See You In My Dreams

I dreamt about my beautiful Christian last night. He was so happy, bouncing around the room like a ping pong with his brothers. The specifics of the dream are blurry but I can recall the most important part, at the end. He came over to me, upon my request, and gave me a hug. His skinny arms reached up, wrapped around my neck and squeezed. It only lasted a second, but it was a second of pure bliss.

Dreaming of Christian is not new. It happens less frequently than I would like but at least it happens. My husband rarely dreams of him. Anthony dreams of him sometimes and Nicky said he never does.

There are so many unfair things about losing someone you love. Does it have to be permanent? Why can’t you get a certain number of dreams a week when you can interact with them? Going from daily interaction to nothing seems cruel. Of course we get signs, and they are beautiful, but I am left wanting more!

I like to think of my dream last night as an early Valentine’s Day gift for me. Hugs and kisses are the best gifts! Young children are so generous with hugs and kisses. They become stingier as they get older. Even with my living children I am always saying, “Come over here and give me a hug and kiss!” Sometimes they do it begrudgingly. Other times they just pretend it is begrudgingly.

My favorite hugs are the ones my boys give to each other spontaneously. If they were a little more savvy they would know that they could ask me for anything they wanted in that moment and get it!

In my last post I wrote about some people that I met at a LiveOnNY workshop over the weekend. As I watched three sisters who lost their only brother my heart truly ached for them. It evoked emotions in me that I knew were there but buried for survival purposes.

  • My familial dream of three boys growing up together began the day I found out Nicky was a boy. Brotherly bonds are not to be underrated. Immediately images of three boys laughing, loving, playing and fighting together emerged. Then my thoughts expanded to graduations and weddings. I lamented the fact that I would never be mother of the bride. At the same time I fell in love with the idea that I would be the most important female in their lives until marriage. So many hopes and dreams sketched out. My favorite ones were always based on their brotherly bond. Thank goodness Anthony and Nicky still have this but it pains me to know that the brother who was going to “guide” them – okay be their leader in mischief – is no longer here to do that.
  • Today, the snow is falling in New York again. We are a few days shy of Valentine’s Day – the holiday of love. I found this beautiful project on Pinterest that I am going to use as a way for my boys to record memories of Christian.

    Using my emotional barometer I will judge whether we can make it all about Christian or if we should include all three boys. If they seem to feel any bit over shadowed by Christian’s memory then I will include memories for all three boys. Either way it is a beautiful dedication to brotherly love.

    My life has not turned out the way I had hoped. There will forever be the question, “what would it be like if you were here?” We will never know. We must relish in the memory of the times with all three of our boys and continue to create new memories with our two living boys. Love to heaven…

    Quiet Mind Leads To Guidance

    Aahhh… Pinterest. I love you so. I pin TONS of things to TONS of boards. There are my select boards which I review periodically. Then there are the boards I hardly look at after creating. Today while looking back at my inspirational board I was reminded of a very important message, “As I quiet my mind I can more clearly hear my inner guidance.” I needed to have this reminder today. The harsh voices have been rearing their ugly heads for the past week and it has really interfered with me being in tune with my inner guidance.

    This morning, after an uninterrupted night of sleep (I didn’t even pee until 5am!), I cleared my head and got in touch with my inner guidance. I feared that my terrible, nasty self talk had finally trumped inner guidance. I feared that it was scared away. It was not. It just needed some attention and quiet!

    Some of you may wonder what any of this has to do with losing Christian. It may seem as if I am self righteously rambling on. PsychologyToday.com states, “Activations of lower, more primitive areas, including the fear center, are high, while higher areas of the brain (also known as cortical areas) are underactivated. In other words, if you are traumatized, you may experience chronic stress, vigilance, fear, and irritation.” My insecurities are a major irritation. In the past I was able to expend energy to keep them at bay. Since losing Christian my energy expenditure has shifted to easing the above experiences. There is little reserve for my insecurities. To say the least, this interferes with getting in touch with my inner guidance.

    My insecurities revolve around self degradation and the question, “Am I enough?”. When it is filtered through my grief and trauma it becomes increasingly difficult for me to rebuke these thoughts. My therapist has provided me with many tools and coping mechanisms along the way. For the most part these work to ground me and bring me back to the present. Sometimes though I fall into the downward spiral.

    In the solitude of the morning however, while breathing and quieting my mind, I was able to pull out of that spiral. I connected to my own heart, in which I receive guidance and messages from Christian. I quieted my mind and just listened. As he always does, he helped me to understand what the next step on my journey is. For the hope he provided me, I am very grateful.

    So don’t ever discount those ideas you pin and don’t forget to periodically review them! You never know where it might lead you. Most importantly remember to quiet your mind when you need to get some inner guidance. Love to heaven…

    The Best Christmas Gift

    It’s been a while since I have written. I haven’t felt like myself lately. The holidays this year have heightened my grief and anxiety. It’s not this intense every year. Thank God.

    Tomorrow is Christian’s birthday. He would have been 11. The usual questions about what he would look like? Act like? Be asking for as birthday and Christmas gifts? continuously flood my brain and heart. I want him here. Sure he would be driving me crazy. He would be one more child fighting with his brothers. His attitude would probably be growing in size since he would officially be a middle schooler. I am guessing his hair would be a focus. He had the most beautiful head of hair. So many guesses. So much wondering. So many dreams turned to angel dust. In a matter of moments.

    All of the wondering gets to be exhausting and overwhelming. The memories aren’t any less emotional but at least they don’t involve guessing. Christian was due on Christmas but was born on December 23rd. We brought him home Christmas Day. As first time parents my husband and I woke to find a beautiful baby boy being rolled in to the hospital room on Christmas morning. He was all snug and sleeping in an oversized stocking. It’s the same stocking that hangs on our mantle each year. The sight was so breathtaking and life changing. This little being would be coming home with us in just hours.

    As we made our way home we passed our church. The priest had just finished Christmas mass and was outside. We asked him to bless Christian and he did. One would think a child who is blessed only moments after leaving the hospital would be destined for greatness and safety. The first yes and the second no; at least not in the way we were hoping. We could never conceive of what was to come in his life.

    As Christian grew, we grew. Firstborn children teach their parents multiple lessons. Christian was not the best sleeper. He didn’t follow any of the examples of the types of babies they talked about in parenting books. The feeling of failing as a mom plagued me. These feelings not entirely unusual for a first time mom, but confusing nonetheless. One thing that was not confusing, even when I was sleep deprived, was how much I loved him. Again, as the firstborn, every little thing he did made my heart swell ten times. As much as I love my other boys it was different with them because it wasn’t my first time experiencing it.

    As his personality developed his mischief did too. This was always a character trait I loved in little boys. As a mom to a mischievous boy it was still adorable but tried my patience!! Now I had to somehow figure out how to refine it without completely making it go away. This did not help my own issue of feeling like I was failing as a mom. When you have a child who does not conform to how others think he or she should behave it can be mortifying. Others make it known by looks, words and glances that your child is behaving poorly. There have been many times I witnessed this in a store and offered words of comfort to the parent instead of the opposite. As much as we love our children, it doesn’t ever feel great to be judged negatively by others.

    Christian was not only mischievous but he was a biter! Oh yes he wanted to help me experience it all in his six short years of life. At a mommy and me class he bit a little boy on the back. The mother was not happy but seeing as this was her fourth child, I am sure she had encountered a similar situation before. Her dirty looks and unkind words said otherwise. We made it through. Christian eventually received Occupational Therapy during his preschool years. It definitely helped. Oddly enough I got a call from his therapist the second week she was supposed to see him. She had to cancel because she lost her son suddenly. Heartbreaking. Christian continued on with another wonderful therapist and they were able to make headway with some of his behaviors.

    Christian’s larger than life personality was never able to be truly tamed. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be. There were times I wished he would tone it down just a little. He definitely did a lot of living in his short time on Earth. I always say he did everything 100%. All his mischief and love and passion and hugs and smiles and tantrums were at level 100! I’m not sure how we were chosen to be his parents. It’s something we are forever grateful for.

    Tomorrow will mark his fifth birthday in heaven. No one should have to celebrate the day their child was born without their child here. We are not alone in this, unfortunately. Tuesday will mark his fifth Christmas in heaven. He is sure to be leading some giant celebration up there! His party in heaven will be mirrored in the smiles, joy and excitement on the faces of my children and nieces as they celebrate the magic of Christmas. It will help to buoy my mood but it will not take the pain away. The longing will remain for the best Christmas gift I ever received. Love to heaven…

    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…