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!

Get It Done!

I am really good at procrastinating about some things. When I have a list of emotionally difficult tasks to complete, I tend to let them pile up and knock them out all at once. Today I feel like I am standing on a mountain, waving a victory flag! My list of emotionally charged tasks is complete, for now. My mountain imagery is a bit dramatic, but some of these tasks have been lingering for over three years. They have caused me sleepless nights, wracked me with guilt and led to negative thoughts. Today I feel accomplished. The tasks are not fully complete yet, but the ball is no longer in my court!

Why have I procrastinated for so long? Well some of these tasks being completed makes losing Christian even more real. Sure, it’s been more than three years if reality, but certain things confirm the finality of loss. Some other tasks required photos to be reviewed and words written about my angel. Again, causing me to confront a time in my life when all of my children lived with me on Earth is extremely difficult.

The amount of relief I feel after completing these tasks is actually surprising. It was weighing me down even more than I realized. The outcome is still the same. Christian is gone forever. Now, however, I am relieved of a small amount of parental guilt. We all feel better when we are relieved of any guilt!

So, my PSA today is to stop procrastinating! Maybe you need to schedule in your hard tasks, maybe you need to get a friend to nudge you or maybe you need to get a new to-do pad. I forgot I did that this weekend. Who knows if that is what inspired me? Whatever it is, get to it and stop stressing it, says the woman who procrastinated completing a task for three years! Another lesson learned. Love to heaven…

How to Survive A Bear

Living in my mind is a big bear. He appears to be cute and friendly, so he is appealing. When I get closer to him, however, the truth is revealed. He is extremely dangerous. If I engage with him, his presence will most certainly be a block along my path. I cannot react based on my fear. It has the potential to destroy me. If I can remain in the moment and be clear headed and calm, my chances of him backing away are greater. Learning these tactics seem straight forward and simple. Employing these tactics when emotions, especially fear, is running high is a whole different story.

Some people call the bear in their mind their demons, some call it resistance, some simply call it their mind. For me, I have newly discovered the concept of the bear. The visual helps me to remember what to do when I know he is trying to run the show. My ability to remain in the moment and clear headed is what fighting looks like for me. If I try to “fight” him off, it becomes even more of a struggle. One of my favorite quotes is, “What you resist, persists.” Showing him resistance means he will be there longer, trying to dominate my actions. Leaving him be means he will leave me be to be me! It means not listening to him when he tells me I can’t or I’m too tired or too (fill in any negative adjective).  Being me means doing, not trying, to be my best. It means accomplishing my goals. It means being the best version of myself. It means finding success!

When the bear appears on my path I have to remind myself of my goals and of my whys. If I am able to follow the steps outlined above, I can survive the bear. He simply moseys on away and I go about walking my path. It frees me up to be the best I can be. If I engage with the bear and attempt to fight him, allowing my emotions to make my decisions, he knocks me down. I always get back up but not without bruises. Dealing with grief and the bear has altered my encounters with him. He has always tried to control my journey. He has always showed up just when things seemed to be going really well. Its just that in the past I had more reserves to remain calm and clear headed. It has become more difficult since losing Christian. I am learning how to deal with grief and the bear in my life. The bear will never go away. Learning how to control my reactions to seeing and hearing the bear is the best way to stay sane on my journey. It may even make him appear less frequently, allowing my journey to be smoother and allowing me to reach my goal with less difficulties. These lessons are said to be gifts of grief. Love to heaven…

When Heaven is Where Your Brother Lives

As a mother of one, I was terrified to add another child to the mix. How could I do this to Christian? What if I didn’t have enough love for both children? How would I handle those times when both of them needed me at the same time? These are all questions that ran through my mind. Very common questions and thoughts. All were answered as soon as my second son entered the world. I had just given Christian one of the best gifts, a younger brother. From personal experience, I knew what a gift this was. Having a sibling means having someone to play with, someone to learn from, someone to share with. Sure, there would be a learning curve, but eventually he would thank me for this other being who would wholly understand the idiosyncrasies of our family, like no one else.

That time did not arrive as quickly as I had hoped! The learning curve and adjustment took some time. Quite honestly, it was probably more difficult for me than him. When the time came however, that he and Anthony were able to play together, they melted my heart. There was a lot of fighting. I am not going to sugar coat that. There were also a ton of laughs. The two of them together would sing silly songs, dance around, play with cars, build blocks; all the normal things that brothers do. As a parent, seeing two beings who you love more than anything, love and enjoy each other, makes your heart sing.

Then, when Anthony was one, we found out there would be yet another little person added to our family. Surprise and fear are just two words I will use to describe our emotions at that time. After getting over the surprise, excitement also set in. We knew that baby number three would complete our family. We were overjoyed when Nicky made us a family of five, no one more than Christian. Anthony had just turned two, but Christian, at the age of five really loved Nicky. He was the first person to make him laugh, he loved helping me take care of him and he loved being an older brother to two younger siblings. With three boys under five, I was completely overwhelmed. We added a move into that equation when Nicky was eight months old and I was spent! The boys, however, rolled with it all. They grew closer and closer. When Christian went off to Kindergarten, Anthony would say immediately after he left, “I miss Christian.” Life was fast paced, demanding, crazy and exhausting.

Fast forward to today, where my two boys are five and seven. Life is fast paced, demanding, crazy and exhausting. That love and admiration between all three brothers remains. Added into the equation is the sadness of their oldest brother not being here physically. It is a harrowing experience to try to explain to a five and seven year old where their brother is, why he is not here, when they will see him again and that most people don’t enter heaven that young. Children simply do not process things the way we do, which was a positive aspect of them being so young when we lost Christian. As they grow however, and their brains mature, so does their level of understanding.

Anthony, who is seven, seems to be entering a deeper level of understanding. A few different things have happened lately, leading me to this conclusion. Just yesterday, while playing at a nature park with friends, he broke down in tears. At this park there is a beautiful memorial to Christian. It is a tree with three bird houses, one for each of my boys. Under it is a rock with Christian’s name inscribed on it. Anthony was sitting on the rock, sobbing. When I reached him he verbalized that each time he sees something that reminds him of his brother or hears someone talking about his brother, it makes him want to cry. Heart breaking, simply heart breaking. A child at the young age of seven should not have to deal with the depth and meaning of the emotions surrounding such a tragedy. This is his journey, though. Through my own journey I have learned that there is nothing I can do to change that. He needs to walk his own path. Certainly I can, and do, guide him. I encourage him to feel his feelings and share. As a family, we talk about Christian openly and often. Yet, no one truly knows how Anthony feels, other than children in his position.

It is downright terrifying to know that as much as I want to take this pain away from him, I cannot. My mother has voiced this same sentiment to me about my own journey and pain. All I can do is let Anthony know that he will never be alone on his journey. He will always have his family walking beside him. I can also give him the tools to get through his pain. No one escapes the world without pain. My hope for him is that learning how to use these tools at a young age will make him that much stronger. He needs to know we are a family of fighters. We are a family of strength. We are a family of love. If nothing else, my hope is that he learns this. Child loss is an ongoing barrage of emotions, especially for the family. I must arm my children with the tools to walk on their journey through their pain. Along with their angel, I will never let them walk alone. Love to heaven…

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!!