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!