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How Do You Heal a Broken Heart?

balloonMadison’s balloon escaped from her tiny hands and floated gracefully up to the sky.  “My balloon!” she cried stretching out her arms as far as she could reach.  I tried to calm her down but she wanted her balloon.  I told her that we could get her another but tears sprang from her eyes as she continued to reach for her lost balloon.  I turned her face towards me and said, “Let’s let that balloon go to heaven.  That way our babies will have a balloon too.”  She stopped crying and looked at me.  She gave a crooked smile and said, “William and all our babies can have a balloon too.”  I took her by the hand and we asked the man handing out the balloons for another.   She smiled happily as I tied it to her arm for safe-keeping.

Shortly afterward we began our walk.  We were participating in the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s embrace ministry’s Remembrance Walk.  Slowly our family meandered our way surrounded by others who had also suffered through a miscarriage, still birth or the death of an infant.  They were like us… missing their babies and doing what they could to make sure their little ones knew they were loved and missed.  As we walked Madison looked up at me, her blue eyes searching my own and asked, “Mama, why did William have to die?”  My breath caught in my throat.  I worried about others overhearing her question.  Would it bring up too much pain for them?  Would my answer to her bring them comfort as well?  I looked down at Madison and replied with a sad smile, “I’m not sure Sweetie.  Sometimes babies just aren’t meant to stay with us.  They are called back to heaven to be with God.”  Madison smiled at me.  That seemed like a good enough answer for the moment.

As we walked I contemplated all that we have been through.  I thought about the pain, the suffering, the loneliness, the darkness, the healing, and the light.  If someone had told me almost three years ago that I would be happy now I wouldn’t have believe them.  How could we go through hell and still be ok?  When I was there, in the deepest, darkest parts of suffering, the light seemed so far away.  The pain ripped at my heart every second of every day.  It felt like it would never end.  In a way I didn’t want it to end.  I felt it was all I had left to tie me to my precious babies.  I was wrong.  I had something so much more to remind me of the little ones I only held for such a short time.  I had hope… the hope that one day I will hold them in Heaven once again.

I often wonder how people without faith are able to get through these kinds of “injustices” that life seems to hand out.  I think I would have been shattered forever if I had no hope of ever seeing my babies again.  However, I know that my babies wait for me in heaven and the very thought is what helped me many days when it seemed like all could be lost.   That hope was light in the darkness and I tried my hardest to focus on that glimmer that shone constant.

winding pathLooking back I can clearly see the path that my healing took.  It wasn’t a straight path but one that twist and turned and sometimes took me right back to the beginning.  It was a long path, one I am still on and probably always will be for the rest of my life, but one that has brought me to this place in my life now.  The place I am now is one of acceptance and peace.  It still has many moments of sadness and a few of despair, but most days I can see and understand… this is something I never thought I would be able to do.

In the beginning it was hard to pray.  I was sad, angry, hurt, and felt alone.  I didn’t want to pray to a God that took my babies! Still, I knew that it was important to continue to pray.  I also knew in my heart that God didn’t take them as a punishment but it was easier to think of Him as the bad guy when I just didn’t know what to think or believe.  Thank goodness our Father is so understanding and loving… He took my accusations and shouldered them.  He accepted my pain as His and held me even closer to Him.  I began to pray the prayers I had memorized as a child.  Thank goodness for those prayers as it was hard for me to pray in my own words at that time.

God knew my pain; He had lost His own Son too.  He knew what I would need to heal.  He sent me friends who had suffered as I had.  My beautiful friend Ann would become a confidant and source of great comfort to me.  She had lost her own son and knew just what I was going through.  She sent me the book “Tear Soup”.  I read it and cried.  It gave me permission to grieve as long as I needed to grieve and in the way that I needed to grieve.  While I shouldn’t have to have permission to grieve many times others make us feel like we are grieving too long or not in the right way.  But who is to say what your grief should look like?  Ann reassured me that I could cry as long as I need.  She told me that some days would be harder than others and that one day I would not cry.  I didn’t believe her then but I know now she was right.

God also helped me heal by sending me friends who had no idea what I was going through and yet loved me so much they wanted to be there for me.  My wonderful friend Jeannie would be one that I have no doubt God hand-picked just for me.  Always encouraging me and my big family she would also be one of my friends who would see me through the darkest times.  She called and checked on me, she asked if I was ok, she prayed for us, and then she did something that meant more to me than she could ever know… she asked me for all of my babies’ names. Only one other person had ever asked me what all my babies’ names were.  She told me that she wanted to make me something to remember them by.  I listed off their names, my heart breaking while writing them down.  She would go on to make me a necklace with all their names included in it.  It was the most beautiful act of love anyone has ever done for me, for my babies.  Knowing that someone else loved them too made my heart ache and fill with joy at the same time.  How could she love them when she had never seen their hearts beating as I had; had never felt them move; had never held them after they were born?  She loved them because she loved me.  God knew I needed our children acknowledged in this way.  Just asking what their names were gave validity that there were here, that they lived, and that they were loved.   Wearing that necklace my heart could feel a little bit more whole again.   Knowing that Jeannie still continues to pray for my children by name makes me feel like we are not the only ones who understand just how precious they are and just how much we love and miss them.

sunriseHealing comes slowly.  When you lose a child you lose a part of yourself.  It takes time to recover.  For me there are many things that have helped me through the dark times.  The first and foremost aspect to healing for me was to understand that all the feelings I have felt and will feel are legitimate.  They are my feelings.  No one can tell me what is right or wrong to feel.  I have lost something so very special that it will have an effect on my entire life.  When I embrace those feelings I can work through them easier.

Healing came through knowing that there are others who have gone through what I am going through.  No one has gone through exactly what I have but they know the pain of losing a child, or in my case, losing many children, especially back to back.  It’s important not to block out those who understand that pain.  They can help you through.  They know how very dark it gets but they have also seen the beautiful light that waits for you.  They can offer advice to help you ride out those waves of despair and help you through what seems impossible to navigate.

Prayer is a powerful healing tool.  Go to God.  He knows your suffering well.  He can comfort you like no other.  His love is unending and all-encompassing.  Go to Mary.  She lost her child too.  She knows your pain.  Let her wrap you in the mantle of her love.

Acknowledge your child.  Name him or her.  Talk about him. Celebrate his life.  If you have other children let them talk about their sibling.  Hearing my children often talk about one of their lost siblings makes my heart so happy.  They know and understand that just because we are separated doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of our family and loved so dearly.

Journal, seek counseling, become involved in activities that help others through loss, share your knowledge, comfort others, cry when you need to, feel happy and joyful when you can, love with all your heart and soul, pray, pray, and pray some more.  Your heart will heal if you allow it. Don’t be afraid to heal.

williamMy heart has holes in it that I can never fill.  Those pieces will forever be gone.  To be honest I don’t want them back.  My children, those who didn’t get to stay for long, hold those pieces.  It is one of the only gifts I can give them… a piece of my heart to hold forever.  It makes me happy to think that they can feel the love I have for them in the beating of my heart that they hold in their hands.

This journey has been long and hard.  I know it is not over.  There will days I will cry and days I will smile.  There will be days when I question God “Why me?” and other days that I thank God for the brief time I had with my babies.  But, I will continue to heal and hold fast to the knowledge that in my suffering Christ is always there beside me.

“The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

Pregnancy loss pic (2)

Categories
Lent Leticia

What Does Jesus Thirst for From You?

This past weekend we had the first Scrutiny at our parish, for those adults who are preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. I love this time of year. This Easter will be 2 years since my children and I came into the Catholic Church. Not only that, but also watching others going through the process makes it very hard not to shout out to them “This is SO flippin’ AWESOME!” during Mass, while doing cartwheels. The hope that comes from Lent and how much closer I feel to God during this time of year is just priceless. I used to think that Lent was a time of long faces and suffering, and last year I honestly had the hardest time ever during Lent, but it was still all about Jesus. And all about the many blessings that God has given me even after all times that I had turned away from Him. In the end it was well worth it and I learned a lot from it.

Having the first Scrutiny during Mass means that the normal readings for the third Sunday of Lent aren’t read. The Gospel for that week is usually the one where Jesus flips tables in the temple. I love this Gospel to the max and usually I can’t really think about it because I will end up justifying all kinds of bad behavior on my part and trust me flipping tables would be on the list of things I would do if I could get away with it! But since it was the Scrutiny we heard the Gospel of the woman at the well.

Let me tell you that there was a time when Mass was very boring for me, and when I didn’t even realize that the readings were all coming from the Bible. But these days, I’m glued to whoever is reading and doing my best to listen. I still space out every once in a while and have to gather myself and get focused at times, but for the most part I’m paying attention. But once the Homily starts, I’m at full attention. God bless good priests, because I am very spoiled when it comes to good homilies.

Father Jonathan began his homily explaining all the details of the story of the woman at the well. He explained that she was a Samaritan, a woman, and was getting water in the middle of the day. All of those things were reasons that Jesus, being the respectable Jew that He was, should not have even talked to her. Not only did He talk to her, but He asked her for a drink. I don’t know about the rest of you but I can picture that scene in my head. Jesus sitting there with his loving smirk saying “Give me a drink”. And the woman  looking at him like he had lost his mind.

Then Father went into the part of the story that I had never even thought of. He said that Jesus asked the woman for her husband. When the woman said, “I’m not married”, then Jesus said “I know. The man you have now isn’t your husband either.” Just like that Jesus laid out her brokenness before her. But he didn’t do it to be cruel or to judge her. He did so to be able to forgive her. As Father said in his homily, Jesus examined her conscience for her. And He desires to do the same for each of us. He wants to come into our hearts and flip tables, and drive out all the sins of our hearts so that we can be with Him. He wants to make our brokenness clear to us, not to shove it in our face, but so He can heal us!

When Jesus hung on the cross and said the words “I thirst”, it wasn’t for water. It was for you and for me. It was for our soul, our heart, our love. He created us to be with Him for eternity, but He didn’t create us to be robots. He wants us to LOVE Him. We do that by obeying His commandments. The second that we forget that, we start going down the wrong road and it will always end in heartache.

I remember the moment that Jesus said “I thirst” to me. It was the night that I sat in a county jail cell after being arrested for a DWI. I had already had my meltdown in my car after hearing about God’s love for me. I had already started RCIA, and I had already started learning about the Catholic Faith. But I decided I needed a “break” from all the holiness and I went and sat at the bar I had worked at and got smashed. On the way home I was pulled over by a DPS officer and arrested for DWI. Sitting in that cell, I hated everything. In my mind I had been doing everything right and still here I was. I was a screw up and was never going to get this Catholic thing down. Things got pretty rough after that, I won’t even go there but it was pretty ugly for a while.

As I sat in my probation officer’s office I was thinking about how much I hated this whole situation, and how stupid I had to be to think that I, of all people, could be a good Catholic. Who was I kidding?! Right as I was about to sink into “This is it, I give up. I’m not Catholic material” I looked up and there was a sign on my PO’s wall that said “Be still and know that I am God”. That was it. That was Jesus on the cross saying “I thirst”. That was when I was given my choice: death or life.

It wasn’t until this past Sunday that I even looked back and realized it. I knew that the DWI changed my life. I did not have a drinking problem. I had a Jesus problem.* I went through all of my counseling, classes, a year of no drinking (well except for my trip to Rome…), Cognitive Ed classes, and becoming really close to my Probation officer. I actually miss meeting with her every month now. I never did recognize it as the moment when I actually made a choice to pick up my cross and follow Jesus. Much less the moment when he asked me for a drink and I looked at Him like He had lost His mind. But that is exactly what that was. A lot of things happened after that moment, and by no means was that the last time I had to make the decision to be a follower of the Living God, but the whole thing looked completely different when I saw it through the story of the woman at the well.

She was broken, she wasn’t looking for anything, she had already given up on anything good happening to her and then she met Christ and everything changed. I know how that feels, I met Him and everything changed.

Have you heard Jesus ask you for a drink? What is it that He thirsts for from you?

 

 

 

 

*I am by no means saying that becoming Catholic is a cure for a drinking problem. I’m just saying that for me personally it was not an issue about drinking, it was an issue of a lot of other things combined with drinking. If you feel you have a drinking problem, please speak to your priest and seek help.