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.

Joaquin 1220

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

Where Have The Tears Gone?

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If you read my post yesterday, you know that I experienced a connection to God and Joaquin like never before on Monday afternoon. This connection left me so peaceful that I felt extremely energized. I fell asleep for the first time ever on Monday night with no tears in my eyes. And what followed was confusing. I tossed and turned throughout the night. So much for inner peace. But I wasn’t torn or sad. I just couldn’t sleep. I was just confused. I felt guilty.
My son died almost 3.5 weeks ago and I am not crying myself to sleep for the first time ever? How can that be? Is it possible that I’m forgetting him?? I continued to toss and turn and I when I finally fell asleep I realized that I started to remember my dreams again. I hadn’t been able to recall any dreams since Joaquin died. But I recall them now. Joaquin isn’t in my dreams but I at least know that my dreams have returned. When I woke up on Tuesday I woke up feeling very different. I didn’t feel like I was floating. Or dreaming. And things didn’t seem surreal anymore. I felt energized. But the confusion lingers.
When I finally spoke to a friend who has experienced the loss of a child as well, I quickly told her my experience and I immediately felt bad for doing so. Was it wrong to share my “awesome/peaceful” experience with her so soon? Would she hate me? I apologized for doing so as I realized that perhaps she had yet to find inner peace and I shared my guilt from the night before and I asked if it was remotely possible that I was forgetting Joaquin (yes, conversations with other moms that have lost a child are crazy like this…the words just spill out between us – no filter and no walking on eggshells when the topic is death)? She assured me no all across the board. She has had her moments of peace and she assured me that what I am experiencing is that I am adjusting to my new normal and that heck no – I am NOT forgetting Joaquin. I was told that my tears would return soon.  They won’t come as often but they will always be there. I don’t want to cry forever but I most definitely don’t ever want stop thinking about my sweet boy.
Later that Tuesday evening I did something that I hadn’t done in 4 months. I was still feeling energized and I was longing to feel that connection to God and Joaquin. I dug out my running shoes, changed my clothes, left my music behind and walked out the door. I started off with a very slow walk and slowly began to jog. My legs felt heavier than usual. Very unlike the first time I attempted jogging at the beginning of the year. But as I switched gears between jogging and walking I realized something that I had never experienced before. I could listen. Clearly. The sounds were everywhere. It’s as if I had been given new ears. I enjoyed my time outside. And I could literally see the huge driving force in my life ahead of me, the little one next to me and the huge army behind me. It was just me, Him, Joaquin and my team. On the path, alongside the noises that God wants me to hear – nothing else mattered. I found my peace.

woman walking

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Crossroads

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Several things happened this weekend and they all involved talking about Joaquin, again.  It started with lunch with a friend on Friday afternoon.  Towards the end of our conversation, her eyes welled up in tears and we both sat in awe of the whole thing.  I said, “A mother’s instinct is amazing and even more so when we have a connection to God”.  A second visit happened when I ran into a friend on Saturday while I watched Alejandro at his golf lesson.  This particular friend had attended Joaquin’s funeral mass and we finally got the opportunity to speak.  It was such a good visit as she bravely asked questions.  In many circumstances, people tiptoe around the topic of death, especially that of a child’s death.  But she didn’t because she felt a connection.  She stated, “Forgive me if I’m being frank”.  Frank?  Gosh no!  I want people to talk to me about what they’re feeling and what our journey has done for them.  My friends, my life is an open book for a reason.  Please, ask away!

Later that afternoon,  I was on the phone with an old college friend.  My friend is a busy homeschooling mom that works for a parish in her area and as the years passed we spoke less frequently, but had managed to speak prior to Joaquin’s passing.  She had been sending me texts with prayers and support from the day that Joaquin went in until just a few days ago.  I was desperate to talk to her and I finally did this Saturday.

And when we spoke it was beautiful.  We spoke of St. Michael the Arch Angel as she suggested that I keep his prayer handy for those times when I feel like I am afraid.  She reminded me of the Pieta (a painting or sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus)

pieta

and how, when you look closely, you can see her sorrow and anguish and at the same time you can see her peace.  I got chills as I told her that my last moment with Joaquin was very similar.  I have never connected more to our Blessed Mother than I did then.  I was, of course, anguished and sad that I would no longer physically have my beautiful son, but at that moment I was at peace because he had no more tubes, no more pain and more than anything I could hold him again.  While my husband and Alejandro cried around me, I was at peace knowing my sweet boy was whole again.

I asked her how she got to where she is now.  Because truth be told, when I met her she was just a fun college girl just like the rest of us (although she was always more pious than many of us).  She shared with me that through all the pain and anguish that she had suffered in the past, she has always felt peaceful in the presence of our Lord.  I couldn’t agree more.  I blurted out that I was feeling overwhelmed because I felt like I had finally been graced by God – something that I had been craving for years – at yet, I didn’t know where to go next with it.  In a nutshell, I told her I wanted to be like her.  I want to know exactly what to say, what to pray, how to pray.  I felt like I was at a crossroads and didn’t know which road God wanted me to take next.  She laughed and told me I was silly.  She reminded me that I shouldn’t be overwhelmed but instead told me that if I can continue to listen to God, as I clearly have especially in the last three months, that I would soon know where God needs me.

So, yesterday, as my husband worked and Alejandro spent Sunday with my parents, I did what felt right in my heart.  I turned off the TV and prayed.  I spoke (and yes cried) to God and Joaquin for a good ten minutes. I texted two friends when I was done.   Both are mourning mothers.   One friend, whose loss is more recent, admitted that as she received my text she was not doing well and she didn’t know what to do.  She was on the verge of a meltdown and home alone with both of her children.  I gave her some simple advice (get out of the house and go to your mom’s!!) and told her I was there if she needed me.  As that was going on, I asked my other friend to join me at mass.  She agreed.  And there we were.  Two friends, both mourning the loss of their children in the place where I have finally come to find peace.  As I sat there and once again, let His words sink in, part of Psalms 46:10 came to mind, “be still and know that I am God…”.

When we left mass I checked my phone and my other friend’s text awaited me “The kids and I are dressed and singing in the car on our way to my mom’s.  Stepping out into the sun makes a difference, fast! Thanks for sending that text at the exact right moment.”

Then I realized, God is in control of my crossroads. My trust and faith is in God and Him alone. He never fails. So, I will gladly sit back and let Him lead me.

crossroads

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This Thing Called Grief

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I cry.  Yes, trust me – I do cry.  After all our company left yesterday and after finally getting caught up on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Paul and I decided we were exhausted.  Do you blame us?  We have been going on overdrive since our sweetpea went Home one week ago today.  So we headed to the dark bedroom and got in bed.  And there, we cried.  And cried.  And we fell asleep.

20 minutes later I woke up.  Like I literally jolted up.  Paul asked if I was ok and I said, “Yeah, I’m done”.  So here’s the deal.  I think I am just really focusing on God and Joaquin’s fighting spirit that I make myself not dwell.  I practically force myself not to.  Last night before bedtime I was missing Joaquin’s voice and I wanted to desperately listen to the videos I have on my phone of him.  But I felt like my wound was so deep at that moment that it just didn’t seem like the wisest idea.  Instead I took a quick peek at his pictures, inhaled the smell on his pajamas and went to bed.

This morning I decided to check out the five stages of grief and I am either doing things backwards or I have finally excelled in something.  Check them out.

Denial and Isolation – ok.  I think I did this.  But I did this in the hospital.  I never isolated myself but I think I was in denial or really, really holding on to hope.

Anger – I have only dealt with anger once so far.  And that was when a family member was making our family’s mourning about them and carrying out a little too dramatically.  I raged in anger and didn’t care who heard me.  This was OUR child.  How dare you drape yourself over my casket and wail uncontrollably while my six year old watches and goes from happy to scared.  How dare you?  If anyone should be doing this it should be me.  And I didn’t.  I weep in private for the sake of my living child.  Am I wrong?  Who the heck knows?  All I know is that I was livid.

Bargaining – my bargaining came in prayer form.  I mean like hard core, all night vigil prayer form.  And it worked.  He was completely healed.

Depression – I am not depressed.  I am sad.  I miss him so much.  But I refuse to be depressed.  REFUSE.  Joaquin was a happy child and I feel like I have a bit of him in me therefore I cannot be depressed.  I feel like he tells me to get up and GO!!  And what mommy doesn’t listen to their kiddos when they get that demanding.  Thank you, baby boy.

Acceptance – the most beautiful part for me.  I accepted Joaquin’s passing when I soaked in the word of God.  He was telling me it was time to let go.  Yesterday Paul and I spoke about when we really think Joaquin died.  Medically it was at 4:15 am last Friday morning.  But we think perhaps his soul had left his sweet body earlier.  We were trying to pinpoint exactly when but that’s kind of impossible.  Then I wondered.  What if he died when I spoke to Chaplain Ana?  When she whispered things I can’t remember.  When I heard her call me a woman of God.  When I exhaled and inhaled in her arms.  How can I not accept it when it happens so beautifully?

So – my grief has been all over the place.  A lot like me!!  And it doesn’t matter.  As long as you get it done.

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