That Sneaky Grief

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I had lunch today with a fellow grieving mom and while we laughed and shed some tears over our greasy, food court Chinese food, I laughed at the comment she made the night before about Alejandro’s grief…

“That sneaky grief”.

Ah yes.  That sneaky grief indeed!!  I should have seen it coming.  You would think that, just as a trained meteorologist knows the signs of an impending storm, I too would know the signs of the fury that grief would unleash on me again.  But this time, the storm took me by surprise.  It wasn’t on me.  I may be a rookie but I know that when it comes to me, if I have too much fun for two or three days straight, the depression will hit.  I know that too much rowdiness and fun in a crowd will send me into a corner to drink my adult beverage.  I know that when I talk about Joaquin over and over and over again, desperate to keep his memory alive, that it will hit me like a ton of bricks that he’s really not coming back.

So why didn’t I see the signs with Alejandro?  He had been “happy” for way too long.  And then one day, his storm blew through.  And it was too late.  All I could do was help clean up the mess it left behind.  I should have seen the signs.  The distant look in his eyes as he stared up into the sky.  His little hands sneaking a picture of his brother away underneath his pillow.  His words, “Sometimes I have thoughts.  Why did Joaquin have to die so fast?”.  The Sunday afternoon nap.

Ale napping

  Not wanting to get out of bed because he “just feels tired”.  And then finally, the quivering lips and those big fat tears.

Oh those tears.  They broke me.  They kicked me all over again.  It knocked me down.

Mourning Mom

But I swallow the tears.  I breathe deep.  My focus is up above.  I stand and hold him up.  And finally a smile.  He loves me.  He knows I’ll wipe those tears away.  And as my mom distracts him, I sneak into the bathroom and I let it knock me down again.  The tears flow.  I cannot breathe.  My cries go up above.  I fall and when I finally walk out, my mom is there to hold me up.  I smile.  I thank her.  She grieves but I love her.  She wipes my tears and crawls into his bed.

Grief may be sneaky but I have all the tools to fight back and clean up the mess it leaves behind.  And for that – I am grateful once more.

It’s Not For You To Understand

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Have I mentioned that this thing called grief is a crazy thing?  It is.  I mean one day your down, the next day you’re up, the next day you’re clueless and the next your numb.  No wonder it’s so darn difficult to maneuver through it…you never know what you’ll be dealing with the next day!  These days when I wake up in the morning I look at Joaquin’s picture and then I look in the mirror.  I look past the new gray hairs that seem to pop up nightly and the tired eyes and I wonder, “What will my heart do today?”

Lately, my heart has been burdened by a silent struggle.  One that makes me wonder about my faith.  My faith, after all, is what has carried me through these 14 weeks.  Could I actually be here without my faith?  The fact that I am still here – standing, writing, breathing and yes, laughing is a pure act of God’s loving grace.  But I still struggle.  My struggle had gotten so heavy that I needed spiritual guidance.  So off I went to Father Fernando at St. Luke’s.  I cried and revealed to him that I was afraid that my lack of obedience to God had taken Joaquin away.  You see, I had a dream (a very vivid dream) that Joaquin had died the Friday before he actually passed away.  The dream was so real that Paul raced into the bedroom as I called out for him while I stared at Joaquin in disbelief.  I kept telling Paul to “check the baby, he’s not breathing, he’s not breathing!”.  Paul checked Joaquin and all was fine.  I couldn’t understand what I was hearing.  I shook Joaquin and he turned and looked at me with those huge brown eyes and turned back around and fell asleep.  I myself was afraid to fall asleep after that.  The next day I worked hard to shake that dream that felt more like a nightmare.

After Joaquin passed away I revealed my dream to handful of people and many, including myself, expressed that the vivid dream was God’s way of preparing me.  Preparing me how exactly?  Was He telling me this was about to happen?  And if so, there lies my struggle.  What if I had been obedient to God’s message – would Joaquin still be here?  Was Joaquin’s death my fault?  What if I had listened?  Would I have been able to save him?  Was Joaquin’s death punishment for not being an obedient servant of God?  Besides being so shaken that evening why was I so peaceful suddenly when Joaquin went into surgery?  Where was that dream, that nightmare, that message when we turned him over to the surgeon?

At this, Father Fernando stopped me and said what finally resonated deep in my soul and gave me the understanding that I needed to go on another day.  “Death is not punishment.  Our goal in this life, after all, is to have eternal life and the only way to get there is death.” And so I exhaled and recalled what I had originally thought of that dream.  It wasn’t one that was meant to be deciphered by me.  It was a dream.  Was it something deeper?  Perhaps.  But my job as a trusting servant I realize now was to discern (pray) and let God complete His plan for my son…and that was to give him the best gift ever – entrance in to his heavenly kingdom.  I listened, I prayed and I let God’s will be done.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

understanding

So Many Books, So Little Time

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I love to read.  In 2013 I read my share of books especially when I got my Kindle for Christmas 2012.  I was a little hesitant to read books on my Kindle at first because I love holding books.  Yes, I’m one of those people that loves the library and the smell of old books.  One of the first books I remember ordering on my Kindle was Water for Elephants.  I never saw the movie but I loved the book.

But after Joaquin passed away in October of 2013 my Kindle has been getting a break as I received so many books from tons of friends.  Getting books was kind of funny in the beginning.  I would be in the middle of one, then I would receive another and I was tempted to leave the one I was reading and I ended up overwhelmed.  So I plowed through each of these.

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The only one that I haven’t finished is a Grief Unveiled.  And I want to because it’s the story of a devout Catholic dad who loses his young son and the struggles he and his family faces.  The beginning of the book was very difficult to read as the story reminded me so much of Joaquin’s passing but then I got distracted with other books (see what I’m talking about??) and I put it down.  The part I most want to get to is his account from 15 years after his son’s passing.  These days I am always interested in how parents move on with their lives after their child dies.  Makes me wonder what my life will be like 15 years down the road without Joaquin.

Anyway – on my list for 2014 so far are these…

Books 1

1)       The Bible – and let me tell you that one is the one I am having problems with.  A friend of mine gave me a 90 day reading plan to read through it historically and I’m not even halfway through it.

2)      The Art and Craft of Storytelling – gifted to me by a professor/writer friend as encouragement to hone my writing skills and hopefully write a book of my own one day in the near future.  Another goal for 2014!!

3)      One Last Time – so I’m kind of embarrassed to say that this was THE first book I bought after Joaquin passed away.  But I am almost done with it and I have to say it is perfect for what I needed at the moment.  I too have had many messages from Joaquin and this book affirms that I am not going crazy.  🙂

4)      When People Grieve – a book given to me by another grieving mom from Victoria, TX.  She also gave me another book by the same author, Paul D’Arcy called Sarah’s Song which detailed her diary from pregnancy with her first born to the day that she died as a toddler.  Very touching.

5)      The Deeper Wound – my first Deepak Chopra book gifted to me by the same friend that gave me the Art of Storytelling.  Life has a new meaning these days…maybe his views will help.

6)      The Imitation of Christ – supposedly the best book next to the bible.  I am really looking forward to this one.

7)      Heaven is For Real – I had heard of this book many times before but I recently saw the clip for the movie with Greg Kinnear and I cried so much that one of my besties passed along her copy.  Everyone says I will love it.  Sidenote:  it was sitting on the dining room table and guessed who picked it up first?  Paul.  I guess we’re both interested in what Joaquin could have seen when he went home to God.

I really can’t wait to get started on all of these books.  What books are you reading in 2014 or what else would you recommend?

2014 Goal (Not Resolution!)

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The start of the new year always brings resolutions.  I don’t do resolutions.  Or at least I haven’t for a good while now.  Probably for the same reason I don’t make a big deal out of New Year’s Eve – because it’s just another day.  Granted we are welcoming in a new year but life doesn’t instantaneously change just because it’s a new year.  Life changes because it does and it happens at any time of the year – my family is proof of that.  So why wait for January 1st to make a change?  You should have done it when you realized you needed a change.

But, for fear of being viewed as a New Year’s Eve Scrooge, I’ll share my GOALS…not resolutions for 2014.  J  My main goal is to go to grad school.  You see, after many years out of high school and college I have finally realized what I want to be when I grow up.  I had been shamelessly calling myself a job hopper because this girl was NEVER satisfied, never happy at pretty much any job that I have ever held (I take that back – I loved the times I stayed home with the boys and dedicated myself to my family and our household).  Truth be told, if I didn’t have a family it wouldn’t have bothered me.  But for years I struggled with the fact that I was not satisfied with my jobs and I’m the type of person to up and leave if I don’t feel personal growth and satisfaction.  Not good when you contribute to your family’s income.  Paul was always worried and it was common for people to say, “Where do you work – now?”

Well that changes in 2014.  After Joaquin passed away I finally…FINALLY…realized what I was meant to do.  It came clear as day as only God can do when you actually…yes, listen. The days during Joaquin’s services I felt that oh-so-familiar pull towards helping people and more specifically, grieving people.  I felt called towards some sort of ministry that dealt with bereavement.  And then, amidst the tears that were flowing down my friends face while she knelt by Joaquin’s casket, as I draped my arms around her, my friend looked up at me said, “You should be a counselor”.  In true Christie form I laughed and said “Ok.  But God doesn’t forgive GPAs.”.  And then I realized, yes he most certainly does.  He forgives almost everything if you truly repent.  And let me tell you, I truly repent my darn grades!!  Eeek!!  But there it was.  There was that pull that I was feeling…but in the spoken word.

In 2014 I will attempt, with my low GPA, to get into the Masters of Education in Counseling and Guidance program (with a concentration in Community Counseling).   It may be a challenge, but here’s the deal with people that have dealt with the loss of a child (and are surviving, I should clarify).  We’ve been dealt the absolute worst.hand.EVER.   So after surviving that do I actually think that my low GPA will keep from the program and what I am truly meant to be?  That’s a big fat NO, y’all!!  It’ll be more difficult, that’s for sure, but what’s life without some challenges.

New Beginnings

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When I started this blog in early September, I really had no idea where I was going with it. Like many bloggers, I like to write and sometimes I have a lot to say and of course I assume that people may want to listen (yeah, we’re a bit egotistical like that). Plus, I’ve had my share of challenges in the past five years and I figured that besides being therapeutic for me, blogging may also help someone else that’s going through something similar gain some clarity.
Little did I know that blogging would be challenging itself! But I am enjoying it. I am enjoying chronicling my life’s many ups and downs. Sometimes 15 people may read it and sometimes it may be more. It doesn’t matter. I am doing what I have loved since I was eight years old – writing. And I am learning from my mistakes. I’ve learned I need not make families members mad by spilling all of my guts with absolutely no censor (big whoops) but I’m also learning that it’s my blog with my opinions and it will stay as such. I’ve learned that people I would have never expected to read my blog are indeed reading it and that builds confidence And I’ve learned that this blog is part of my journey towards what God truly intended for me.
So as 2013 draws to a close I sit her and reflect on where my life has taken me. It has brought you to me and vice versa. It has brought my family to you.

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It has brought Joaquin to you.

Joaquins Funeral Home In Memory Of

It has brought my struggles to you.

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It has brought my faith to you.

strength and dignity

I have newfound friendships through my readers and for that I am beyond grateful.  And I am over the moon thrilled that you are still here with me. I know that 2014 and beyond will take me on the rest of my journey and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you. May all of you have a blessed and prosperous 2014.

2014

Serving Starts At Home

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The other night, Paul and I had an argument. It was a biggie. Not biggie in like, this marriage is over, but the kind of biggie that made me realize that we both needed to change certain things about us. When I met Paul, I knew. No, I didn’t know he was the one. After all, Paul was the complete opposite of what I attracted (like most women I attracted the non-committal type…a lot). Instead, I knew that I felt 100% at home with him. Just like our wedding song, Paul “Feels Like Home”.
And just like home feels (comfortable and safe) we became that way too. Perhaps a little too comfortable. Early in our marriage I stayed home with Alejandro and since Paul worked long hours I felt it was necessary for me to manage everything household related. It was my way of contributing. From budgets, to payments, to grocery shopping…everything but managing our 401K. That was Paul’s job. Fast forward almost 8 years and I now realize that is the biggest mistake we have ever done in our marriage. Paul was somewhat stumped when it came to everything I mentioned above and I was exhausted and easily irritated.
So during that argument I realized – something had to give. And then I said it. It was the hardest thing for me to say. “Perhaps I need to learn to serve you instead of leading”. I could see Paul’s face was full of confusion. It looked like he liked the idea of me finally relinquishing control but it also looked like he was somewhat worried. So his immediate response was, “No, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. We’re equals”. I laughed. Well, of course we were. And any person that knows me knows that I could never be a doormat and that I could easily care for myself. But it was evident to me that I needed a knight in shining armor as much as he needed a damsel in distress to save. We both wanted those roles but we were quite comfy in the roles we currently had. Nonetheless, these characters needed help.
And so, I started looking into what it means to serve your husband. A lot of things I found were, for the most part, hard core if you take it word for word. And I honestly didn’t feel like I would be true to myself if I did what some women suggested. But I liked the modern variations I found online. For instance, just doing nice things for your spouse when he least expects it. I made Paul coffee the other day without him even asking for it. It may seem small but sometimes a small gesture of serving goes a long way. Or being more affectionate with him. I will be the first to admit that I am the non-romantic, non PDA type of gal. But I needed to ease up a bit. So handholding a bit more is something I need to work on. The one thing we both need to work on is letting him lead. This is the tough one I mentioned earlier. I admit, it’s just darn easier and faster if I just do things myself but this is where our problems started. It’s taken a lot of coaxing on both ends but slowly, he’s easing me into him taking control of certain things. And vice versa. The other day we got something in the mail that needed to be addressed almost immediately. Normally I would take care of it right then and there. But instead I gave it to him. I stressed the importance of it to him and let it go. Was I worried? Yep. My hubby has a tendency to procrastinate and/or forget so letting go meant that it may very well be forgotten. But like my mom said, “He might not forget. Or he might. And if he does, trust me, he’ll learn his lesson. It may affect both of you if he does, but you need to undo the way he’s become accustomed to living his life”. Sigh.
In my opinion, I have found that serving your spouse simply means just being a better Christian woman at home as well. Pray for him. Pray with him. Speak kindly to him.  Humble yourself around him. Serve him. Honor him. Not an easy task for this strong willed girl but if my life is changing then I need to change it at home too.

12 Weeks In

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Earlier this week, I called in sick.  Someone could easily say I had a case of the Mondays but truth be told all I wanted to do was cry.  I cry at work but I was afraid if I cried the way I was feeling on Monday someone might put me in a mental institution.  So I called in sick.  I told my employer I wasn’t feeling well and they expressed that they hoped I felt better soon.  Soon?  Not when you call in heartbroken.  I dropped off Alejandro and was honest with Paul – I just couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with people on a day that I was missing Joaquin so much.

Twelve weeks  in and I stared at myself in the mirror.  Tear stained, wearing pajamas at noon and completely defeated.  For one day at least.  Twelve weeks in and I still can’t take his car seat out of my van.  Twelve weeks in and his toothbrush still sits in the same place.  Twelve weeks in and his inhaler sits on the kitchen counter.  Twelve weeks in and his aspirin stares back at me, untouched.  Twelve weeks in and I still sleep with his blanket and his t-shirt.  Twelve weeks in and I still can’t believe this happened to us.  Twelve weeks in and I cannot believe I experienced the circle of life with my 4 year old.  At mass this past Sunday, I realized that I stood in the same spot where we promised to raise Joaquin to believe in God 4 years ago only to stand there again and turn him back in to our Lord.  At times, twelve weeks in, I still walk in a fog.  I often wonder just how I manage to still stand here.  To still laugh.  To still eat.  To still breathe.  But twelve weeks in and on days like Monday, yes, I think I can no longer go on one more day without him.

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Twelve weeks in and it pains me to see that life certainly moves on whether you’re ready to or not.  The bills still need to get paid.  The phone calls have slowed.  Even Alejandro seems better.  Twelve weeks in and at times, my six year old comforts us the way we comforted him in the beginning.  He’ll hear us crying, drops what he’s doing and hugs us until one of us pulls away…at just the right time.  Twelve weeks in and this child that keeps us going has grown up faster than any child should.

Ale and Dusty Walking

Twelve weeks in and I realize I have a long and tiresome road to travel.  I have fallen time and time again.  And each day, I manage to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.  Twelve weeks in and I realize I have two choices – I can let it beat me and break me down or I can keep walking even with tears in my eyes.  I choose the latter.  It’s better to cry and keep walking than to just cry and let grief consume you.

Twelve weeks in – yes, it can be done.

strength and dignity