Saturday, April 22, 2017

Life is...Hard

It's been a hard week for me for some reason.  I can speculate what the triggers are and why it's happening, but it doesn't really matter.  Life just feels a little hard right now.  Things feel overwhelming.  Grief is rearing it's ugly head in unexpected moments and with unexpected feelings.  On Monday, I had a mini meltdown after the cleaning crew came in and packed up my entire basement leaving me feeling very vulnerable; like I just let the world see the mess that was my basement, and really felt like the mess that is inside of me.  The mess of feelings, uncertainties, and looming questions gone unanswered.  I messaged my friend who keeps me company during the days with a running conversation.  I told her all that I mentioned above.  I told her life felt hard right now and the feelings felt BIG...too BIG.

Later this week my friend sent me the following article.  I was going to try and articulate how all that she said reiterated all that I was feeling.  But instead I think I'll let you read it for yourself.

My prayers for you all is that this week you are able to sit with your suffering, look it in the face, and let someone else in.  Life is indeed hard sometimes.  We all have our crosses to bear.  Don't feel like you have to carry that cross alone.  Don't feel bad for admitting that your cross is too heavy right now.  Find a friend or confidant to carry your cross with you.

We wait until heaven....

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Mother of All Mothers

Today....Good Friday....I can't help but think about Mary.  If there ever was a mother who knew the grief of losing a child, it was her.  Not only did her son die, she watched him die a barbaric death that He didn't deserve.  It was the ultimate case of unfair.  Even with her knowledge of what was to come, I can imagine the horrifying grief she endured those days and the disbelief that would follow....

In losing my son, I found my Mother.  I found the Mother of God who when I couldn't talk to God, I could go to her because she understood.  She held her dying child at the bottom of his cross, and I picked up my cross when I held my dying son in our hospital NICU department.

So on this day I can't help but to stop and say a prayer of Thanksgiving for the gift of my spiritual Mother who would wrap me in her mantle, hold my hand, and quietly remind me that she understood as the tears ran down my face.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
 that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
 implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. 

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother;
 to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. 
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, 
but in thy mercy hear and answer me. 


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Permission to Rest

It's 12:45 on a Wednesday, my children, who started waking up at 4:30 this morning, are both taking nice long naps.  Noah, our oldest living son, doesn't nap much anymore, but a tantrum of epic proportions and a way too early start to his day won out today and he sleeps.  And my goodness, I almost forget about that tantrum when I peek in on him to see him sleeping soundly.  So when I suddenly found myself with a few quiet hours on my hands I almost didn't know what to do... and then I did.  I won't lie, I did wipe down the bathrooms, picked my 5 items for my daily minimalizing challenge I am currently in (life changing...I've gotta tell you all about it another day), and did manage to shower.  But you know what else I chose to do? Guilt free? I chose to rest.

My blogging position today.  If you look closely you'll see my son's uneaten breakfast and spilled cereal all over the floor.

I won't pretend that there aren't at least a thousand things I could be doing right now.  But something I have learned in my grief and in my motherhood is that sometimes choosing to rest is the wiser choice for me.  We all know that grief is emotional and mental, but we often forget that grief is also physical.    

In this fast paced world it's often hard to find the time to just allow yourself to rest.  Ask any parent on the planet and they will tell you the struggle is real.  But I don't think it's even necessary to be a parent to feel this way.  Even my 3 year old resists rest.  He's too busy to stop and allow his body the rest he needs.  He wants to go, go, go! And sometimes it takes an epic tantrum for both him and us to realize he needs more sleep.  And aren't we all the same? The laundry, the errands, the dishes, the meals...we need to go until we collapse into bed at the end of each day.  Now add in grief and you become a real hot mess!

This used to be me, and honestly many days it still is, but one thing I learned in my grieving is that I needed to not only work through my emotions and feelings, but I also needed to listen to my body. I needed to know that there were times the dishes and the toys would have to wait and I was going to allow myself to nap with my kids or sit quietly in my, what I like to call, "Old Lady" recliner.

Our culture tells us that our houses need to always be immaculate, our kids need to be in every activity from soccer to Girl Scouts to ballet, and success in life is achieved by being the most productive person on the planet.  So when I found myself deep in the trenches of grief and knowing my body needed to recharge, I knew I needed to rest, but couldn't shake the voice of GUILT that echoed in my mind.  "Lazy," it told me.  "Not good enough.  Get over it already. No wonder you are out of shape and overweight." 

Friends, it took a lot of tears, reading, and conversations to finally get to the point that I was able to shut that ridiculous voice down.  When I gave myself those moments of rest whether it was sitting on the couch for 20 minutes with a cup of coffee, sleeping for 2 hours while my kids napped, reading a book or blog, or working quietly on a craft or art you know what? I became a better mom, wife, and person.  Even my house was a little cleaner and more organized because allowing myself those small moments of rest allowed me the recharge that I needed to be more focused on my call in life as wife, mom, and homemaker.

Then this Lent I found rest in the most unexpected of times...I found "rest" at 6 am when my alarm goes off and I crawl out of bed (OK...after a few hits on the snooze button) and quietly grab a cup of coffee, my Blessed Is She daily devotionals, my Bible, and I take time (sometimes it's only 10 minutes before someone wakes up and sometimes I have an unexpected prayer partner that day) to rest in Him.  Scripture tells us, "Come to Me and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28 Starting my day off (or some days my kid's nap time) by resting in God's word and presence has also brought a much missing peace and focus to my days.  

So friends find rest in your life.  Whatever that looks like to you.  Unplug, unwind, and relax.  Say no to a few invitations.  Put yourself first for a bit.  Decide you're worth it.  Find rest and let your body soak up all that it needs.  Let the guilt go.  You're worth it!

We wait until heaven...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Jesus Wept

Yesterday at mass the Gospel reading was the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, the shortened version is this.  Lazarus, brother to Martha and Mary and dear friend of Jesus, has died.  Jesus is called to come to Bethany, but is delayed (by his choice).  When He arrives, Martha tells him if He had only come sooner He could've saved Lazarus.  And in His final miracle from the Gospel of John before His passion begins,  Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. (You can read the actual gospel here....the story teller did a much better job.)

I bring up this gospel, because although I was familiar with the raising of Lazarus, and had heard it many times before, yesterday in Mass I heard one line very differently than I had ever before.  The shortest verse in the Bible.  Jesus wept.  Upon hearing his friend had died and before raising him from the dead, He wept.  I don't know about all of you, but when I envision a person weeping, I see gut wrenching sobs, rivers of tears, and weakness of body.  So when the gospel writer chose to tell us that Jesus wept, he was telling us something great.  Jesus truly God and truly man, shows us His vulnerability and humanness as He mourns the loss of his great friend.  He knows the miracle that is about the ensue, but He takes a moment to allow himself to feel the loss of his friend in front of a crowd of people.  Jesus wept for the loss, He wept for Martha and Mary who had just lost their brother, He weeps for the soul of Lazarus.  Wow.  For the first time, I really saw Jesus as a man and a person, and not as a God looking down up earth from His thrown ready to perform His miracle.  In that moment, we see a man who feels and experiences all that we humans feel and experience.

And then ever so gently, the Lord began to show me, his daughter that He loves as much as He loved Lazarus, that when my boys died, He wept with me too.  Bad things happen to good people.  Humans are flawed, people die...yes, sadly even babies.  And trying to understand it or make sense of it all is way too much for my brain to handle these days, but one thing became very clear to me as the priest read the gospel yesterday.  I don't know why my boys died and I don't know why God didn't provide me my miracle of Lazarus, but I do know without a doubt, when I was weeping and mourning the loss of my sons, Jesus was weeping with and for me, his daughter.

Maybe this is just new to me, and maybe not, but to understand that God joined me in my sorrow, and  shared in that human moment of sorrow with me changes my perspective so very much.  Yes, Christ was there to gather into His arms my children at the gates of heaven, but in a way only God can He was holding me and mourning with me.  And even if He has greater plans for my family that will come from this loss, I know that He also was very much with us in those intense moments of loss.

And you know what friends? He's there with you too.  When our hearts break over grief and loss, His heart breaks too.  He's not only the conductor of all of humanity, but He's also our father and greatest supporter.  Just as it breaks my heart as a mother to see one of my children hurting or sad, it agonizes Him in the same ways.  Yes, He has greater wisdom and knows greater purpose than we do, but he weeps with His children.

My grief journey changed directions a little bit yesterday.  Yes, I'm still sad and wish every day that I had 3 living children to mother here on earth while still carrying my 4th in my belly.  Yes, I will always wish that God spared and saved my children the way He spared Lazarus.  But now when I question and wonder where God was when I losing my sons, I know with out a doubt, He was there, holding my hand, and crying tears with me.

Until Heaven....

Also yesterday morning I read a wonderful reflection on this gospel in my daily Blessed Is She email.  If you'd like to read more on how this story relates to our grief click here.  Also, if you don't know about Blessed Is She...You should.  (Well if you are a woman...)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Look for the Helpers

I'm falling apart

I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart
That's still beating
In the pain
There is healing
In your name
I find meaning
So I'm holding on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
Barely holding on to you


Tomorrow will be 3 months since we said good-bye to our son, Benjamin.  I've found in the major events of my life the 3 month mark is when I'm tired of being strong (or at least pretending to be) and the numbness of the past 3 months suddenly turns into lots of other emotions....sadness, anger, exhaustion, and deep, deep loss.  In the grief world, it's also at this point that most people have returned back to their lives (as they should) and you feel alone in all of this.  You feel that if you ask for help you are "needy" and "should be over it" already.  But anyone who has lost a loved one, will tell you that this most definitely isn't the case.

I don't tell you all of this for pity or so that you'll feel sorry for you, but rather what I've finally learned or that I am still learning.  You may be familiar with the saying from the late Mr. Rogers that says, 

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."  

This past week I met with my therapist and I was telling her that I had a moment in my prayer time this week in the daily readings from the Psalm that said "The Lord is kind and merciful."  I've read that Psalm many times in my life, as I'm sure many of you have.  But the Lord challenged me this time around.  If the Lord is indeed as kind and as merciful as I believe Him to be, then He can't be the same God who is making the tragic and difficult events in my life occur.  Those can't coincide.  So my therapist posed a question, she asked me where then did I see this kind and merciful Jesus in the tragedies. The answer that came to my mind was in His people.  

My brother who came over at 6:30 in the morning so my husband could meet us at the hospital when our son was recovering from a major seizure.  The friend who dropped off groceries on our porch because she knew we wouldn't want to be away from him.  My mom, who when I asked, got on a plane to come stay with us so that I could have some extra support as I navigate this grief with two young children to take care of.  The cards in the mail.  The meals prepared.  The kind messages and comments in social media.  I began to see Jesus in His people, both the expected and unexpected.

Sometimes we miss God, because He comes in ways (and people) we don't expect. God hasn't left me alone or abandoned me.  He is kind and merciful and in those time when I needed Him most He sent His people.  And I needed to be reminded of that fact.  Because I was very much questioning and accusing God of His role, or lack there of, in my life lately.  I was reminded of the scripture that says, "The Lord is always close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18. I just missed that from Him.  I didn't recognize His face in the faces of my helpers.  

Then today as I drove down the highway after dropping my mom off at the airport, and life once again was resting on my shoulders, the song from Lifehouse came on the radio, and I was reminded that despite the tragedies and difficulties, I find meaning in God and that I can keep holding on, because He is near in the people He has put in my life. 

So thank you for those of you who showed me Jesus.  Thank you for the times in my life that were the hardest, you were there in the ways I needed.  

And I challenge all of you....look for the helpers,  they are always there if you look hard enough. 

Until heaven....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Bond of Brothers

When we lost our 4th son, Benjamin, after having two living children, we were obviously devastated.  I remember telling my OB that we were so excited that we were finally going to have an uneventful pregnancy. But here we were at the place of devastation and disbelief once again.  In between my numbness and tears, I remember closing my eyes and seeing a vision of Jackson, our first born, greeting Benjamin as he came into heaven.  In that moment of utter despair, I had a moment of peace knowing that if I had to lose my boys to heaven, not only would they only know the joy and peace of heaven, but they wouldn't be alone. They would have each other.

I've found myself thinking about a conversation that I had with my therapist (we might as well let that little secret out of the bag....yes, I have been seeing a therapist since shortly after we lost Jackson) about the fact that I hadn't been able to enjoy this pregnancy as much because I really hadn't had time to deal with my grieving of losing a child coupled with a very scary and eventful pregnancy with my oldest living child that resulted in a 65 day stay in the NICU, after 3 long weeks of me being there myself.  Clearly, I have a good relationship with my therapist, 4 years and a lot of money later, but she and I are oddly very different when it comes to spirituality.  Although, she has encouraged me in my faith walk just as much as some of my best theologically astute friends has.  (Imagine that...we can learn things from people we don't get agree with? Another blog...another time...). Anyways, on this occasion she was encouraging me to put Jackson "to rest."  That maybe it was time for me to focus on my living children more.  She was in no way telling me to forget about him or act as if he hadn't existed, but rather find the closure I was looking for.  And it's important for that to occur, we can't just dwell in misery or in an unhealthy spot of grief, I did really need closure.   She was worried that my children might have a "ghost brother" in whom we would idolize to some degree.  Again, I saw her wisdom and understood where she was coming from.  And for awhile I really focused on that.  We finally got a name plate put on Jackson's niche a few days before our youngest living son was born.  I put away a few of Jackson's memorabilia and I embraced welcoming our new son home at 38 weeks.

But I soon realized that there was a piece of the puzzle that my therapist didn't have, because of her differing spirituality.  I went back to my middle school religion classes where I taught my students about the communion of saints.  As Catholics, we believe in the idea that there is communication, prayer, and love between all those in heaven, in purgatory, and on earth.  These 3 places don't function as separate places, rather we are all apart of a loving and prayerful community supporting one another.  Two of my children may no longer be living here on this earth, but they are definitely alive and can continue to be apart of my family's lives.  My living children look upon their brother's photos each day as they pass by playing trucks or watching TV.  Jackson and Benjamin's names will always be remembered and spoken aloud.  My children will always know they can ask their brothers to pray for them at any time.  Their relationships can live on until one day we are all reunited in heaven.   We don't dwell on the topic, or even talk about them every day or even week, but I find great consolation in knowing that all of my children can continue to be there for each other, to have a relationship (albeit much different than an early relationship), and when they reunite one day they'll know each other's love from years of being brothers.

This picture hangs in one of my boy's rooms and always reminds me that their brothers are never far away.

My friends, there is such beauty in that.  There is such consolation in my heart because of this, knowing that they will all know each other in a way only God could've designed.  I don't know how I would survive if I didn't believe in the after life.  If my family couldn't one day be reunited in our heavenly court.  And so I'm able to wait a little longer with a greater hope knowing not only what awaits me in heaven, but who.

Until heaven...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Shaken Faith

Two days ago I put this blog into movement and was excited to share my story of how I have relied so heavily on my faith after losing two children to heaven.  And this morning,  as the paramedics carried my seizing older son to the ambulance as I quickly put on my coat and jacket, the only words coming out of my mouth were: "Don't you dare, God...Don't you don't get to take another child from me.  I won't survive this if you do."

Twelve hours later, I am at a different spot and my little boy is playing in his bed instead of sleeping per usual.  Tonight I'm glad to hear his babbling because it lets me know he's ok.  My husband will camp out with him tonight, because he doesn't sleep well in our bed, and we will be grateful tomorrow when he sees his Dr. and we formulate a plan.

Here's the thing....what we witnessed today, our child having a Grand Mal seizure, is beyond frightening for any parent.  But when you're a parent who has lost a child, the fear of losing another child is never far from you.  You're always kind of waiting for the other proverbial shoe to fall.  So the hypocrisy or contradiction of my words and actions wasn't lost on me.  I am a woman of faith who I believe has only survived losing my children because of that faith, and yet when trauma strikes again, I'm raising my fist to heaven and letting God know just exactly how I feel in that moment.

In some ways today I felt like a modern day Job.  Although his story is far more extreme, I could relate to him when he would ask God to spare him any further grief, that it would be better for God to take his life than to put him through any further agony.  Today, for awhile, I was Job.  And maybe that's dramatic, but it's honest.  It's where I was at.  How much more testing in the fire was I going to be asked to endure?

So where does my strong faith come in?  I think what I realize is that God has big shoulders.  It's ok if we yell out to Him in times of fear and agony.  He can handle us questioning His role in our lives.  He waits for us.  He's a gentleman like that.  It's ok to question and wonder just where He is in times when it feels like He's abandoned us.  And then, if we allow Him, He reminds us that He's still there.

When my little boy was dancing around the living room tonight to his favorite "Truck Songs" videos...God reminded me He was still on the thrown.  Tonight we have a happy, little guy who hopefully doesn't remember much of what happened today (he's gonna think it's pretty cool one day to know he got to ride in an ambulance.) God reminds us that His mercy is new each new day. His joy comes in the morning.  He never abandons His children, even when (especially when) there isn't a happy ending.  And although sometimes I have to remind myself of that truth, I know in my heart of hearts, just like Job, God will comfort and restore my faith.