Ramblings and Gifts

It’s that time of year again when the air is filled with the magic of the holidays… and the sadness for some. I’m not alone in my struggles and I do not wish to put a damper on anyone who is not feeling sadness. However, I know that there are millions of other people out there struggling as well. Some for the same reason, some not. I don’t have any words of wisdom today. More a rambling of thoughts.

This was an exceptionally tough week. My cousin, Tonia, would have turned 50. It had me reflecting on her and a trip all of the females in my family took when she turned 40. The first thing that comes to mind are the laughs we all shared. We had a great time. It was a beautiful tribute to what the holidays represent to me – enjoying time with those you love. Tonia bought each of us an ornament to commemorate the trip. It will be bittersweet, as it is every Christmas, to place that ornament on my tree.

Last week was also an emotional week. My youngest son turned six. All of the “firsts” he is experiencing as a six year old were Christian’s “lasts”. To use a very intellectual term blah. Each time I think about that the tears spring to my eyes. He seems so little and yet Christian seemed so big when he was six. I found the list he wrote to Santa that year. Immediately my memory sparked. My bright, brown eyed boy wishing for the magic of Christmas to be bestowed upon him. His heart so young and pure. The excitement of the season buzzing all around. This year as his brothers write their Christmas lists, search for the elf and decorate the tree, Christian watches from above.

Grief is a spiral and sometimes it spirals back to an intensity level that can only be sustained for a short amount of time. When this happens I retreat back to survival mode. One of the most important things I did early on, in survival mode, was find one positive thing in each day. Yesterday while preparing lunches for my boys and running around, completing daily morning tasks, they were playing a game. It was a beautiful sight. They were playing and laughing. No one was whining or crying. Whoever was losing was not lamenting over it. They were enjoying their time together. It was a gift. It could have easily been missed by me in my frenzy. I’m sure sometimes I do overlook these moments. Yesterday I didn’t and it made my day. Wishing you all these beautiful gifts of the season and all year through. Love to heaven…

Emotional Ramifications of Song Lyrics

Music is a universal language. It can change one’s mood instantly. For some it is part of their daily self care repertoire. Both playing and listening to music have tremendous value and affect emotional states. Mona Lisa Chanda, PhD, found that music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013). The positive effect musics has on us is evident.

The power of music lies in its strength to influence. Society, especially young adults, tend to take the lyrics of songs and internalize them. If the lyrics are relatable and the artist identifies with feeling pain and persevering through, it is a positive influence for the listener.

The issue emerges when the lyrics are not so positive. Most recently the song, “Psycho” by Post Malone has reached the top of the charts. It is played multiple times a day. The tune is catchy and I often find myself singing along, until one certain line. Every time I hear the line, “Had so many bottles, gave ugly girl a sip”, I cringe. As a forty year old woman who has struggled with self confidence all my life, this line angers me. I have lived through enough to know that our appearances are not the most important thing in life. My concern is for the younger listeners.

Listeners with low self confidence and fragile egos are susceptible to being pulled down even further. To a young girl who struggles with body image, these words are damaging. If she is already hearing negative voices about her own appearance, she is very likely to internalize this. Of course the lyrics are not expressly directed at her. Nonetheless the message is that ugly girls don’t deserve the same as pretty girls. Post Malone’s message is that the “ugly girl” got a sip because he “had so many bottles”. This sends the message to girls who perceive themselves as ugly that they are not enough.

An individual who already has negative self talk occurring in his or her head does not need any more fuel to feed the fire. The lyrics from Post Malone’s song only add more fuel. In addition, the popularity of the song means hearing it multiple times a day, adding to the frequency of negative thoughts. In the article, The Toxic Effects Of Negative Self Talk, Elizabeth Scott, MS states, “Studies have linked negative self-talk with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem. This can lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression“.

While the issue truly lies inside the one whose perception is making her feel this way, it does not benefit anyone to perpetuate these feelings. Freedom of speech and expression is important but just as we censor out curse words for the general listening public we may need to examine other degrading phrases as well. This may sound extra sensitive to some readers but if you have ever had any experience with an eating disorder, someone dealing with depression or someone who is suicidal, the idea of censoring offensive lyrics would be more appealing.

Music weaves it’s way into the soul. When it is uplifting and beautiful so are its effects. When it includes negative messages, its effects are negative. So many of us struggle with body image. It is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to work through these issues. If we can avoid furthering these issues and adding to them with simple general listener censoring, it will benefit society. Love to heaven…

Don’t Borrow Trouble

A few weeks ago while my husband patiently carved pumpkins with my boys I was reminded of Halloween 2010. Anthony, my middle son, had just been born, exactly one week before Halloween. In an effort not to diminish the excitement of Halloween for Christian, my parents carved his first pumpkin with him.

It doesn’t take much for me to see them in the kitchen. The newspaper was spread across the table. Two large, bright orange pumpkins sat ready to be carved. Christian, full of energy, wore an old collared white shirt. This was to protect his timely Halloween pajamas. As the first child he always had pajamas for the holidays and only wore them at the appropriate time of year.

Christian’s excitement vibrated throughout the house. The brightness of his smile rivaled the bright orange hue of the pumpkins. My parents assigned him the appropriate jobs of picking which shapes he wanted the eyes, smile and nose to be. After cutting off the top they also gave him the job of scooping out the pumpkin gunk. For an almost three year old boy, this was a great task! He sat with his arms elbow deep in the pumpkin scooping out the flesh.

This is how life is now. I live half in the past and half in the present. Each time my boys experience an event, it is linked in my mind to when Christian experienced it. Sometimes I share my memories with my husband and my boys. Sometimes I keep them to myself. I clutch my memories just as tightly as an elderly woman holds her purse. Fear is the same driver for both of us. The fear for me is that somehow these memories will be taken from me by time.

Time is my enemy and also my friend. The cyclical nature of it helps to perpetuate memories. The repetitiveness of special days, holidays, places we went and things we did are burned into my memory. It is both overwhelmingly sad and beautiful at the same time. As much as the current daily events also spark my memories and sometimes intense sadness, it scares me when his life won’t be as relatable to my children anymore. My fear is as they move out of the easily comparable age range, memories will dissipate and become less relevant. In some ways that is unavoidable. There are numerous milestones and events that Christian never got to experience. Right there the relatability factor is affected.

As much as the above is true I am reminded, as I write this and reflect, of the many things I “thought” child loss would encompass. Some which came to fruition and some that didn’t. The thing is we never quite know what will happen. Immediately after losing Christian I feared my boys would never remember him. This is worlds away from the truth. I worried that my boys would carry on without carrying a piece of their brother with them. Again, quite the contrary. So as much as I project what might occur in the future, I am well aware that none of it may happen. One of my mentors often reminds me, “Don’t borrow trouble”. We have enough in our daily lives. Why become anxious and spend energy worrying about something that may never happen? Love to heaven…

Hope Is Essential For Broken Hearts

Missing you today. Wishing things were different in so many ways. Tired of feeling like I am fighting the current of life so hard. These feelings will pass. I’ve been told, and learned from experience, that no feeling lasts forever. These aren’t my feelings all the time, but today they are.

Maybe it was all the joy and excitement of yesterday. Maybe it’s the start of the “holiday season”. Maybe it’s that we are about to celebrate another family milestone without you this weekend. I don’t know. All I know is that if you were here, yesterday would have been very different. It’s hard to believe I would have a ten year old boy.

After the raucous celebrations and vibrant costumes of yesterday it is time for some peace and quiet for my heart. The stark contrast from yesterday to today in the weather even echoes melancholic emotions. Just like the weather will not stay the same, neither will my strictly melancholy feelings. I repeat this because it offers me hope.

Sitting in my emotions and processing them is essential. Hope is also essential. While I feel my feelings, experience them and process them, I also need to know they won’t be forever. It is so intense when grief floods me. If the intensity was always like this, I wouldn’t be able to function.

I miss you. This is something I feel every day. Today it just hurts more. I wish things were different in so many ways. Love to heaven…

Freedom In Sharing Faults

We all have faults. Some of us are better than others at accepting our faults or shortcomings. Some of us have a more difficult time. I fall into the latter category. It is easier for me to accept other’s faults than my own. I am kinder to others than myself when the topic of personal faults comes up. I’m not alone.

No one is perfect. How many times have we heard that old adage? We hear it repeatedly because it’s true. Yet so many of us strive for perfection or close to it in ourselves. When our shortcomings present themselves we feel disappointed and angry. Many times for me this turns into shame and then the mean voices begin. I wish I could tell you how to make those stop. That is still a work in progress for me. What I can tell you is that sharing and connecting with others helps in quieting those voices.

Healing is in our own heart’s message. Once we hear it we can surround ourselves with people who reflect that message. Share your pain. Healing is in connection.             – Cara Martinisi

It’s no secret that I wear my heart on my sleeve. My writing is proof of that. I don’t believe this kind of sharing or level of sharing is for everyone. I do believe that opening up to another human being who you feel a deep level of connection and comfortability with will change your life. I don’t mean opening up about the difficulties you have on the surface. That’s great too, and we all need that, but when we go deeper in our relationships, friendships and connections that is when your faults and shortcomings lose the momentum to instill shame.

Shedding the shame of our faults and learning to make peace with them can only make us better people. Connecting, beautiful soul connections, only enrich our lives. Many times when I ask Christian what message he wants me to share with everyone it revolves around kindness and connection. There is something there. The more connected we are to each other, the more kindness spreads.

Connection to others lets us know that we are all important. Children are more visibly receptive to this than adults, but that is only because they are more open. Engage a child and see how their face changes. When we take interest in each other’s lives we are interwoven emotionally. This is valuable on all levels. It is important to connect casually, deeper and so deep that your soul shines through. Connection promotes kindness. Kindness helps us to be nicer to ourselves and those around us. If you want to quiet your mean voices, if  you want to take away the shame associated with your shortcomings, connecting will help. Love to heaven…

A Picture Of Hope

Anyone who has witnessed a family losing a child has seen hopelessness with their own eyes. When a child prematurely passes way, everything is questioned. The tunnel of life appears permanently dark with no light to be found.

Oxford Living Dictionary defines hope as, “Grounds for believing that something good may happen.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hope as, “to expect with confidence”. Child loss leaves us devoid of any of these feelings. It’s heart breaking, life altering and devastating.

I am a grieving mother who has been living for four years, 1 month and 19 days without my oldest son. My life consisted of months when I couldn’t feel hope for more than a moment at a time. It doesn’t take much to remember that level of hopelessness. Personal journal entries clearly outline this.

Eight weeks ago you were physically still here. My heart physically hurts that I won’t see you again. I truly don’t know how I will go on.

These words still ring true. My heart physically hurts. Sometimes I question how I will go on. This question comes up very rarely anymore because I know how I will go on. I will go on living with your spirit next to me and with me. Still these raw emotions are under the scab that covers them. They are not as fresh or vulnerable as they once were but they are still there.

The thing is you’re in every living memory from the past six years. Making new memories means making them without you. I don’t want to. Then the finality of your life is real because you are not making memories. You are just a part of some, just there in spirit. That’s not enough for me.

It is still not enough for me, you just being here in spirit. We haven’t made new memories with you physically for over four years. I will never be okay with what happened but I have learned to continue on. There are many new, happy memories that have been created. You are in some of those new memories even. Yes, it’s only in spirit but you are not totally absent from our lives as I feared when we first lost you.

It is my hope that any family who is new to child loss or in a dark place will receive my message loud and clear. There is hope. You can’t feel it now. You can’t imagine it now. You may not even want to know about it now. It’s there. It’s waiting in the wings for when you least expect it.

Hope starts to slip into your day with a smile. It’s so quick at first your don’t even notice it. Then it lingers for slightly longer. Each time hope presents itself it buoys your soul a little at a time. One day you feel joy. Again, it’s so quick that you don’t even realize it. It’s gone as quickly as it comes. Each time you see positivity, you find people who have been in difficult situations and are thriving. Each time someone honors your loved one, you get a surefire sign from your beloved. Each time hope grows. It grows until you start to see glimmers of light. The light gets brighter and brighter.

It dims sometimes and sometimes it stays dim for a few days but it continues to burn. That’s hope. As long as you continue living, hope will be there. I didn’t believe it when we first lost Christian. Slowly I had to see for myself. I promise it will not be this way forever. The stabbing pains will lessen. You will be able to breathe again. Nothing will be the same but there is hope. You will feel joy. You will smile. You will even receive messages from your child. It is in your future. There is hope. 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…