The Unexpected Birthday

I really struggled with a topic for this post today. My piece about trauma therapy is not complete so I couldn’t post that. Usually I write about what is happening in real time. If there is nothing of interest, I ask Christian to put in my heart what he would like me to write about. If that doesn’t work, I just sit and write. None of those helped me this time. After much procrastination I looked on Pinterest for a writing prompt. I chose this one: Revisit a special birthday from when you were younger. ‘Tis the season. My boys were born in October, November and December. With the birthday season coming up in my house, I thought it would be fun to reminisce about my own birthday.

I am a November baby. Most years snow does not grace the ground until my birthday has passed. One particular year my parents planned a bowling party for me. My nine year old friends and I were all set to bowl like champs. As the day approached forecasters were calling for quite a storm. Who ever believes the forecast though? Well, that particular year we should have. A serious snowstorm rolled right in and ruined my bowling birthday party. I was devastated. My mom offered me a sledding party since our driveway was a giant hill. I reluctantly agreed. My dad drove around and picked up friends who lived close. I was disappointed in the change in plans but layered up so I would be warm outside.

Friends began arriving, courtesy of my dad, and we all stood around awkwardly in the beginning. It is unclear who took the first spin down the hill. Quite frankly it could have been my mom. You know how moms do that thing (I am guilty of it now too) where we say, look how fun this is! Watch me! Most of the time it goes awry. This time however, my mom’s attempt to fix my ninth birthday quickly revealed itself as a success. As more and more girls began gliding down the hill, an icier path formed. There is nothing more fun than flying down a hill on sheet of ice. It sounds like now would be the time when someone would go flying off their sled and get injured, but that did not happen! We continued to sled down the hill all afternoon, shrieking with glee as little girls do. We stopped only for hot chocolate breaks and birthday cake. It is the birthday party that we still talk about today.

Memories sown together form the quilt of comfort from our childhood. This memory definitely occupies a square in my quilt. As a mother, I often wonder which memories will be ones that stick with my children? Without a doubt some of them will be unexpected.

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…

Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination

I planned to post a piece about trauma therapy today but then a nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award came across my desk. I thought that was a worthy diversion of topic!

Thanks to Afiyah, I am getting a chance to draw attention to her blog, When Life Awakens, as well as my own. You can find my favorite post from When Life Awakens here. In this piece she writes about how having a beginner’s mindset sometimes prolongs motivation.

It’s just about having the mindset of a beginner. That involves having a fluid mindset, of knowing that you don’t everything there is to know, that there’s always something new to learn. It’s the idea of wanting to improve to reach a higher level of success but to keep the enthusiasm alive.Afiyah, When Life Awakens

I have been struggling with the momentum of my own life moving forward lately. It seems as though I’ve hit a roadblock. My motivation is dipping and although I have a goal in mind, I tend to get in my own way. Returning to the mindset of a beginner may just be what I need to get past my block!

And now for the answers to Afiyah’s questions for me:

1. What’s your favourite childhood memory?

This would have to be Christmas Eve at my grandparents house each year. It was the one holiday everyone on my maternal side spent together every year. We would all arrive, presents in tow. The gifts would be stacked up high under the tree. We would spend hours in their dining room at a table that seated at least 25. Plate after plate of food was passed around while tales of Christmases past were told. Laughter and jovial voices boomed. Excitement buzzed in the air. It was a night that always radiated love.

2. What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited?

Belgium, specifically Bruges, is one of my favorite places I have ever visited. It has been many years since I have been there but the architecture, scenery and I am not going lie – waffles and beer – make it one of my very favorite places.  

3. What’s your favourite season and why?

My favorite season is summer. The best part of summer is how everyone seems to exhale a deep breath and just relax. Days are longer and more conducive to spending time with family and friends. The relaxed nature of the season is a welcome change.

4. Who do you look up to?

There are many people I look up to. My husband is one of them. Every day he walks this difficult path with me. I know it is not easy for either of us but he continues on. We don’t always agree but I never doubt his love for me.

My mom is definitely another person. I love how strong willed and feisty she is. She is loyal to a fault and loves her children (my sister and myself) immensely.

There are other people as well – my sister, my dad, my in-laws, my friends (so many for so many reasons). Too many to list! I am grateful for that. Oh, my children too!! I look up to my boys. They have shown resilience and unconditional love.

5. If you could change one thing in your life right now, what would you change?

This one is easy. I think the answer will remain the same for the rest of my life. I would bring Christian back to life.

And now for the nominees!

I nominate Melanie, thelifeididn’tchoose and Christy B., When Women Inspire.

The Rules:

• Thank the blogger who nominated you and link their blog.

• Answer the questions the blogger who nominated you provided (11 maximum).

• Nominate new bloggers and make up to 11 questions for them to answer.

• List the rules and have the Sunshine Blogger logo present in your post.

Here are my questions:

  1. What is the motivation behind your blog?
  2. What do you do to improve your mood when your motivation slips?
  3. Who is the biggest support in your life?
  4. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  5. What is something you do every day?

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…

Angel of Light

Most of my blog posts revolve around the loss of my son, Christian. His death changed my life in an instant. Unfortunately shortly thereafter another person, who I held close to my heart, passed away. Two months to the day after we lost Christian our family suffered another great loss. Some of you remember it, some of you have heard me talk about it and some of you may just be learning about it. I don’t write about her often, but we lost my cousin Tonia on October 28th, 2014.

Her death was also a shock. She learned that she was sick only days before Christian passed away. This did not stop her from immediately rushing to our side when she heard the tragic news. Never once did she let on to me that she was in pain. In fact she went with me to the funeral home to make arrangements and discuss Christian’s headstone. Only now I know how terrifying that must have been for her knowing that she was very likely close to her own death.

Like Christian, Tonia was one of the most beautiful people I knew. She had the ability to light up the room with her smile. She always thought of others and her laugh is a sound I will never forget. She and I were ten years apart and I idolized her. When we were younger I would follow her and her friends around. It is easy to see why I was so drawn to her. She has beautiful energy, a glowing soul and is pure love.

On Christmas Eve 2013, our last Christmas with Christian and Tonia, I can remember thinking that we should really make an effort to get a family photo. This was the one holiday each year we were all together. We never got that photo. I thought, oh, we will get it next year. It haunts me each Christmas since.

During her final days Tonia promised me she would be with Christian and take care of him in heaven. She also told us that she and Christian would make themselves known during the holidays. They did. Our family needed that. Two losses in a matter of two months has forever changed my extended family.

Since losing Christian and Tonia they have both visited me in my dreams. They make their energy known to me. Tonia is always happy and radiating beauty whenever I see her in my dreams. I know this is her way to tell me they are okay and together. I miss her tremendously. There are many times I hear something funny and it feels as though she is with me, laughing right alongside me. It seems unfair that my aunt and uncle belong to the same club my husband and I do. It seems unfair that two people who brought such joy into others lives are no longer with us. We learn early on that life is not fair but these kind of losses are true depictions of the saying.

I am so grateful to have known and loved Tonia. She definitely shaped my life. Her legacy lives on. All who knew her loved her. She was a true example of just what the world needs more of; kindness, love, warmth, smiles, laughter and light. 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…