“I guess Heaven was needing a hero
Somebody just like you
Brave enough to stand up for what you believe and follow it through
When I try to make it make sense in my mind
The only conclusion I come to
Is that Heaven was needing a hero like you”
Jo Dee Messina
The most tragic event a parent could ever imagine happened to me September 1, 2014. It was the eve of Labor Day and I was up late reading, knowing I didn’t have to get up early for work. It was a quiet, uneventful and relaxing weekend with my husband, John. At 11 pm the cell phone rang, Tim on the other end. He and Josh were in a car accident. They were working on getting Josh out of the car and taking him to the hospital. I quickly woke John up, explained the situation and began packing for the long drive from Phoenix to Texas. I was anxious but not overly worried. Everything was going to be ok.
The car was packed and we were ready to go when the phone rang again. This time it was Josh’s dad. Josh didn’t make it. He died at the scene of the accident. NO, it couldn't be. He couldn’t be gone. It had to be a mistake. I was in a state of shock and disbelief. I was prepared to sit in a hospital room with him while he recovered, not going to see him for the last time. As I write this, my gut is hurting and tears are rolling down my cheeks. Even after three years I still feel the gut wrenching pain in my heart that can’t be imagined. Josh was only 24 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him and in a split second it was all gone. He was gone.
The drive to Texas that night was one of tears and disbelief. Being so removed from my Christian beliefs I couldn’t even pray to God. I was just numb. I remember getting as far as Tucson, an hour and half into the drive, and I said to John that there was no hurry to get there now. I couldn't believe my baby was gone. I would never talk to him again, never hug him again, never see him fall in love, get married, have children. The finality of it all hit when I saw him for the last time. He looked like he was asleep. I just wanted to shake him and say open your eyes and look at me. This is just a bad dream and you are okay. But he wasn’t and it wasn’t a dream, it was my new reality without this child in my physical world.
Josh was an online gamer and he was learning to write code. He loved racing and cars and was creating a racing game. I regret not asking him more questions about what he loved to do. In my mind, he was too withdrawn, a loner, and needed to spend more time with people. What I didn’t realize was how connected he was to others online. There was such an outpouring of love from people whose lives he had touched. One young man from India reached out to me and shared how Josh had touched his life. The online gaming community where he played created memorials in the games for him. It was incredible and humbling.
A memorial was held for him in California with family and friends. My expectation was to be crying my eyes out but it was just the opposite. Everyone shared wonderful stories about Josh and we laughed together. It was truly a celebration of his life. His four best friends from high school and two from junior high were there and they shared stories I had not heard before. After everyone left, the boys took us to a place that was special to them where they would go dirt bike riding. We spread his ashes there together then the boys shared more stories they didn’t think were appropriate at the memorial service. There was more laughter and a few tears but it was a wonderful day. I know Josh was there laughing with us. It was such a gift to know how loved he was.
After the memorial services, my grieving process began. It was hard - so very hard. I cried until I had no more tears left and then I cried some more. I am a doer and couldn’t just sit in the grief so I reached out on Facebook and found support groups. GriefShare and Compassionate Friends were recommended to me and I attended the meetings in person too. The support I found from others was invaluable in my healing process. My husband is amazing and my rock. My surviving children, Tim and Kristina, shared their grief with me. We Skyped, cried together and shared stories of Josh. My sister and I had a rocky relationship after our mother died and this brought us together as well. We are now closer than we have ever been. Support is so important in surviving this process.
Thanksgiving is one of the hardest holidays for me to get through. My last visit with Josh, the last time I saw him alive was Thanksgiving 2013. My boys came to visit us in Southern Illinois where we were living at the time. We had a really nice visit. I remember when they were leaving, I hugged Josh so hard. My intuition was screaming at me to not let him go, keep him there anyway I could. I pushed the feeling aside, thinking I was only worried about them driving back to Texas. Much later I realized it was the universe letting me know it was our last time together. Since then I have learned to listen to my intuition.
Church wasn’t the place for me so I started searching for other tools to help me in my healing process. The oracle card deck, “Talking to Heaven” by Doreen Virtue and James Van Praagh was one of my first experiences with this new world that was opening up for me. The first card I drew was “I had to go that way”. I bawled my eyes out but it was so true. I also had a reading from an amazing medium, Cindy St. John. She confirmed many things I had been feeling and signs I had been receiving. Never before had I reached out to a medium but was so glad John encouraged me to get a reading from her. She has since become a truly amazing friend. I believe with my whole heart that it was Josh’s time to go. His work here on earth was done and there was a purpose in his death. This belief helped me to come to the final stage of grief - acceptance.
Meditation aided me in calming my mind and started the process to heal my heart. In the beginning, I used guided meditations or healing music. It was an amazing start to my healing process. Journaling helped me to release my sadness, anger and even happy memories onto the pages. Journaling is so cathartic. I was able to express my feelings with no concern of hurting anyone. I could say anything I was feeling. I even burned some of the pages in the full moon, sending the negative energy to the universe and transmuting it to positive energy.
Reiki, Qi Gong, crystals and essential oils were the next step in this journey. Reiki and Qi Gong got the energy that was stagnant moving, helping my body release blocks so I could heal. I became a Reiki Master so I could do self healing and help others one day. I learned Qi Gong movements from Youtube videos. When I felt tears coming, Qi Gong movements helped to shift the energy. Crystals like Apache Tear and Rose Quartz and essential oils to help when I was sad, to uplift my mood.
In April 2015 I attended a retreat in Angel Valley (Sedona) on activating my intuitive gifts with Courtney Long. Here I learned more about what our intuition is, what our intuitive gifts are and how to turn them on. My intuition really started to open up at this retreat and I began to trust my feelings. I cried so much those four days but by the end, they were tears of happiness not sadness. Angel Valley is a magical place. The place and Courtney assisted in more healing for me.
Out of the grief some amazing things started to happen for me. With my intuition opening, I started to have experiences where I felt Josh’s presence. I was at my computer one evening late and I felt him blow on my neck and heard him giggle. As a boy, Josh would try to sneak up on one of us but he never could because he would give himself away. I had visitations during meditations. The first one I was walking on a beach with John, then he was gone and Josh was there on the beach just sitting, waiting for me. I sat down beside him and he took my hand and showed me his. I knew it was him by his hand. We just sat there and were just together. We didn’t need words, I was just in a state of being with him. It was so deeply moving for me to have that closeness with my son. I had other visitations during meditations and in my dreams as well. I hear him now, when I talk to him, he answers. When I am exercising he encourages me. When I need a sign he gives me one so I know he is around. Even though he is no longer in my physical world, I know he is with me always.
I have been able to find my joy again since losing Josh. He was my baby, my youngest child, the one I had the most time with. When he was younger we went camping and visited many national and state parks around the country. My older kids were teenagers by that time and didn’t want to spend time with mom and little brother so it was just the two of us on our adventures. Today, I remember the good times we had together when I start to feel sad. I still love to visit the parks and share that love with John now.
I know it is a hard concept to think about - that there is a blessing in the loss, but I was able to find that blessing. I was able to find the purpose, the meaning in the loss and have been able to heal from the loss because of this acceptance. It has not been an easy path by any means and the acceptance did not come overnight. There was anger, depression and bargaining. Many thoughts of “I wish we had made different choices” or “I wish Josh had done this instead of that”. In the end, there was still the same result, my son is gone. I had to make the choice to stay stuck in the muck or move forward with my life and follow my purpose. I believe my son’s, Tim and Josh, and I had this agreement before we came to this earth. The lessons I have learned, the tools I have gained, the compassion and empathy I now have for others who have suffered this same loss, these are the tools I use to embrace my purpose. That purpose is to help others through their losses - whatever they are. My angels and guides work with me to help others heal from their grief, to find the blessings in the loss and their way back to joy. I have been able to find joy in my life and you can too.