Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shoulda' Coulda' Woulda'...

Recently, I was talking to one of my readers about grief. She sent me a direct message over on Twitter saying how much my words have helped her. She has an elderly mother who she is terrified of losing. She sounded much like myself before Mom passed away. The mere thought of losing Mom was out of the question -- she was off limits. And that's how my new friend feels. She's afraid to say the wrong thing, or perhaps treat her less than important. Her mom tends to talk above her, or interrupts, and she wants to just accept that more and let her mom be herself. What I suggested is, just be YOU. Many of us don't want to have any regrets when our parents or loved ones die, but at the same time, you can't stop being the person you are "just in case" something happens. The thing is, over on the other side is no pain, no resentment, no anger, no sadness -- just pure understanding and unconditional love. Nobody's pissed off up in heaven -- I promise you. The ones who have left us now have a deeper understanding on humanness. We need to embrace ourselves, flaws and all and know that if God can forgive us, then why can't we forgive ourselves too?

The one thing I noticed that I find so interesting is, people are scared to talk about this topic. They're fascinated by it, but scared to even "go there" when it comes to discussing the "what ifs" of a loved one dying. I was always scared to, especially when it came to my mother. I once told my therapist that I would die if she died. I told mom that if I ever lost her I would just die. She'd always say, "No you won't!" And she was right, I didn't die. As I wiggle my way through this struggle of grief, I'm finding new strengths I never had before. I have a lot ahead of me, because my grief is fairly new, but even in this short time, I am beginning to understand things on a much deeper level.

There's a quote I read recently that says, tough times never last, but tough people do. If you can grasp that with every fiber of its meaning, you'll realize how tough you really become when something like this happens to you. I've had my challenges where I would curse the sky, throw things, punch a wall and cry my eyes out until I was all cried out.

Weeping may go on all night, but in the morning there is joy. --Psalm 30:5

There are those who are too afraid to cry because they don't want their family members, like their children seeing their parents in a weak moment. Years ago, when my parents lost their long time friend and one of their brothers, I saw my parents cry. I saw Dad cry -- which was rare. I didn't view him as "weak" -- in fact, I saw a whole other side of him that made me respect him in a whole new light. He was strong enough to show emotion. You're not "traumatizing" your kids by showing them you have sadness for someone's loss. You're showing them what life is about. It's not all happiness and fun all the time. Sometimes, we have to go through a season of sadness in order to come out on the other side. We need to go through that. If we hold it all in, it eventually comes out in some sort of negative way. Let it out. Cry it out. Scream it out. Grieve the way you grieve and never let anyone tell you that it's the "wrong way."

Some people lose their faith in God when one of their loved ones pass away. This is all the more reason to believe more. Look for signs, talk to God, draw closer to Him as He shows you how very temporary our world really is. Time on the other side is not like time here on earth. Someone asked me, "How come my loved one didn't contact me?" Think about this: if 5 minutes in heaven equates to 80 years on earth, then maybe they just got distracted hugging all their lost loved ones who also passed. They know that it's no big deal. They know how fast human life truly is. Time goes by faster than we notice. I remember Dad sitting on his hospice bed in the house saying, "Ya can't believe how time flies! It feels like yesterday when I was only 19 years old starting up my new excavation business. And just. like. that --snaps his fingers-- it's gone and you're dying of cancer." He was speaking of his own experience, but he was trying to explain how all that time here on earth passed by in the blink of an eye.

"Coulda' woulda' shoulda' syndrome" -- stop. Don't do that to yourself. I had a moment of weakness and went there. I know this is gonna sound like nonsense, but you could only do what you could do. There was nothing more that you could've done. As I watched my mother's state decline into a ball of pain and agony, I also tried keeping it together myself. Sometimes, I had to distance myself from my anticipatory grieving that I was doing. One day, she actually heard me cry over her. I was so sleep deprived -- hadn't slept in almost 5 entire nights. I couldn't take it anymore. It was torture, especially for my mom! I couldn't watch her die right in front of my eyes. She would lay on the couch, rocking back and forth until the pain meds kicked in. When she fell asleep, she'd be all crumpled up in this strange position due to the pain, along with labored breathing that I never heard before. After she fell asleep, I tried getting sleep of my own, to only stay up the entire night crying over her pain. I wanted to take her pain away, but there was only so much I could do. So, whenever those "coulda' woulda' shouldas" come resurfacing, I shoo them away, because honestly, there was nothing else I could possibly do to make her better. If you have guilt of some sort -- you weren't around as much or you feel like you didn't do enough -- take guilt, throw it in a bag and shoot it! Guilt isn't an emotion God gives us.

No grief is greater than another, however sometimes there is another factor that comes into play. I live in my family's ancestral home. I came here to take care of my dad when he was diagnosed with cancer, and then after dad died, mom was the target of the big "C" -- so it all worked out that my partner and I were already here. So the grief I have is not only missing my mother, as all of my sisters do, but it's now a daily routine to see and touch everything Mom did when she was alive. Cooking in the same kitchen, using one of her knives or pots that she loved or even just watching TV in the living room like we used to do together has become a little offsetting. I moved around the furniture to make it feel different, and that has helped a great deal. My grief comes with reminders -- perhaps more reminders since she lived here with us. Everything in this house was "her" -- everything in this house was touched by her. Even just gardening outside reminds me of what she used to do -- almost mimicking what she did as a mother and housewife. It's almost like a residual kind of haunting. I use her landline phone from time to time, knowing how many times she has had conversations on that very piece. The remote control still has her fingerprints on it. You get my drift -- all things in this house has been touched by her, with fingerprints still in tact. I had to let that sink in, and release it for what it was. It's now become comforting to use all the things she used to use and touch. I'm okay with it.

So as I sit here and type, I know that I have to face another day without her. Tonight, instead of making dinner for three, I am accepting that it's a party of two. I miss having a cocktail with her before dinner. We would sit and talk about everything. Those days have ended. I'm trying to accept that. This weekend promises differently though, as I'll have some of my friends over to share some food, wine and fun with me. I'm trying so hard not to isolate myself, as I've done while caring for Mom. I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable, if I were to  have friends over. I wanted her to be able to feel free in this house and not burdened with people laughing and having a good time. It's like a kick to the throat in a way. I tried to respect her peacefulness, although she loved company when she had her good days. Regardless, I did push away many of my friends just because I didn't want to leave her, nor did I want to make her feel bad about me having a good time without her, even if we were in the same house. I know that she wants me to change that, and I am...I am. I just loved her so much that I wanted complete peace and comfort for her while she was suffering. That's all. Now it's time to crawl out of my rock and face the world again.

God I miss that woman so much, but but more pain, no more sadness, no more agony.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

7 Things I've Noticed While Grieving

Isn't strange how the process of grieving can be? It's like one day you're completely fine and the days seem hopeful, while other days may feel like a complete nightmare. "It comes in waves," was pretty much the mantra I've been hearing for people who are mourning a lost loved one. It's so true though. Here's what I've noticed with a death of a loved one, especially someone close to you living in the same household...

You'll be flooded with kindness. You'll notice old friends coming out of the woodwork to send their condolences, or to even to invite you out with them. I've had so many invites to friends' houses, but in my state of mourning, I just couldn't. It had nothing to do with them personally -- I'm just not in the mainframe of socializing on a "party level" right now. And yes, my friends still party which is a beautiful thing. Forever young, right?  One of my girlfriends gave me a call and asked me to come over to  her pool party, and although I really really wanted to, I had to graciously decline. I was afraid that one of those waves would consume me making me a big ol' "Debbie Downer." And as fast as those wonderful and sincere invitations come flying your way, they also go flying away once things are settled. People want to help, and that has to be appreciated and respected. So never get offended when the silence of the condolences leaves your doorstep.

Parting ways. In some families, the patriarch or matriarch are usually the ones to tie the family together -- to keep them together. After both parents die, sometimes it's possible for siblings to part their ways. This is actually quite normal and to be expected. In some cases, during the anger phases of grief, siblings can turn on one another for various reasons. Emotions are high and people are extra sensitive during this time. Sometimes, silence is the best way to deal with these kind of things. For me, one sister told me that my "anxiety was out of control." When was it not? Then plop on a big ol' heap of grief and voila -- you have the perfect storm for insanity. If people can't handle you on your worst days, then they do not deserve your best of days. Surround yourself with those who love you unconditionally, who don't have reserved bitterness or resentment toward you or the family in whatever aspect. Learn to choose your company wisely. With that being said, learn to also have a forgiving nature and realize that the other person may be grieving too.

Location triggers. They're the worst sometimes. You can be having the best day, and then BAM -- you stepped into a restaurant you and your loved one used to go to. Yesterday, I went shopping in Kohl's -- a store my mom practically lived in. She would have all of her coupons and Wednesday sales + senior citizen discounts. She was so cute! As I walked in trying to get a jacked up cart that equaled like a pig down the aisles, I laughed and thought of Mom laughing at me. The store felt so strange to be in. After a while, I felt okay. When we got to the checkout, I started getting anxiety with all of the coupon questions and Kohl's card benefits -- I almost started to cry. When we left the store, we were going to have dinner at The Outback for some steak and a couple of drinks -- another location Mom and I went to all the time. I couldn't bear to go without my mom, so instead, I went to this Louisiana type of bar with really good food -- a place I have never gone to before. It helped a lot to get out of the familiar territory that haunted me so much. In time, I'll be able to go, but not now...not now.

Change. Sometimes change is good. For instance, when Mom passed away, I switched up the two large living rooms we have and rearranged the furniture so the entire house would look different. That kind of change is very healthy for your mindset. The one thing that stressed me out was the choice of either keeping the house or selling it. It's way too big for just the two of us, so I suggested we'd move to a smaller house or townhouse somewhere south of here. I'm not sure where, but in the area we live in is extremely expensive and would probably exhaust all of our savings on just trying to maintain the place. The thing with moving is -- that's one of life's biggest changes. For instance, big changes in life are death in the family, divorce, unemployment or changing jobs and of course, moving. Moving was very stressful on me and the one thing you do not want to do right away is move locations. The thing is, with me being in the same house my mom lived in -- maybe it wouldn't be so bad in my case. Maybe this is a "trigger location" -- so we're taking our time with it right now. Leaving this house would feel like another death in the family in some way. It's our ancestral home that was given to me. So, now what?

Mom & I having a cocktail.
The new normal. I hear that all the time, never quite understood it, until recently. My world feels strange. Good things are happening, yet my best friend, my mama isn't here with me to see it. There's no "checking up" on her to see if she's alright or taking her out to the park with my dog she loves so much. There's no more 5 o'clock dinners with her, no more cooking projects when she had the strength, no more watching our favorite shows at night together before she went to sleep. My routine has changed drastically. Sometimes I feel really lonely, because I work from home. So when I would take a break to walk my dog, we would hang out with mom and spend some time with her. Now it's just silence in the house, so I have to step out just to keep my sanity in tact. I'm getting used to it, but it feels so incredibly different. The house feels different. My life is just...different. I guess a "new normal" has taken place.

Personal items & photos of the deceased. They're wonderful reminders, but perhaps better left in a safe place for now until you are ready to face them. They can trigger a world of sadness as they did for me. We have this new rule: if I ever have one glass of wine, I am not allowed anywhere near my mother's bedroom nor am I allowed to just rummage through old photos of her or touch any of her belongings. Madelene once found me passed out sleeping on my mother's side of the bed hugging her pillow with a million and one crumpled up tissues all around me. I went in there just to pray and perhaps, talk to mom. It just felt like I was in her presence inside that room. But what happened was, I started crying so much, that I cried myself to sleep on her side. It was the first time I slept that long in years actually. I'm no longer allowed in that room, unless it's in the morning and I'm all caffeinated up. If you can, try not to do things like that. It hinders your progress a great deal, even though it feels to be good to be somewhat closer to them.

Praying to God or talking to deceased loved ones. This one is tricky and I want to tell you why... If you're a Christian, please guard yourself, because the accuser can deceive you, mimicking your loved one's voice exactly to the tee. Do not talk to the dead, instead -- pray to God first, ask for a hedge of protection and ask God to send a message for you. Otherwise, you're treading in dangerous waters. It borderlines on necromancy, which is a sin and most of all, it's just downright dangerous to do. Signs from loved ones are their way of communicating with you. Accept these wonderful and light "hellos" from heaven. Our time here may seem like forever, but in heaven, time here is just a blip -- we'll get there eventually. Sometimes, people never get signs or messages from their loved ones because they know they're gonna see you in 5 minutes their time. But I do believe if they see you struggling more than most, they will send you a hello. Discern whether or not it is God's will to have them contact you.

These are just my suggestions of trial and error. I have had many instances where Mom had contact with me, but I go to God first and foremost. You can see my post about communicating with deceased loved ones if you click here. As I continue my grief journey, I'll update you on anything I find interesting that may help others cope. I'm finding new coping mechanisms that've been helping me a great deal. I'll write more about that tomorrow. For now, keep the faith and when you have one bad day, remember that doesn't mean it's a bad life. In waves...

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Signs From Your Deceased Loved Ones

There's no turning back now. They say grief comes in waves, but lately, it's been hitting me like a tsunami. I can't seem to catch my breath. I get it. She lived a full life -- she wasn't a 30 year old something lady, but let me ask you this: does it really matter? My mom was 79 years old, but she had all of her wits about her, she was funny and was always there for everyone. She was the least judgmental person I have ever known, unless you asked her for an opinion on a really ugly plaid blouse. (Yes, that would be me.) Nonjudgmental in terms of -- say if one of her daughters had a falling out. She would never side with either. She would always say, "Turn the other cheek and remember that's your sister." Nobody could do any wrong in her eyes. Everyone tells me that time will heal or that it just never heals. Some say it just gets worse, which scares the living daylights outta me. When I pray and meditate, everything seems OKAY -- everything seems like things are where they should be, even though I took a punch to the gut with losing mom. I get it -- we all die and we're bound to lose our parents one way or another if we're around to see it. I keep reaching out to people who have lost a parent or a child. After years of their loss, they seem to still be grieving, but in a different way, no more, no less. The big difference is, they can manage to smile again. I guess it's like an open wound right now. Eventually, it'll turn into a scar if I don't continually pick at it. There are some people who actually feel guilty if they move on with their lives. I've witnessed people who explained that they feel really bad if they're having too much fun in life -- as if they're somehow disrespecting their loved one.

Isn't that what they want for us?

Here's what's been happening to me lately.

I know many people are skeptic when it comes to supernatural occurrences, or that their loved ones may be able to give them signs. But after my experiences, whether you call them all "coincidences" or that my mind may be playing tricks on me -- I believe more than ever.

My very first experience with Mom trying to contact me was right before she died. Mom and I always talked about sending one another an owl if one of us should die first. We collected owls for years and she would tell me that they were good luck. So the owl is quite significant to me. The night before she passed, I was woken up to a loud owl "hoo-ing" inside my window. It was perched out on the ledge and making the most crazy hoo-ing sounds with some strange other sound that followed. I woke up instantly and something told me to look at my clock.

The clock read 4:17. That's my mom's birthday. I looked over at Madelene and said, "She's going to pass soon." Even when a dying person is unconscious, their spirit can still manifest messages to their loved ones, prepping them for the moment they leave us.

The second time she pulled through the veil was when I was crying really hard -- I was having myself a good ol' ugly cry in my bedroom. I even believe they were "screaming-type cries" -- the type where you are grieving so hard, you lose all sense of the meaning STABLE. I thought I had nearly done lost my mind. Down the hallway and into my office came a strange noise. We couldn't figure it out. It sounded like a train horn, but something was different. It was my MacBook going on and off...on and off...on and off. It wouldn't stop until I stopped crying. The thing is -- my computer was shut down. So...? Again, I looked over at the clock and this time it said 3am.

They say that at 3am, the veil to the other side is at its thinnest. So, our loved ones (as well as not so loved ones) can send you messages or signs due to the frailty of the veil. I'm not sure why 3am is the magic number, but some people believe that it's the devil's hour or the "witching hour" where the number "3" is mocked due to the trinity. I don't know what to make of this.

All our lives, my mom and me would always notice 12:21 in different areas -- whether we'd catch it on a clock or just randomly saw those numbers. Also, most of our relatives either died on the 12th or 21rst of the month. One day before Dad crossed over, Mom and I were hanging out in the driveway as she smoked a cigarette. She said to me, "You know what tomorrow is, right?" And I said, "Yep. It's the 21rst."  She ducked out her cigarette and we both walked back inside to get ready to head up to hospice. The next day, he died peacefully at 12:21 on July 21, 2012.

Hmm. Coincidence?

So my third run with this supernatural occurrence was when I was having a completely grieving meltdown in my kitchen. Madelene was comforting me and I was upset over something in particular, to which I'll leave out for now. My heart started pounding and I felt out of control. All of the sudden, the lights flickered on, off, on off, on off -- then it went into a twilight in between mode, like half on....then *poof* -- the power went off. When it came back on, the clock blinked, 12:21.

The strangest occurrence was when I was just reading some articles in the living room because I couldn't go to sleep. It was silent and everything was very peaceful. It wasn't too long before I heard an audible voice -- my mother's voice!

"Deb--bie!!!" It was like a singsong kind of sound. The first "Deb" went up -- and the second syllable of my name went down. It was as if she was so excited to push through the veil! And oddly enough, it was at 3am once again. She sounded so happy and even more so excited that she got through. I heard her tone -- her excitement -- her happiness. Although I knew it sounded happy, I got up pretending I didn't hear it and walked into my bedroom to pull the covers up over my head. I was a little freaked out over that one. The next day, I did a public broadcast about supernatural occurrences once a loved one passes over, and got a lot of interesting feedback. Many believe it was her, some told me to be careful because it was at 3am, the mockery of the trinity, while others saw it a blessing from God. I am careful with trying not to tamper around with initiating contact from the other side. The devil can mimic anyone's voice to make you rely on it, instead of praying to God. So you have to be especially careful when you're grieving that you are not 'talking to the dead' -- but relying on God to send any messages you need to send. This can borderline on necromancy -- not to be confused with necrophelia! Necromancy is more or less relying on the dead to talk to you and give you tidbits for the future. Just be careful if you do practice this sort of thing, especially if you're a believer.

The next thing my mom does it a bit nerve-racking, but it is what it is. Whenever I'm at my most extreme of emotions, like either crying my eyes out or even happy about something, my phone will ring one time. It's a phone number that cannot be dialed back. It's out of order. This can easily be debunked as those annoying telemarketers, but the caller ID lists the call as, "Ma." This has happened every time I'm crying, or each time I'm writing in my personal grievance journal. She does it at certain times when I am in deep thought about her. In fact, I should be getting a call any minute now.

Many people have experienced signs and communication of some sort from the other side. Some find it comforting, while others find it disturbing, and then of course, you have your skeptics out there who feel it's merely just a coincidence. I keep seeing the same humming bird hovering around one of my big windows in the living room. There are no bright colors around that area nor is there any sort of flowers that would draw them in. I have never seen so many beautiful butterflies and cardinals too. Dragonflies have been swarming the joint -- so I don't know what you believe. One afternoon while sitting out on my deck, I saw at least 10 doves fly off from the roof into the sky. It was so beautiful. But...?

This morning I got a text message from my sister at around 6:30am saying, "This is insane....the last few days I have woke up at 4:17. I'm freaked! What does that mean???!!!"

All I said was, "Mom. Believe it. It's her. If I told you half the things that went on, you'd probably wouldn't believe me."

Mom's birthday was 4/17. We keep seeing her birthday on the clock. Is it our brain playing tricks on us, or perhaps it's real?

This is why I'm writing this article right now actually.

Do you have stories where your loved one came through to you? My dad usually would come to me in a dream. I would actually wake up within the dream to ask him, "Is this really you?" And he'd laugh and say, "Of course it is! Gimme a hug quick before my time is up!" There was always a 15 second time limit on our "dream contact."

Let me know what's been happening with your experiences. Maybe they're real. Maybe they're just our own brains searching for signs. But whatever it is -- isn't it kinda comforting in a way? (Unless you're starting to hear them yell your name out!) But that's a whole other can-o-beans!

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mama's Last Mother's Day

Have you ever had such a vidid dream (or nightmare) that you just couldn't shake years later? I remember when I was about 8 years old or so, I had this dream where I was at my mom's funeral. I remember every single person who attended and even recall people carrying her casket inside this small funeral parlor. When I woke up from that dream, I couldn't stop crying. Mom came into my room to wake me up for school and saw how upset I was. I told her I had a nightmare, but I wouldn't tell her what it was. She asked again, but I was afraid that if I told her, that it would somehow come true. During that time, Mom had a really bad blood infection and had to go into the hospital for a while. They had to give her a hysterectomy. While she was in the hospital, I remember my grandmother taking care of me. As she was cleaning up after dinner, I saw grandma sobbing as she wiped the table down. I knew something was wrong. My fear kicked in and I couldn't stop crying out of fear. Luckily, Mom came home and I took care of her. I made her tuna fish sandwiches with instant chicken noodle soup. I actually made it pretty good! I used to watch Mom cook and make stuff all the time.

Walking into Mom's funeral service was the worst day of my life. I tried to stay inside the room where everyone gathered, but my chest started to hurt and I found it hard to breathe. I walked over to the secondary little living room area and had myself a real "ugly cry." I couldn't go back in there. I know all of my friends came by to pay their respects and send their condolences to me, which was so nice of them, but I had to hide. They understood, thankfully. As time went by, the room was packed with me and all of my friends and my in laws. They stayed with me. They knew I couldn't bear to go out there any longer. I did go back out into the hallway, but I just couldn't be in that room. No. I can't. I couldn't handle it. I would've had a heart attack. 

Our precious cargo on our way to the shore!
During these dark times, you truly see who is there for you, and who isn't. I feel so fortunate to have had my sister-in-law stay with us for a couple of weeks. It wasn't only to console me, but to also help Madelene out because she was grieving too. Hey, my mom was her mom too. They were so close. Even my mother-in-law loved my mom. We had gone on vacation to the Jersey Shore on the week of Mother's Day. It was Mom, Madelene, my mother-in-law and her husband, and my sister-in-law. Madelene and I would pack the car and Mom and Lola would ride in the back seat together -- it was so adorable as you can see in the photo. All of us had such a good time at this beautiful beach house right on the ocean. I also invited all of my sisters, but they were only able to stay on Mother's Day due to their busy schedules, which was great! At least they were there! I had a feeling that this was going to be Mom's last Mother's Day with us. I saw her declining and I knew how important this trip was. As we arrived at this beautiful home right on the ocean, we were able to give Mom the best spot in the house: a suite with her own bedroom and bathroom and a sliding glass window to walk over to the ocean. She said, "Debbie, I never want to leave this house! I don't wanna go home!" I never heard her say that before with the other places we visited. This meant the world to me that she was happy and felt comfortable. 

On Mother's Day, my two sisters and their kids came over in the morning so they could spend the day with us. I rocked the kitchen and BBQ like you've never seen before. From steamed clams, filet mignons, porterhouse steaks, burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, asparagus, garlic broccoli rabe with linguini, potato salad, cold slaw, wine, beer, or anything in between. We all had Mother's Day dinner out on the deck that faced the ocean. It was supposed to be cloudy and cool that day -- but it turned out to be 80 degrees and sunny. I couldn't believe it. It was the perfect day! Everyone hung out, the kids went out on the dock to go crab fishing and kayaking -- they all had a really good time. There was even a pool table inside if people wanted to hang out indoors. 

I'll never forget what Mom said to me.

"This was the best Mother's Day of my life!" 

Whenever I would wake up, I would walk downstairs to her area and sit with her. We both stared out into the ocean and had our coffee together. Sometimes, her pain would get to her, so she would lay down and wait for the pain medication to kick in as she nodded off. I stayed with her until she fell asleep. She would always fall asleep facing the ocean. She looked like a sweet angel sleeping. I would pray while she slept, hoping that this vacation would heal her. There had to be some way Mom could get better. I couldn't lose my best friend -- my vacation buddy. I never wanted to go without her! She made it fun! She had her own little routine and it was so incredibly adorable. At night, I would sit with her in her bedroom and we would talk for an hour or so before she went to sleep. She'd play with my dog Lola and even had a little nightcap with me. 

Mom & I sharing a glass of wine before bedtime.
Mom was so happy to be with her family during this time and I'm so glad my sister's and their kids made it down to see her. I can't stress enough how important this particular trip was. She had already knew she was terminal. I however, did not. I just felt she was. I just knew. She kept her "6 month doomsday" a secret from me, but we're so connected that there was no way I could not know. I saw her pain. I saw her personality change as the pain took hold of her. She couldn't do this any longer. I remember one evening while sitting outside by the ocean with my mom, she decided to go back inside. So as I let her hold onto me as we walked toward the house, there was a small step to get inside. She didn't have the strength to take that small step. I had to literally pick her up carefully, hoping not to break a rib in order to get her back into her suite. When we got inside, I set her up in her bedroom while Lola hopped up on her bed to lay down with her. Madelene came downstairs to give her a glass of ice water and a snack. We always watched TV together in her bedroom before I headed up to go to sleep myself. I enjoyed staying with her. I enjoyed every second with her because she was just a fascinating woman with all of her stories and funniness. I miss her so much. We were such a great team.

Here are some short video clips from Instagram.

1st clip
2nd clip
3rd clip

So where was I before I started talking about our awesome trip to the shore? Ah, the funeral. I will say this... The days after a loved one's funeral makes it "official" -- your loved one is gone forever. It's nothing like seeing them for the last time in the hospital. This somehow was different for me. It was the funeral that sparked the initial intense grieving process. I'm already afflicted with GAD - generalized anxiety disorder. When someone who has anxiety disorder goes through the stages of mourning, the anxiety can heighten a great deal. I started to develop all these new phobias and habits. I had to go back on my regular dosage of Ativan to keep me calm, but one day, I missed a dose and it sent me into a whirlwind of withdrawals like I've never seen before. The first day of a benzodiazepine  withdrawal is heightened anxiety attacks, heart palpitations and twitches. If it reaches day 2 -- it can go into complete seizures. I didn't even realize I had forgotten to take the morning dosage because my mind was in a fog. Madelene was really concerned because she has never seen me this extreme before. I was shaking and crying -- I didn't know how to help myself. I had to stop drinking due to my stomach bleeding, so I thought something was terribly wrong with me -- as most anxiety sufferers do. They start in with their hypochondria and then the mind races to the worst case scenario. It wasn't too long before I started to say, "I wanna go home with Mom." And I meant it with every fiber of my being. Later that night, I took my nightly dosage of Ativan, and realized on my phone in the notes section where I log in the times of when I take the medicine...there was no morning dose. Not even 10 minutes later, I was calm as a clam.

Here's the thing with anxiety disorder: it. cannot. be. fixed. The only thing that can be done is developing a good and strong coping mechanism. I have tried every single antidepressant out there, however all the SSRI's that I have tried increased my anxiety where I started having strange jolts and small mini seizures. My doctor informed me that some people with anxiety disorder are "sensitive" to SSRI's which is why they tend to go for the anti-anxiety meds, like Ativan, Xanax or Klonopin. People don't seem to realize that an anti-DEPRESSANT is not meant for someone with ANXIETY disorder. Big pharma used the tactic of, "Well, anxiety and depression go hand in hand."  Yeah, maybe, but if the person is more of a high strung anxiety-ridden chihuahua, you might wanna throw them a benzo! I was actually invited to speak about this topic on the Dr. Oz show. I graciously declined, because I didn't want to inform people who truly need the medication who are not sensitive to it. I was afraid that there would be people who have mental illness that would reject any help given. If you're an avid reader of mine, you remember that story and how badly I wanted to go on his panel. You can read more about it here.

Grief itself can bring on anxiety and depression, even if the person never had an issue with it before. It can also trigger PTSD in some people. There's also complicated grief, which is basically someone never getting over their loved one and not moving on. My whole thought on people like me who suffer with anxiety, especially when a tragic loss occurs like mine is this: never judge the way somebody grieves. If they ask you for help, either say yes or no, but never make that person feel bad about coming to you. If you're going to say, "Oh I'll always be here for you," then do so, or don't ever let those words come out of your mouth. Giving unsolicited advice is overstepping one's boundaries. Make sure the advice is asked for, not some sermon on what you did to get better or how you would handle it. Just be an ear and or just be present. As long as they see a professional, you do not have to act like one for them. The worst thing to say to someone who suffers with anxiety disorder is, "You gotta do this." because in most cases, they've already tried this that and the other thing. You're just doing more damage, and potentially ruining whatever relationship you have left with that person. They may not ever want to communicate with you again, in fear of being humiliated or judged.

Losing a loved one can make you lose your mind. The heaviness of the loss itself changes you into a different person, possibly with different views on life. What I've come to realize is that nobody can tell somebody how to grieve or how long you 'should' grieve for. This is a personal journey which should be respected. When people make fun of you because you have a cross to bear, like dealing with anxiety or depression, it can wreak havoc on your psyche, making you think that you're batshit crazy. But remember, the people who put you down saying you're "not grieving right" or that "you're out of control" are the ones who have either never experienced a loss like this, or those who are still in the anger phase of their own grieving period. Don't allow anyone to make you a target of their unresolved anger.

But I digress. I can honestly say that I have zero regrets with Mom. We did everything we wanted to do. She was my vacation buddy and I was more than honored to be with her on Mother's Day just to spoil her rotten! I'm so glad my other sisters came down to share the most amazing day with us. When I think back on a good memory, that day comes to mind because it was as if Mom wasn't sick at all! She had a fairly good day. My prayers were answered. It was like the most beautiful 'send off' -- a tribute to the most amazing woman of my life.

I'm so thankful Mom decided to take that trip.

Thank you, Mom.

Love you, love you, as we used to always say.

We'll get to watch another sunset together one day. I know it. But for now, thank you for all the wonderful memories you have given me. 

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Lost My Mind When I Lost My Mom

It was like any other day really. After I was done with work, I grabbed my keys and headed downtown to grab some fresh salmon and veggies from the local farm market. Mom loved when I made my baked salmon over broccoli rabe. I wanted to make her something special. I hadn't slept in quite a few days, but felt the need to do something nice for her. All week, something was happening to me. I was having anticipatory grief due to Mom's illness worsening. In fact, a few days before I had a complete meltdown because I spent the entire night in the living room with her, watching her rock back and forth in pain before the meds kicked in. When they finally did kick in, I would then hear her labored breathing, which was a new one for me. As I kept an eye on her, at one point, her positioning was so twisted and visibly uncomfortable, that I wondered if there was something she wasn't telling me. I knew she was very ill and that she had exhausted all of her options of treatment, but something was much different this time. She was different -- her entire personality had changed, because that's what pain does to you. It changes the person you once were. That killed me. So my anticipatory grief kicked in, and so did my insomnia. I already missed my mom.

As I drove down the road, tears were streaming down my face. Would she be well enough to sit at the dinner table with me? Would she even eat? Would she be...okay? I only got the salmon because I knew how much she enjoyed it. Madelene typically hates any kind of fish and thinks all of it is tainted somehow or another by her conspiracy theories (which is cute) but...not. The market was crowded and it took a long time to order my stuff. As I was driving back home, I started nodding off, almost hitting a tree on the side of the road. I decided to pull over and have myself a good cry before I drove home. I made sure my makeup wasn't running down my face and wiped off the leftover tears on my cheeks. I couldn't have her know that I cried like this all the time. I have to be happy. I have to be happy. I have to be happy. And I tried. When I walked inside the door, she was lying on the couch watching TV. I sat down even before putting the food away because I had a crazy dizzy spell.

"You OK, mommy?" mom asked. She always called her daughters "mommy" -- just like Latinas call their daughters and loved ones, "mama" or "ma" and even, "mamacita."
"I don't know, ma. Maybe we can order Chinese tonight?" And she agreed.
"I promise I'll cook the salmon tomorrow for us. I'm so sleep deprived."

My mom was easy-going with everything. I ordered takeout Chinese and her last dinner here at the house was sweet and sour chicken with pork lomein. Later that night around 11pm, she called me from her bedroom.

"Deb? Can you come down?"

I was almost asleep for the first time in three days. I crawled downstairs, barely seeing anything in front of me because my eyes were so blurry and I was so incredibly disoriented. When I saw my mother downstairs, she was still in her housecoat standing near the bar area in our living room.

"Come here, Debbie." she said. with her arms extended out.

As I walked up to her, she gave me the biggest hug she ever gave me in her life. As she was squeezing me, she said, "I love you, Debbie and I'm worried about you." I said, "I love you too, mama, and I'm worried about me too!" We both laughed and then she said, "I have to call 911."
She gave me her "goodbye hug."

Mom never wants to call 911. We always have to force it. Something was wrong.

"What's wrong, ma?"
"I think I have a UTI, nothing major."

She never calls 911 for a UTI. She wouldn't even call 911 when she was having chest pains in the past.

Long story short, she was bleeding everywhere and the cancer had worsened to where it was bleeding outward. She didn't tell anyone. She didn't want to burden me with the news that she was progressively getting worse. As the ambulance took her away, somehow, some way, I knew this would be her very last time in this house...our house...our home...our sanctuary.

As I went up to the hospital to visit her, she was eating well and making jokes with the nurse. I was relieved she seemed to be okay. She kept saying, "I wanna go home! Take me home now!" She even told the nurse she wanted to go home and that she didn't need a home health aid, and that I would be caring for her. But at this point, she was such a fall risk that they wouldn't let her out, unless she had a home health aid. Later that night, she called me up and said, "I already miss you! I can't wait to come home!" I said, "Don't worry, I'll pick you up tomorrow if they release you."

The next morning, I called her at around 10am. Something was off...way off. It didn't even feel as though she was the one to pick up the phone. It sounded like someone else picked it up and put it to her ear. It sounded like she was crying in pain.

"Helloooooo?.....Debbie!!!" she cried as if she was being tortured.
"Ma, what's wrong? Why are you crying?"
"Ohhhhh it's terrible!!! It's sooooooo terrible!!!"
"I'm coming up now!" and hung up the phone.

I never heard my mother like this.

I immediately called my sisters to ask what happened and was told that her tumor had grown in size, blocking her from going to the bathroom at this point. Her rectal cancer could not be cured nor reversed, neither could the pulmonary embolism living in her left lung. Trying to remove any of these would just simply kill her.

I needed a pep talk from a close friend. As I was on the phone upset, I started to get chest pains. I started to feel dizzy and couldn't breathe. I was advised to call 911 for myself. I guess this was the safest way to get to mom at this point -- we'd both be in the hospital.

As they carted me in, the ER was so overcrowded, that they had to give me a bed that was against the outer wall of a nurse's station. As I had EKGs, blood tests and x-rays done, I got a call from my sister.  I remember I was lying down in my bed just waiting to get a clean bill of health.

"Deb? Mom's not going to be able to come home...she's not supposed to make it through the night."

There was a long silence. The type of silence that explains everything. I felt my heart break into two -- I actually heard my heart crack into half. I was supposed to make salmon with her! I was supposed to take her out to dinner soon! I was supposed to get our outdoor patio set so she could relax outside! I was supposed to... All these 'to dos' were flying through my head -- why was I even thinking about this -- almost like telling God, "No! You can't take her now! We had plans! No!"

As I was sobbing in my bed near the nurse's station, trauma patients being rolled through the doors one by one, leaving trails of blood as they passed my area. I noticed people staring at me -- sad for me, some even really concerned. Why me? People were dying all around us. But they still stared as I covered my face so nobody could see me cry. I felt a hand squeeze my right shoulder.

"Honey, do you need pain medication? Are you okay? I can order some pain meds for relief."
"No, thank you. My mom is dying upstairs. She's not supposed to make it through the night." I said, hoping she would help me from losing my mind or for some miracle to take place. Maybe I'd get a phone call saying, "Deb! They can help her! She's gonna be okay!"

She's gonna be okay.
She's gonna be okay.
She's gonna be okay.

I cried harder, and harder, until I saw boxes of kleenex being thrown at me. A bunch of nurses consoled me, rubbing my shoulder and one holding my ankle explaining how much better the other side was. I didn't want to hear that. I wanted to hear that she has a chance! Don't tell me she's leaving me! I guess that was the beginning of stage 1: Denial.

They released me with a clean bill of health, letting me know stress was the culprit for my hospital visit. I still had my pajamas on because I hadn't jumped in the shower yet. My pain started way before I went to go get ready. So Madelene came to pick me up and we schlepped out of the ER and walked toward the elevators. As we were approaching her room, I felt like I was going to throw up. I opened up the door to see every family member sitting and standing around her. Mom was no longer conscious. I couldn't make her laugh or try to talk with her. Occasionally, she'd let out a moan or two, but that was about it. In my mind, I kept saying, "Ma, wake up! C'mon, Ma! Wake up! We have plans!" But she still remained unconscious. I just wanted her to come back home with me.

Eventually, we had to go home. The doctors couldn't tell us her 'timeframe' really, but it was soon. I decided to get some sleep and come back in the morning. When I got home, I wailed and cried so hard, that I'm almost sure my neighbors could hear me. That night, I cried myself to sleep.

And this is where it gets strange.

I had a dream that I was driving in this old vintage convertible through a field of sunflowers. The sun was going down, but it was still so bright and sunny. I looked over at who was driving and it was my mother who looked like she was back in her 40's! She was strong, tall and had long hair again. She was also driving her old Corvette, to which I found a photo of her in this car after her passing, except she was the one driving!

"Ma! You're driving again!"
"Yeah! And I feel so terrific!"

We drove through that field and smiled so much -- so much joy and no more pain. Our hair was blowing in the wind, my arms were reaching out against the wind -- it was pure heaven. It was the perfect day.

Then I woke up from my dream to a loud noise. It was an owl perched on the ledge of my window making the loudest "hoo-ing" calls inside my bedroom! I looked over at the clock and it read, 4:17 -- my mom's birthday. I looked over at Madelene who was also shocked by the owl and I said, "Mad, she's going home..."

Mom and I collected owls. We started collecting owls when I was around 8 years old. I have owls downstairs, upstairs, in the bathrooms, in my bedroom -- they're everywhere. It was our thing. For her to send an owl to tell me goodbye was just amazing.

But she was still here...

We went back up to the hospital the next day. As we were driving, the song, "Wherever You Will Go," by The Calling. As the song played, tears were streaming down my face, and then I noticed Madelene crying too. She could feel that the song was from my mom as we were driving up to say our final goodbyes.

Here are the lyrics.

So lately, been wondering 
Who will be there to take my place 
When I'm gone you'll need love to light the shadows on your face 
If a great wave shall fall and fall upon us all 
Then between the sand and stone, could you make it on your own 
If I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go 
Way up high or down low, 
I'll go wherever you will go 
And maybe, I'll find out 
A way to make it back someday 
To watch you, to guide you through the darkest of your days 
If a great wave shall fall and fall upon us all 
Then I hope there's someone out there who can bring me back to you 
If I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go 
Way up high or down low, I'll go wherever you will go 
Run away with my heart 
Run away with my hope 
Run away with my love 
I know now, just quite how 
My life and love might still go on 
In your heart, in your mind, 
I'll stay with you for all of time 
If I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go 
Way up high or down low, I'll go wherever you will go 
If I could turn back time, I'll go wherever you will go 
If I could make you mine, I'll go wherever you will go 
I'll go wherever you will go

The numbness set in. It was my body's defense mechanism kicking in. I didn't want to feel the dreaded intense pain I knew I would feel on this day. I had to say goodbye to my mom! I HAD TO SAY GOODBYE TO MY MOM!

Be strong.
Be strong.
Be strong.

I contacted my friend and fellow author, Anita Moorjani who had an NDE (Near Death Experience.) She wrote, "Dying To Be Me" -- a book where she explained everything about the afterlife. She said to me, "Whatever you do, do not approach her with fear. She can feel that even if she is unconscious." My mom was always concerned about my wellbeing and knew that I could possibly die without her. I even told her, "Ma, I would die without you," -- she's heard this a million and one times. I'm not sure if I said this so she'd hold on, but she knew I'd be in bad shape if this day came to pass.

I sat by her side, held her hand and played with her hair as she used to love me to do. It made her sleep. "Play with my hair," she'd ask -- and then you had to sit there for an hour until she fell asleep. She was so cute. Her hair was still nicely colored -- she wouldn't leave the house if she saw a gray. She still looked beautiful, but she looked tired.

I took a deep breath after squeezing her hand for a while.

"Mom, I love you. It's okay to let go. I'm gonna be okay."

***Interrupting this for just an update on what happened when I typed that last line***

As I wrote my last line, I started crying. I had to take a break from writing this. As I was wiping my tears away and felt my heart break all over again, my phone rang. It's right about the time Mom always called me in the morning. It was HER ringer!!! And the number at 7777 in it, with the name of Ma on the ID. I tried calling it back and it was a nonworking number. My stories will have have a similar baseline to this because strange things have been happening before and after her passing. Bear with me if I take a break and let you know what happens as I'm writing these pieces. When I have extreme outbursts of emotions, she usually flickers the lights on and off repeatedly or she'll turn my computer on and off like a madwoman! I do believe it's her telling me to calm down. I feel her energy all around me and late one night (or morning) at 3am, I audibly heard her voice call out, "Debbie!' Like, "Debbie! I'm so happy you can hear me!" But just, "Debbie!" I walked out of the living room and back into my bedroom and put the covers over my head. I was a little freaked out.

I stood up from my chair and kissed her forehead and brushed back her hair with my hand. This would be the last time I would ever see Mom or feel Mom again. As I walked slowly out of the room, a part of me wished she would wake up from her groggy sleep and yell out, "Deb!" There's so much to this story than just her being here alive. There has been so much activity after she passed away. She's still here with me and I don't know what to make of it.  I'm almost scared to tell my happenings, and some of the happenings are when Madelene is here with me. She witnesses these occurrences as well, so I know I'm not going crazy. I've never had such great faith as I do after my mom's passing. I truly thought that I would somehow lose faith after this -- but it was the other way around. It feels really strange these days. It's not the same life. There's a huge shift in the atmosphere, or maybe in just my world. But the message I'm getting is that I cannot live like this -- in fear -- in great sadness -- because there are things I need to do beyond what I was initially doing. I need to move on and move forward.

But how? My best friend left me.

Don't tell me that things can be worse. Don't tell me that losing a child is the greatest loss ever, because some parents don't even give a shit about their kids. Don't compare my grief to anybody else's. It's wrong. And if you downgrade my feelings and say "snap out of it," then I'm assuming that you never loved someone as much as I loved my mother. Each relationship and dynamic is drastically different and should be respected. Nobody knows how much love went into a relationship. But my mother and I had such a strong connection -- we could finish each other's thoughts. We have been in the same dreams sometimes, waking up and asking each other details about one another's take on the dream. Fact is -- she was my favorite person in the whole world. So don't tell me that my grief isn't "greater" because it's the one thing that almost killed me. I guess I'm in the anger stage for now, so I'm trying to cope with that alone.

My story will continue on. As for now, this is all I have. I don't have anymore energy or tears to put into this article. The next piece will have more supernatural occurrences that are so unexplainable that it blows my mind. I'm writing it all down in my composition book.

This is the greatest loss of my entire life. My greatest fear as a kid to an adult was losing Mom. And now, I have to face that fear head on.

I do ask for your prayers, as I continue my journey without her. I'm kind of scared.

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