Thursday, February 14, 2013

"A Mom's Unbelievable Loss"

I had the wonderful opportunity to appear on ChannelMom. Jenny interviewed me as I told my story. I would love to share it with you. Click on link below and click Watch Channel Mom and then "Mom's Unbelievable Loss" there are two parts. Join me as I walk through where Christ walked me and how he held me up.

Please share a time when you felt Christ holding you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Carrots, eggs or coffee

 "Which are you?"

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?"

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft.She then asked her to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked. "What's the point,grandmother?"

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her granddaughter.

"When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?

Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?

Author unknown

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Grief Alert: Expect Aftershocks

The sun is high in the sky. I begin to think of what on earth we will have for dinner, if I don’t start thawing something out now it will not be ready to cook in in seven hours. I stick my head into the chest freezer down stairs and pull out a container of beef vegetable soup, “That will work great with some corn bread.” I say to myself as I walk past the corner of Scott's desk which I do a couple dozen times a day. As I head up the stairs I feel a wave of intense grief, “where did that come from? This was a good day.” By the time I reached the living room I am in full sobs, sobs which had come on so quickly my tears had not caught up. I barely set the soup on the counter before collapsing in a chair overcome by tears. What did I touch of the kids? What memory intruded? What did I see? Oh, it was the picture of Chris on the mouse pad on Scott’s desk. I remembered walking past the desk and looking directly at it but not really thinking anything in particular. It was really not more than a glance. 

The picture had triggered thoughts, memories, and the reality of our deep loss. It wasn’t anything I meant to do or not to do. It just was and I needed to stop and allow the feeling to finish its course. Attempting to put off the feelings would not be emotionally healthy. I need to grieve. 

Finally I was able to begin catching my breath. I am left with a headache, wet eyes, and my aching heart. Jeep rose from his napping spot of the Sun patch in the living room. He came up to me and laid his head in my lap, I reached down to scratch him. He hears my grief, does he feel my pain? Does he miss Chris too? Jeep was Chris’ dog and it meant a lot to me for him to approach while I'm crying. Dog therapy can be very comforting. I reach down and he looked up then began to lick the tears from my face. I guess God choose to use the jaw bone of an ass in Sampson’s hand to defeat the Philistines, he can use the tongue of Chris’ dog to wipe the tears from my eyes and accomplish His work. I chuckle and kneel down beside him giving him a hug Jeep and pat his side. I feel relief. The tears were a good relief valve for me.

I had been knocked off my feet by an aftershock. I was thrown to the ground unable to defend myself against the onslaught of emotions and thoughts.  

Aftershocks happen, it is a part of the grievers reality. They are unpredictable and often even scary for the emotions can be very strong. They are ‘normal’ and healthy for it forces us to stop and feel. 

Feelings need expression, expression is as unique as our grief for we are all individuals. For some it is tears, that would be me, others express their feelings creatively in writing, art or song and some it is expressed physically by running or maybe biking. Expressing feelings of grief may reduce the occurrences of aftershocks but nothing really keeps them from never happening.
Where is the strangest place you have had an Aftershock? Me, Sam's club produce. Please share yours.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Emotional TBI

Ever feel brain damaged?

Have you experienced a traumatic loss? It is a loss which leaves you feeling as though you just got kicked in the gut, the rug was pulled out from under you, suddenly there is now nothing under your feet, you fall not knowing if there is a bottom to this hole. It is the loss that blindsides. Yes, that kind of loss. This is the loss that disables your equilibrium and sends you into a tail spin. This is traumatic loss.

Have you ever wished there were words to explain what you are feeling to someone who has never experienced a deep loss? Me too, that is until I stumbled onto the answer in a very strange place, an Emergency Medical Technician refresher course. See I told you it was strange. The lecture was on Traumatic brain injury, the lecturer had a lot of hands on experience with TBI. He was the head doctor for the clinic at the bottom of a major ski area. He saw dozens of head trauma cases each day. As he spoke I realized most of the indicators associated with a traumatic brain injury were things I had experienced while grieving the deaths of my two middle children in a motorcycle accident. Could a traumatic brain injury be caused by an emotional event?

What I found was a real eye opener to me. The symptoms lined up easily; headache, confusion, and memory loss, inability to concentrate, difficulty learning and retaining new information. Why the similarities? I began researching the possibilities and found what I was looking for. In an emotional trauma such as a traumatic death of a close friend or loved one a chemical is released in the brain to stimulate the neurons to create new pathways around the traumatized region of the brain where memory is stored in an effort to restore normalcy and make sense of the new normal without the loved one.* (Alan Kirk & Steve King 2012) This is the same chemical process for a physical TBI

I am brain damaged. Yes I found we who are grieving a traumatic loss are brain damaged. This helps to explain why when I was deep in grief I was forgetful and could not concentrate. For adults it could be as little as miss placing a set of keys or forgetting what they went downstairs for. It could also be as serious as getting lost while driving in an area of town which is normally very familiar or driving emotionally distracted possibly causing an accident. When kids experience a traumatic loss the inability to absorb new information can be a great frustration unless they understand where it is coming from. The part of the brain most affected is the learning center. Teachers who lighten a school load while still keeping the stability of a schedule is helpful for them. Now we know we are not going crazy, we are just brain damaged. Efforts need to be taken to enable the restoration of the different normal. Keeping lists, using post-it-notes and having an up to date calendar for appointments are steps in the right direction. Early in grief it is also a good idea to have someone who is thinking clearly to drive you places.

You may be asking, how long will this last? Doctors have found what we used to call concussions are truly more serious than was first thought. A second head trauma too soon after the first can cause death. The current estimated recovery time is now to be thought 6 months to a year. If a concussion takes 6 months to a year what makes us think we can recover from the trauma of a death in a matter of a couple months. No, everyone’s time line for walking through grief is different. It does take longer than we expect. Grief is unique to the person and the relationship they had with the deceased. Time is an important factor in getting through grief not because time has any magic but because the Holy Spirit heals using time to create pathways for new memories.

So in your grief, be good to yourself, be gentle to those who are grieving around you. We are brain damaged. In a physical brain injury recovery never is to 100% of what once was. The same is true for grief, no one will return to 100% of their “old self”, no matter how much friends want them too, for a part of their brain has been damaged.  When someone walks with Christ through their grief they can actually become a better person, a more compassionate person. God works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose… to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. (Romans 8:28-29)

God does not cause bad to bring good but he does take bad things that happen and turn them for good, our good.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Quandaries - Christmas morning


I sit in my own living room this Christmas Eve looking at the Christmas tree and listening to Christmas music. We are spending Christmas Eve at home this year. We will attend our own church for evening service and Abby with her husband of 3 years now host Christmas Day at their new home. The three stuffed animals; a raccoon, a frog, and a husky will join us at her house as well as three candles will be lighted. We still remember our children who are not here to give gifts to but the memories are not piercing. The memories are sweeter, salted with tears.

It has taken us quite a bit of time to reach this point. As I look back over the last decade we have made a lot of changes trying out new traditions to see which one worked best. Maybe it was more to see which ones carried the least painful memories. We tried opening family presents on Christmas Eve saving Christmas day for opening of presents with extended family. This worked until Chris died on December 27th forever changing Christmas.

The following year Scott, Abby and I decided we had to get away for the entire week from Christmas Eve to New Years Day. We continued opening presents on Christmas Eve but we spent Christmas Day skiing. Extended family worked with us on this and we gathered on New Years Day for Christmas present exchange. This seemed to take the brutal-ness out of the emotions. This continued for three years before we eased back into a more normal Christmas schedule.

We had to redesign Christmas annually and change things up. Each year we re-evaluated what traditions had to be done, what could only be done with help and which ones had to stay on the back burner for another year.  We learned to be patient with each other and considerate of their feelings.

Every grieving family needs to evaluate traditions for themselves. Some families will change very little others will make dramatic changes for a time and then revert back to close to how they used to be. Grief is unique, families are unique, traditions are unique be gentle with each other during this tender time.

God Bless you and keep you, may he shine His face upon you and give you rest.

Have a Blessed Christmas.

Cari Zorno

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Quandaries - The Feast

 The Feast
Before I even sit down at the Christmas table the aroma of ham with a brown sugar glaze just like Shirley made it, Aunt Carla's green been casserole and Abby's pumpkin pie invade my senses bringing back buried memories of helping  in the kitchen situating pans in the oven and then pulling them out steaming hot. The tears well up but I push them back, it is too early to get teary.

I watch my niece as she makes up plates for her kids. I help her get them settled at the children’s table. The table seats 4, her 3 children and one empty seat. My mother-in-law used to occupy that seat. We could not persuade her to join the adult table, she said it kept her young. She is gone but the memory is vivid. That seat was not left vacant on purpose but it might as well be.

We gather around the table which is decorated beautifully with ornaments, greenery and candles. This year there are three candles, one for each of my children who died over the last three years. Before we pray thanking God for all the blessings of this day we stop to light the candles. “As we light these candles let’s share things we remember about Josh, Beth, and Chris.” The candles are lighted and many wonderful memories are shared.
 Then there is a pause, I want to share but I cannot say a word for the tears have tightened my throat. Instead I reach into a bag and pull out three small stuffed animals. The first is a small raccoon Josh’s favorite animal, then a frog for Beth, and lastly a giraffe for Chris. I gently place these on the table and we include them in our celebration. I miss their smiles, hugs and laughter. I can’t keep back the tears but I have the assurance from God that someday we will again sit at a feast together, the wedding feast of the lamb.

 I sit down and use my napkin to dry the tears then reach for Scott’s hand, the circle continues until all hands are held around the table. We bow our heads and Scott says the blessing.

The Christmas feast for us is a shadow of the wedding feast of the Lamb. Christmas is the celebration of Heaven coming to earth and the wedding feast a celebration after we enter Heaven. Both done to thank God for sending us our redeemer.
What smells are memory triggers for you? 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

For the children in CT and their families

Heaven's Gate

Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
When 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"this is heaven." declared a small boy. "we're spending Christmas at God's house."
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
Those children all flew into the arms of their King
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"may this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"come now my children, let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf , PA