Getting My Shit Together 2019

One reason that I have been avoiding writing this blog post is that I already know what is going to happen. I am going to write it all out and people will be so proud of me and offer encouragement or say something like “I wish I could do that” and then my life will fall apart. This has happened over and over as a blogger. I think it is because God likes to entertain Himself by torturing bloggers/writers/authors/speakers.

But here I go anyway.

Part of this need to get my shit together comes from the fact that I have been living in the black hole known as Grief for the last two years and the fog is finally lifting. Several things happened to snap me out of it. The biggest one was probably when my husband moved out in September. That is very complicated and involves things that are not mine to speak on, but I can say that when I no longer had such a close target for my anger or someone taking care of my every need, I had to really come back to being some kind of presence in my life again instead of just being on autopilot.

I got a job and being out in the world reminded me that I love people. I love talking to people and hearing their stories. I love seeing people grow. I also remembered how many people have no clue what the purpose of their lives are and that God loves them so much He thought the world needed them in it to make it better. I also remembered how much I hate waiting tables and how much I love writing. So I quit because I could once my husband and I reconciled.

Step 1 of Getting my Shit Together:

is to write full time. To focus on it and to begin freelance writing and pitching agents for my memoir. I was waiting tables out of the need to pay my bills and also fear. Fear was honestly the biggest factor. When the need to pay my bills was gone, fear was all that was left. I had to make the choice to jump even if I was scared to death. I still am, but now is the time.

Step 2 of #GMST2019 (we are just gonna go modern now and go with this hashtag)

This might actually be #1 depending on how you look at it. Or it might be the pre-requisite. Anyway, it is going back to therapy. Going to therapy and dealing with hard things. You would think that the trauma of losing a son to suicide is the hard thing but the truth is that I had given up on therapy because I blamed myself for his suicide. Somewhere in my mind, I had already failed the most I could fail so there was no reason to even keep healing from anything that happened before Anthony died. Also, I had taken on the punishment of life without therapy as a punishment for Anthony’s suicide. Going back has helped me see that and get my emotional life in order. I do not want to keep on letting anger lead me by the hand. I also am not about to be fake or let people walk all over me so I need therapy to help me balance those two things out.

Step 3 #GMST2019 (see how I keep making this shorter?)

A budget. You guys. There are just somethings that I do not understand the concept of when people say them. Like “dress in layers” or “surrender to God’s plan for your life” or “just budget your money”. First of all, I hardly have ever had money and second I do not know what those words even mean. But I have a friend who does know what a budget is and how to make one so I asked her for help. She explained.things to me over coffee and we talked about other things so it was also time with a friend. I left that coffee date with a new understanding of how to manage money. I have been using the YNAB (You Need a Budget) app and it has changed my life. I have all my bills and expenses covered and my choices on what to spend my money on are more intentional. I am also so grateful that I understand how to manage money instead of feeling like money is in control of my life. No, I still do not have endless amounts of money so I have to make choices, but I am making them, they are not just happening to me.

Step 4 #GMST2019

A daily schedule. Time is like money. It has to be managed. We only have so much of it and the things we have to do take time. I took the things I learned about a budget and applied them to time. I busted out my Blessed is She planner and started budgeting my time. Putting it all down helped me to see what my priorities are and make them happen and also to see what I can and can’t say yes to during the week and why. This daily schedule helped me to see goals in their context rather than just being things on a random list somewhere that I expect to just happen. That is not how things materialize in our lives. If we want something, we have to work towards it. A daily schedule telling me what space in my day is going to be to focus on this specific goal is how I will get there.

Step 5 #GMST 2019

My priorities. Prayer, myself, family, school, gym time and daily Mass. I had to sit down and set my priorities and put them in my life. For so long these things are just concepts that either get attention or they don’t. Sometimes they even compete for attention. Using my budget and daily schedule I can put them in their place in my daily life rather than just think about them. I had to stop feeling bad that self-care comes right after God for me because I am codependent and have no boundaries so that is what works in my life to make me the best version of myself. Then I had to put myself on my schedule. That meant putting “bubble bath” on my weekly schedule. Or putting “gym” time in my daily schedule. Once I set my priorities and put them in my weekly schedule I could see how it was possible and could stop feeling guilty about taking care of myself. I can also see how taking care of myself helps me to care for everyone else. I can also see how much time somethings are taking out of my day and out of my other priorities. Like social media. And I can adjust or adapt accordingly. This means taking Saturdays to write and schedule blog posts, learning how to schedule social media posts and limiting myself to an hour a day on social media.

All of these things have helped me gain some control over my life over the things I can control. I know there is plenty that I cannot control, but that does not mean just letting life punch you in the face all the time. That will happen anyway, even if you have a budget and schedule and goals. But having my shit together might make them easier to handle when they come along. I don’t know, I might end up saying this is all too much and going back to binge-watching Netflix and eating McDonald’s for dinner. I will let you know.

What are some things in your Get Your Shit Together Plan?



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One Step At a Time

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Grief is different for everyone and each loss is also different. There is no worse grief or easier grief, it is just different. Some people seem to be “fine” but they are really in denial. Their brain will not allow them to think about or face the loss of their loved one. They are not choosing to ignore the fact that their loved one is dead as they go on with life, as usual, it is a defense mechanism. Some people dive into work to distract themselves and they do really well at whatever they put all that energy into, some people have brain fog and forget to make sure the slow cooker is plugged in. I am the latter.

My grief is very specific. It is suicide loss of a child who took his own life in my home with a side of the trauma of leaving him in my house and finding his body hours later. Not to mention that I was already riddled from the trauma of being sexually abused as a child, verbal abuse and being bullied most of my childhood. Anthony’s suicide was trauma on top of a mountain of trauma. I remember the exact moment that I saw my husband in the kitchen screaming and I knew that he had found Anthony and that Anthony was dead by suicide. The information all just came into my brain like it was being uploaded onto a computer. I told my husband to get himself together and then it was like a switch went off in my brain that turned me into a robot. I instantly started making a list of things that had to get done: I needed to get dog crates, secure the dogs, call 911, call our priests and then when I was sure that Anthony was dead I had to call into work to tell them that he, his brother and I would not be in the next day. We all worked together, and I had to call in for us.

I had to call in dead for Anthony, which is so crazy and whoever thinks they will have to do that? But my point is that I did it and I did it all calmly and matter of factly. I asked the paramedic if Anthony was really dead and when he said “Yes Ma’am, he is”, I just took a deep breath and went into the kitchen to wash the dishes. This was not an action that I choose to do, my brain decided for me that accepting the fact that my son was dead in my garage was too hard to face so we were going to do something else. I didn’t finish the dishes because the police had questions for us and I was rerouted after that to my mission to have our priests bless Anthony’s body. It was on the list of things that had to be done. Then I had to drive to my mother’s and check on her and Anthony’s little family. All of it was on a list in my mind that is still going to this day twenty-two months later. My brain and daily routine have been forever changed by that switch that flipped the moment that I realized what was happening.

I finished the dishes the next day. In the sink was the plate that still had the food Anthony had not finished at dinner less than 48 hours before. He was dead but there I was washing the plate with food that he had served himself on it. Again, my brain flipped a switch because that fact was too difficult to look at and feel. Typing it makes my heart race and I can feel the switch flipping.

This was the second year that I and my family celebrated the Holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s since Anthony’s suicide. The first year we all tried so hard to pretend like it was ok and to keep his memory alive in our celebrations. This year we did not try to do anything. We all knew that Thanksgiving was missing the crazy person who would click his fork on his giant teeth at the table until one of us told him to knock it off. It was so quiet and that was more depressing than anything, so we decided that Christmas was going to be very low key. We were going to lean into the depression. And we did. We went to eat Chinese Buffet for Christmas dinner, we laid around and watched our favorite family movies like Nacho Libre, Shaun of the Dead and the Big Lebowski. My daughter and I also watched Birdbox which was so good but a bit triggering.

Losing my amazing son Anthony to suicide has been the hardest thing I have ever lived through. I look back on the past twenty-two months and I do not know how I made it. I see so much love from people, I see a lot of meltdowns, I see moments when I could not think or breath, but I also see that I made it. Somehow, I am not sure how I have made it from that day when I was figuring out how to call into work because Anthony was dead to today. One breath, one prayer, one moment, one word of encouragement from a friend, one hug, one mass and one step at a time.

Life 18 Months After Suicide Loss

Grief is a living thing. It starts one way and then it changes and changes. That is what I am learning as I get further and further down this journey. It does not go away, get better or ever become less painful. It is like ground zero and life goes on all around it, but it is still there like a crater in the ground where the bomb went off.

Today I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts about grief.  (Having a favorite grief podcast by your favorite grief memoirist is part of the weirdness of this new life of mine. Only people who have their own new grief life will know what I’m talking about. )

Well, today the episode of Nora McInerny’s podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, was about suicide loss. Apparently, September is Suicide Awareness month. I hate that name because I am more than aware that suicide is a thing and that it fucks up everything it touches. Suicide threatens to ruin my life every single morning when I wake up and remember that my son is in a grave up the road from me or every night when I fall asleep knowing that I can mark down one more day of this life which is one day closer to me seeing Anthony again.

This new life sucks. I am not going to even try to sugar coat that. Things are weird here. We talk openly about dead people, they are still a part of our daily reality, we talk to kids about those dead people and we have our own rituals that help us keep the memory of the dead person alive. We also have an irrational fear of forgetting our dead person and it is not weird for us to refer to them as our “dead person”. Anthony is my dead person. He is ground zero. He is gone but yet he is everywhere. He took his own life and in doing that, he blew up the lives of every single person that he loved more than anything.

I listened to a widow on this podcast talk about her husband’s suicide and her ground zero as I sat in my gym parking lot. That parking lot used to be a Garden Ridge. My husband and I bought our first Christmas tree there when we first moved to the suburbs a decade ago. Anthony was so excited about how life was so much better than it had ever been. We bought the biggest tree we could find and hundreds of dollars of Christmas lights to go with it. It was black Friday and Stacey was so happy to buy all the kids Christmas presents. It was the first real Christmas my kids had in their whole lives.

This morning I sat in that space where we bought all those decorations and listened to a woman talk about her husband’s death by suicide relating to what she was saying because my son, the same son who was so happy just ten years ago, is also dead by suicide.

Anthony had driven past this spot in town a lot in his life. It was the way to his apartment from my house. He must have driven down this feeder road the morning he died as he drove Dan to work that morning. One day he was here driving on these roads and then one day he was dead. And the world kept turning.

This morning the highway was full of cars and people going on with their lives. Red mustangs zoomed by.  I am sure he passed by this corner of town a million times in his red Mustang, but today he is in his grave and I am sitting here listening to a podcast building a life around ground zero.

Part of the reason that I ended up deleting all of my old social media is that I realized I am not the same person I was before Anthony committed suicide. Not at all.  I am a completely new person, this is a whole new life and in order to accept that and begin building a life around ground zero, I needed a fresh start. Not one without Anthony but one with the grief that his suicide left behind. Staying stuck in the in-between of my old life and this new existence was exhausting.

I woke up one day fed up with it. I was fed up with my front yard looking like this house had been abandoned a year ago, I was fed up with being overweight, I was fed up with feeling like my chest was going to explode from anxiety and I was fed up with waiting for Anthony to come back. God, I would do anything for that to be possible but it isn’t and being stuck in this mess was not going to make it happen.

I was also pretty pissed off at God and I needed a change in that relationship too because I was also tired of just going through the motions but not knowing what I really believed anymore. I had to ask myself what I wanted out of life. Before Anthony died, I thought I knew what I wanted but after his suicide, that was all blown up with everything else.

So what exactly do I want? Who am I now? Who was I then? Where am I going from here? Where did Anthony go in all of that? Where did God go in it? Where did the rest of my family and my husband fit in it? 

It felt as if I had been stripped of everything and I was starting life over. I almost felt as if I was losing my mind for a little bit, but what I knew was that I needed to take a break from life on social media and do this on my own without opinions or influences or jealousies of mine or my own flaws of thinking that everyone else has a better life than I do.

In my rage cleaning, I ended up with a prayer closet. The first thing I did in this new prayer closet was to have a phone conversation with a wonderful priest who I trust to be honest and blunt with me. I told him that I was devastated and could not see a way out of the anger, despair, and grief.

He gave me a lot of great words of wisdom on how to begin to rebuild. First, he validated my pain which he said made perfect sense because a child becomes a part of their mother while she is pregnant so to be separated from my son is the most painful thing I will ever endure in my life.

I left that conversation with a plan.

I needed to find an outlet for my anger, find time and space to sit in the presence of God for two minutes a day and I needed to find a support group. I also needed to return to the Sacraments. So I joined a gym to release my anger, I’ve been spending time with God more, I went to confession and I have found a support group and plan to begin going this month.

Then my husband and I cleaned our front yard. We cleared the flower bed, planted some plants and we mulched our backyard. I also began to clean the inside of the house and eventually will get around to cleaning the kids’ bathroom which will be a penance I can offer up for the Church. It is so disgusting that it should bring us all a lot of Grace! I am also slowly returning to social media, mostly with new accounts.

And from there I have begun to feel alive again. Alive and still grieving but alive.

That is where I am at 18 months after burying my son, the love of my life and my best friend. I miss him every single second of every single day. I wish he was here. I hate the thought of life without him and all the new gyms that will be built in his absence or the fact that I am eating organic oatmeal and he is not here to make fun of me. I hate not being able to text him a joke I find funny and he responds by telling me how old I am. But this is my new life and I can control how I build it in his honor. It is the only choice I have because going back is not an option and giving up would only add to the pain of my family.
What do I want out of life? I want to help people heal and I want to do it carrying the memory of my son with me every step of the way.  It starts by allowing myself to be healed first.

I miss you Anthony and I hope you know how much I love you.

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