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.

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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.

Books 2

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.