Children Are Magical

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I promised to share the AMAZING story about how Gracie knows her daddy.  As I have said before, Gracie was only 15 months when my husband passed away.  My last picture taken of Ryan was with her.  They were walking hand and hand in our back yard the day before (she was 15 months that day).  I knew, and it killed me inside, that this little baby would never have the pleasure of remembering this wonderful man who would have done anything in his power to protect her. The man who she had wrapped around her little fingers would never be remembered.  I remember speaking of this pain at Ryan’s memorial service and I promised him that she would grow up to know her daddy.  But this AMAZING thing began to happen and thanks to this, Gracie “knows” her daddy.

One afternoon I had put Gracie upstairs for a nap.  My other children were at outside playing.  I was straightening up and on the monitor I kept hearing Gracie giggle over and over.  I was starting to get frustrated because I needed her to sleep and knew she was tired.  I let her go.  The giggling continued and then I heard her say “Dada”.  My heart stopped.  I froze.  She said it again, “Dada” and just was giggling her little heart out.  So I took a deep breathe and went upstairs to her room.  There Gracie was standing in her crib as happy as could me.  I looked at her and told her she had to lay down and go “night-night.”  She turned and started giggling to the right- side of me.  Then she looked at me and said “Dada”.  I was shaking.  Why is she saying “dada” and giggling over and over.  Something told me to ask.  I know I sound like I lost my mind but I had to ask.  I looked at her and said “Is Dada here?” and she smiled the biggest and brightest smile and again looked to the right of me.  Of course I saw nothing.  I didn’t sense him (I had a few times).  I couldn’t believe I was talking to my little girl and asking about her dead father.  Again, I came right out and asked, “Is Dada here?” and she shook her head yes.  I was about to lose it.  I took a deep breathe and asked, “Gracie, where is Dada?” and she pointed to my right side.  I asked a few more times and each time she would point to the same spot and smile.  So officially, losing my mind, I asked if I should tickle him.  She shook her head yes.  I turned to my right and began to tickle the area where she kept pointing to.  Gracie began hysterically laughing!  I asked her, “Is Daddy laughing at Mommy?” and again she acknowledged with with a nod and looked once again to the same spot.  So I did what any sane mom would do and I simply said, “Daddy, Gracie needs to take a nap.  You need to let her sleep.”  I watched Gracie look and then she laid down and went to sleep.  I ran into my room and sobbed!  I was blown away at what had just happened and tried to understand how and why could Gracie see him?  Why couldn’t I see or talk to him?

This was the only time that I was ever with her when something like this happened.  As she got older, Gracie would tell us stories of how her and daddy went on walks.  She was VERY descriptive.  She would use words that he would say.  She told many stories of the adventures (yes she used the word adventures) they would go on.  The stories were very similar to things my husband had done with my older children.  Gracie is very clear that it is at night.  She has described his house and her bedroom in heaven as well as saying that he is with his brother (yes my in laws have loss 2 of their 3 children) who passed away from an illness when we were 20 years old.  This was extremely comforting to my mother-in-law as you can imagine.

My older children as well as myself, have not had any dreams of my husband. Ella and Hunter would just sit and listen as Gracie would tell us about what her and daddy did or things daddy liked.  Later in reading articles about people who have experienced the same things as Gracie, I learned how our deceased loved ones are able to come to children, especially young children, because their hearts/minds are more open.  I had all this confirmed by a medium (a whole other post).  She confirmed the events of that afternoon as well as many others I was not aware of.  Ryan had come to Gracie on several occasions since his passing.  According to her, he is with me all the time but because I am so distraught, I am not able to see him or hear him.  We have several photos where there are orbs.  My children will see them and say “oh there’s daddy”.

Many are skeptical of crossing over and being in touched with loved ones who have passed on.  I respect everyone’s views and I wasn’t sure of my feelings either until that afternoon.  For me, I have enough “proof”. I am so happy that he has helped me with Gracie by coming to her and creating memories.  I pray every night that he watches over us and keeps us safe.  I talk to him and ask, sometimes beg, for him to let me know he is with me.  And maybe I am still just too distraught to feel his presence, but I truly would love it.  As my children are getting older, his memory is fading in their little minds.  But I find it comforting that if they are open to it, he can come to them and help them remember.  Children truly are magical.

Just lending an ear

I’ve been asked a few times by some friends to reach out to others who are in a similar position as me.  A lot of them have young children and have no idea where to go or how to begin to help their children deal with the death of their parent.  I am always willing to reach out and try to offer some support but mostly an understanding ear.

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It is one event, like many others, that unless you have walked in that person’s shoes, you truly have no understanding of what they are going through.  And just like with other events, everyone reacts and handles it in different ways.  But I know it is comforting to talk with someone who just gets it.  When I lost my husband I was fortunate to have the widow of one of his childhood friends to speak to about experiencing such a loss.  She had become a widow a year and a half earlier and shortly after discovered she was pregnant with their first and only child.  I have the chills as I type this because I remember her telling me how her late husband had told her he would never leave her alone.  And a month later she discovered she was pregnant. We sat one afternoon and talked and I remember listening to her describe the things she had gone through especially the 1st year and telling me how the 2nd year is harder.  She referred to us as being a part of this “club” that no one should ever have to be in.  I hold that afternoon’s conversation very close to my heart.  It was the first time someone completely understood what I was feeling.  I knew that I would love to be able to do that for anyone else who was unfortunate to join this “club”.

When I have spoken to others I truly just listened to them.  Everyone’s loss is different.  Some, like one friend, his wife died of cancer.  Then others, were like mine, the death was unexpected.  My friend that lost his wife is left raising 3 girls close to my children’s ages.  He said it best “No one gets it.”  He, like all parents, was so worried about his girls.  They were starting to react to the loss now that the shock had worn off.  I just listened as he spoke of his girls and the struggles he faced from learning to do their hair for dance recitals to cooking.  I wasn’t sure if I helped him but I know it helped me to know that I could be there even if it was to just listen.  So what did I share?  I just shared what I have and am continuing to learn through my own process.

The thing with children and grief is they are so resilient.  They continue their daily lives, for the most part, normal.  They grieve differently.  They may not cry or they may cry all the time.  They may talk about the parent they lost and want to know as much as they can about how they died.  They may just keep it all in like my oldest has done for so long.  But I think the one thing that is guaranteed to help them while they grieve is to just be there for them.  Take the time to listen to them.  Take the time to understand that they are individuals.  Just because we are sad all the time or cry all the time, doesn’t mean they have to as well.  But this is what is so hard for the parent left behind to understand.  This is what makes us begin to worry and doubt ourselves…are we doing enough or are they OK.

It is, also, important to remember that each child is different.  They may have lost the same parent but they will grieve in their own way too.  Ella keeps it all in and will only share with me, in private and on her own terms, her feelings.  She has only cried to me about her loss.  For months she always referred to Ryan is the present tense.  Hunter, on the other hand, is very open about his feelings.  When he misses his daddy, he lets everyone know and cries.  This is beginning to change now that he is older but by far he is more open with his grief.  And Gracie, she just knows her daddy through us and dreams she has of him (this is a whole other AMAZING post I will share).  But she talks about her daddy like she truly remembers him.

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I do recommend Maria Shriver’s book What’s Heaven (Maria Shriver & Sandra Speidel).  It beautifully explains what happens to a person when they die.  It helps a child understand that our loved one’s spirit never truly dies.  It is always with us.  Whether you believe in Heaven or not, it truly helped me explain to my own children the very confusing concept of where their daddy went after he died.  There are many resources out there at our finger tips to help children begin to heal.  I simply searched on various sites for children’s books. I haven’t had to use some that I have purchased and I may never have to.  But I wanted to educate myself.

If you know someone who is grieving, the BEST thing you can do is to lend an ear.  Listen and let them talk about their loss.  You may feel like you are not helping but you are helping more than you know.

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Why Now?

Why Now?

I find myself asking this question on a daily basis lately.  Life has a way of challenging you.  Life has a way of making you look long and hard at yourself.  Life has a way of helping you realize things have changed or need to change.  You make a choice and move on but then all of a sudden the same challenge appears out of no where…why now?

When life throws these things out to you, you have to make the choice as to how you will face them.  Finding my voice has helped me during these times.  I made my decisions to move on because I didn’t deserve to be treated that way or made to feel I did something wrong.  Does it make it any easier of a decision?  Absolutely not.  I still feel.  I still care.  But I needed to do what was best for me.  And yet it the curve ball is thrown back…why now?

I am a firm believer in owning your responsibility in all you do.  If I treat someone unfairly, I will own it.  If I hurt someone whether it was intentional or not, I own it.  If I had anything to do with any conflict in my life, I own it.  But not everyone is like that when it comes to dealing with life’s curve balls.  So that is when I needed to make a choice…

Is this how I want to be treated?  Is this good for me and my life?  Is this it worth the effort even when it brings me pain?

The choice was made for ME and what was best for ME.   I moved on and moved forward because it is best for ME.  And yet I still ask ….Why Now?

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Bonjour!

DSCN0451Our Hotel

We are experiencing the first true winter in a couple of years here in Pennsylvania.  We haven’t had these cold temperatures in a long time.  So as I am warming up under my heated blanket and watching mindless TV, I find my mind wondering.  I am thinking about places I have been so fortunate to visit.  My absolute favorite place and a place I NEVER thought I would ever visit is Paris.  It will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the 1st trip, since becoming parents, Ryan and I went on alone.  It was always a dream of ours to go back one day.

DSCN0452The Louvre

I will admit, the way we spent our time in Paris was amazing and our experience was magical, but we would have never been able to do what we did, stayed where we stayed if it wasn’t a trip Ryan earned through his company.  The year I was pregnant with Hunter, he had one of his best years in his company.  He ended the year as the no#1 sales rep in his district.  There I was 7 1/2 months pregnant and Ryan looked at me and said, “We’re going to Paris!”  My heart skipped a beat, raced, and sank all at the same time.  I was so excited for him.  He worked so hard and deserved it this trip.  But the thought of leaving my babies was killing my hormonal self.  But I have never looked back and regretted it.  I left a 2-year-old and 9 week old and flew across the ocean to the most beautiful place with the love of my life.

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I can see the Eiffel Tower.  I can see the Opera House.  I can see the cafes. There was nothing more magical than walking the streets of Paris with the person you love and experiencing it for the first time.  We would sit outside and enjoy lunch and later some wine.  We celebrated the summer solstice there….music was everywhere.  I think of that every June 21st.  I got to have dinner in the Palace of Versailles.  I tour champagne country.  I was truly blessed with an amazing and once in a lifetime experience.

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So let the Polar Vortex come because I will enjoy daydreaming, under my heated blanket, and think of my once in a lifetime trip.

DSCN0562Once in a lifetime dinner at Versailles

True You

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Genuine~Loyal~Fun~Supportive~Dependable~Humble

These are just a few words I hold dear to my heart and the type of person I set out to be.  These are a few words I try to instill in my children as well.  These are a few words I look for in people who eventually become friends.  These are a few words that seem to be lacking in our society anymore.  It makes being this type of person extremely hard and even harder to teach children to strive to be as they grow into their own person.

Why are these values not as important in our society anymore?  There is so much competition in our society to be the best and to have the best.  But does this make us the best person we can be?  For me it doesn’t.  I don’t care where a person went to school, what type of job they have, where they live, what their home looks like.  None of that matters to me.  What matters is that they show me their true self.

I spend much of my days instilling these values into my children.  I pretty much preach to them the importance of being a good friend.  I tell them how important it is to treat others the way they want to be treated.  Now that all 3 are in school, our dinner conversations are all over the place with what happened in their little lives.  I see how my influence is sometimes put to the back burner to their friends. But I have to say I know they hear me because when one says how someone did this and if they respond to what we (our family) view as inappropriate (big word in our home), I am not always the one to correct them.  Poor things have their 2 other siblings to deal with.  They know that they are always to be honest and that lying never gets them anywhere.  Of course their lies are really not harmful but if they don’t learn now the value of being honest now, they never will.

I am determined that my children will hold these values dear to their heart even in a society that doesn’t.  It makes me sad that they may get hurt in the process.  I’m an adult and I’m still affected by people who don’t hold these values as important.  I do my best to stay true to my values.  I try my best to be a genuine person in everything I do.  It’s now or never.  I am almost 41 years old.  The true me is what you see and what you get.

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On the inside

On the outside I look like any other mom. I look like I am happy.  I look like I am enjoying life.  I smile.  I laugh.  I get out of bed.  I take care of my children.  I take care of my home.  I take of myself.  I have a business. I go on vacations.  I am participating in life. But on the inside I am empty.  I am drowning.  I am dying.  I can’t breathe.  I can’t sleep.  I can’t move.  I suffer from depression.  I suffer from anxiety. I am like many other women out there who suffer from this disease.

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I think I have always suffered from depression and anxiety.  But it wasn’t until my husband’s death that it all came to the surface.  It wasn’t until then that it took over my life.  I can clearly remember when I knew I was no longer able to control the disease.  It was a few weeks following Ryan’s death, my entire body ached.  Every time I moved, the pain was so intense.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I actually lost 12lbs in 10 days. I remember functioning but yet not really being all there.  But I thought it would pass.  The intense pain both physically and mentally would go away.  I just needed time.

Summer came.  We had made plans to go camping with my best friend and her family.  They made me promise not to back out.  So I packed us all up and we hopped into their RV and drove over 2 hours.  I remember making small talk.  I remember laughing.  I remember forcing myself to smile and try to have fun.  Then while we were camping I remember this feeling coming over me.  It was a feeling I had felt before many times.  But for some reason since Ryan’s death it intensified.  My heart was racing.  I couldn’t breathe.  I remember standing there watching my kids play and thinking what is happening and why can’t I control it and make it stop.  I was having an anxiety attack.  My best friend made me promise to call the doctor as soon as I got home.

I had my yearly with my OBGYN and I decided to just talk to him.  He sat there and cried with me.  I sobbed as I told him how I physically hurt.  I sobbed when I told him I just wanted to fall asleep and not have to wake up for a few days.  He grabbed my hands and looked me in the eyes and said you are suffering from depression.  Me?  No…not me.  He said it again and this time I just lost it.  I couldn’t stop sobbing.  I remember saying I have no time to be weak.  I have to be strong for my kids.  He asked me if I ever thought about ending my life.  I assured him I didn’t and that I never would harm myself.  I would never do that to my children.  But I told him I just don’t want to function anymore.  I just want to sleep.  I just want to close my eyes and not think for a while.  That was the truth.  If I could just temporarily “check out” for a while it would be OK.  I didn’t want to permanently check out.  But by saying those words I knew and he knew I needed help.

Together with my OBGYN and later with a therapist the decision was made that I needed to be on medication.  It took some time to get the right medication that would work for me.  I remember over the course of 8 months playing around with medication.  At first, it seemed to work.  But then as life continued, we had a lot of adjusting to do.  I remember taking a medication that worked but it caused me to gain 25lbs within 3 months!  That certainly didn’t help me feel good about myself or my life.  But thankfully I was able to find the correct medication and dosage that has worked thus far.  Once the old medication was out of my system, the weight melted away.  For me medication and therapy has helped me tremendously. Do I feel I have my depression under control?  Not completely. But I know, for me, this is what I need to do.

It is hard for some people to understand just how much depression affects your every day life.  I don’t hide this from anyone.  But I don’t go around telling people either.  I feel very fortunate that when I go into what I refer to “my funk”, I don’t ever get to the point where I want to end my life permanently.  But when I am in “my funk” it is extremely hard to function.  I not only hurt mentally but physically.  I just want to check out for a little or go into a sleep where I am not having to deal with anything and then slowly come out of it.  It consumes every ounce of you.

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Some people think this is a sign of weakness or an excuse.  I have been told I just need to suck it up and deal with it because being sad is not going to change anything.  This isn’t something I want to feel.  I want to be able to handle the bad times like everyone else does.  I want to be happy~truly happy. But I can’t.  I do the best I can.  I know I put on a brave front for more than just my children.  I know I shouldn’t have to and have actually begun not to.  I am open with my children.  They see me take my medication.  They know I take it to help me so I am not sad all the time.  They know what they can handle.  If I hide it, I am letting them think it is something to be ashamed of and it isn’t at all.

Suffering from any type of mental illness is not something to be ashamed of or ignore.  It is important to find the help you need and to start the long and sometimes painful process of trying to find ways to help you learn to live with it.  Not everyone will understand it and that is OK.  What works for one person may not work for you.  There is no quick fix.  It isn’t a once and done thing either.   Accepting this and focusing on what YOU need is so important.

I have begun to let people in my life know when I am struggling.  I no longer hide it. And the people who are the closest to me sometimes know before I do that I am heading into “my funk”.   I just took a major step in this area.  The holidays are my favorite time of the year.  But they are so hard anymore.  I really had a hard time this past holiday season.  I just wanted to escape.  But I felt I needed to be strong and deal with it for others. Well this holiday seasoning I am doing something I have said I wanted to do since losing Ryan.  I am escaping.  We are going away over Thanksgiving.  We will not miss any of the holiday season.  But it will be a little escape before it all begins.  I need this.  We need this.  So we are doing it.  I know there will be people who think escaping isn’t the answer and that is OK.  But I know there are people who understand the need to escape from reality even if it is just for a little bit.

I am a yeller

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I have officially become a yeller.  I hate to admit it because that is not the type of person, teacher, or parent I ever set out to be.  Just to set the record straight, I do not yell ALL the time and I am by no means too harsh (I am a pushover).  And according to Ella, I am “a lover not a fighter”.  I just find myself yelling A LOT more than I feel I should at my kids.  But it feels so good!  Sometimes it makes me feel so much better after I yelled at them.  Then I have times when I go into the laundry room and cry.

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We all have the days when you just had enough.  You had enough of the constant reminders about the SAME thing.  Yes, as an educator I have looked at the behavior and tried to find the underlining reason for the behavior.  I have tried to model the appropriate behavior.  Yada Yada Yada.  But let’s face it, when your child does cartwheels through the kitchen for the 5th time after telling them not to because of the numerous reasons it is not safe or plain and simple, you are almost 10 you should know better, you are going to yell!   When your child continuously kicks their sibling over and over, you are going to yell.  When your child asks over and over for “x” and you have said calmly “not now” a few too many times, you are going to yell.   If you do not react that way, I applaud you and want to know the secret.  But I am owning the fact that I yell at them especially for behavior that they KNOW I do not tolerate.

I don’t set out to react to their inappropriate behavior by yelling.  I have (continue to) calmly stated my requests, my dislikes, my points of views.  But all of a sudden there is this look that comes across their face and I know they have tuned me out~you know the look.  I have even tested this by adding funny words into a sentence and no one has caught it.  But then when I raise my voice or go into crazy lady mode boy do I have their attention!  I have asked them why do I have to get to the point of crazy lady for them to stop and truly listen.  I get the famous shrug of the shoulders.  Love that reaction.

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I know that yelling isn’t solving anything.  The adult in me is well aware that there is a better way.  But the fed up, stressed out, and just plain irritated mom (or child in me) feels so much better after I yell at them.  I know my point was well heard and I feel good…I got it out! I am simply getting my point across in a loud manner!  And when I know I am being ridiculous, I will laugh at myself right in front of them.  But honestly there is only so much a mom can take until she becomes the crazy lady.  I just wish my kids would realize that I am always right (well most of the time) and they just need to accept it (ok deal with it).

I have those days when I look at them and what goes through my mind is just wrong.  I know some of you know what I am talking about and some of you don’t want to admit to it. Those are the days I often think back to my own childhood and find myself quoting my parents (gasp)!  But I get it now.  I get why I drove them crazy and why I made them yell.  It is what kids do.  It’s like a right of passage.  So I am truly looking forward to when they become parents and finally it hits them….in the head!  Then they will understand how they created the crazy lady.  I may be a yeller and I may turn into the crazy lady who just needs to chill but I am a victim of this thing called parenthood.