Saturday, November 18, 2017

Your Grieving Heart Will Heal Faster Only With God

Anticipatory Grief
If you think back to a time when you were going through the roughest stage in your life, can you remember what pulled you through it? Do you remember how long you suffered for? If you were to have asked me a little over four months ago if I would be "OK" if my mom was going to pass away the next day, I wouldn't even entertain the thought. Even while my mother was in excruciating pain, I had hope that she would have gotten better. There was something telling me that this was the final stage. See, Mom kept a secret from me. This whole time I had thought she had stage two cancer. She was on stage four with no other options from her oncologist. She kept this secret to save me from killing myself. The month before she died, I got to take her to the shore, spend time with her, gave her a Mother's Day BBQ outside by the ocean with our family, and it was just magical. What happened next just spun my whole world around. I was having anticipatory grief. Mom and I were very much connected. In fact, we could read each other's minds, and we used to play this game of "reading minds" and be amazed of how tuned in to one another we were. I knew she was dying. She heard me crying upstairs. She saw me suffer from insomnia, sometimes five days without sleep. I was a walking zombie. But she was still here. Why am I grieving so hard? Nobody told me about her "expiration date" by the oncologist. So why did I start grieving?

Cherishing Every Moment With Dying Loved One
It was the beginning of June on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I begged Mom to sit outside with me so she could get out of her dark room and feel the sun on her skin. I just wanted her to have a different atmosphere other than the dark room with only the glow of an old tube television set. She finally got up and decided to come sit on the patio with me. My dad always said that if he were to ever die, he would send us a hawk. And every time we would see a hawk, we would say "hi" to him. One flew by us and he was really low. Mom said, "Where are you, Charlie?" She wanted to know where he was. She believed in heaven, but questioned reincarnation too. Then Mom asked, "What do you want me to come back as?" I just blurted out, "Stop Ma, you ain't going anywhere!" Then she continued on... "I'm going to be an owl. So anytime you hear an owl, that's me saying hello." We both collected owl statues, crystal owl sculptures and even some framed art work of this amazing bird. So then I wanted to traumatize HER and say, "Well, if I die before you, which can very well happen -- then I'm going to be a humming bird and peck you while you're outside." We both laughed and stopped the conversation about death. Before my dad died, he sat in the same seat my mom was sitting in. He had his cane and he was on his last stages of cancer, defeated. He already had his "6 month to live" talk with his oncologist as well. As he looked down, tapping his cane on the patio slates, he said, "I'm so sorry guys. I'm so sorry that I'm so sick and I'm going to leave you." It felt like someone stabbed me in the stomach to see my father succumb to his own six month expiration date by the doctor. He apologized for having cancer! I mean -- really? I couldn't believe how strong he was to even say something like that.

I witnessed both my parents at different times suffer tremendously from their awful battle with cancer, to only watch them eventually die to this. It was like a horrible case of déjà vu.

I know that many of you have heard my heartbreaking stories regarding my parents dying from cancer. But what some people don't know is how I made it through. There were some people in my life that thought I would have a complete mental breakdown altogether. They knew how close I was -- how much I loved them -- for heaven's sake, we lived together! We weren't just roommates, we were best friends. So it was much more than just a care taking setup -- we were a team! We cooked together, vacationed together, had dinner together, and yes, we had a few drinks together from time to time! (Maybe more times than I care to admit.) We had so much fun together and every moment counted.

But why was I the one who made it through "quicker" than most? It wasn't because I cared less for them. It was because I watched them suffer, and grieved so hard even before they left this world.

But most of all: I focused on God.

How God Can Pull You Through
God was the only one that got me through this traumatic experience. At any given time, whenever I felt my heart get heavy, I brought it go God instead of staying in my room to cry it all out. I cried it all out with God while praying to Him. Trust me when the Bible says that He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds -- it's the truest scripture that I've ever known. The grief was still there, but God gave me peace beyond all understanding. He gave me peace in the midst of the chaos. He gives peace -- not as the world gives -- but the constant peace and joy that your heart can feel, even while grieving for someone you love. He gave me a new understanding about life on earth and our eternal homes in heaven. He has proven to me that Mom and Dad are no longer suffering from that terrifying pain they went through -- because He gave me a vision in my dream that was so beautiful and vivid, that I can't "unsee" it. He showed me how happy my parents are right now. So for me to continue on mourning isn't about feeling bad about their death --- it's feeling bad for "ME!" We grieve too long because we feel bad about the state we're in. We may feel abandoned and that our loved ones chose to go home. The mind plays funny tricks on us when we're mourning. It may even make us think that our family members who are mourning along with us in different locations don't care about you. But grieving can take on new levels of avoidance, due to their sadness. Like for myself, I live in the house where my parents raised me and my siblings. This house has a ton of memories. So anytime my sisters come and visit, they can feel a sense of sadness, because they still feel mom and dad there. That's totally normal and to be expected.

For me? I feel mom and dad here, and it's great! But I have changed the house around so that it looks a little different. I cleaned up everything and made the house more inviting -- more different -- different enough that when you come in, it feels like a new house. I had my mother and father in law over for dinner last weekend and they both said, "This house feels happy." They called it "the house of happiness." And how happy would my mom and dad be hearing that? Our loved ones want us to be happy. They don't want us to keep mourning until we're sick over it. They want us to always remember the good times, forget the sick times, and cherish each other as long as we live.


Learning to Thank God in the Darkest of Times
I'm gonna get into something a little off the cuff here. I usually don't share my spiritual experiences publicly like this, but I feel like I need to do so. I'm not just "wishing" there's a God, I know there's a God. And what I mean is, ever since I have been making God #1 in my life, things have changed for me in a way that is just unexplainable. Even while I go through some hard times, with either illness or chronic pain, He gets me through it. I still praise Him even through the bad times. Our earthly bodies are so fragile and painful -- but our new bodies in heaven are new suits that feel amazing! I have been doing Bible studies and learning more and more about God and who Jesus was. More so, I have been meditating and praying to God for hours and hours at a time. Well, one night -- about a week ago, my heart was feeling very heavy. I had my mom on my heart and I was just feeling so sad. As they say, grief comes in waves. As I was walking out of my bedroom into the hallway, I felt a shove toward what I call, my "Deb Cave." It's a small living room upstairs with a big screen TV and a huge table that has my Bible, anointing oils and other materials to help me with my meditation and prayer time. It also overlooks a beautiful view of the mountains and lake. It has the best views of the house. It was about 10pm and I was ready to just settle into bed and watch some TV. But I got that nudge from God.

I gave in and told Madelene I would be back in a bit.

I went inside, closed the door behind me, lit a candle and put on some light meditation music on low. Deep into my prayer time, I just started meditating on His voice. He led me to go outside onto the deck. It was pitch dark out -- nothing was visible, not even the lights of the cities below because it was so foggy. Then all of the sudden, the fog dissipated and the lights appeared. Then in the sky, the moon showed up out of the fog. The fog made a ring around the moon that was lit with the colors of the rainbow. I felt my mom. More so, I felt God in our presence. You may not believe this, and that's okay, but I felt someone hugging me, touching my arms, and letting me know that I was doing OKAY and that I would be OKAY. I felt an anointing -- like the type when you get goosebumps all over your arms -- that. I felt a euphoric sense of happiness, peace, love. I felt this type of peace that exceeds all understanding, as it says in the Bible. This is one of many times that this has happened to me after my mom's passing. There have been countless times of witnessing God, and then Him letting me experience the spirit of my mother. Trust this: there IS a heaven. There IS a God. There IS an afterlife and your loved ones are OKAY.

Prolonged Grief
We grieve for ourselves. Of course, we grieve because we miss our loved ones and feel horrible about the "way" they died, but they are no longer in pain, as cliche as that sounds -- but when they are gone and we don't stop grieving so hard, where it is affecting our lives, we are grieving for ourselves. We feel bad for ourselves, for our loss, for our lack of ability to contact them any longer. But when you truly know God and truly know that your loved ones are OKAY -- you will grieve, but not in a way where it will destroy your entire life. You can have happiness again. You can laugh again. You can live your life again. You can let your heart beat again. And this is coming from someone who once said I would kill myself if my mom ever died. I even said that to mom. I can talk about my mom without crying anymore. I can laugh at her silly ways and the way she would poke fun at me. Once you are able to talk in depth about the person you lost, you know you're on your way to recovering from such a tremendous heartbreak. But the only advice I can give to anyone going through a prolonged grief period is this: PRAY. That's all you need to do. But the other thing you also have to do is listen. Meditate. Wait in silence. But PRAY. The more you pray, the more you will hear His voice. You won't think I'm going crazy anymore. AND even if you think I'm going crazy, you're watching me recover quite nicely, right? I still have my moments, but anyone who truly knows me would've thought I would be in a mental institution by now after mom died. God saved me. At least try -- even if you disagree with all that I am saying to you right now, TRY IT. Try it secretly. Don't tell a soul that you're doing it. I am publicly and possibly talking "cray-cray" right now, but this has been the only thing that has saved my life after mom's death.

Mom held these every night.
Ever since the Holy Spirit has entered my world, and entered my entire being, He has taken out my old stoney heart and replaced it with one that has new and right desires. There have been major changes in my life between my habits, my sins, my shortcomings and how I live my life as opposed to even just as far back as four months ago. In some ways, my mom's death brought me closer to God in ways that I can't explain. I relied on God for everything. I held onto Him with all I had. I was always a true believer in God, and even tried to encourage my mom about Him, prayed over her with anointing oil and even gave her Tzitzis strings to hold onto for her healing. Tzitzis is symbolic of the story about the woman with the issue of blood. In short, as she was walking in a crowd trying to find Jesus, she just wanted to grab onto the end of his robe, which many believe would be the Tzitzis strings (which many Hasidic men wear) to show how much faith she had. As Jesus immediately knew someone had touched his garment, he turned around and said, "Who touched my garment!" He already knew, but He wanted to see her ask for Him. He looked over at her and said, "You are healed because of your faith." And she never bled again. My mom kept getting transfusions over and over again. When I gave her the Tzitzis that was blessed and anointed with holy oil, she never had a transfusion ever again -- even though she passed away a year later from something entirely different, it healed that part of her ailment. She held it and kept it under her pillow. At night, she'd grab it and fall asleep with it. It was her faith that healed her.

I'm the same person, yet I'm not the same. I'm not one of those "holier than thous" or someone who would judge anyone else for anything in their lives. I've just come to the realization that you can experience God here on earth. Why do people just choose a "religion" just to wait to get into heaven, when they can have God -- when they can talk to Jesus right here, right now? It's not the same as just saying a prayer at night and hoping for the best. It's a relationship -- a constant flow of communication with God. It's thanking Him even when you're sick and in pain. It's praising Him even though you're life seems dark and lonely. My loneliness went away once I drew closer to God. In fact, I absolutely love every second of my alone time, because 90% of my time is with the Lord. I have dedicated my life to Him. I don't know what this means, or where this will take me, because I am only experiencing God in the now -- and not focusing in on the past or worrying about the future. I don't fuss over what's next or what's to happen in a week or month or year from now. I might not be here -- who knows?

God Heals Your Relationships
I'm writing this here because there are some people in my life, like friends, acquaintances, and maybe family (?) (not sure) -- who wouldn't believe what I've experienced and how far along I have come to be closer to the Lord. They wouldn't believe all the time I have invested studying the Bible in its truest form, and not from my own interpretations of scriptures. Much of my views have changed greatly, so much so, that I'm starting to make major changes in my life for the better. With all of this going on in my life, I find that my relationships with my sisters are much closer, my interactions with my friends and acquaintances are more forgiving, understanding and loving. It has given me more of an insight and much more discernment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect by any means, but the way I feel about life has changed entirely. Not only has my anxiety lessened a great deal, but I'm not afraid of certain things I once was. I rarely get depressed, maybe melancholy from time to time, but things have been much different. God confirmed so many things for me regarding life, death, and the struggles we all go through. God doesn't give the spirit of fear or confusion. He gives us the spirit of peace and wisdom. I think I get it now...


Relying on God for Healing is Imperative
They did a study on two groups of people grieving. One group believed in God, while the other group did not. It showed that the people who relied on their faith in God healed much faster than those who did not believe in God. The results they found were unexplainable. Check out this Dr. Oz segment, where they explain that God will pull you out of grief. One lady was suicidal after her son had passed away. If it wasn't for her faith in God -- more so, her relationship with God, then she wouldn't be here today. It was the same thing that I went through. I told my mom, "I'll die without you!" But God let me live.

So if you're struggling over grief, and you feel like a year, or two years, even ten years feels like yesterday, bring it to God. God heals the brokenhearted. Always remember that.

This is why I am able to type this today.
This is why I am able to talk about the good times with my parents without completely losing it.
This is why I'm no longer afraid anymore.
This is why my faith will never waver.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. --Psalm 34:18

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. --Joshua 1:9

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. --Matthew 5:4

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! Feel free to watch Deb's live broadcasts over on Periscope as well! 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Choosing Our Life's Journey: This is My Path

What's most important to you in life? Is it a career? Is it love? Is it having a family? Is it something that is seemingly unattainable? Remember, nothing is impossible. The word "impossible" implies, IM-POSSIBLE -- you're possible, your circumstances are possible, endless possibilities. But the question remains: what do you want? What does your heart want? Growing up, I always wanted to be like my mom. I wanted to take care of my loved ones -- whatever loved ones -- whether adopted, or by birth, or just family in general. I wanted to be a caretaker in various ways. I wanted to cook, garden, clean, write, delve in music and art and just let my life be about creativity in a productive way. I wanted it to be able to help others, not just for my own gratification. I wanted to do things to show my love for the people in my life.

Mom taught me about Jesus at a very young age. She was a born again Christian after she went through a horrific health scare in her early 40's. She claimed to have seen Jesus specifically in a red robe speaking to her when she was in pain or when she was having a very difficult time convalescing. She was even prophetic in her writings as she experienced this. She wrote a bunch of proverbs that she said Jesus led her to write. She gave them to me last year. The pages were yellow from aging. There were only three pages, but enough proverbs to understand the messages. I keep them in my bible at all times. When I was 8 years old, she started sending me to CCD so that I could make my communion, and at 14 years old, I had my confirmation. I learned more about Jesus and the stories in the bible. I held onto them tightly all throughout my life.

As a young adult, my priorities in life differed than those around me. I wasn't perfect and I went through that crazy wild phase of an early 20 something maniac, but God was the core of my heart. My values always remained constant. I remember dating this guy on and off from work at IBM. I was trying to establish a career in accounting and wanted to have nice things. I was trying to conform to the world's desires, and not so much my own. The world wanted me to be "successful" -- but I just wanted to be happy. An executive one floor up from me fell flat on his face onto his desk from a heart attack. People were miserable in that company. The corporate life showed me a life that was just mediocre, no matter how much your salary was. I felt stagnant, as if my time was wasted, and relied on income to pay for "this" or "that." Then one day, I had an interesting surprise. I was pregnant. At this time, Madelene was in my life. We were starting to date since I had broken it off with my ex. But I had no idea I was pregnant. I had to tell her. I couldn't just date her and say, "Well, it's me you and the baby!" Abortion was not an option for me. It never was. Life is too precious.

One night, Madelene met me at a local diner for a bite to eat. It was then I was going to tell her about this new life forming inside of me. She sat across from me with her hamburger deluxe and a cup of coffee. After I told her, I truly thought she would've walked out for good. Instead, she said, "That's wonderful, Deb! We can take care of the baby together! I'll help you!" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. She didn't ask if I would abort it or what my "options" were -- she just assumed I would have it. That's when I knew Madelene was more magnificent than I even imagined her to be. She valued life just like I did. Unfortunately, a week later, I hemorrhaged in the bathroom. My mom helped me and looked around at everything, and then asked if I was pregnant for obvious reasons. Let's just say she recognized I was pregnant without me having to tell her. I then had to be rushed to see my doctor, and then for a procedure that I would never forget. I went into a deep depression. I really wanted to have this baby. I wanted to give them a beautiful life full of love. It took a while to wrap my mind around what had just happened. I was only in my 20's trying to make a life for myself, but this time, a different kind of life. My career wasn't priority any longer. Making a life with those I love was my priority, no matter how big or small my family unit would be.

Sometimes, things happen for a reason, or perhaps, more to tell you who will stick around when you think otherwise. It showed me that Madelene had broad shoulders -- a strong will to battle out the tough times in life. She wasn't judgmental about my choices in life, nor did she push me to do the things that she wanted. She relinquished all control and let me be me. I believe that's why we stayed together for so long. When someone tries to clip your wings, you become someone else. It's not "you" any longer. You become another extension of what your spouse wants you to be, for various reasons. It can either be from insecurity issues, narcissism, unresolved past childhood issues and so on -- so many things can contribute to it. I didn't want to be with someone who controlled me, or thought that I cheated on them constantly, or needed me to have a high profile job or yelled at me when I came home just because they had a bad day. I've seen many of my close friends go through that sort of thing and I promised myself I would never let that happen to me. Ever. People let that sort of thing happen to them because they consent to it, and sadly, they feel that they deserve that sort of treatment.

One night, a close friend of mine needed me to watch her newborn infant for a couple of hours as they searched for a new house. They were still living in a nice starter condo that catered mainly to new couples and older folks. They needed more room for their family. As I sat in a recliner, feeding the baby, the husband came barreling through the door screaming his lungs out. I can't remember all he said, but he didn't see me feeding the baby behind the kitchen wall. He thought that they were alone. The words he screamed at my friend were so vile and disgusting, that it made me wonder why she would ever marry this creep. "Don't f***** talk to me! I had a bad day!" Those were the last  words of his rant. He started throwing things around and I started to get scared. Then my friend whispered, "Deb's feeding the baby in the other room. Stop." And he simmered down because he was embarrassed for being such a coward for treating his wife that way. I thought my friend had the perfect life. I thought she had a happy home life. I thought. It was then I realized that behind closed doors, there are a lot of miserable and unhappy people living lives they weren't meant to live. (At least one of them.) I wish I could've taken that baby away with me and given her a better home, even if it was a lesser home, but with more love and a sense of safety. She never had that. And today, she still tells me that she has never felt safe in her home. Sometimes, she would beg me to stay over just so she would feel safe because her daddy was drunk and picking fights with everyone again.

Oddly enough, I was sometimes judged by these kinds of people for not having a "good enough" career or the biggest house on the block. I even questioned about my return to my parents' home, our ancestral home because my father fell ill to cancer and Madelene and I helped out with the caretaking to relieve my mom. We also helped them out financially, since they wanted to get renters to move in. They were scared to bring in new people. It worked out for the best. We paid for half of the house, the bills and I took care of dad with my mother. Then Mom fell ill, and I took care of  her until her last breath. I will never regret that decision. That was my calling. I was working from home anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal to relocate. But for some reason, the stigma of "moving back home" gives people an idea that the "kids" couldn't make it out there in life. It wasn't so. We were doing quite well in our new condo doing what we loved in life. We had everything we needed. But my parents didn't have what they needed. They needed more love, more company, more assistance, and what better way to say thank you than to help them out in the end? Sure there were days when I wanted to just pull my hair out, but there were some days I will never forget. I got to sit with them and have the deepest conversations about their lives, their dreams and their regrets in life. We talked about everything. I got to cook with them, spend days outside in the sun with them, laugh with them, share special moments with them as they were growing older. We'd watch the fireworks outside of our home on the 4th of July and share a cocktail on the patio together. Sometimes, Dad and I would stay up late to watch the ending of the Yankee game with some gin and tonics. Those times are imprinted in my mind forever. That night, he held my hand and said, "I love you, Deb." And I told him I loved him too and that he was my best friend. It was the first time he ever held my hand.

When Mom fell ill to the big "C" -- we did all we could do to make her comfortable. Memories of sitting out in the rain under the canopy with a glass of wine together talking about her younger years. She loved talking about her life as a kid, and I encouraged it. She glowed when she spoke of her youth and the many crushes she had as a young girl. She told me stories of she and her sister getting tipsy at a party and coming home to grandma who wasn't so pleased. She had so many funny stories painted so vividly for me. She would talk about grandpa barbecuing in the basement of their tenement in Brooklyn. He'd throw the steaks on a grate that was over the coals of their heating system. Now that's creativity! I got to hear stories about other things that she's never told a soul about. I knew she had some skeletons in her closet, but these were just chicken bones compared to what I've heard. But nonetheless, it was Mom's stories which kinda shocked me regardless, and at the same time, made me respect her a whole lot more for being human.

This is what I was blessed with: the chance to spend time with my parents as they were heading back home. They were more vulnerable, open, honest, and their last words were the most truthful, loving words you could ever hear. In a way, some would say that I put my life on hold. In some ways, I did isolate myself from time to time because I wasn't able to feel OK about having a bunch of friends come over for a dinner party. So yes, I did push some people away unintentionally, but at the same time, I will never regret the decision to be with my parents when they truly needed me. And it wasn't about the medical care taking and doctor visits -- it was about making the house alive again, dinners together -- it was about the company. It was about time spent -- quality time -- that I will never forget nor ever regret.

I look at life a little bit differently than most. Sometimes I'm judged for it, and sometimes I'm admired for it. I live my life in a way where I can be of help to somebody else, and not have it be about 'me me me' all the time. Life is about loving, nurturing, caring, sharing, embracing all that is to come and go. Acceptance. Giving. Gratitude. I don't do well with people who think they're entitled to the world when they didn't do one thing to deserve it.

My point is this. We make conscious choices in life. We either choose to be apart of someone's life or we don't. But the one thing we cannot do, even if it's our own parents or our own children, is expect the world from them if you were not apart of their world. There are no "right" or "wrong" choices either. It's just a path that you have consciously taken as well as chosen. That's OK. But never regret your path, nor try to take away any flowers from the other path that was not taken. Someone else may be walking that path. Enjoy the fruits of your own labor -- whatever type of labor is your work, your love or your contribution in life. It's interesting to know that just your mere presence can mean the world to someone else who cannot live their life to the fullest. A phone call is easy, but visitation for some people can be very difficult. That's why the jigsaw puzzle has many pieces. Each of us are supposed to fulfill an important purpose in life. Gandhi quoted, "Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it's very important that you do it." Life is like a movie; we all have a part.

If you don't like the path you've chosen for yourself, then either change it, or change the way you think about it. Either accept it or recreate your destiny. I've had a lot of choices in my life. I've made some good ones and some not so good ones, but through it all, I have never once regretted a path I've taken because I learned a lot from it. When someone else judges you for your choices in life, that's just an indicator that their life is obviously missing something -- what that is, you'll never know. But if you have time to judge someone else's journey, then maybe you should make time to judge yourself instead. If I had to make those choices again, I would do the same exact thing without even thinking twice about it. I truly believe that whatever you put out into the universe will come back to you tenfold. But since I believe that God created the universe, whatever you do with a good heart, God will make sure that you'll be taken care of in His own way -- His way. If I die tomorrow, know this: everything I have ever done was done with passion. While my heart may have been in the right place, I may have hurt a few people along the way, to which I've always apologized for. This gave me a chance to learn from it too. The tests that were given to me made me stronger in my character. Sometimes I mess up, while other times, I'm pretty consistent. I try my best. I turn to God. I've repented for every wrong in my life. I know that without a doubt, that if I die tomorrow, Jesus will take me. My goal in life is God. I don't dream of what the world can give to me -- I dream of what God can give to me: everlasting love and eternity. And on earth, He gives me peace in the midst of all the chaos that goes on in my life as well as out in the world. I am not an independent woman. I am solely dependent on God only. The word "independent" seems to be important in this world. But I'm not of this world, just as you're not of this world if you're a believer. When I am weak, He is strong. He that is in me, is greater than he who is in the world.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! Feel free to watch Deb's live broadcasts over on Periscope as well! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Love You Forever...

Since the beginning of October, I have been so sick with bronchitis. I've been in and out of doctor's office doing breathing treatments, inhalers, antibiotics, and now, steroids -- it's been relentless. I even had to go on my one week vacation to the shore with my partner. We were both sick and on top of that, we both had pink eye. We stayed indoors, sometimes going outside to watch the ocean, but mainly gazing at the waves and white caps through our deck windows with a pile of tissues and cough medicine. Backtrack to the beginning of June. My mom and I were sitting in the living room discussing the beach house that we were going to rent out for our next vacation. We always paid for her to come with us. She's so much fun. But she was really declining at this point. I said to Mom, "You're definitely coming with us, right? Even if you feel sick, what better place to be than by the ocean!" She said, "Only if I can pay this time!"

"NO!" I said.

"Then I'm not coming," she said as she turned her head away. She was so upset that I declined her offer. In fact, she gave the silent treatment for a while.

So, I caved in and said, "Ok, ok, ok, you can pay for the trip," but not really meaning it. June 30th came and well, she had plans to a better place. There was a lot of mishmash that were scattered in her room, and one of them said, "To Debs," in a small envelope. It was the vacation money.

October arrived. It was perfect weather, 80 degrees and sunny most of the week. We paid in full. It felt so strange that we were going on vacation without Mom this year. My little dog didn't have her traveling buddy anymore. She had to be put in a crate, instead of lying on a big pillow with Mom as they both napped the entire time. Mom loved that dog more than anything. Lola worshipped the ground my mom walked on.

With a heavy heart, we unloaded the suitcases inside the house. Usually, Mom and I would book it to the deck or near the ocean just to have a glass of wine by the shore. But this time, when I walked in, I felt a little faint because I had a 102 fever and was starting to get a panic attack. The house was very cozy and beautifully decorated. The staircase was a very steep wrought iron spiral stairway, that was more like a ladder. Getting up was kind of challenging, especially if you had a suitcase to bring up. It shook as you climbed it -- making it seem less sturdy. I'm scared of heights, and the fact that I was able to see the floor while climbing freaked me out.  I could hear Mom's exact words, "One too many drinks and PLOP!" I giggled to myself as I vividly remembered her sense of humor. So I stayed downstairs for a little while longer until I could muster up the courage to climb back upstairs. All the bedrooms were upstairs.

I knew where Mom would've stayed. She'd stay downstairs in the cozy area, with the beautiful bathroom that had a step in shower with a seat. It was as if I could hear her in my mind. "This would be where I'd stay and I have the kitchen right next to me so I could make coffee." Another funny thing about my mom was, she loved down to earth people -- everyday working class people. Right next door there was a private fisherman's club -- I mean RIGHT next door. The parking lot was on the side of our house (which wasn't told in the description of the home online.) No big deal. It was like one of those VFWs -- every single night, a bunch of older drunk clientele would swing out of the club stumbling back to their homes or cars. The community itself was a little questionable -- some homes were old that needed some work, while others had an extra lot with a trailer home parked out in front. Some folks would sit outside on their porch steps with their drinks. The people were funny, the neighbors all said hello while they hid their beer in a paper bag. The community was 99.9% white --- no cultural influences whatsoever. Big pick up trucks with MAGA flags and guys walking around with no shirts with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths.

Mom loved 'real' people. She would've had a blast people watching for sure.

Our home was the only 'well kept' place on the entire street -- an oddity. It had an unground pool that overlooked the ocean. The property itself was ok, but the walkway to the beach made it perfect. Our bedroom overlooked the entire sea, but every time I opened the door, I smelled something funky. I was supposed to smell clean ocean air, but instead, I was taking in the smells of five nearby dumpsters from the private fisherman's club.

Upstairs had five bedrooms. The only reason why we get these larger homes is because they're sometimes cheaper than these small homes located in other places. We bring our family when they can come, but this year everyone was busy. So we had four other bedrooms available. One room had a throw pillow that said, "Love you forever" in my mother's handwriting. If you've ever seen my mom's handwriting, it's very small and bubbly. Mom always said, "Love you forever!" Or she would say, "Love you, love you!" I knew that was a hello from her.

The next morning, I went out onto the deck to watch the waves crash onto the shore. Madelene went downstairs to make some coffee and breakfast, but I heard her mumbling about something. She sounded frustrated. She then came upstairs and said, "I can't find the carafe for the coffee!" She was so upset over this. My mother was the queen of finding everything in a new vacation home. Mom would master the coffee pot and have it made before we even woke up. It was her main job! I climbed down that awful ladder of a stairwell and went into the kitchen. I said out loud, "Mom, do your thing. Where is it?" And just like that, I heard her say, "It's over there in the dishwasher all clean!" And there it was, all ready to use! It was less than 10 seconds I found it. I told Mad what happened and she could not believe it. She was down there for 45 minutes searching.  Strange things kept happening. I kept hearing Mom's voice throughout that vacation, like trivial things she would say. Maybe my mind went into some nostalgic warp to find Mom's words flooding back to me once again. One evening, my fever rose to 103. We were ready to go to bed, so I went into a spare bedroom to just cool off and relieve my anxiety about it. I kept thinking, "Please God! Don't let this be a vacation where I have to run to the ER because I'm too sick!" My bronchioles were tightening up and I was afraid of the inevitable. So, I went into the spare room, shut the door behind me and prayed. I heard God tell me to not fear anything. In fact, He said, "Even if every side of the world was on fire and closing in on you, do not be afraid!" And then I heard Mom's voice. "Just get through this night and I promise you, tomorrow will be better. Your fever is making you better. Trust me, mommy." My mother would call me "mommy" -- she called all of her daughters that as well. It's a term of endearment, just as Latinas use, "mama" or "ma" -- same concept.

That night, I slept like a baby. When I woke up, Lola jumped on me to bring me outside on the deck where we could watch the ocean. It was sunny, 80 degrees and just beautiful out. She was playing with her toys and trying to get me to roughhouse with her. I never saw my dog this happy before. Something was different. My fever went down and I felt like a new person. I looked to my side, and our older neighbors waved hello while they were having coffee and breakfast outside on their ocean view patio. (They were really spying for their friends who rented out the home to us.)  I could hear my mom again. "See?" Like, "I told you!" I made coffee and breakfast and surprised Mad with a beautiful spread. We both took the dog out for a long stroll on the beach. We needed the air. Later that night, we found a fish shack delivery restaurant that sold lump crab cakes -- my favorite! Mom turned me onto them. During dinner, we both had one drink. We clinked our glasses together and thanked Mom for the beautiful vacation she treated us to. All these years being graced with Mom's presence on vacation, it felt weird not to have her apart of our trip. But there she was, in the midst of everything, and even giving her two cents on many things! I can hear her! Or maybe, I can just hear the timeless residual persona? Whatever it was, she was there in spirit and it comforted me a great deal.

Sometimes, the loss of someone we loved makes us lose ourselves in a way. I couldn't even imagine the thought of Mom not being in my life. I refused to even entertain the thought, even though I watched her struggle and battle with this awful disease. But I promise you, they're not gone at all. They're in our hearts. They're in a place that's far far away from pain, agony, depression and diseases. If we can hold onto the fact that there is no better care in the world than the arms of God, then we can get through any loss. Yesterday, we had quite a rainstorm and flooding in our area. Mom and I loved rainstorms. My heart was heavy all day long. I felt her here with me and tapped into the beautiful memories of she and I having storm parties or just sitting outside watching the rain fall while we sat under the canopy of the house. Simple things like that can be reminders of little "I love yous" while you reminisce about the happy times and forget about the end of their life, the struggle and pain. Remember the smile, the laughter, the joy that this one person gave to you. And that's how I'm going to choose to remember Mom: healthy, laughing, joyful, sarcastic, loving, forgiving and compassionate.

Until then, I love you forever, Mom...

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Monday, October 23, 2017

It's a Give & Take

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands -- you need to be able to throw something back, as the great Maya Angelou once said. I've never understood the "takers" in life. It must come with some sense of entitlement, either through how they were raised, or perhaps they feel they've done "this much" in life, so now everybody else owes them something. Whatever it is, it can be draining on the "givers" in their life. My dad always taught me to be extra generous. He would overtip, do big favors for people for free, like plow and fix the road we lived on for us and all of our neighbors without asking for a dime. He even provided shelter and food for the homeless, providing them with an opportunity to work with him at his excavation company so that they could get back on their feet again. My dad was the most generous person I ever knew. He would give you the shirt off his back and never think twice about it. He loved to cook and always offered anyone who was over the house food, wine, a place to stay and of course, a friend for life. That's just how he was. He didn't have any hidden agendas, other than having empathy for those who needed him. Unfortunately, many people took advantage of his kind nature, only expecting more and more. Sadly, nobody ever did anything back for him. Maybe they saw him as the most capable guy around. Some thought he was rich. He wasn't. He never asked anyone for money, except for some loans and maxing out his credit cards from time to time. He'd rather go into debt than to ask for money from anyone. So nobody ever thought that he needed help. His heart was in the right place, but it left him in a financial bind at times.

My mother taught me some valuable 'common sense' kind of tips about life. She always told me to say "please" and "thank you." She said, "When you're invited to someone's home for dinner, never go there empty handed. Bring some dessert or a bottle of wine over. It's rude not to contribute when someone is offering you their home and making you something to eat." Later in life, I found many people who were never taught this beautiful lesson in life. I always told my friends, "Just bring yourself and an appetite," and I really meant it. I don't need anything -- I always prep for dinners and get togethers by myself. But a few of my friends came over with an abundance of goodies and gifts which surprised me. There were people out there who believe in giving back. It's never expected on my part, but it is nice when someone does acknowledge your efforts. My mother also told me to never overstay my welcome in someone's home. "Know when to leave." My mother used to love the book of Proverbs. One of the scriptures she always used was this one: "Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house, lest he be weary of you, and hate you." -- Proverbs 25:17 In the New Living Translation it says, "Don't visit your neighbor too often, or you will wear out your welcome."

I remember my dad's friend was going through a divorce and he was staying with us for a while. One week turned into a month, that turned into three months and so on. My father didn't mind at all, but my mother was getting a little itchy, because he would always be in the house either watching TV or lying out on the hammock, because he couldn't find work at the time. But it didn't look like he was searching either. He would eat dinner with us every night, as well as whatever he needed during the day, but without contributing anything back. He could've done some work on the house since he seemed to be handy, but rarely lifted a finger. We would run past him quickly because if you didn't, you'd be bombarded with a sad sob story that would never seem to end. We felt bad at first, but it became more of a "what the heck is happening" kind of situation. It wouldn't have been so bad if he was working on the house or doing something to compensate for a place to stay with plenty to eat.

"For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living." 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

Working doesn't require an office and desk, a backhoe or a hammer and nails. Work is what you give back for what you get. Some people work just for room and board. Even if you work from home as an entrepreneur, a stay at home mom (which is the toughest job) or even a housewife -- there is work to be done. I've never understood the desire to just sit and rot on a sofa watching endless amounts of mindless TV. If you're in a relationship or marriage, and your spouse is the one who gets out into the world to work 8-10 hours a day -- the other person should keep the house and make sure there's some sort of dinner prepared for them. That's just my old fashioned views on life. Even though I work from home, since I have more of a flexibility with my schedule than my partner does, I cook for her all the time to show my appreciation. You don't have to have a high profile career or make a huge amount of money to be relevant. You just have to give back from time to time, otherwise it wears on those who are giving.

"Giving back is something that comes from the heart to me. It's not that I do it because it's the right thing: I do it because I want do it." --Henry Kravis Read

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why Does God Allow Suffering to a World Which He Created?

Have you ever been attacked for your faith in God? Did you ever have someone ask you a million and one challenging questions regarding why God "lets" bad things happen? I'm finding that many Christians don't know how to respond to this -- or perhaps they fail to respond in a clear way. Let's face it, we're people who have faith of God, not knowledge of God. We're taught to trust in God and that suffering is taking part in Christ's suffering. But still, questions get asked, "Why does God let children fall ill to cancer, or why does God let grown adults rape children?" These are really good questions -- touchy subjects too, but valid inquiries of the darkness of this fallen world. But that's just what it is: the world. The world is encompassed mostly by evil.

"But there are good people in the world."

Yes, but overall, the world is overpowered by evil. Believers are not "of this world" -- this world will soon pass but God's love will always remain -- your eternal life will go on. Thing is, not enough people have the kind of faith, where they truly believe that without a doubt, after this world comes another one. So why are people getting hurt and killed here on earth? Did you ever hear from someone who had a near death experience? This world is so very temporary, and when someone tells their experience of being on the other side, they always report that they're weightless, and that the suffering on earth is now over. We sometimes suffer greatly, but suffering is what brings endurance, which makes us stronger, until we're rewarded with a weightless new body God gives to us when we die.

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I've learned that even in the midst of any sort of suffering, there can be God's peace. When you trust God and not curse him for the suffering, you not only strengthen your character and mind, but you're strengthening your faith in God. The only way out is through, and if He brings you to it, He'll get you through it. Just keep that in mind when you're going through challenging times.

So why is there suffering in the world? First of all, mostly humans cause other humans suffering -- not God. Also, without natural suffering, we would never grow.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Trying to Get My Heart to Beat Again

All I could do was cry out to God asking him why he had to take such an amazing person away from me. Clichés of, "He only takes the best," doesn't explain why some murderers, rapists & terrorists die too. It just kinda makes it feel worse. Sometimes I wonder if I'm being tested like Job was in the Bible. First you take away my dad, and now my mom, leaving me with some financial issues that need to be resolved. All of these "tests" -- or are they tests? Most Christians say, "Well, God would never test you." Sure He would. Satan tried to test Job by taking his family and his wealth. He was ok. The one thing that almost got him was when he took away his health. And even then, Job still remained faithful. Is it for me to stay in faith? I mean, ever since mom died, my faith has been stronger than ever. You would think I would lose all faith. But now that He sees how strong I am, or "could be" -- then maybe He's gonna do something worse? I still have questions, like WHY -- but I'm sure there is good reason for that.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us--they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. --Romans 5:3-5

If God is trying to strengthen me, then that only makes me think what else is brewing down the road for me? I'm finding that once I stop doing "this sin." then another one pops right back up. It starts with a thought first. Isn't that how it always works though? I first start stewing about something, and then it's whether or not I react to those thoughts. That's why even mere thoughts could be sinful. I have been overanalyzing many things since my mom's death, trying to figure out if she would've been here longer if I had done something differently. But realistically, no one could have helped her live longer. 

Tomorrow will mark my mother's third month in heaven. This is a woman I have spoken to every single day of my life. There was never a day we went without speaking, especially at the end when we lived together. I mean, to have someone there every single day of your life for you to only come to a screeching halt -- it can definitely put you in one of the most darkest times you've ever been in. Suddenly, everything goes out the window: your healthy habits, your need to socialize, your sleep, and of course, your mind. We never discussed anything about her dying. She wanted to live so badly. There was no "when I'm gone" talk -- nothing of that nature. She never even told me she was stage 4 cancer. Many things were hidden from me, but I saw she was dying. Every single day I saw her die a little more each time. 

One night, I had made one of her favorite meals. She sat at the table, and I could see the pain in her face. She started rocking a bit -- she always rocked when she was in pain. I asked, "Ma, did you take a pain pill?" She shook her head no, because she wanted to be alert and not fall asleep. But I never faulted her for being tired, understanding the nature of the disease. I just wanted her to eat a little something before she rested again. As I saw the pain intensify, I finally said, "Ma, it's okay -- you can go inside and lay down. I'll save your food for you, okay?" She shot me a look and yelled out, "NO! I'm staying here! I'm enjoying this so much and I hate that it's starting in again!" She dug her fork in her food and continued eating, until she couldn't anymore. I wanted to cry and scream in the other room -- I was so sad for her! I just sat there with a huge lump in my throat, secretly praying to God to take away her pain. But He didn't for some reason. He didn't. In the Bible it speaks about sharing in the suffering of Christ. It explains why good people suffer. I can see why atheists always argue this part about Christianity. It's hard to absorb all of that when you're suffering or seeing somebody else suffering who's a good person. Like, why? But the reward isn't here. 

"She's in a better place now." 
"Time heals all wounds." 
"She's not in pain anymore." 

True. True. True. All true.

But what's left behind is me lying in bed hoping morning won't come too soon. I dread the mornings. I pray to God to have made this entire thing one big nightmare, and then I can wake up and see my mom's face again...but without the cancer. We'll be moving by the spring or before the summer time. I hear a lot of, "Change will be good and healthy for you. Start a new beginning..." And I know that what they're saying is once again true, but my mom was supposed to go with us. We spoke about getting a townhouse or a smaller house somewhere and she loved that idea. She just couldn't muster up all that energy to do those things at this time. We chucked it up to, "When you get better." Even next week, we're off to the shore again and it's going to be extremely hard not seeing my mom's face in my rearview mirror playing with my dog in the backseat and not having her there to enjoy the ocean. She loved the ocean so much. She always turned into a different person when she was at the shore. She wasn't stressed anymore. She felt calm, relaxed and didn't seem to overthink things. Her worries were gone....temporarily. And on her last trip to the shore, even though she was reminded that the pain was there to greet her every single day, watching the ocean made it somewhat tolerable, until her pain meds kicked in and she was fast asleep. 

Some friends and family ask, "Well, how's Deb doing?" To appease them, Mad kind of gives them the, "Well, as good as she can get... Some days bad and some days good." 

To be honest, I'm doing horrible.

Some days I force myself to get up, do the shopping, clean the house, cook for Madelene or whichever family member is here to visit and still manage to do my work in between. Sometimes, I have to finish work late at night so I can get a head start in the morning. I pray to God every single day for 2-3 hours at a time. Sometimes I just sit there in silence, listening to His guidance or just feeling His presence. It always makes me feel better. Then there are days where my emotional pain affects every fiber of my being. I can't move, my back is killing me and every bone feels like it's on fire. Then magically, it disappears when I'm emotionally feeling 'ok.' 

Someone recently remarked about my cooking broadcast the other day. I do cooking and talk broadcasts, mostly about managing anxiety. She said, "You look like you're doing great!" But that's me on a public broadcast speaking to hundreds of people. I'm always honest and upfront about my struggles with anxiety, and then there's the part of me who loves to cook, put on my favorite Italian music and dance while the sauce is brewing. I have many facets of my personality that can baffle people. I'm not "faking" the joyful side of me, because the joyful side is screaming to come out, and sometimes comes out successfully. But there are days when it's just too heavy for me to even muster up pushing the "go live" button. Maybe I should do a broadcast in the state I'm in right now to show others what it's like to have a down day while grieving, but I don't like to depress people. It's kind of like Robin Williams -- where he just wanted you to laugh, all the while suffering emotional torture himself. (He was an extreme example, I am not suicidal) but you get my drift. Sometimes all you have to do to feel just a little better is to smile. The contagious effect of smiling or laughing can turn into a genuine case of happiness. THIS I believe with all my heart. That's why I think it's so important to surround yourself with those who are on the more positive-happy-funny side. Not everyone is going to be happy and funny 24/7, but at least those who have that side of them. 

So please bear with me as I'm going into another phase of my grieving process. I may seem to isolate myself, or not doing everyday normal things because my anxiety increased. I developed a little case of agoraphobia again, to which I'm fighting back. I do admit, I order groceries online and they deliver right to my doorstep (which is so so awesome by the way), but I will get my feet back into that supermarket again. For now, I go to small butchers and Korean farm markets to get my fresh goods because it's smaller and less crowded. I avoid big stores like, Walmart and other huge grocery chains. Sometimes, I even avoid parties that I'm invited to, especially if I have to drive more than 30 minutes outside of my comfort zone. I was doing great before Mom died, and now it seems to have come back. I know the steps to take with cognitive behavioral techniques and doing a little better. But if I decline one of your togethers or perhaps you don't see me as much as you used to, please know that I'm struggling really hard to live a "normal" life again. You can just call me and say, "Hey Deb, need a visitor?" And most likely, I would welcome that with all my heart. 

For now, I'm going to tell my heart to beat again.

Listen to Danny tell the story about the lady who was getting heart surgery, and how the surgeon did something unconventional to get her heart back to beating again. The song is just amazing.


For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

When Anxiety & Panic Takes Over

Do you feel alone because you suffer from anxiety? Anxiety can make you feel like you’re the only one experiencing it, when actually, anxiety is the most common thing in the world. Some people smile through it, while others choose to use avoidance to cope. The one thing I noticed about dealing with severe anxiety is that once I focus on God completely — entirely focused on God Himself — I find myself less anxious. As soon as I feel it coming on, I sit down and take about 15 deep breaths. I had to work my way from 5 to now, 15. Mindful breathing is like throwing water onto the fire. And even though I may feel a bit calmer, I need MORE. I need to meditate and focus on God — even if my prayer is just saying His name, the meditation on Him changes the atmosphere in my home. I no longer feel the dread, the highly alert mania that somehow creeps in — all I feel is like someone is sitting there with me helping me through. I go through the promises of God if I don’t feel that euphoric sense that He is here. And He is, but sometimes, the anxiety can make me become blind to the blessings that God has in store for me. I sometimes use what's called a "singing bowl" to bring my thoughts back into focus and onto God. It truly helps. The sounds and vibrations help relieve the feelings of anxiety and fear and it also cleanses your meditation area. Singing bowls have been used in many religious practices, especially before Christian services.

Another thing that helps me deal with coping with anxiety is focusing on the promises of God. I'm going to share some of my favorite promises with you.

I command you--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. --Joshua 1:9

Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. --Psalm 55:22

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you. --1 Peter 5-7

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. --Philippians 6:6-7

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. --Isaiah 43:2

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasure of living with you forever. --Psalm 16:8-11

The Lord is close to all who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him sincerely. --Psalm 145:18

The Lord is my light and my salvation--so why should I be afraid? The Lord protects me from danger--so why should I tremble? --Psalm 27:1

I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. --Philippians 4:13

He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. --Isaiah 40:29-31

I have these scriptures written down in a notebook to remind me every single day that God is with me. I'm not alone. You're not alone. Some ask, "So why do I feel so lonely?" I used to feel that way too, but then realized that I still felt lonely even while surrounded by other people. Anxiety can make you feel isolated, even when there are people around you all the time. It's a very lonely place and it's a place that nobody wants to admit they attend frequently. Anxiety and depression have become such a stigma -- it's become "shameful" or seen as "crazy" to have. I even had someone roll their eyes at me because I couldn't attend a function with them. "Oh it's her anxiety again," as they shook their heads as if it was nonsense. Never let somebody make you feel that way. You'd be surprised that these very people have similar issues, but cope in different ways. They use this psychological projection, mocking your anxiety, all the while dealing with theirs in destructive ways, such as drinking too much or doing drugs. They're numb to it, but eventually, those aides won't last for long. They're going to sober up one day and realize that their anxiety was there all along.

Anxiety never goes away. Fear never goes away. The only thing that makes it seem livable is instilling courage and coping mechanisms that enable you to overcome the anxiety, especially if it's a chemical imbalance. You can do it naturally, and for some, they can't afford to do it naturally because it doesn't work well for them. Antidepressants for anxiety can trigger anxiety attacks. So make sure you tell your therapist exactly what you have. Of course, anxiety and depression go hand in hand, but if you're like me and mainly suffer from extreme panic and anxiety, an antidepressant will most likely not help you.

Courage leads to heaven, fear leads to death. --Seneca the Younger

"It's okay to let go, Ma."
While reading Anita Moorjani's book, Dying to Be Me, she explained that all of our root problems are stemmed in fear. In fact, while my Mom was ready to take her last breath, and I was going to approach her with my final goodbyes, Anita Moorjani said to me, "Whatever you do -- do not approach her in fear. She can sense that. Approach her and let her know it's OKAY to let go, without your fear of her letting go." Boy this was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but something came over me. My faith that God would be there lifting her up to her new and final home. My faith kicked in and my fear disappeared. I gently caressed her forehead, kissed her as I held her hand and said, "It's okay to let go, Ma -- don't worry, I'm going to be alright." She was so worried I wouldn't be okay without her. I tried to defuse her fear over my fear of living life without her. If you think about it, fear is what kills us. It kills our spirit, it kills our dreams and goals in life, it kills our quality of life, and finally, fear itself can kill us off completely.

As I still struggle and try and cope with anxiety, the tools I have for dealing with it have been much more effective. I'll never forget what my mom said one week before she went to heaven. As I was heading out the door to go to a meeting that was in another town, my agoraphobia started kicking in. She was on the sofa and said, "You ok, Deb?" And I admitted that I was a little nervous taking this trip out. So she turns to me and said, "Just picture me in the passenger seat and I'll be with you in spirit." I started getting all freaked out and said, "Stop that! That's creepy, Ma!" I totally believe her spirit knew she was leaving. I didn't even know she was leaving so soon. I do admit, when I feel scared, I pray to God and I also envision my mom taking that ride with me to whatever scary place it may be. A death of a loved one can really trigger your anxiety and put it into high gear. I find it important for me to separate the grief from the panic. Why am I panicking over the grief? I went through most of the grief stages and sometimes I repeat them all over again. Major life changes are huge factors in triggering panic attacks and depression. When I feel overwhelmed with all of these emotions, I bring it all to God. I haven't been so careful with my words lately, like saying, "I just wanna go home and be with Mom!" I've said that quite a few times. I feel disconnected from everyone which scares the living daylights out of me. So I try and reel it in and let go of it and let God handle it.

If you have any suggestions or coping mechanisms that help you through anxiety attacks, let me know over here on my Facebook page. The comment section is always open. Through my own experience with anxiety and grief, I hope that I helped someone who needed to hear this. Would love to hear from you.

If you're here, then you're here for a reason. Feel better and always reach out!

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!