A Shift in Grief

I often wonder if there’s some part of the brain that protects us when we experience the trauma of losing our child? It has to be the only reason why I’m still breathing and living in this world. My brain simply could not process fully what actually happened. I kept so busy the first 12-14 months “doing things” my mind kept repeating these words “Joe might be back”. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s true, and I’m not crazy. It’s been 511 days since we lost our Son. Over the past year, I felt as though I were living in two worlds; one amongst the living and one with Joe, in the non-living. I wanted to believe this was all one big mistake. Every possible scenario came thru my mind, thoughts like maybe Joe needed time away so he just disappeared, maybe it was a mistaken identity and it wasn’t actually Joe they found, maybe he just needed to become someone else, maybe he wanted a new life, or maybe he’ll come home and walk thru our front door telling me, “Momma, I’m sorry I put you thru this but I needed to figure stuff out, I’m good now and I’m home.” I’ve dreamt Joe so much over the past year, it honestly feels like he is still here with us. Until now.

Joes Curio of Love

Something shifted, my grief changed and it happened the moment I stopped “doing things.” Doing things meant entering pics and videos on his Memories page on Instagram, or his Facebook page, or the Tribute page I created on the ForeverMissed website, or his 1 year Angelversary where I created a virtual candlelighting prayer and everybody I know from the West Coast to East Coast simultaneously lit a candle on 5/28/19 @ 7:25 pm, or writing in my blog about the beginning of this journey along with every thought entering my mind, recording my life, or his birthday celebration where I had an entire mass dedicated in honor of Joseph, or trademarking his logo and ordering hats & beanies, creating a website for his business. Yes, all of those “doing things” kept me busy and it also prevented me from “being still”.

Being still meant I would have to think, I didn’t want to think because that would make all this too real! Then, one day I was reading about all the fentanyl deaths across the country and posts on Facebook. Parents telling their story about their child who suddenly died from fentanyl poisoning. I could relate to every word, it was like reading my life in front of the entire world. I wanted to help change the world, I wanted Joe’s story to be told, I was angry! I reached out to a very known reporter here in town who had been covering all the homicides related to fentanyl accidental deaths. I felt this desire to contribute my own story and tell the world about Joe and his beautiful life. I met the news reporter prior to the interview and I shared everything about Joe, including how he died (I hate that “d” word!). We decided to air the interview on Joe’s birthday (8/31/19), everything was set and I was going to introduce our Son to the world, he deserved to be known. I wanted to save another life or a family, I wanted to prevent another statistic of death by fentanyl. Every day I was hearing more and more young adults were dying as a result of fentanyl. I asked my husband and daughters what they thought about the interview. I didn’t get the reaction I expected, and I didn’t get the validation I needed to do this as a family. So that night I prayed. I stepped into Joes room and I prayed for a sign to either go forward or not with this interview. It would rehash of that final day in our Sons life, and it was about to change our life..again. I needed some kind of silent message, because I now had mixed feelings after talking with my family. The next morning, I received a message from the news reporter, she asked if we could reschedule our interview to Thursday! I replied kindly with a yes. But, I later realized..that was the answer to my prayer! Joe did not want me sharing our private family matters, at that point I know it was not suppose to happen. I also realized it had barely been 1 year and asked myself if it was too soon? It was too soon. I called the reporter back and asked to put everything on pause, she understood and that’s when I knew I needed to “be still” for a while. It was time to stop “doing things”.

Everything hit me all over again, it was this unexpected feeling of stepping backwards. As if every waking moment I had worked on becoming stronger and pushing myself every day just to breathe..it was all for nothing. Because suddenly, I could not look at Joes pictures or videos as the pain had become much deeper, music made me cry all over again, talking about Joe ruptured every bone in my body I thought had somewhat healed. I couldn’t do anything, I was STUCK in grief and any tiny bit of control I thought I had was messed up! Every day my tears got worse and my body ached in severe pain. Insomnia got worse too. God, this WAS ALL REAL and those thoughts of “maybe” disseminated, they were all gone. The “two worlds” collided and became one! It was the living world now, no more Joe world only the breathing world existed. What happened? I kept asking, why did everything suddenly change? I didn’t want it to change again but it did. Something shifted and it was like starting grief all over again! But, I did something different this time …I stood still and in a blink reality set in but it was deeper. I realized at that moment, Joe was really gone. There was no maybe this or maybe that. No what if’s, no questionable doubts, I came to back to this reality …he wasn’t coming home. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever! Here we go again, were my immediate thoughts. Once again, I didn’t understand and all these dam questions began rolling thru my head! Question I had no answers and I was absolutely on the floor, again.

Grief is not my friend.

So I ask these questions as I’m surrounded by this huge worldly place we call our universe. What the F…. happened? What stage am I suppose to be in now? Am I over the denial stage or am I still in it? Does this mean I’m in the acceptance stage? Or, am I back in the shock stage? Or the anger stage? Geez..what the?? Have I lost my mind? Where exactly am I with this jackedup piece of crap we call GRIEF? I thought I was moving forward. Nope. I thought I had read and re-read enough articles to become somewhat familiar with grief. Nope. But, I’ll tell you what I did learn and now know. I’ve learned that grief has its own version of what, when, why, and how. And, it’s needs no approval, especially from the one grieving! It’s 5,000 steps forward and it’s 10,000 steps back. I absolutely hate grief and I hate everything attached to it. I want it to leave me alone. I want it to leave my family alone! I take a deep breath in and look up to the clouds above asking, “How many more shifts will I have to endure?” Grief shifts every possible thought and action in life, absolutely everything! I now had to learn how to navigate thru and live with it, most likely forever. Yeah..this is forever, so I asked myself a couple questions: (1) what can I do differently? and (2) what is it that I control?

I began to let myself think quietly. If these shifts in grief were going to keep happening, it was extremely important for me to find another way to do this or I wasn’t going to make it. I had to be a “better me” in order to be a better Mother to my amazing beautiful daughters and my husband, as well as my granddaughter and my family. Same question keeps coming up, what do shifts in grief teach us? I’m no expert by far, like I mentioned earlier I’m only 511 days into this journey and I’m continuously struggling. But, I believe there can be Life after Death. It seems impossible, but I’m living proof it’s Very Possible. I’ve learned it’s many small steps forward and a lot of big steps backward. Grief can either make you stronger or it can shred you to pieces. I’m going to choose Stronger! As a Mother of 3 children, 2 living and 1 Angel, every day is a struggle to get myself out of bed and do life without Joe. But, I do it because the option to NOT simply doesn’t exist. I want our Son back with us, but that’s not going to happen. My heart hurts deeply and it burns from missing Joe’s beautiful life, but the ironic thing I’ve come to realize is this: He came into this life thru me, he grew inside of me. I still exist which means he is still right here inside my soul. Joe still gives me joy, he still makes me smile, he still shows me love, but mostly he still helps me to be stronger! It’s just in a different way now. I have no choice but to try and look at everything in life thru a new lens. I’m nowhere near fully accepting this loss, truthfully that may never happen as it still feels very unreal. However, I must continue trying to BE STILL when I need to and keep “DOING THINGS” when I need to because it’s possible to do both. Shifting in grief will continue to keep itself connected to us all, but life won’t stop for me or my family. This tragic road trenched in grief has got to lead somewhere, because I can see a very dim glimpse of light. It’s just going to take a really long time to get there. In the meantime, I’ll navigate thru the shifts in grief and focus on loving my two daughters who have this incredible life ahead; careers, marriage, children, love, everything the universe has to offer they got in the palm of their hands.

I learned a lot about life from an incredible woman I call my Mother. She never stopped trying in life, even after the loss of my Father, my Sister, her siblings and family. She kept trying FOR US, her children. I always wanted to be just like my Mom and now I can say that I am. I will keep trying for our beautiful daughters. Mommy, I love you and I miss you so much. Life is hard, it’s even harder when it throws a curve ball and hits you in every part of your body. My try..to live every day the best I can and embrace to the fullest ….even when “shifts in grief” begin to crowd your space.

Joseph Anthony, I Love You Son. As long as I’m breathing I know you’re here. You promised you would never leave me and you kept your promise. I feel your presence often. We will keep pushing thru life with you by our side. Always My Heart, Your Meh♥️🙏🏻🎚.

Us♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️ back when!
Suarez Strong🎚

I Had A Dream…..

Last night I had the most beautiful dream. It was about Joe and he was here, alive. It felt very real, it was like he came to visit me for a while. I’ve had quite a few of these dreams over the past 14 months. My first dream happened on the night we found out about his death. I’ve had many since then and each one feels very real-life. My dreams with Joe seem to last for hours. I often question what do dreams actually mean? Dream interpretation…I wish I understood it.

In my dream last night, we were in my car driving to a party and Joe was in the backseat, talking and laughing. I kept looking in my rear-view mirror to make sure I wasn’t imagining this in my head. I wasn’t, it was Joe. I parked my car and we all walked inside a house, but I could not tell you whose house it was. I just kept staring at my Son, saying his name repeatedly, Joe? Joe? It felt like a breeze of fresh air had entered into my lungs, my heart was beating with excitement and I kept telling myself this is a dream, it has to be a dream. Then, he talked to me. His words, “yah Ma, it’s me, I’m here now.” He then tells me, “why does everyone think I died? Ma, I’m right here.” There were a lot of people around us, everybody beaming with excitement to see him as he laughed and talked to everyone. Then, I seen his friend James. I told him, “James, go over to see Joe! It’s him, he’s here, outside! Go see him, he is very much alive!” He looked at me and he began to cry, he couldn’t believe what I was saying then Joe yelled out his name, “James, hey come out here man, hurry up!” He jumped out of his seat and ran outside. We could all hear Joe in his loud voice, it was the sound I’ve been missing for 14 months. It was incredible to watch, at the same time it was the most joyful feeling I’ve ever had watching him surrounded by so many happy people.

I love you so much Joseph♥️I miss you to no end.

Then, somehow we ended up at a house and we’re both sitting down talking. We’re talking about everything, but honestly I can’t remember what “everything” was at this point. His phone rings, it’s a friend of his asking Joe all these questions. And, he met me recently and I told him Joe had died. Joe explains to him it was all wrong and they keep talking for a while. After he hangs up, he asks me where did I meet his friend and why am I telling everyone he died? Joe, I’ve been trying to keep your memory alive and I didn’t think you were coming back Son. Son, I was wrong and thank God I was wrong. He mentioned something about me being on the news, but I can’t remember specifically what he said. Then, he looks at me and says, “I love you Ma” and tells me he was going to visit a girl he was talking to before he left months ago. I told him, I know I met her too. He smiles and tells me he knows I met her. I was beaming and over the top so happy. I can’t believe this was really true, I believed it was real and once again my heart continued to beat faster as this warm feeling soaked inside my body. It was like someone took a water hose and filled it with warm water and it kept running thru my inside, it was soothing. and absolutely amazing! Once again, Joe tells me, “I love you” then he left to see his friend. And, I woke up.

This dream seemed to last for hours. Usually, I can’t remember details of my dreams but this was different. The ironic thing about this was a few months prior, my daughter Julie had a similar dream and Joe was alive. She told him the same thing, she thought he had died and everyone thought the same thing. She told him we had this big Celebration of Life and there were a thousand people who came to say goodbye. He told her he was sorry, but he had to go away for a while but he was back. She told me her dream lasted a long time too. I remember feeling so happy and filled up with excitement! I woke up this morning and looked in Joe’s room and walked over to his bed to lay down. I cried as my heart felt extremely heavy, at the same time warm too. So, I began to write this on paper because I didn’t want to forget. This felt so real, I had my son back for a little while. If it’s the only way to have him I’ll take it.

What does this mean? People tell me dreams have a message. What was the message in my dream last night? What was message in my daughter’s dream? Whatever it is, I hope it happens again because if that’s the only way for me to see Joe and it gets me through another day in life, God thank you!.

Joe’s Remembrance Table

Project Grief | The Suarez Family: A Wedding to Remember

– link to article: projectgrief.org/blog/123518/weddingtoremember

Thru this world of grief I’ve met countless people who share this terrible pain of loss. Throughout my travels online, I came across a site titled, Project Grief and it caught my attention. I apparently caught the authors attention as well, her name is Danica Thurman. She endured loss at a very young age when her Father suddenly passed away and found solace thru art. She has an incredible story, link to Danica’s blog is above, as well as below.

Danica was working on a blog focused on weddings and grief. She came across my Instagram page @grieving_joes_life and seen my post about my daughters wedding and a picture of Joe’s Remembrance Table. She graciously reached out and asked permission to share Joe’s table and thoughts from the bride (my daughter Allie) and those who created such a beautiful Remembrance of our son. I was ecstatic and welcomed her invitation with open arms.

She posted the article today on her blog. I am overwhelmed with joy and can actually say today has been the most joyful moment in life, I don’t have too many of those anymore (with the exception of our daughter’s wedding a couple of months ago). After experiencing the sudden loss of our only son, grief tends to cloud most days.

Thank you Danica Thurman (Project Grief) for the most beautiful gift, helping me to share the “Life of Joe” with the world. This article has given my soul much needed nourishment. My ♥️heart can breathe a little better today, even if it’s for a brief moment …I’ll take it!


Pieces of Anything

Today I did some refreshing cleanup in Joe’s room. I vacuumed the carpet, dusted his furniture, wiped the dust off his shoes and clothes in his closet, and I put away his sunglasses that were on his desk. I don’t know why but I guess I got tired of them getting touched. So, I put each pair inside an eyeglass case and placed them in his nightstand drawer. Now their “safe” thats what comes to my mind, they’re in a safe place now. Maybe I’m too overbearing with Joe’s personal things, oh well.

My Son And I

As I vacuumed behind his desk, I noticed a long white piece of paper with tiny printed words on it and a black business card folded in half. The name on the card was Miguel (Joe’s barber). Also, a tiny piece of green paper maybe from a candy wrapper, I’m not sure? I held these 3 items that were on his bedroom floor, in a dusty corner of his bedroom, as if I had been given these beautiful shiny pieces of gold. I sat down on his desk chair and I stared at these little things, wondering how they got to be there behind his desk. I put the business card in his nightstand drawer. Then, as I started to throw away the white tag and green paper I stopped myself, I couldn’t do it! I could not throw those two pieces of things that were in his bedroom in the trash. I put them in a plastic snack bag and placed them carefully inside his nightstand drawer. Those three things I held in my hand with intense love and I kept each one as if Joe was going to need them when he came home. Although my reality is I KNOW he isn’t, somewhere deep in the back of my mind I’m thinking “maybe, just maybe, he might.”

I started to think backwards. Asking myself, which haircut day did he get Miguel’s business card? Or, where did the tiny green piece of paper come from? What about the tag? Which shirt and when did he buy it? He hated those tags on the back and he removed it every time. He has so many shirts in every color! Goodness, why does it matter which shirt?

Pieces of Anything

And, why does our brain start to literally pick apart and dissect every tiny piece of anything we find that belonged to our child who is no longer breathing the same air as us? Does our brain go into protection mode when we lose a child? How is it so many of us have the ability to survive such an enormous gut-wrenching tragedy? And, what is it about every tiny piece of “anything” we hold on to it? When all it’s going to do is remind us that our child is gone? There we are, just when the tiny bit of sunlight begins to find its way through the billions of cracks that come attached to grief, we go right back into that place of darkness and pain. Who knows the why’s or what’s? I’m no expert, but I do know this; I’d rather suffer in pain on my floor weeping talking about my son Joseph versus to not talk about him at all because it hurts too much.

SAY THEIR NAME! His names deserves to be spoken. His name is Joseph Anthony Suarez, and He is my Son.

Today, what started as a very simple “refresh” of Joe’s bedroom was spiraling into that deep, deep, deep water. Once your mind goes to that deep dark place and the dissecting begins, everything turns to black. I started to go there with those three very small pieces of anything, I was headed down as deep as I possibly could, but I caught myself and BOOM! I stopped. I actually stopped thinking so dam hard for once. It was a huge milestone today. I’m kinda proud of myself, I did alright. Unfortunately, tomorrow could look entirely different. I call it “GRIEF IN PIECES.”

Pieces of Joe’s life constantly land in front of me. And, it’s the tiniest of things I find that mean everything to me. I sprayed his cologne on my arm, that was 4 hours ago, but I can still smell it as if he just walked into my room to tell me about his day. So, I’ll lay here and visualize Joe talking in his loud voice, we are laughing because he is the most amazing storyteller, and when he’s done he kisses my forehead and tells me, “Momma, I Love You” And right back I kiss his cheek, “Son, I Love You So Much More!” I feel good now.

A Letter to My Son – July 9, 2019

Today is July 9, 2019, it’s my birthday. Year 2 without you here on this day. You were always so excited to be the first one to tell me Happy Birthday Momma. I can still hear your raspy loud voice. Then bragging to your sisters how you were the first to tell me, I literally can hear the three of you arguing about it. Makes me smile. It’ll never be the same again, nothing in life is the same because you’re not here Joseph. Tonight, my birthday gift from you is just being here in your room, taking all of you into my soul. It’s what makes me feel good, I can feel your presence as I’m surrounded by all your things. If I had to choose one gift that God would grant me for the rest of my life, it would be You coming home back in my arms. Holding me tight with your arms, kissing my forehead telling me, I Love You Ma! I Love You so much!

Im in your room, staring at everything that surrounds me. I’m staring at all your things; your clothes, your hats on the wall, your shoes, your skateboard, your desk and chair, your cologne, your dresser with shoe boxes on top, it’s all here …as if you’re coming back. Sometimes, I think in the deep back of my mind I tell myself you’re eventually coming home. Even though in my reality I know you’re not. I guess my brain still cannot fully process what has happened. I don’t know if it ever will my Son.

I see the picture of me you taped to the side of your nightstand, it’s by your bed. I’m thinking back trying to determine when you did that? You never told me, I wish you would have told me. At this moment, my heart feels warm thinking how you looked at your Mom every night before going to sleep and when you woke up. I wish I would have known, but it’s too late to ask you now.

Your favorite pic

I remember the night you were hammering nails on the walls in your room, it was late and I came downstairs to see what you were doing. I knocked on your door, you opened it and looked surprised I was still awake. I looked behind you and noticed your walls, you said to me, “I’m sorry Ma, I didn’t mean to wake you.” Those two words “I’m sorry” could win me over every time, “I’m sorry” was worth a million bucks! I’m looking at your footprints on the wall behind me, lol your dirty footprints! I remember your feet touching the wall as you would lay backwards on your bed and your feet up against the wall. It was simply a comfortable spot for you, now I stare at your wall and close my eyes trying to think back to those days and my heart starts to beat a little bit faster. That’s my trigger to stop thinking too hard, when my heart feels panic..it’s like my brain is protecting me, it’s telling me to stop. That’s about as far as I can go.

They’re still on your wall – but how long do I keep these here? It hurts so much.
How long do I keep these hanging in your closet?😭

I close my eyes and remember when you would sit in here, your bedroom was your very own domain. I never really spent much time in here because you would stop me at the door. Hours and hours you would just be in here with your own thoughts, listening to your music or watching movies on your Mac. Never did I imagine that one day you wouldn’t be here, and now I’m in your room staring at everything wondering what went thru your head? Memories and things are all I have left of you, because you’re gone. And, I know you’re never coming back.

Each day without you seems like eternity. Your absence is heavy, always. And, it still continues to shatter my heart. Some days I feel as if all the air has been sucked out of my body and i can barely breathe. Other days, I laugh thinking of all the stories you would tell me that typically took forever for you to hit the punchline, but I listened attentively and the end was always your best because everything you did or said was your best. It was either really funny or it was surprising, or just downright shocking. It’s who you are, you made everything better.

You left too soon my Son, way too soon. We talked about a plan, I don’t understand what happened. I have so many questions that I’ll never have an answer. This is still too much to take in most of the time and I still can’t believe I’m never going to hear your voice again. It’s only been 1 year, how do I live the next 5, 10, or 15 without you? Sometimes, this is just too hard. Every day I wake up thinking of you and I hate the nighttime, it’s the worst. I try to stay busy, but you’re always there in my head. This emotional rollercoaster is very exhausting to the human mind, but I’m trying son, I promise you I’ll keep trying. I know my heart is still beating, which tells me you’re still shining bright through me. Please continue to find ways to communicate with me so I can feel your air.

We will forever be a team♥️My Love is Forever, Your Momma

1st Year Angelversary for Joe

To my blog followers and my WordPress family, please join me in a virtual online prayer for my son on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 7:25 pm. I’m trying to reach all my friends and family across the country so we can simultaneously light a candle and say a prayer UP to my son Joseph. I invite you to join me from your location. God Bless🙏🏻Thank you with all of my heart♥️.

Virtual Candlelight Ceremony for Joseph Anthony Suarez

As the angelversary day fast approaches, the first year of Joe’s passing (May 28, 2019), my mind was made up and I did not want to do any kind of memorial to remember that day of so much sorrow, shock, numbness, and devastation to myself and my family, as well as his friends. It’s still so painful for all of us. But, I think God had another plan. He sent me an idea to have a “virtual candlelight ceremony” across the country. So, that’s what I’m going to do. More details to follow, but please save the date below.

To my new friends who follow my blog, I thank you for your comments, your support, even the love you give to me…someone you’ve never met until now. I am still writing my “Year of Firsts” almost close to being done. I love this community in WordPress, it’s been extremely healing for me. My heart and soul thanks you!

My goal is to reach as many people across all time zones. People he knew or people he didn’t know. I want the entire country to light a candle for Joe. He is our son, he is our brother, he is our grandson, he is our godson, he is our nephew, he is our cousin, he is our best friend, he is “Our Joe🙏🏻, and now he is Our Angelchild.” I made a promise that I will continue to reach out and share his story, because he deserves the world…still. My promise will continue until my final breath on this earth.

My heart and soul continues to try and heal in this life. But, Joe’s legacy will live forever. Amen🙏🏻