Category Archives: Grief

How I dealt with grief

A Mom Never Stops Grieving

Today I had an emotional moment at work. I was in my office when I overheard a conversation between a couple of co-workers and the volunteer. They were talking about a teenager who was learning to drive. As I heard it, I began to imagine my children and when they learned to drive, especially my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven, Richie.

Richie was 16-years-old when I began to teach him how to drive. At that time, we had a Dodge Caravan so that was what he began with. He didn’t have his learner’s permit yet but since he was so anxious to learn, I began giving him lessons. Thank God I did. Little did I know that those lessons would someday come in handy.

I was not well health wise and there were times when out of the blue I’d develop a high fever with chills. But life had to continue. My husband worked, I worked, and the kids needed to get to and from school. During the 6-month period that I went through medical treatment, I continued to work as much as I could. Some days after leaving work to pick up my children from school the fever and chills would kick in. I felt so sick. I remember a few times arriving at school to pick up my children and my wonderful 16-year-old son, Richie, would ask me if he could drive us home so I can rest. The first couple of times I didn’t allow it. But one day I could not take it any longer and asked him to drive us home. He was happy to do so and drove the 14 miles from school to our home. I remember sitting in the passenger seat and staring at this amazing young man and how he stepped up to help his mother. I felt so proud of him. He got us home safe and I will never forget his beautiful broad smile of pride. I, too, was proud of him. I don’t remember if I told him at that moment, but I know I told him many times afterward.

As the memories of the past came to my mind, I felt that same pride for him, but at the same time the tears began to flow, and sadness filled my heart. It never fails to happen. Memories of my beloved son bring me happiness but sadness too. And I can’t help it. But it’s okay. As my husband and co-worker reminded me today, I will never stop grieving the loss of my son for as long as I live.


Diary of a Grieving Mother’s Heart

I Feel So Blessed

I feel so blessed. After the release of my book, Diary of a Grieving Mother’s Heart I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bit frightened, but if I wanted to reach those grieving the loss of a loved one, I needed to be brave.

You see, everything in my book is based on my experience and I have witnesses for most. The only thing I omitted was some names to protect privacy, but it is a true story. For some, it might be a bit controversial because it doesn’t agree with their religious views. But, I know that for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can be a sign of hope and that is my goal. If I could help one grieving soul get to that place of peace that I am in, then I am happy. This was what pushed me out of my comfort zone and I don’t regret it.

I’ve received so many beautiful message via instant messaging on Facebook, e-mails, text messages and even calls of people, that were truly touched by my book. According to their accounts, some read it in two hours or less because they couldn’t put it down, while others had to pause for a few minutes, hours or days because they felt it really touched them to a point of tears. Some said I forgot to mention they needed tissues to read it.

I’ve been told that it really brought a new perspective in life to them. Other’s mentioned that they were unaware of what NOT to say to a grieving person and are guilty of saying the wrong things – all out of good intentions though – they just didn’t know. Every time I receive feedback from my book it makes me so happy that I get emotional.  I took a leap and published it not knowing what to expect.  I didn’t know if the responses would open up that wound, but I never doubted that, just as God pulled me through my grief, He would make sure to shield me on my new endeavor. That is why I feel so blessed!

Overwhelmed with Joy

courtesy of pexels.com

I finally released my book, Diary of a Grieving Mother’s Heart, on Amazon. I didn’t know what to expect and frankly, I was a bit worried of people’s reaction. I know that should not bother me. Part of putting myself out there is accepting all constructive criticism – good and bad.

This book is not a figment of my imagination. It entails all the love I have for my son, my fears, joys, sadness, faith, anger and method of survival to get to the place I’m at now. It wasn’t easy or fast and there were many ups and downs. But, just hearing and reading what my family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances and even strangers have said about my book have left me overwhelmed with so much joy.

I feel that I’m at a good place right now. Don’t get me wrong, I still do grieve my son. I miss him every day. But, I’m at a place of peace where I can talk about him with a smile and I can view photos of him and feel his love. My main goal for this book was to be able to reach as many grieving mom’s as possible. I want all grieving mom’s to know that the spirit never dies, and if there is any way that I can provide that glimpse of hope to a grieving mom, then I’ve accomplished my goal which makes me happy.

Blessings to all!

I Have a Lucky Monkey

Where Did It Come From?

I have a yellow monkey. It has a button on his head with three special words. He is ten years old. It’s from one of those vending machines where you pay $1.00 and try to grab the stuffed animal with a claw. It is not an expensive or good quality stuffed animal, but it is special to me, and I will tell you why.

When my son Richie (RIP) was alive, he would constantly say that he was going to win the lottery because he had the lucky numbers in his head.  One day, we were sitting at the dinner table eating our meal. The TV was on the news channel. The news anchor was commenting on the lottery jackpot winner when out of nowhere Richie mistakenly said, “I’m going to win the lottery because I have the lucky monkey in my head.” The way he said it so seriously was too funny, and we all burst out laughing. From that day on, every time Richie said that he was going to win the lottery, we would mock him by saying, “…because you have the lucky monkey in your head?” He didn’t like it, but he laughed with us anyway. Richie passed away and never won the lottery.

Betting On the Monkey

On Saturday, May 10, 2008, and about a year and a half after Richie’s death, my husband was working the night shift at a local restaurant that had one of those vending machines. According to his account and another employee, my husband happened to see the yellow monkey trapped underneath quite a few stuffed animals. He claimed that it just caught his eye and he could not stop thinking about it. So, when business slowed down, he approached the machine and placed his $1. He was determined to grab the yellow monkey. His coworkers told him it was not possible because it was trapped too far down. My husband insisted he was going to grab it, so his co-workers placed a bet that he could not. My husband’s focus was entirely on grabbing that yellow monkey. It took a few dollars, but he was able to grab it.

So, why is it so important to me? That Saturday night was the day before Mother’s Day. I was still grieving the death of my son heavily. When my husband arrived the next morning (Mother’s Day) from work and gave me the monkey, it made my day. You see, the three special words on the button on top of his head read, “Worlds Greatest Mom.” It made my day. My husband was lucky to have been able to grab the monkey. I felt as if it were a gift from my son in heaven – he sent me his lucky monkey through his dad and for that, this yellow monkey will always hold a special place in my heart. He’s my lucky monkey.

The Happiest Moment in My Life

I was asked to write an essay on the happiest moment of my life. I always thought that the happiest moment in my life had been the birth of my children. It was undoubtedly one of the happiest moments but I discovered that there was another instance which involved my family as well. Unfortunately, it was following a tragic moment in my life, however, it helped me find the peace that I needed.

I was blessed with three wonderful children: two sons and a daughter. On July 9, 2007, at 11:17 p.m. I received a call which no parent wants to receive. My oldest son, Richie, was involved in a pedestrian accident and didn’t survive. He was 20 years old, a sophomore in college and a good son. I was devastated, there is no pain worse than the loss of a child. I have often heard that the worst pain is giving birth. But that’s not true because that pain is immediately replaced with joy after having set eyes on our newborn. With the loss of a child, well, there are no words – nothing to replace the pain. I didn’t know where to turn, who to talk to or what to do.  For the following six months after Richie’s death, I lived in a zombie state of mind taking antidepressants every day. I didn’t want to see or talk with anyone. I became a hermit in my home hiding from my own children and husband. That was until the day of Richie’s birthday.

It was January 8, 2008. Richie would have turned 21 years old. I had requested the day off from work. I needed to be alone with my grief. My other two children were at school and work. My husband was at work as well. I slept in until about noon. I didn’t have any plans so there was no rush to get up. After showering I proceeded to the kitchen to take the antidepressants. I grabbed a cup of water and took out one of each of the pills. As I was about to pop them in my mouth I heard a soft voice very close to my left ear say, “Mom, you don’t need that.”

Those words stopped me from taking the pills. They were so clear. Somehow, I felt it was my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven who had whispered it to me and I found myself responding,  “You’re right Richie, I don’t need them.”

I threw the pills away and emptied the contents of the pill box in the trash can. On that day, I realized that I had a choice. I could live in sorrow and continue to take antidepressants for the rest of my life or I could live a great life for my son. If I were to live for Richie, I had to see the world the way he did. He didn’t worry about things he could not control. He always said there was no such thing as a coincidence. He was a very positive, outgoing person who always found the good in every bad. He wanted to live life to the fullest. That was the day I decided to make a change and I vowed to live for my son. I would do for him what he could not and I would begin by returning to college to complete what he had started. I knew he would be very proud of me. He would have wanted me to take control of my life and live. This was my opportunity to make my son proud of me like I was of him.

My first step was to attend grief counseling sessions. These sessions helped immensely allowing me to vent my frustration and cry away my sorrow without judgment. Then on February 8, 2008, I enrolled in college to complete what my son could not. This was my tribute to him. Even though my son’s major was Business Administration, I chose to major in Accounting. As a full-time student and employee, I dove into my books and was determined that I would, not only complete my degree, but I would do it with high honors. It was also therapeutic for me since it kept my mind busy. On July 2010, I completed an Associate’s Degree and graduated Suma Cum Laude. I didn’t attend graduation because my goal was not yet fulfilled. So, I enrolled again to continue towards my Bachelor’s Degree.  Finally, by July 2012, I had completed my Bachelor’s Degree.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude and I knew deep within my heart that Richie was proud of me.

It was Saturday, November 10, 2012. On this day, I would walk with my graduating class at the Orange County Convention Center. I felt so proud of myself. We arrived early, parked and proceeded to the hall where the ceremony was going to take place. We walked through the long corridor to the hall side by side. There was no one else walking by or near us. It was only my husband, youngest son, daughter and myself. I was at the far left next to the wall, my husband was at my right, my youngest son was to my husband’s right and my daughter was at my son’s right. However, there was a very strange feeling of someone else walking by me. It felt as if my son, Richie, was there with me between the wall and myself. I glanced to my left and saw nothing but I could feel him – his perfume, his big smile, his happiness, his energy – right next to me. It was such a strong feeling and it made me so happy. It accompanied me through the ceremony as well. I felt it again when I was called and walked up to receive my diploma. Richie was there right next to me. I felt it when they called out to all students who graduated Magna Cum Laude to stand up and Richie stood up with me. I knew it was him, my son. I knew that, even though he was not with us physically, he was indeed with us in Spirit. And I knew he was very proud of me.

So, when I think about what the happiest moment of my life was I know that there have been many happy moments. But this was the one moment which made me the happiest. I was happy because I achieved a goal with high honors. I was happy because I was the pride of my children and husband. I was happy because my 20-year-old angel in heaven somehow showed me that he was extremely proud of me. He also showed me that even though he is not physically here, he will always be with me in Spirit. And I was happy because the Lord showed me, once again, that the Spirit never dies just like it states in John 11:25-26; and that makes me happy.

Happy 31st Birthday in Heaven

January 8, 2018 marks 31 years since I first became a mom to a healthy 9 pounds 1 ounce baby boy. We named him after his dad and called him Richie. He was my oldest and the one who resembled me the most in thoughts, ways and looks. Richie was very curious and a good son. I was blessed with three good children and am thankful for that.

Just like I have a good relationship with my younger two children, I also had a good relationship with Richie. I say “had” because he passed away on July 9, 2007 – 10 years ago. The fact that he died so long ago doesn’t make the pain any easier. In fact, this week has been rough for me and I’ve shed plenty of tears.

I sit in my family room and look at his photos on the wall  when he was a baby until his last year alive.  I begin to remember all the wonderful moments spent with Richie and I smile. Then the thought of not having that anymore makes me sad, and it doesn’t help the pain.

I remember when we would share some of the same taste in cookies, candy and coffee. Like me, he too, liked mint Oreos, peppermint patties and Starbucks coffee. I grin at the memories of those moments until the sadness creeps in and it doesn’t help the pain.

I remember his common phrases like, “There’s no such thing as a coincidence,” “$100 is pocket change,” and “So, yeah” after he’d finished talking. I can see him in others when they say any of these and I giggle thinking of him. But, knowing I will never hear him again doesn’t help the pain.

I can see so much of him in his younger brother in gestures, actions and in appearance. It does make me happy. But at the same time, it hurts to know I will never see him spending time with his siblings, and it doesn’t help the pain.

Every year during his birthday, angelversary, and holidays, I think maybe this will be the year when I will have my last cry. And, every year I experience the same roller coaster of emotions. It doesn’t get easier, I just learned to live with it and after 10 years I realized that it will never go away. Now I understand others that have gone through this horrendous experience.

I once had a friend who lost her son from a heart attack at the age of 36. Her name was Anita. I knew Anita for a few years before she told me about her loss. It had been 14 years since her son died and her grief was so deep that she was still taking antidepressants. I know another person whose mother lost a son at the age of one year old. She told me that he would have been her older brother. It had been 41 years since his death and her mother cries every night for him. Also, within my online grief support group there were a few moms who were grieving the loss of their son/daughter. Not all of them had the strength to continue living and ended committing suicide.

I didn’t want to live on meds for depression, cry every night for the rest of my life, or ever have the thought of committing suicide, so I dealt with it differently by living for him. I thought that maybe, just maybe my grief would not last so long since I was taking a different approach. But I was wrong. It doesn’t matter how you grieve, losing a child is the worst experience I’ve ever had, and nothing can take that grief away. I now understand Anita and the other mom’s.  Anita passed away sometime last year. While it saddens me to know about her death, I know she is happy to be with her son again.

To hear these things scared me a bit. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I grow crazy in desperation trying to reach my son? Would I fall into a deep depression? Would I be able to continue living? When you lose a child, your world turns upside down. You don’t remember that you have other children, spouse, family or that there are people who love you and want to help. It takes a lot of courage and faith to lift oneself up and continue living without your loved one. It takes a lot of love from your closest family, friends and co-workers to lift one’s spirit. It cannot be compared to the loss of a parent, sibling or friend. The bond between a mother and child is one of a kind – I dare say it is the strongest bond there is.

Yes, I’ve been sad and quite emotional these past few days. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my son. He lives forever in my heart and I’ve finally learned that it doesn’t matter how long its been, I will always miss him, love him and cry for him and that’s okay. I now know that it will only go away the day I meet him in heaven.

So, on this day, January 8, 2017, in memory of my son and in support of all those grieving the loss of a loved one; I ask that you hug your children, partner, parents and or siblings and let them know just how much you love them. Blessings to all.

Happy 31st Birthday my son. I love you and miss you so much.

~ Love Mom

Emotional Harp Concert

Today, I had the pleasure of seeing harpist Jan Jennings give a solo concert with her beautiful gold harp at the Morrison United Methodist Church. Jan is an award winning professional harp player in the Orlando area with more than 25 years of harp playing.  She played Silent Night, Hark, The Herald Angels Sing, Silver Bells, Winter Wonderland, I’ll Be Home for Christmas and a few others.  It sounded so peaceful and angelical. Now I see why angels are often portrayed with harps.

Jan’s golden harp

Jan’s harp was gold and stood tall on the chancel. With its golden sparkle it looked majestic – such a beautiful instrument. She spoke about the harp giving us basic information. Did you know that harps have pedals just like a piano? I didn’t know that – well, there really isn’t much I know about a harp anyway.  I also did not know that the harp is one of the oldest known instruments of all times.

Returning to the concert, it was very relaxing and quite easy to immerse myself in the music. It really hit me when she played “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” All of a sudden it was like I was seeing my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven standing next to her. Tears began streaming down my cheeks. It was overwhelming. I’ve had my son, Richie, on  my mind quite often lately. These emotions have a life of their own striking when you least expect it, especially during the holidays. But, I am grateful to the Lord for giving me the chance of experiencing his presence at the concert with such a beautiful song. And I am thankful to Jan for playing it so beautifully.

Bless be all during the holidays and every day.

Ten Years of Grieving

I know the true meaning of motherly love. I know what it is to love deeply. I know the true meaning of missing someone so bad that it hurts. I know because I experience it every day.

It’s been 10 years since my son, Richie, passed away. I know many people expect me to be over his death by now and quite frankly, I thought I’d be too. But that’s not the case. Every day I wake up with the intention of living life to the fullest for my son. Every day I thank the Lord for choosing me to be his Mom. Every day I thank the Lord for giving me good children. But every day my heart aches to hear my son’s voice again, to spend time with him and hug him. And, as the holiday’s approach it gets harder.

My children, son-in-law, husband and self.

A few weeks ago, my family and I traveled to Italy and while there, my husband and I renewed our wedding vows in the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. It was a special place and moment. Richie loved Venice and wanted to visit the “streets of water” as he called them when he was small. But that was not meant to be. So, when our family vacation fell during the same week of our 33rd wedding anniversary, we thought it’d be a great opportunity for us to solidify what we promised 33 years ago. It was sort of a tribute from us (my husband, daughter, son and self) to my oldest son, Richie.

St. Mark’s Basilica in Venezia

It was a small service held on the same day I got married, November 22, at 11:00 a.m. Monseñor Giuseppe Camilotto performed the service and blessing. Afterwards, my children and son-in-law walked up to us. Mons. Giuseppe pointed to them and asked, “I vostri bambini?” I signaled that only two of them were and showed him my necklace with Richie’s photo and let him know that my eldest died. Monseñor placed both his hands over his chest and with deep sorrow gave us his blessings and a hug. You could see the sorrow he felt. Of course, it made me teary eyed. He then addressed those attending the service letting them know it was our 33rd wedding anniversary and that two of our three children were present and the oldest died. Everyone was very polite, showed their affection and congratulated us. We then proceeded to light a candle for Richie. It was a beautiful moment, but it didn’t stop the roller coaster of emotions from emerging.

Husband and I with Monseñor Giuseppe Camilotto.

Last night I had a dream with Richie. In my dream he was alive but missing. I desperately searched high and low to find him. I wanted to hug him, kiss him, talk with him – just spend time with my son – but I couldn’t locate him. I didn’t know where to look. Then, I had a mere glimpse of him standing up spraying water onto a car. He was thin, frail, balding and had a horrible case of acne on his forehead. He looked nothing like my son but in the dream, he was. However, I was not able to get to him. It was as if I was peeking through a hole at I don’t know what or where and that was it. Usually dreaming with my son makes me feel happy and helps me ease the pain a little but last night’s dream did not. If anything, it made the feeling of missing him worst. Yes, I know I need to think of the happy moments. But unless you’ve experienced the loss of a son/daughter you would never be able to understand these feelings. Heck, even I don’t understand them.

I’ve found that writing about my feelings and experience helps me relieve the pain for a while. If I don’t I will continue to have these tears building up and rolling down my cheeks. Could it be because the holidays are around? Maybe, but then again, a mother’s love has no limits, time or age. At least mine don’t and I don’t anticipate to stop grieving ever. If at 10 years the pain is still there and the wound in my heart has not healed, it will never heal. But all in all, I am thankful to the Lord for giving me such wonderful human beings to raise as my own and a loving husband.

Missing my son… love you so much.

Lighting a candle for Richie

Lighting a candle for Richie

Lighting a candle for Richie

Lighting a candle for Richie.

Dreams That Comfort and Are Full of Sorrow

I had a dream. It involved my husband and three children. In the dream my children were still young – about 9, 8, and 7 years old. They looked just as they did back then. Richie was just as curious and extrovert, my daughter with her big sweet cheeks and a tremendous appetite even though she was thin, and my youngest was his loving and hyper self. I don’t know what the dream was really about. All I remember was that we were happy to be together and that my husband and I enjoyed watching our children run around, play and then come running to us with big hugs and kisses.

Even though I enjoyed my dream and was happy, I realized that it was just a memory, a beautiful memory that will always live with me. My heart feels partially happy, but there is an inevitable, non-healing hole where sadness seeps through.

The part that Richie took with him when he left this world and that I know will never seal again. Whenever I enjoy a moment of happiness, it becomes bittersweet because my thoughts always turn to, “If only Richie could enjoy this,” or “ Richie would have liked that,” and sadness takes the place of the hole. I can’t patch it up because nobody will ever be able to take his place. I know my two other children and husband feel the same way.  We only have our memories to live by. While many say that I should think of the good times we spent with Richie, it doesn’t mean that those memories will make us happy because sadness will immediately follow.

I had a dream last night that brought me happiness, but in the end, it also brought me sadness. Even though it’s been more than 10 years, I realize that it doesn’t matter how long it was.  My son will always be in my heart, and I will miss him forever.

Rest in peace my son. Mom loves you.


Diary of A Grieving Mother’s Heart

by Debbie Centeno

Ten years of journaling my grief, anger, sadness, and joys now available in Kindle version and paperback on Amazon.