I recently had a conversation with a sister-in-law in which she asked me to keep her and her family in my prayers. As she shared the different battles she had been quietly struggling with, I asked her a simple question. “How do you do it? Suddenly, it became quiet with the silence only broken by gasps for air in between the tears. I let her cry. I didn’t want to interrupt the release of anguish pent up inside of her. She composed herself and then apologized for crying. I assured her that it was perfectly okay to cry. As a matter of fact, I encouraged her to cry. It is nature’s way of cleansing our souls.

I wanted to cry along with her, but I stopped myself. I did not want to infringe on her sadness and somehow, turn around and make it my own. Once we hung up. I realized a very sobering and sad truth. It wasn’t hard for me to stop my tears. As I was listening to her talk, I did feel my eyes well up with tears, the sting of pain ever so evident, but I never cried. Where once I couldn’t pass a McDonald’s without breaking down into a ball of grief, I found myself stopping my tears as easily as I could hold my breath. I was filled with guilt, anger, and sadness. When did it happen?? When did it become so easy to stop my tears from falling??? When did I shut off my emotional self?

In the first year or so after Joey passed, my face was always wet. Tears flowed freely never discriminating whether I was alone in the shower, or in the middle of a crowded grocery store. Thoughts of him would fill my head and the waterworks would start. It could be sweet memories of when he was the precious chubby little boy taking his first steps, being in the grocery store and seeing rice Krispy treats, or the horrific flashbacks of seeing his lifeless body for the first time.  There were a couple times when I was approached by concerned strangers asking if I was ok or if they could call someone for me. There were nights my husband has had to hold on to me so tight just to try to stop my body from convulsing from anguish.  No matter hard as I wanted to stop, (who likes hearing themselves sound like a wounded animal) there was no controlling my emotions. This overwhelming feeling of pain and despair would take over me and pull me into a world of darkness. There was NO fighting it, there was no stopping it.  No matter how hard I tried, I lost all control. So, when did that stop and why do I feel so guilty about it?

Grief, especially with the loss of a child, is a continual event. I have always said that it is a never-ending journey that you must navigate on your own. There is just no “getting over” the loss of a child. There is no moving on. There is no “Time heals all wounds.” Some parents sink into a lifetime of darkness and depression, paralyzed by the emptiness in their soul. Others have no choice but to push their grief way deep down inside of them and move on.  They must survive the unimaginable for ONLY one reason and nothing else…  for the sake of their other living children. I knew I had to become the latter. I had my two other precious children who needed me  to be in the present if only to help them through the worst time of their lives. When everyone else was falling apart around them, I had to keep them intact. I also had my mom, whom I didn’t want to die from her grief of not only losing her first born grandchild but also watching her daughter slowly die a little each day. No, I had to be the strong one. I had to figure out how to mend myself on my own. Little did I know at the time that there is really no mending. It is merely putting a band aid on a wound so deep that would require an endless number of stitches for the rest of your life. Eventually, those stitches become fruitless because the wound never fully heals.

Where is that part written in the Seven stages of Grief?  It never really comes in order anyway:

  1. Shock and denial.
  2. Pain and guilt. …
  3. Anger and bargaining. …
  4. Depression. …
  5. The upward turn. …
  6. Reconstruction and working through. …
  7. Acceptance and hope.

Did this mean I am starting to heal and maybe moving on? Do I want to heal and move on?? Of course I don’t! And ACCEPTANCE? Never, ever.  That would mean that it was OK for Joey to die! What a sick and twisted stage I have landed in and why didn’t anyone warn me?  No, all this means is that there is one more stage of grief.  

  • 8.Affliction, traumatism and confusion

I plan on moving away from it quickly from this stage. I plan on ME controlling it and not IT controlling me!   I will no longer hold my tears, I will not allow someone to say, “sshh don’t cry”.  I will cry in the car, I will cry in the shower, in the grocery store anywhere I damn feel like crying.  I will cry and not stop until my soul is cleansed and at peace. Once the tears stop flowing, I will take a deep breath and I will look up into the heavens and smile.  For only then, will I bring peace to myself, to others…. but especially to Joey.   


My dearest Joey,

I think of you every single day.  I see you everywhere I go. Sometimes, I can even hear your laugh or smell your cologne. Isn’t that what grieving parents do, though?  Look for the child that they lost in every corner of their world, always afraid that the only thing we have left, the memories, may someday fade.  What a dreadful thought. Not remembering the sound of your child’s voice.  I would rather forget my own name.

 On my way to work today, I saw the most beautiful, majestic sunrise! The breathtaking and beautiful piercing colors seem to wrap around me in comfort and give me a feeling of warmth and peace. I knew it was you saying, “good morning momma.” I can always count on that gift from you, honey. As soon as I turn the corner from home, it’s waiting straight ahead for me and like clockwork I smile and whisper, “Good morning, baby. Thank you. I love you.” 

I have come to expect the sunrise but lately, I have witnessed some pretty curious things.  Events that some prolific believers may call “signs”. At first, I tried to dismiss them, but soon enough they became a bit too obvious to put aside.  There are white feathers that seem to follow me everywhere. A beautiful bluebird that sits right by the living room and gently pecks at the window for hours. The Bob Marley songs that play every time I turn on the radio. So, I feel compelled to ask you honey. Is that you trying to get my attention??

You know I was never into Bob Marley until you passed away. There is one particular song that I seem to hear all the time, especially when I am missing you tremendously. I love it so much, I have a print of it in my craft room and a small statue of 3 birds encased in glass. Is it coincidence that I’ve heard ‘Three little birds’ by Bob Marley three times in one day? I think not, my sweet boy! “Every little thing, is gonna be alright”

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Speaking of birds, let us talk about the bird that keeps pecking on the window.  What is going on with that? Naysayers will say it’s Spring and the bird probably sees its reflection in the window. His territorial instincts kick in, BUT every day for 3 weeks in a row, day or evening, pecking for hours at a time…over and over and over again?  Yes, honey, I hear you.

Then there are the feathers. Everywhere I go, there is a white feather. I’ve tried to rationalize this so called ‘sign’ by trying to convince myself that our down bed pillows are shedding.  And the feathers that were stuck on the bottom of my shoe? Well, I probably stepped on them on way into the house from the garage. But, how in the world did 6 feathers feathers form a perfect circle in our bedroom floor??? Oh, and by the way, every feather is white…. but you know that, honey.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">At first I did not want to tell anyone. I didn't want people to think I had finally lost my mind or be labeled as 'that' grieving mother trying so hard to hold on to the memory of their child that their world becomes askew. I would be placed in the category with all those crazies that think they see Elvis on a potato chip or the Virgen Mary on their piece of toast. No, I was just was not ready to share my gifts with the world.At first I did not want to tell anyone. I didn’t want people to think I had finally lost my mind or be labeled as ‘that’ grieving mother trying so hard to hold on to the memory of their child that their world becomes askew. I would be placed in the category with all those crazies that think they see Elvis on a potato chip or the Virgen Mary on their piece of toast. No, I was just was not ready to share my gifts with the world.

 The only person I was brave enough to tell is Scott. Remember when you were little you would run to show me your latest treasure find? Well, that’s how I get when I run to tell Scott about what I found!. He always smiles and hugs me and then reassures me that yes, it IS you trying to reach out to me.  He rubs my back and looks into my eyes and I can’t help but know 1000 percent it is you, baby! I’m so comforted by the fact that he has such deep faith and is a hardcore believer!  But you know that, right? He was ALWAYS encouraging you to believe in God and Heaven.  He prepared you for the wonderous things you would find in Heaven. Aren’t you glad he did? Was he right? Is it as beautiful as he told you?

I really believe it is you, but now and then, I do catch myself doubting.  That scares me. I am afraid that if I do not believe, the signs will stop. That you will throw your hands up in the air, give up on me, and say: “Why bother, momma, if you’re not going to believe. I don’t know what else you want me to do” I get this memory of when I was young and I kind of was starting to believe that Santa was not real BUT just in case, I would still write him a letter. I was afraid not to believe because then what if I didn’t get any presents . What then? Now that I think about it, it wasn’t really about where the presents came from, it was the fear of of losing the magic.  I never want to lose the magic of you.

SO, my sweet boy, keep sending me that beautiful sunrise on my way to work.  Ever so often, appear out of nowhere on my social media feed and let me hear you laugh…i loved your laugh! Keep Bob Marley playing on my radio. Turn that blue bird in to 2 and blow those feathers (your angel wings) all around me!  I see you baby…it’s like you never left….JUST LIKE MAGIC


***EDIT I had just finished this blog but hadn’t posted it because I was planning on checking for errors the following day and I would post it that evening. Today, I was driving to work and I was smiling at another gorgeous sunrise when I got a phone alert from my sons girlfriend. She was missing joey and decided to send me a video ON MY NEWS FEED of him. He was smiling and laughing!! YUP…keep believing in the magic


 A couple weeks ago, I received a text from an old friend telling me that her brother had suddenly passed away.   She told me that her pain was like nothing she had ever experienced and at times it felt unbearable. She felt as if like she was drowning in her own despair.  She told me that it was hard for her to even pretend to know the devastating grief and pain I must endure each and every day.  My reply to her was, that if this is the greatest pain she ever felt, then her pain was as deep as mine. Grief is Grief.  Whether you lose a parent, a sibling, a child.

Reading her words made me think about my children and their journey through all of this. I knew that the pain they felt from Joeys passing was so profound, it cut  down deep into their soul.  I saw it on their faces and heard it in their cries when I arrived at the hospital that horrible day. I remember collapsing into my brother’s arms, begging him to tell me this was all a bad dream. When they saw me, they ran up to me and hugged me as they collapsed into my own arms.  At that moment I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God!  They’ve had to do this twice!  Once with their father and now with me!”  I needed to be strong for them.  I needed to comfort them. I needed to put their shattered lives back together.  While feeling my own soul drift away from me and still reeling from the shock and pain of my shattered heart, I shushed them wiped their tears and asked them to be brave. “We are strong.  We will get through this.”  What else could I say?  What else was there to do?

I asked each of them if they wanted to say something about their brother at the service.  I was not sure if it would be too hard for them to speak but I did not want this moment to go by without them saying their proper goodbyes.  They both agreed and thus began them writing the last few words they would say to their big brother. I didn’t ask either of them what they had written.  This wasn’t a time for proper grammar or punctuation, but rather a time to honor Joey. I wanted it to be all about them and their love for their big brother. When it was time for them to speak, I could not have been prouder.  Their goodbyes were filled with humor, admiration, sadness but most of all, love.  They spoke about being known in school as ‘Joeys little brother or little sister.’  They talked about his sense of humor and his love of sports. They expressed remorse that he wouldn’t be around to witness his sister get married or watch his niece and nephew grow up.  They both promised that they would tell their children who their Uncle Joey was and teach them that whenever they see a butterfly, that would be Uncle Joey saying hi. 

I am proud to say my children kept their word. Aubrianna was only 1 and a half, Ares was 4 months and Hayden was only a dream in his momma’s heart when Joey passed away. He would come along 3 years later.  Even though they were too young to have memories of him, my heart skips a beat when Aubrianna tells me that she dreamt of her uncle Joey and that he was teaching her how to kick a soccer ball.  Or whenever we see a butterfly both Aubri and Ares yell out in excitement “Look Abuelita, there’s Uncle Joey!” With Hayden, I can’t help but believe that he met his uncle Joey up in heaven.  His mannerisms, his smile, his ability to throw a ball remind me so much of him!  I’ve watched him walk up to a 3-foot angel I have on a high ledge in our kitchen with a huge smile on his face. He stops, points at it then starts babbling and waving to it!  He’ll look over at me as if he’s saying “Look Abuelita, there’s Uncle Joey!  He told me all about you!” My heart is full.

Though our Joey is gone, his spirit, his laugh, his love will continue to live on.  He exists in the minds of my children, in the hearts of my grandchildren and on the wings of a butterfly.

The Gift of Strangers

A member of one of the crafting sites I follow asked our group for gift ideas. She wanted to make something for the parents whose son had passed away a month ago. Suggestions quickly started trickling in. A nice coffee cup with his obituary picture, a fruity scented candle, the ever so coveted toilet paper and paper goods, and so on and so on.

Everyone had their heart in the right place, and I made sure to include that in my reply which in part read something like this:
“NO, NO, NO, this isn’t a welcome to the neighborhood, or here make your house smell pretty and yay, I’ll never use a real plate again (oh and remember the toilet paper fiasco of 2020)” type of event. I have a hard enough time looking at my sons’ pictures every day. I do not want to drink from a coffee cup bearing his funeral image.”

YUP, I opened a huge can of worms! instead of replying to the original poster, members started responding to me. Some shared my sentiments, while others thought I was way off base. It escalated to a debate of what’s an appropriate gift and at what stage of grief is it appropriate? Soon, there were just three of us communicating. We agreed to go off the site…well admin told us to…and then there we were, three grieving moms, finding their way to each other. What had started as a stringent debate about crafts turned into moms trying to find direction and comfort in each other.

We discovered that we are all in different stages of our journey. One mom ( whom I’ll call Julie) had lost her only child, a daughter, only 2 months ago while the other mom (whom I’ll call Mary) was eleven years into her journey. I, fall in the middle…finding my way through yet still stumbling along the way. Julie was newly shattered. She found it hard to get out of bed, eat, get dressed, or even communicate with others. She just wanted to stay in bed and cry. She found herself self medicating and sleeping the days and nights away. Mary shared her own journey and how she also was in that same dark place many years ago. She assured Julie that life would eventually get more manageable and confessed that during her darkest times, she didn’t want to live anymore. She told us how her family had her hospitalized twice for fear that she would go to any means necessary to end her pain. She confessed to us that those steps had actually saved her life.

We wrote about the nights and days following our children’s deaths ( uugg I hate that word). The noise from all the visitors during those first few days deafened us and the silence, once they stopped coming, was even more painful in itself. I shared how I still have my sons ashes, wondering if I will ever be brave enough to “set him free.” Julie lamented how she wished she would have not put her baby in the ground and how lonely her daughter must feel after everyone stopped visiting. She shared the guilt of not being there every day and how she no longer talks to her sister who confessed to her that it’s too difficult to visit her niece at the gravesite. She regretted screaming at her, ” YOU THINK IT’S TO HARD FOR YOU?? !! I pray you DO feel my pain one day!!” Oh, that pesky stage of grief…anger. I know it well.

It took Mary 9 years to find the perfect spot to finally put her son’s ashes to rest. She said she chickened out 3 times but once she let him go, she felt freedom herself. This selfless act allowed her to finally come to terms with his passing. She finally understood the undeniable depth of her strength and bravery …something she never thought she had even though she constantly heard “You are so Brave and Strong” She also explained how she was finally able to go through the infamous “box”. Grieving parents/people often have a box or drawer where they keep all the cards and keepsakes from the funeral or the days surrounding it. Some go through it immediately trying to find comfort in the words of friends and family, while others like me, struggle to find the courage to open it years later.

When it was my time to share, I felt like I was talking to long lost friends. I was able to share feelings that I am hesitant to share with others for fear of being judged or categorized as “The crazy lady who lost her son.” I told them that when they put my son in the back of the hearse, I climbed into the back of it and laid beside him, my arm draped over his coffin. I could hear the gasps and wails of mourners surrounding the Hearst. They were watching me and I didn’t care. I KNEW that this would be the last time I could spend time with him. Or would it be? I caught myself whispering, “I’ll see you in a couple of days”….with the intent of following through. I confessed how I sat on the bathroom floor with the bottle of anxiety pills the Dr. prescribed to me. I told them the only reason I didn’t take the pills was because there was no cup or bottled water upstairs and my legs were too weak to carry me downstairs. Mary told me that it was Joey, saving my life.

I shared my blog with them (they will be reading this) and told them that the reason I write is so no one forgets, especially me. There are moments when I suddenly realize I haven’t cried in a long time and the guilt is unbearable. It is then that I go back and re-read my posts and allow the painful memories to resurface. I make sure to step into the shower or close the closet door so Scott doesn’t have to hear the excruciating sounds coming out of my mouth. After a few minutes of weeping, I start to feel to a lightness…a type of unexplainable calm. It’s not because I cried it out, but rather because reliving the pain means I haven’t forgotten. Julie lamented and said she just wants to forget. Mary tells her “You will never forget. You just teach yourself how to cope and you become stronger than your pain. You learn not to out run it but simply learn how to walk beside it.” I tell her, “One day, I want to be as strong and brave as you.”

You already are,” she typed back. “You’re still here”

Finding Joy Through My Journey

The last of our grandkids and their parents had just left, leaving behind them a trail of Legos, coloring books, and soccer balls. There were sticky spots on the floor from spilled juice boxes, pieces of yellow cheese stuck to the bottom of my shoe, and of course the ever so tiny fingerprints all over my newly cleaned stainless steel appliances. “I need to have the housekeeper start coming on Fridays, instead of Wednesdays,” I said out loud to my husband. He was already busy loading the dishwasher and feeding the dogs pieces of leftover tri-tip. I grabbed the toy tub, and a wet rag, and started to tackle the mess. Who knew that 3 little kids could reek so much havoc and craziness but still manage to fill my heart (broken and all) with such immense joy. Thoughts of the laughter-filled afternoon replayed in my mind. Watching Hayden wobble around as he tried to master the art of walking,… Aubri giving me a ‘Glam girl’ makeover …watching Ares dancing to, of all things, Gangnam style for the umpteenth time. Whose life would not be 100 percent content and filled with the utmost joy and happiness having this abundance of love?! Whose sadness would not be magically erased by one simple wet slobbery kiss or an “I love you, Abuelita. I want to stay with you forever and ever.” Whose??? Mine

Not that long ago, I concluded that no matter what wondrous things come my way, I will always be sad. I will always have a void in my heart. This is not a pity party nor I’m not saying this for anyone to feel sorry for me. I stopped feeling sorry for myself a long time ago. I just painfully and simply accepted the fact that this is the happiest I will ever get. My life and my home can be overflowing with leftover craft glitter, ferocious plastic dinosaurs, and endless amounts of fruit roll-ups yet, I will always be sad and my heart will forever be broken. After you’ve lost a child there simply is no way of putting yourself back together, and bottom line, you will never be 100% happy.

This does not mean though, that I don’t find joy in the marvelous things happening around me. I watched my beautiful daughter walk down the aisle and witnessed her hold her newborn baby boy for the very first time. I was there when my son received the keys to his new home and been present for all of my grandchildren’s greatest accomplishments. I have traveled to beautiful foreign countries and visited some breathtaking islands. My husband has fulfilled my every desire and I lack for nothing tangible. But, as amazing and wonderful as these experiences have been, they will never fill the void, they will never fulfill me, they will never be enough. No matter how incredible all this has been, I will always wonder how much better they would have been if Joey would have been a part of them.

Would he have been the life of the party at his sister’s wedding? Would he have helped her pick up the pieces of her broken heart? How much fun would he have had on our family trip to Hawaii or Aubris’ birthday party at Disneyland??! How proud would he have been of his little brother becoming a homeowner? Would he be teaching his niece and nephews how to throw a ball or enlightening them with his quirky sense of humor? Would I have ever had the opportunity to dance at his wedding or watch as he held his newborn child? Would I have had the delight to clean his children’s fingerprints off of my appliances? I will never know. Thus, this is where my sadness lies. 

So, with that, I have tried to adjust to this new life I never wanted. I have fought many battles and I have come out victorious… never unscathed but victorious nonetheless. Through all of these lessons, one of the most powerful things I learned is that the secret to finding happiness is accepting where I am in life and making the most of it.