Laughing in The Face of Grief

I laughed a lot in the days after my son passed away. I cried a lot too, but the unexpected reaction of laughter in the beginning is what I remember the most. It is not something I would have expected from myself. Reactions to grief can take you quite by surprise. Laughter has always been a defense mechanism for me. It happens when I am happy, nervous and now I can add in shock and grieving to that list.

Mainly, my memories of the days after Christian passed consist of me in my parents dining room, surrounded by all of my friends and family. We spent hours sifting through pictures of my son to have at the wake. Being the first child, there are pictures of him doing EVERYTHING. Even one of his bare butt painted like a pumpkin when he was three. My mom still can’t believe I did that. Some of my laughter was connected to the pictures and stories about him. Most of it, though, was laughing at things that were happening in real time. You can’t believe some of the strangely funny things that happen when everyone is dealing with a tragedy like this. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of tears, from me and everyone else, but there was a lot of laughter too. The laughter ended pretty quickly when everyone had to go back to their own lives and I was left to face reality. To this day, I know I am never alone, but you know what I mean.

The funny thing is, no pun intended, that Christian loved to laugh too. Each time I see a medium they mention his fun loving, jokester attitude. His eye had this gleam of mischief and sparkle. His smile was bright as the sun and his laugh was contagious.  I loved to joke around with him. He always knew when I was kidding and called me out on it. There is only one time that I ever fooled him. It was shortly before the accident. We were getting ready to take him to camp. At the time my boys were six, three and one. You can imagine it was like a circus in the morning. I don’t remember the details, but on any given morning, this could have been the scenario. He would be getting dressed for camp, the three year old would be using the bathroom and calling for me to help, while the one year old would be screaming his head off. As I am rushing around to meet the needs of all of them, I only got myself half dressed. When Christian saw me his eyes widened with alarm. “Mom, what are you doing?? You don’t have any pants on”!! To my credit, I knew there were clean clothes in the laundry room downstairs. I couldn’t resist this joke though. “Christian, we have to leave NOW or we will be late. I can’t put pants on today. I will just have to go like this. No one will notice. I will stay in the car”, I said. Not only did his eyes widen again, but they popped out of his head, “You can’t do that!! All the kids will make fun of me. Mom, go put pants on”! We went on like this for a few minutes. I truly had him convinced that I thought it was okay to drop him off at camp with no pants on. My poor six year old’s fear of embarrassment was palpable. It was just so fun! I obviously put pants on, but I stood by the idea that I didn’t really NEED to wear them. It was the only time I actually pulled the wool over his eyes. My boys and I talk about it sometimes, because of course I also joke with them too. They don’t actually remember this, but they do find it hilarious.

True (not shock induced) humor and laughter took a long time to return in my life after losing my son. When it first made an appearance it was always attached to guilt. As time has gone on, this has changed. One of the best sounds and feelings in the world is true laughter. It feeds my soul. When I think of Christian, his smile and laughter always come to mind. Through this journey I am learning the truth behind joy and sadness existing alongside of each other. I believe that he is teaching me, every day, the beauty in pain. Cherish the moments of smiles and laughter and surround yourself with people who continue to feed this part of your soul. Love to heaven…

Disclaimer: The photo of the woman in the car is NOT me, but it is what I imagine I would look like if I had gone through with this prank. To really hit it home I would lean out of the car just enough to scare him!!

Surrounding Support

Yesterday I started to write this post. I published it by mistake before I finished it. I did eat a healthy breakfast and… it ended there. I was exhausted and feeling sad. I couldn’t, in good conscience, claim I followed through on my healthy habits.

This morning. I wrestled with myself. I woke up exhausted again but I followed through with my workout and have more energy than I did when I woke up! Now I feel validated to publish this post!

I hope everyone had a happy and blessed Easter. Our day was filled with egg hunts, excited children, family, love and blessings. I fell into bed last night! Unfortunately, my sleep has not been great lately. Last night was another night of twists and turns and nightmares. Honestly, after the night I had, I felt like today would just be a survival day not a “living” day. Until, I looked down at my phone.

There was an inspirational message from my trainer and good friend. She declared that, “Easter is about rebirth and new beginnings so what better time to recommit yourself… start with evaluating your why”.

In that moment, I knew I had to show up for myself today. Part of that meant starting the day with a healthy, well intentioned, breakfast. I could have come down and just eaten what I felt like. There are plenty of sweets left over from yesterday, despite most of them being given away. Instead, I relied on my normal routine breakfast so I didn’t have to think. In eating a breakfast I knew was healthy, I immediately began the day in a positive manner.

Support and routine habits are two of the most important tools for making changes. In my case, I am striving to continue on my healing path. These tools are not only helpful in my situation, however. These tools apply to all situations in which change is the desired outcome.

As a bereaved mother, support has looked different for me throughout my journey. In the beginning support was basic. I needed people to help me survive, help me take care of my boys, to let me know they were there to help me with anything. Shortly into the journey, support looked like coffee dates, lunches with friends and walks. It has evolved into many things. In addition to my friends who have been there since the beginning, my support now means having a trainer, who has become a dear friend and amazing support. It means having a workout partner, who is also a dear friend. It means attending therapy sessions each week. These people and actions keep me accountable. They keep me on track. They remind of why I am working hard on this journey. When I get too into my head, they call me out on it.

They also keep me in my routine. Some days I need their help more than others. When I am following my routine, it makes things that much easier. It takes thinking out of the equation. It’s Tuesday, so I go to workout class at 9. I’ve been doing this for over a year. I know if I go, I will feel better. I also know if I don’t go, my trainer will call me to see what happened. There are checks and balances in place for me. In the past, needing this much help would have felt weak. Now, I know what I need to be successful and I fully accept and embrace it. That doesn’t mean I don’t fall down. I do. It just means I get back up quicker. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you need. No one exists alone in this world. Love to heaven…


Okay, so I know I mentioned this before but, with Easter upon us the concept of resurrection is floating around in my mind again. When Christian passed away, I actually prayed to God repeatedly that he would be resurrected. It was so incredibly unbelievable to me that I lost a child. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. It wasn’t the life I had thought about or planned! If something so terrible could happen, then something unexpectedly positive could happen. In the twisted logic of a grieving mother, this meant that resurrection was possible. If child loss had become a part of my journey, then so could resurrection.

I was desperate. Anything to bring my boy back. You see, after losing him there was no way I could go on. Unfortunately, I knew people who had lost children prior to me. As everyone does, I thought, “I don’t know how they do it. I could never go on”. That belief was even stronger than the one that said, “This could never happen to me”. Surviving child loss was not something I would be capable of. I was sure of that. Those early days were, and still are, a complete blur. The years have passed and there are still days that remain a blur. Some days I don’t know how I am going on, living, and he isn’t. Yet, here I am, three and a half years later, still alive, a survivor of chid loss.

In the early days after the accident all I know is I ate, drank, tried to sleep and existed. Thankfully, there were plenty of people around to help take care of my children, my husband and myself. Our family, also stricken with shock and grief, found ways to help and take care of us. Friends were constantly calling, texting and stopping by. Community members who we knew and didn’t know, donated money and made meals for us through the New Year. The level of support was amazing. As a Catholic, my faith wavered greatly, other than my belief that my son may be resurrected! I can vividly remember my sister saying, “I believe these people are God. God is in the faces and hearts of these people right here”. Looking back, I see truth in that. At the time, there was no God to me because my son had been taken from me. Everything I once believed in was shaken. I was forced to find a reason to go on, something to live for.

My other two boys are my reason. They are my motivation and reason to continue. They need me and don’t deserve to lose their mother too. Their brother was not resurrected from the dead, but in a sense their mother was. After surviving a death of who I was, a new me was resurrected as a different mother. My resurrection was out of necessity. In order to go on, my beliefs had to change. In order to go on everything had to change. The glasses through which I saw my life and the world needed to be completely different. For me, this means daily work on my mind, body and soul. This was not part of who I was in the past. It is integral to who I am today. Surviving child loss also means reminding myself every day of my reason to go on. To all those survivors out there, survivors of anything, keep remembering your reason to survive. Love to heaven…

Electric Energy

If you have read the “about me” section you know that my story started with our house being struck by lightening, which ignited a fire. It obviously was not the source of my trauma, but it certainly adds a twist to my life story! As a result, our house was gutted and rebuilt. All peanuts compared to losing my beautiful son.

When our home was finally rebuilt, and we moved back in, we made some changes. One of those being where my youngest son would reside. He used to have the room closest to us, but with changes made to the layout upstairs, that no longer made sense. SO, we gave him Christian’s room. We consciously chose a fresh, green paint color which symbolized change. It was hard, but so important to fill the room with life again.

Nicky, our youngest, has filled the room with an enthusiastic, intense energy! Similar, yet different, than Christian’s. There is no doubt Christian has a hand in some of the mischief that occurs in that room. Nicky can hold his own in the mischief department too, though. Within those four walls Christian’s spirit is extremely present. The light in that room is the only one in the house that consistently flickers. We even had the electrician double check the connection to make sure everything looked good. I will often enter the room, flick on the light and it will start to blink. Sometimes this happens more frequently than others. Whenever the light does this, I say, “Hi, Christian”.

We don’t need the light flickering to feel Christian’s energy in our home. It is nice though. These signs and means of communication make me so happy. Yet, at the same time, so mad. Light communication is not how I want to be hearing from my son! Either way, I will take it, making the best of a sad thing. Our energy will never be parted. Love never dies; this I know for sure! Love to heaven…

Tethered Happiness

In my last post I wrote about the need to “jump in puddles” and find happiness in this journey. The point I did not address was the guilt that sometimes accompanies that happiness. As a mother to children who exist on Earth, and in heaven, it is quite tricky in more ways than one. This is especially true when it comes to my own happiness. It is easy for me to foster as much happiness as I can for my living children. They deserve it. When it comes to me, however, there is always something pulling me back. How can I experience joy when I am not able to be with all of my children?

All of my joyful experiences are tethered to the shadow of sadness that will never disappear. I can remember saying to my therapist after Christian passed away, “The possibility of having the best day of my life is done”. The craziest things go through your mind when you experience trauma. (I also begged God to resurrect Christian! Needless to say, it did not happen.) My therapist’s answer to my “best day realization” was, you will have another best day of this part of your life. You have a new normal now.

I’m sure some of you have heard the saying, “joy exists alongside the pain”. It does. There is no other way to experience joy as a grieving mother. The guilt is what I am left to contend with. It is impossible for me to ever go a day without thinking about my son. It is also impossible for me to never experience joy again. I promised myself that if I was going to continue this life after losing him, then I would live it. Life for me includes joy and sadness together. Knowing this in my brain does not prevent the guilt from surfacing in my heart. When I do feel that guilt bubble up however, I picture my son. He had the biggest, brightest, most loving smile. He hated to see others sad. That is why, in my heart, I know that I deserve to experience happiness. In honor of him I will make sure I experience happiness. That shadow of sadness will always be there. There will always be a piece of my heart missing. For the happiness he no longer experiences on Earth, I will be grateful for the chances I continue to have. Love to heaven…

Making Our Own Spring

Here I sit, in my favorite room of my house, cultivating my piece of peace. I am staring at my beautiful pitcher full of tulips, the soft shade of pink fading to blush. The vibrant green stems, reminding me of Spring. Outside, all around me, snow is falling madly from the sky. It feels like the Universe is saying, “We are not in the clear yet.” March is when we begin to think of Spring. We all relax a little. Conversations are peppered with the question, “Do you really think we will have more snow? Even if we do, it should melt quickly.”

No one can control the weather. We learn that so early on in our lives. I can remember one Fourth of July we were set to throw a large party. We always have a get together on the Fourth because it is my mother in law’s birthday. We were expecting a larger crowd than usual that year. Our house was a charming three bedroom home, but it could not accommodate this crowd. As rain poured down all around us, we had a great time, despite the weather. We made our own fun.

Our boys, now five and seven, still love when it rains. They find the joy in something that could ruin their playtime. Instead of being upset that it is not optimal weather to ride bikes in, they put on their rain boots and jump in puddles. This is very much a metaphor for my own life. My family and I have suffered a tragic event that could keep us from ever finding joy again. It would be so easy to take that path and dwell on the negative. My husband and I made a pact, however, that we would not do that. We promised that we would do everything in our power to find those puddles and allow out boys to jump in them. We even promised that we would jump with them.

It’s so easy to allow sadness and anxiety to run your life, in any case. I always say, “We all have something”. Everyone has experienced tough times. Some are more extenuating than others. We have suffered a nightmare. It is not always easy to be present and make new memories. If we don’t though, all we are left with is sadness. It wouldn’t be fair to our two beautiful boys who have already had more sadness in their few years than some people have in their whole lives. And so each day, we jump in the puddles. Sometimes we make a bigger splash than others, and sometimes those puddles include sadness. As long as we continue to fulfill our pact, our living boys will be able to experience happiness alongside sadness. As always, love to heaven…

Healing Potions From An Angel

IMG_0764Sometimes it is so evident that Christian’s energy is here, that it is palpable. I woke up this morning to my two boys playing with their science kit. When I say science kit, this includes water, goggles and food coloring. They assured me that Daddy said it was okay. (Daddy denied this!)

Mixing food coloring, potions and concoction making, as we used to call it, were some of Christian’s favorite activities. Just for your knowledge; potions are liquid and concoctions include spices and possibly food! This is not the first time my younger boys have played with the science kit, and I am sure it’s not the last. It is the first time that they fully set it up themselves, surely with the help of Christian’s energy. Watching them play this morning reminds me that he will never leave us. He lives on in all of us, always.  Love to heaven…

The End of An Era

Books, places, kids shows, movies, songs and even school projects all hold so many memories for me. All three of my boys attend/attended the same preschool and elementary school. Preschool routines are especially familiar to me. Since 2010 I have had a child in preschool. That’s eight years of sharing lunches at home, library visits, board games after school and TV time together. Of course things have changed over the years. Christian’s routine always included an after school nap. Anthony’s did for a while, and Nicky’s never really did. It’s the nature of three children! Nevertheless, the time spent with my preschoolers was, and is, so precious.

Just yesterday I needed to make an appointment for six months in the future. This brought us to September. Naturally, I made the appointment in the morning. That has been my routine as a mom of a preschooler. We always need to make the most of those free morning hours! When the receptionist asked me if 11:15 would work, I began to ask for an earlier appointment. With a child in preschool, my free time usually ended around 11:30. It was in that moment that reality came crashing down around me. I was no longer “tied down” to that schedule. Audibly, I gasped and accepted a strange look from the receptionist. I filled her in on the fact that 11:15 would be perfect because I had no little person depending on me to pick him up anymore. My heart sank. It has been more than 24 hours and I still cannot shake the feeling. It comes as no surprise that my youngest will be in Kindergarten next near. It also does not come as a surprise that it will be a huge adjustment for me.

Most moms have similar feelings when their youngest spreads their wings and flies off to Kindergarten. For me, my feelings are slightly more complicated, or at least I think they are. This is all I know. My youngest child going off to Kindergarten means I will no longer be a mother to a child who is actively living the same routine as my angel lived most of his life. Christian spent half of his life in preschool, maybe a little more. His preschool routine determined what I did the rest of the day. He was the oldest and so his routine truly dictated the rest of our routines. There will be no more midday visits to the park, unexpected pizza lunches just because, or midday Disney shows playing in the background.

With my youngest son finishing his last year in preschool, it is easy to make active comparisons between my angel’s life and my living children because he experienced many of the same things. I am painfully aware that once my youngest son completes Kindergarten, these similarities will no longer exist. The sadness, fear and anxiety that this leaves me feeling is daunting. I know it will be okay. My two younger sons will make their own experiences and memories, This is part of moving forward. It is why I fight so hard every day. My children deserve the same love and involvement from me that my angel had. It’s painful to recognize that my youngest son is getting close to surpassing my angel in age. Will memories still be as easy to recall? Will they be as relevant since my living children are not experiencing them anymore? Will he leave others’ minds and memories? It’s scary. Unfortunately, only time will tell. I know that I will never forget him or our beautiful memories. I also know what I need to do to move forward, with my family’s well being in mind. As I have learned these past three years, this is all I can control. Love to heaven always…