beings who were thrust on this unwanted journey with me. Since they were so young, we were together almost always, meaning that they felt my intense emotions almost always.

A photo of my two boys loving on each other. Thank God they have each other.

There was a certain anecdote that I read shortly after losing Christian. If I were ever able to remember where I read it, I would find the author and thank her a million times over, because it shaped how I handled grieving around my children.

The author was a grieving mother and she detailed the lengths to which she went to hide her intense emotions whenever her living child was around. She felt that shielding her would save her from seeing her mother in pain. One day when the child wanted to do something and the mother denied her because she was afraid that it would put her in a harmful situation, the child looked up at her mother, with large eyes and said something to the effect of,

You never cry about my sister who died, so I didn’t think it would upset you if something happened to me.

All this time the mother had assumed that she was sheltering her, but instead her daughter had interpreted her hidden emotions as apathy. Not only did this affect the way she viewed her mother, as a mother, but it also must have affected her own grieving process. She received the message that it was not safe to express her own emotions. She learned that when something bad happens, we just stuff it down and shut down.

That story has given me the permission and encouraged me to be open about ALL my emotions with my children. When they asked in the car why I was crying, I was honest and said because I miss Christian. When I gather them in a hug, now and then, I tell them how grateful I am to be their mom. Upon the arrival of milestones in each of their lives, it is not uncommon for them to see me shed a tear or many, as well as congratulate, celebrate and express my happiness for them. They are no stranger to seeing their mom experience a variety of emotions over a short period of time.

Isn’t this life though? So often a child is crying and we attempt to distract them from the thing that made them cry. It makes it easier on us as parents, at that time. What if I told you that it made it harder on the child as he grew up? Why are we taught at a young age to distract our feelings away?

It has made us into a society that is uncomfortable with messy feelings. The earlier our children learn that we must acknowledge and feel all feelings, the more equipped they will be to handle life. The more resilient they will be.

A great way to do that is to model it. Let them see that you have “blue” days and frustrating moments. Let them hear that you achieved a goal that you were working toward and you feel proud. Show them that there are a gamut of emotions and we all feel them at some point. The strength lies in feeling them.

The more we normalize and are open about our own emotions, the more encouraged they will be to share theirs. No one escapes this life pain free. Let’s help our children learn how to move through that pain and not disassociate from it. Let them know you see them and you are attuned to their emotions. Let them know you are a safe place and you will help them work through their emotions.

This has helped my living, grieving boys work through some really big feelings. It has helped them to learn that they can feel horrible in the morning, but things can turn around in the afternoon. Even more importantly if an event is traumatic and shakes them to their core, they can learn to work through it and rebuild. This is where strength lies. Love to Heaven…

Grieving, With Love

In the early days of my grief journey I was certain that there was no possibility of living the rest of my life without my child. I was only 35 years old when he died. Assuming, which of course no one knows, that I would live until at least 75 I had no less than 40 years of my life to live with the pain.

Unknowingly I was doing one of the worst things possible. My vision stretched 40 years out. Quite ironic considering it was difficult to get through one hour at a time in my journey. Sometimes I had to break my day into 5 minute intervals. I would think to myself, “Okay, I made it through those 5 minutes, I can make it through the next 5 minutes”. My therapist would always say, “Just concentrate on doing the next right thing”. It sounded simple but there were moments when I didn’t even know what that was!

If you are a newly bereaved person this means; breathe, get a glass of water, eat something, take a shower, take a nap. We are thinking basic here. You are in survival mode. It is all you can expect of yourself to be hydrated, fed, rested and clean. If you accomplish all of those in one day, good for you! To expect anything more is too much after your life has just been shattered.

This brings me to my next point of self expectations and judgment. It is so easy to be hard on oneself and judge “progress”. It is also extremely detrimental to any sort of positive mindset. I am going to take the pressure off right now. There is almost nothing you can do within the first six months of child loss that will make any difference in your mood for an extended period of time. This, at least, was what I experienced. In no way does this mean you should just give up and accept depression and hopelessness. When you have moments of relief, be grateful. Talk to your angel and tell them how much those moments mean to you or merely do your best to recognize them for yourself.

As a society we are always thinking back to “what worked”. Well grief, and emotions in general, don’t know that they are supposed to follow a script. They aren’t aware of the “do this and get that result” phenomenon. Accept that early on, and just keep trying different things that offer any sort of relief. I tried anything and everything because I was so desperate for a few minutes away from the harsh reality of my life.

Journal about what brings comfort or a sense of escape, and even what doesn’t. This will help you create what I call a Toolbox of Hope. The purpose of collecting all these ideas in one place is not to judge or assess your experiences, but to remember. Grief brain is a real thing.

As a grieving mom I was anxious to have moments of relief, but also scared. If I allowed myself relief did I love and miss Christian any less? Quickly it became evident that nothing would change the amount I love and miss Christian. Yet, it took time for that fear to fade and for me to assimilate to this new life. Like a baby learning to walk, I knew walking meant falling down and sometimes pain, but not trying to walk would mean I could never get to any other place. Slowly a balance was learned. It was much slower than a baby learns to walk!

Time is a large factor in grieving. It won’t wipe out the pain of losing your child, but it will change your relationship to it. While attending a virtual Compassionate Friends seminar last night, one of the speakers said something that resounded with me. He said,

“You can grieve in time with more love than pain” – David Kessler

This is a perfect vision of what my grief has transformed into. I am six years living on this Earth without my firstborn child and I will never stop grieving him. Even after 36, 46, however many years longer I live, I will always grieve him. These days though I am able to feel more love than pain. It is a balancing scale of sorts. Most days my scale tips toward grieving with love, but some days it switches to pain. This is a vast difference from my early grieving days, when it seemed like it was permanently tipped towards pain.

This sounds completely impossible if you are new to grief. I know that. You don’t have to accept it or even believe it right now, but try to keep it in the back of your head as a possibility. Let it shine as a ray of hope.

Wherever you are in your grief journey, know you are not alone. It is okay to feel sad. We are, in fact, on a sad journey. Just know that one day joy will begin to appear again. Sadness and joy will coexist. You will be able to move toward grieving more with love than pain. Love to Heaven…

Journaling For Reflection

It’s the end of January and the new year is almost one month underway. The uncertainty of the world is definitely affecting my mindset.

I am no stranger to uncertainty. I experienced grave periods of deep, dark uncertainty after losing Christian. Grief teaches us that nothing is forever. That includes the good and bad.

When uncertainty strikes in my external world, it helps me to turn inwards and examine what changes I want to make. Since March 2020 I have been wearing more hats than usual, like most of us. In 2021 I aim to streamline my life as much as possible. To begin, I am organizing every area in my daily space.

Yesterday I began clearing off my desk. As I did, my vision board came into full view. It’s always somewhere on my desk but not always in full view. Not exactly how a vision board should be displayed, I know. Anyhow, I looked at it, examined it. I was curious to take in what all of those words and images meant to me a year ago. As I studied the large display, the words and images no longer spoke to me. This was a surprise.

My aspirations haven’t changed. They continue to revolve around the central idea of becoming a more spiritual person and helping others. The means in which I aim to go about it have shifted. With my focus pinned on the same outcome, it was interesting to see how my path, or my desired path, had changed.

In my urgency to get to where I am going I rarely look back at the journey I travelled. This is not necessarily the best practice. I am one of those people that looks at the “finished product” without always recognizing the blood, sweat and tears that go into it.

At the start of my grief journey, I remember a friend passing on some advice from a family member who lost a child. She said I should journal often, and not forget to reflect. Her reasoning was because it helps to see how the journey unfolds. There is so much wisdom in this advice. Oftentimes when we are stuck in the doldrums of grief we cannot recognize how much our outlook, emotions and thoughts have changed.

Change is scary in the grieving process. If we move toward healing, are we moving away from our loved one? Are we failing to remember or honor or properly grieve him or her? Such a scary thought! Through journaling we can see how our thoughts and emotions change and shift, but never at the expense of love. Healing doesn’t mean we forget or we move on. It means we learn how to live with our loved one in our life a different way.

One of the most amazing discoveries I have made since Christian ran ahead to Heaven is that we still have a relationship! It is not a figment of my imagination or generated simply from my hoping. It is a true relationship. Through my journaling and even quick note taking in this book I am able to see the development of my relationship with Christian. It illustrates his love for me and our everlasting connection. The continuing connection and relationship offers me hope. On days when our connection is not as strong, I am able to look back and see that he is always with me.

Whether you document your change, growth and healing in writing, art or any other way you feel drawn to, you will reap the benefits. It is hard to feel like we are making progress sometimes. That, alone, can contribute to feeling devoid of hope. When we look back and see how we have changed, a breath of fresh air fills us with the hope we have been missing.

Grief Personifiied

My name is grief and I am here to stay in your life. For better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health I will be with you. You have become my bride in this arranged marriage. I won’t be the best husband. I admit that right now, but I will always stick by you.

At times I will reveal my fierce, raging side, selfishly pulling you under and taking you to the darkest places. You will feel overwhelmed and overtaken by me. The negativity that will infiltrate you will be thick and black as poisonous sludge. It will fill every cell of your being. Worst of all it will overtake your mind, allowing me access to your thoughts. When these thoughts are audible in your heart, the pain will be unbearable. You will wish, hope, pray and beg to go back to the time when my round face and angry eyebrows were not known to you. Just when you cannot take another moment of it, and think you’re life will surely end as a result from the eternal despair, I will drain away from you.

Please don’t hate me because there is another side to me. I’m also soft and tender. I’m a thin veil of memories, a slip of string that connects me to your beautiful angel son. There are times I quietly descend upon you in a cloud of love. I slip across your shoulders as soft and smooth as a silk scarf. You can feel my presence and joy at the same time. I whisper a memory in your ear and a smile lights up your face. You hear Christian saying, “mommy”. You see him at the pumpkin patch in his blue and white striped overalls. You feel his thick hair running though your fingers.

You will never leave me and I will never leave you. You didn’t choose me as your lifetime companion but forever I will be.

New Normal For Grief and Virus

So here we are, however many days into this quarantine and I’m exhausted, cranky and feeling completely out of sorts. Comparatively, my situation is not nearly as tough as others, especially First Responders and the medical personnel. That said, I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast from March 27th and she specifically addresses the dangers of comparative suffering. We feel what we feel and are entitled to it. We can be aware that others have it worse than us and still feel lousy about where we are. That sounds a bit arrogant. I don’t mean it that way at all. Rather, we can’t design how our feelings will surface. I strongly suggest you listen to the podcast. The episode sheds light on the emotional ramifications of the current situation we are all facing.

At the start of the aforementioned episode Brown makes the point that adrenaline has carried us to where we are now, but it is starting to fade. Immediately my head began to shake in agreement with her. As I listened to her calm voice reach me through my earbuds I passed the sleepy homes in my neighborhood. At the start of this quarantine people emerged discussing COVID-19 in shocked tones, yet there was a glint in their eye. It was all so unprecedented. We were living through history. A month later the novelty has worn off.

Adrenaline and shock are amazing tools that help get us through initial periods of trauma. I can attest to that as a bereaved mother. There comes a time, however when the strength of these aids wear off and the truth sets in. Brown said, “We are standing at the gaping mouth of normal and we are feeling swallowed”. I swam in the belly of the beast of abnormalcy. Striving to find some way to survive in an unfamiliar atmosphere is not easy. You can try to climb the walls of the belly to exit the same way you entered, but quickly you will learn that the means of escape is just too slippery. There is no way to go out the same way you came in. Everything has changed.

We are here as a collective group right now. We are floating in the belly of the beast looking to get back to where we once were. Slowly, it is becoming apparent that we will forever be changed. We will never go back to exactly where we were. It is also apparent that we must endure the jostling, sinking and floating that we are subjected to while we are in the belly. We must feel the emotions that arise and go along for the ride. We can only control personal coping tools in dealing with the situation.

Our society is now faced with the task of creating a “new normal, while we grieve the loss of normal at the same time”. Yesterday, my family set out to investigate a new hiking trail together. On our drive to the trailhead, the smooth road led us to an adventure that we had never embarked upon before. I couldn’t help but think of how the conversation would be different in the backseat if Christian was still here. For certain, Nicky would have been relegated to the center seat since he was the youngest. My guess is that sibling disagreements would also play out differently. In real time it is one against one. If things were as we had imagined them to be, disagreements would likely be two against one sometimes. The subject matter of their arguments would also be somewhat different as an older sibling changes the dynamics in many ways. Creating new normal and grieving normalcy is a common aspect of my family’s life.

Every day since August 28, 2014 we have continued to live a new normal. Sure, we have been living a version of it for over five years, but in some respects it will always be new. It will never be as we imagined. COVID-19 may have a similar effect on society. No one could have imagined having to shelter in place. The pandemic that we are facing is so extreme that the likes of it date back to the beginning flu outbreak. One day this will be a distant memory, a right of passage for some. Here is where it differs from child loss. The farther we get from the losing Christian, the farther we get from the last time we saw him. He becomes a more and more distant memory. Bereaved parents continue to grieve normal long after we develop the new normal.

When the quarantine is lifted, it is likely that society as a whole will be changed. It is difficult to imagine after all this time, and the restrictions that were imposed, to not emerge more grateful for daily activity. As these days of quarantine fade into distant memory try to hold on to the lessons they are teaching us. Each and every day our loved ones are healthy and safe is a blessing. Each and every day we are able to engage in “normal” daily activities is a blessing. It is easy to lose sight of these things when life is running smoothly. Not every day will be perfect but my hopes are that we will be able to keep these blessings in the forefront of our minds and hearts. Love to Heaven…

Support Is Crucial

Sometimes it takes seeing someone as we were to realize how much we have changed. Let me explain.

I recently met a mother who lost her child two months ago. Let’s call her Nancy. She found me through a mutual friend who knew of my story.

Nancy is raw. Only two months have passed and she is in a place where hope is no where to be found. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to think. It hurts to live.

Shock has infiltrated every cell of her being but nothing is worse than the pain. It invades like an army claiming its territory. The physicality of it is debilitating.

I take the liberty of speaking on Nancy’s behalf because she has shared these emotions with me. Furthermore, these emotions mirror who I was as a newly bereaved mom. She is who I was.

Many of her emotions and experiences are who newly bereaved moms are in general. As she shared with our grief group what her daily life looks like, we all uttered phrases like, “Remember that?” and “The same thing happened to me”.

None of our stories are exactly the same but there are common threads in all of our experiences. Just as there are commonalities in mothering children, there are commonalities in grieving children.

Each of us finds different aspects of grief harder to deal with than others. No one was able to understand the physical severance Nancy felt when her daughter left her. It was so strong that it caused her to faint. After she spoke to other grieving moms she was validated that grief, is in fact, extremely physical.

Over time, physical symptoms do not completely disappear but they appear less frequently. Time stretches farther between each debilitating episode. I never believed that it would be that way for me. The heartbreak was so eviscerating that I was blinded to how my heart, lungs and body would ever function again.

Eventually our grief leads us back to active mothering and connection. We build and experience a new relationship with our child. Our means of communication change. Our expressions of love change. Our connections change, but the love never does. It continues to be given and received by both mother and angel. When we reach this part of our journey, the pain eases a bit more. We are assured that our angels are still present. It truly helps in finding ways to carry the pain. The “new normal” sharpens into focus.

My journey has taken me to places that are a distance away from where Nancy is today, but I walked in her shoes. My feet covered the ground she is walking. No one can walk that ground for us but they can walk it with us. Joining together, holding space for each other’s pain and speaking about the commonalities we all share can help us, no matter what we are goin through. Love to Heaven….

Photo Credit: Ron Chapple

Pitched Grief

I opened my eyes this morning, greeted by the bittersweet emotion that accompanies an angel dream. Recently I have been having more dreams with Christian in them. He is not the focus but a presence.

In this dream he was both. He was peering through a chain link fence at a baseball field. As he watched a boy hit balls lofted to him from a pitching machine, he had a look of sadness on his face. When I asked him what was wrong, he said nothing was wrong but he wanted to have a turn to hit the ball from the machine. My heart cracked, as it does each time I am reminded of things he will never get to do. He never did hit a ball that way.

At some point during all of this interaction a voice said, “He is unhappy on Earth because he is not fulfilling his purpose”. Well, maybe not those exact words but something to that effect. The inference was that his higher purpose and strongest, most meaningful affect is achieved as an angel.

It got me thinking. Is this really true? Or is this just something those who are grieving tell themselves to feel better?

You may have noticed that my writing has become sporadic. Where I was once in a spiritual growth period, I am now feeling stunted. My path is unsure. My purpose for this life is not clear.

Perhaps it is because I am dipping a toe into the acceptance pond. Five years have passed and that little boy who I imagined I would watch grow is truly gone from Earth.

The world keeps turning. Time marches on. It is a blessing to know that he is not forgotten. So many amazing people reach out to me and tell me the ways in which he affected and continue to affect their lives. Time marches on.

This is a cruel reality. Two boys growing up without their oldest brother. A mother and father left to watch as others morph into the type of person their son might have been. A life full of questions about who Christian would be if he were still alive.

The acceptance of this reality pulses through me in a different way than it once did. When we first lost him breathing was painful. With time that eased and I found a way to breathe but it was not as easy a as it once was.

Waves of grief would wash over me and my breath once again stolen. This still happens but not as frequently.

The dull ache that pulses through me now is constant. It allows me to live my life, function and make new memories with my family. It allows me to feel Christian’s presence.

Acceptance is a necessary stage of grief and reality, but it is also sobering in a way that none of the other stages have been.

And so, here we are peering through the chain link fence wishing, as a family, we could hit that ball from the machine. We will never get that chance. Just as Christian missed out on the opportunity to do so many things, so did we. We are merely spectators as other families experience things wholly and whack those balls out of the park. Love to Heaven…

Six Years A Boy, Five Years An Angel

It has been months since I last sat at my computer and wrote. There is not one simple explanation as to why that is. Today marks five years since Christian ran ahead to Heaven. These last few months feel as though I am wading through murky waters.

Although I know in my heart that Christian is always present, and I continue to receive signs from him, the comfort that this used to provide me seems to have become clouded. Where my life’s purpose of helping others post child loss was confirmed almost daily, it now seems to have completely become invalidated. The waves of grief have been crashing over me stronger and stronger. Their strength has robbed me of mine.

Recently while my boys were looking through old videos they found one of Christian from his fifth birthday. The backdrop was our cozy living room. Christian bounced up and down excitedly as he proudly declared that he was five years old. Behind him stood a vibrant Christmas tree, decorated with glistening lights, well loved ornaments and primary colored balloons. In the middle of the tree was a “Happy Birthday” banner.

His fifth birthday was momentous for so many reasons. Five years is a significant passage of time. Christian’s birth set a series of changes into motion for our family. He made us parents, he became an older brother, then an oldest brother. Over those five years we had evolved into a family of five. My destiny as a mother of three boys had been fulfilled. While I would have loved to mother a girl, I couldn’t love my three boys any more.

Christian was our firstborn and this meant he pioneered the parenting road for us. His first smile, laugh and word made our hearts balloon so big we thought they would explode. Our love for him grew each day. He also taught us the necessity of discipline. His mischievous personality produced tears, sleepness nights and uncontrollable worries, not to be outweighed by the love though.

The day he turned five we gave him a huge birthday card, which he opened half naked while standing on the dining room table. If that isn’t an image I don’t know what is! That was him though. He did everything full of love, life and passion. He had an amazing sense of humor and loved to be silly. When he was happy, it was 100% and when he was mad it was 100%. He continues this trend as an angel. His love comes through 100% and them some. His presence is so strong that people who didn’t even know him have felt him.

I will never know why we were chosen to be Christian’s parents. It is a gift that we were able to enjoy for far too short of a time. There is never a day that goes by when I don’t think of him. Never a day goes by when I don’t miss him and never a day goes by when I don’t say his name. This pain and heartbreak is a part of me. This grief has taught me just how happiness and deep, dark pain can exist alongside each other.

He is missed beyond measure. I am still not sure how I will go on living the rest of my life, each day without Christian. He is a special light. Tomorrow will be 5 years and 1 day and the pain will still be there. I will continue on, all the while knowing that the hole in my heart will never heal. I will also know as my son Anthony said, “You still have us, mom”. I will thank God that I have Anthony and Nicky. That is what I can do, Thank God for my living angels and remember, love and honor Christian. Love to Heaven…