Broken Hearted But Not Broken

This afternoon as I glanced down at my phone for a quick reprieve I was deeply saddened to discover the news about Notre Dame. I inhaled a sharp breath causing my mother to ask anxiously, “What happened?” When I told her the news she was heartbroken but relieved. Bad news has known to be the worst news in our family.

She and I began to commiserate about the news of the fire, consider what might have been the cause and thank God that at least no one was hurt. Our conversation was cut short as we were snapped back to reality. “They’re back”, she said. The “they” meant my dad, my boys and my niece.

“They” had returned home from picking up my niece at school. I opened the car door and inquired about how her day had been. As though in tune with the world, she lamented over a troubling encounter with one of her friends in Kindergarten. We discussed it for a moment. At the age of six, injustices are easily washed away by the promise of sugar. My mother and I had hidden one hundred fifty Easter eggs for the children to find. When I explained that the “Easter bunny” left a note for them and hid eggs while we were all out, the excitement registered on their faces and in their voices.

The screeches were surely heard around the block. As they sprinted to the front door, I was nearly knocked over. Immediately the exclamations of discoveries could be heard. I brushed past my mom, anxious to see them on the hunt. She held my youngest niece in her arms and said, “I want to hear more of that report when they are done”. Confusion clouded my brain. It took me a minute to realize she meant the fire that had encapsulated Notre Dame.

Just a few moments prior I had been immersed in world history in the making. Today will be noted in History books for years to come. And still life carries on even when history is in the making. It brought me back to the days that will forever be in my own personal history book.

Time stopped today as flames licked a historic cathedral that will now forever be changed. The world carried on around it. Time stopped the day Christian gained his wings, forever changing our lives. The world carried on around us. The concept never ceases to amaze me. Things happen all day, every day, everywhere that are major monumental, events. Sometimes they affect a family and community. Sometimes they affect the world. Either way, the world carries on around it.

Photo Credit: Thibault Camus/AP

This is one of the most shocking aspects of child loss. It boggled my mind that the sun was still rising and setting, kids were starting a new school year, the leaves were changing. All of the things and events that had been natural occurrences at one time in my life were still going on around me, but my life had turned so unnatural.

The strangest realizations had me questioning my sanity. One day I realized I would never again take care of Christian when he was sick. He would never need to be nursed back to health with a proper dose of ginger ale after the stomach bug. No longer would I wait with baited breath as the thermometer read the temperature of his body. Obviously these are more menial tasks of motherhood but if he was able to be sick it meant his body was alive. It meant I could help “make things better”. My chance at that was through.

It was the daily routines that were most unnatural. Bath time with only 2 boys. The world carried on. Only 2 boys to coerce into brushing their teeth. Only 2 boys to corral into bed. Only 2 boys to kiss goodnight. Only 2 boys to imagine growing older. Only 2 boys to imagine carrying out all the hopes and dreams I had for them. And the world carried on. So unnatural, so changed.

Hopes and dreams were lost today, just as they were when Christian became an angel. Yet, children went to school and egg hunts were had. A historical structure survived a trauma but will forever be changed. It will be rebuilt, undoubtedly, but never the same. The rich historical background to include the fire that damaged it but did not decimate it. The world will carry on, just as it always does. Tomorrow the sun will come up. History will be changed and time will go on. Just as we are forever changed. We are not broken, just broken hearted. Love to heaven…

Spiritual Dreams

Recently I read a book that confirmed my beliefs about dreams and comforted me. As a frequent dreamer, Spiritual Lighthouse, The Dream Diaries of Ann Marie Ruby, caught my eye immediately. During the passage of time that has unfolded since losing Christian, my spiritual journey has been integral to my healing. Dreams have been a large part of this.

From the start of the book I felt a kinship with the author. She talks about nature remaining a constant over time, while things change all around it. This couldn’t be more true. It doesn’t matter how long or dark the night is the sun will always rise the next day. The waves will continue to crash and the mountains will continue to stand. Even when your whole world is crashing down around you, nature is a constant.

Although the topics of the dreams Ruby shares vary, she circles back to two main ideas. One being that there is a “spiritual lighthouse” guiding us throughout life. She also stresses the importance of faith and hope. Some of her dreams reflect day to day life and others relate to worldly and historical events. All proven to be accurate when she researched them.

Interspersed throughout the book are spiritual prayers, adding another layer of dimension allowing the reader to relate it to his or her own present life and circumstances.
Ruby’s dream journal is a beautiful collection of one woman’s journey through her sleep. It proves that dreams are more than just visions in our head. They have definitive meaning. This book helped to clarify what I’ve felt all along. Messages are delivered while we are in a dreaming state of slumber. Thank you Ann Marie for your beautiful depiction of this!

Gratitude Done My Way

Sometimes living each day can feel like a whole lot of work. There are mornings I wake up and have a silent conversation with myself about all that lies ahead in the coming hours. The voice inside my head chides me whenever I even think this way. My firstborn had less than seven years to live, less than seven years of mornings to wake up and be excited about. With each day I should be overflowing with gratitude just to have the chance to make memories with the ones I love.

Did you hear that should in there? “Shoulds” indicate judgment on my part and never bring me anywhere positive. I am beyond grateful to be making memories and be an active part of my loved one’s lives. Yesterday, as I was entering Target, both children were holding my hands in the parking lot. I felt so much gratitude to have their little hands inside mine. I do focus on the little/big things. When I break it down and simplify it like that, I feel a little less selfish and ungrateful.

Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot. ~ Hausa Proverb

Gratitude is a buzz word right now. As a grieving mother, I feel like I need to be even more grateful as a way to honor Christian and all the days he never got to live. In my quest to be as grateful as possible, I decided to start a gratitude journal. There are an abundance of journals for sale for this exact purpose.

Putting my gratitude on paper proved to be harder than I expected. First it meant that I needed to have quiet time at night. That only happens after the boys are asleep. Then it meant that I had to a) be awake after they fell asleep and b) have the energy to actually write down my gratitude list. Unfortunately these things are a rarity. The added pressure I was putting on myself about needing to be extra grateful, because I know how precious life is, was only making things worse.

Things were not going as I wanted or planned them to. Furthermore I was failing at honoring my angel. Wow. That was a tough pill to swallow. If I were hearing this from a friend in my position I would sit her down and have a strong talk with her about how she needed to go easier on herself! My message would encompass the truth that she has to be gentle with herself, celebrate her strengths and be flexible in areas she doesn’t feel strong in.

Despite my empty gratitude journal lying on my nightstand as a constant reminder of my flaw, a new routine developed organically. Each night before my son/s enter into slumber we have quiet cuddle time. It is one of my favorite times of the day. As I laid there with my youngest son one night, I started reflecting on all the positive aspects of the day. It became a habit. Now it is a particularly beautiful part of the bedtime routine for me. It requires no extra items other than my memories and inner voice.

As grieving parents we often carry the added weight of having to revel in the positives. We know just how fleeting a life can be. We know just how quickly an irreversible change can take place, leaving your heart forever cracked. It does put more pressure on us. The truth is we will never constantly be happy or grateful. We are still humans. Yes, we know one of the worst pains on Earth. Yes, we will forever honor our children. Yes, we will celebrate joys. There will be times, however, when maybe we should be more grateful and we are not. That is okay. As a grieving mom this is just something else that I need to accept. I honor Christian in numerous ways. The guilt will have to take a back seat for now. 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?

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…