Happy Birthday Sam

I share with you my letter to Sam who turns 18 years old tomorrow. When you have your second and now only child left – you get to brag. (and likely embarrass him)

September 12, 2001.

I had the day off and I watched TV the whole day. It was a heavy feeling of sadness, disbelief and fear. What happened? What kind of world is this? For two years prior I was trying to have a second child. Two miscarriages later I was still wanting my family to grow.  When 9/11 happened my viewpoint changed. I was happy to have one healthy child. Nothing else mattered.

Weeks later I found out. In May 2002 you became Gold boy #2.

bedbrothersNolan loved having a little brother. Five years between you. He knew to be gentle with you at first. 

Then he treated you like a typical little brother. Lots of teasing. Competition. Wrestling. You would yell out “NOWAAN” when he took your toy or he beat you at a game.  You both were spoiled and loved by grandparents and aunts. 

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Nolan became a teenager and you guys still hung out together, just not as much. You started searching for your own identity. You heard how smart Nolan was. His musical talent. You did some of the same things he did. wp-15860951802647975625182949287854.jpgBut you are not your brother. Yet you had to find what you liked and what you thought you were good at.

Reflecting back I believe your junior high years were your time of  searching. When you were young if something did not come easy you got so discouraged and you gave up. Right before high school you discovered playing drums and running track to your liking.

Nolan left for Purdue.  Finally – you didn’t have to share the bathroom! You didn’t have him pestering you. But then he was back – and different… You didn’t understand what was going on with him. What is depression? What is wrong with Nolan? 

You started high school. Immediately you became part of a great marching band family. You were settling into this next chapter of your life. 

One month into high school your brother passes by suicide. 

I remember calling your school counselor. Emails sent to your teachers. You chose not to stay home the next day. Or the next… You did not miss any school those many weeks after. You had support of your friends and you wanted to keep going. You had your own way of grieving and we followed.

You joined the wrestling team – as a freshman – never wrestled a day before. I  couldn’t watch any of those matches – you never won one- yet you NEVER gave up.

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2017 Wrestling Freshman Hardest Worker Award

You succeeded in school. You worked multiple jobs and still did band and track. Hell- you broke your pole in pole vaulting!!polevault 2018

But you had a hard junior year. You found out hard work is needed to succeed. You have had your heart broken.

You have fallenScreenshot_20181005-224051_Snapchat you have lost,

you have won and you have soared.

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IMG_0110 (003)I am so proud of you Sam.

You are strong. You are smart, bright, incredibly modest, kind

and I know you hate me saying it – but damn-  you are a good lookin’ kid.

 

 

Happy golden birthday Sam Gold!!!!

You will have a good life.

The grieving mother

bereaved mom day.jpgIt is not any more important of a day. It is not any harder. But it is a day for the bereaved mom to be remembered.

International Bereaved Mother’s Day was started by Carly Marie Dudly in Australia in 2010. It is one week before traditional Mother’s Day and is a day for any parent who has lost a child.  In particular it honors mothers who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or any pregnancy or infant loss.

I became aware of this day through my support friends of FB.

I have comfort knowing I am not alone. No mother who has lost a child is alone.

Unfortunately there are many of us. We are together in our loss.

Some of us lost the dream of having a child, of watching a baby become a child, or a child become an adult.

Losing an adult child is not any easier or harder.

You see – they all are losses… a piece of you is gone.

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We all think about our missing child. Or children. We are never the same.

We may not cry daily but we miss our child every day. 

On this day I will remember these women. And I will give myself some grace.

I honor the strength it takes to continue on. 

 

 

Here’s to the Class of 2020.

While I write this it is raining. A steady drizzle with a chill in the air. 55435974-water-drops-of-rain-on-the-window-glass-in-gloomy-weather-street-bokeh.jpgIt was supposed to be prom today for Sam and all the upperclassmen at CPHS.

Good – I’m glad it is raining. Since no one can have prom today let the weather be crappy. It makes me feel better. I know I am not alone in how I feel. It helps me to join other mothers of seniors and lament. Yes – we can say we are grieving. Grieving for our anticipation, our plans and happiness in what we expected the last few months of our child’s high school senior year was to be like. Just like we cannot compare grief of the loss of a grown child to grief with the loss of an infant, we cannot compare this kind of grief to other types. Grief is grief. Don’t compare it or feel guilty for it. Just feel it.

Some of us moms have complicated grief. Maybe two children graduating. One high school and one college. Some parents have children experiencing other milestones like a birthday – yet they cannot gather family and friends to celebrate. And the hardest – all of the mentioned and a recent death of a loved one. More complicated than one wants to think about.

Us parents feel the disappointment of missing milestones we have been waiting for since the start of our child’s senior year. We had a vision for them – the anticipation of the “best year” of high school –  senior year. We had expectations- maybe we remember our older child’s experiences during this great time. Or we have fond memories of our own past.

When COVID came the world made a direction change and we had no say in it. Any parent who lost a child suddenly has experienced this. You wake up and your world is not the same. Ever again. 70933399_10220374475977561_9042356216348540928_o

With our lives now during this pandemic we didn’t experience change in just one day, but it was still a shock. I imagine you have woken up and wished this was just a dream. I have. I have many times since Nolan died.

I have had the rug pulled out from under me before. And I got up. Again and again. I know living this way now for over three years has prepared me for our current situation. This is not how we planned our life. This is not how we expected things to be right now.

Try to remember a very important thing. Your child has been on this earth less years then you and they are a teenager. And a teenager can feel invincible. You have raised your child to go out and be somebody. Do something. And they will. This is an experience that shapes their being, a lesson of life (and death) in a big way. They did not get where they are because they followed the perfect path that you arranged. Now they see life can be very unpredictable. A bold and brave young adult will take this world on.

We have no control over the next months – no one can predict what life will be like now with COVID – maybe we parents take this as our prep for the next years with our graduating child. Your dreams for them are still possible. But be prepared for them to take flight and go East when you thought they would go West.

1__tV6Ssex3GM-jvGNyyJhcw Enjoy watching their flight.

 

We love you Busia

 

If you are fortunate you will have specific people make a big impact in your life.

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I first met her when seeing both of her great grandchildren at my office many years ago. She was always with a smile, which is not surprising since her granddaughter Kristi always wears one.  Yes I would see Kalli and Kaya and do my doctor work, but during a visit where Busia came it was natural to strike up a conversation and after a few visits I got to know her.

She came to live with Kristi soon after Kristi’s mother passed away unexpectedly, more than 14 years ago.  She was a stubborn woman. (I did say she is a Busia, right?) But Kristi convinced her to stay with them to help her raise her active kids. And it did not take long for her to be my Busia. For those of you that don’t know, Busia is grandma in Polish. And this Busia was a classic – a Polish grandma to the tea. We would talk a bit about Polish traditions. And true as a Busia would do – she brought me food. Yummy pierogi. She didn’t make them but she knew where to get the best.

Then years go by- rather fast I note since I am getting older.

Busia was getting older.

She celebrated her 90th birthday, although it was more of a celebration of being 39 again. She had the spunk and energy of a much younger woman. When Nolan passed she was there to pay her respects, and she even came to celebrate his one year Angelversary.

That was when she told me she missed her daughter, Shiela, her best friend, so so much. She was looking forward to the day she would join her.

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I was a member of TEAM BUSIA when she had back surgery in 2018. Once again she showed her strength and great spirit. She also dealt with breast cancer. But she had a choice- and Busia knew her time here was coming to an end. She was ready. She knew she could not name her time.

I did not see Busia this past year  but I connected with Kristi enough to know that she was declining. Kristi shared that hospice was coming to the house to care for her this last week. Busia had shingles (again) and her body was tired. It could have been another week but ultimately she was called Home just a few days ago. The Divine allowed me to say goodbye to her. I told her how much I loved her and that I was so blessed that I knew her and her family. I told her to give my Nolan a hug.

I thought I knew a lot about Busia. Kristi and her whole family gathered around Busia and shared with me more detail about her.

Busia did not have an easy life. Her mother died when she was only five. She had many siblings and the were all placed in multiple orphanages for a year when she was eight. A loving neighbor reunited Busia and her siblings and raised them. She was married for a good number of years but did not have the best husband. She had her daughter, her best friend, die suddenly. She was 96 years old, she had cancer, and had pain.

When you think about all the difficulty Busia had in her life, you may think “How did she go on? How was she able to be happy and still smile?” I can’t speak for Busia, and I certainly would not say my life has been as hard as hers.

But I think she would agree with this

You can take your hurt, sorrow, pain and grief and focus on your loss and misfortune and be bitter

Or

You can wake up every morning and be thankful for your life and share your love and care for others. 

Another word – you have HOPE

Busia was a great woman. She was Busia to many. If you are lucky you will have people in your life that forever touch your heart.

 

Goodbye Busia. Yes you were home with your loving family for many years93616360_3660256707382598_5492902978446688256_n and now you are at home with your eternal family in Paradise.

I am so thankful for you Busia.50211305._SX0_SY0_

p.s. don’t think the story ends here… remember, good people raise very good daughters, sons, grandchildren 🙂

I am talking about you Kristi!!

 

No superhero can save us

We love superhero movies.

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The world has a villian, a bad guy running around, and we call out to our only hope- Avengers- Superman- Batman- you fill in the blank.

In our real life, our real day crisis, we have no superhero

We must save ourselves.

Some of us run toward the bad guy. You know those people. 91298979_10213067458480476_116988054375235584_o

Some of us work knowing the risk of being out in public.

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But the best way to save humanity -to save your family, church family, friend, neighbor, a stranger- is to stay inside. This group of people is the biggest force in our fight. This group will save the most people. 

You may feel like your staying home is a lack of action. You are bored. Your kids are driving you crazy. You have a new appreciation for your kid’s teachers. But remember your favorite superhero.  YOU can be that superhero.

 

 

Sadly we are going to see disturbing images. Mass casualties.
APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Italy

You will know people who are sick and do recover. Maybe you will know someone who loses the battle. Maybe a loved one.

But when you feel anxious- yes I know you have those moments… 

I have. I have woke with panic in my heart. Eyes wet with crying thinking about the whys, the unknown, the fear of losing my husband, my son, sisters, friends —- 

When you think about a person dying from COVID19, you worry that they are dying alone. But they are not alone. They have God with them at those last moments. God and all their loved ones waiting for them to join in everlasting love and peace.

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This COVID19 crisis is not God punishing us. We are of earth and this is what happens. Meteors hit our planet. Volcanoes erupt. Earthquakes crush communities. Cancer strikes the best people we know.

Viruses cause illness.

Be the superhero. Help each other.

We will survive.wp-15857466554648746582187666495792.jpg

In love and peace….

– a grieving doctor mom

The broken heart

February is American Heart Month.Heart+and+lungs+illustration_mid.jpg

Did you know the leading cause of death for a woman of any race in the US age 45-84 is heart disease?

I am focusing on heart health this month. You might remember I don’t like the month of February. (see my blog of last year) Instead of dwelling on the difficult memories of February’s of the past I have been mindful of staying active and keeping healthy. Not an easy thing to do with kids coughing and sneezing on you at work!

Exercise has been my go to for the month. It keeps me motivated and helps me fight off the winter blues. And it gets my heart pumping. I got a Myzone heart monitor and it has been great. Now I can track my heart rate during workout activities. It motivates me to exercise strong and not quit early.  But I do notice something on those days where I have a wave of grief…my broken heart does not work as well.

Yes –  I do have a heart that is forever broken. I will never be the same.

broken-heart-syndrome

People with significant loss say they are forever changed. So true. My broken heart won’t ever be the way it was, and for this reason I need to take good care of it.

Thankfully I do not have acute broken heart syndrome. That is a temporary condition that is brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. It is also known as stress cardiomyopathy.  So yes – you can have life threatening heart disease due to a broken heart.

Chronic and complicated grief is stress, and stress is not good on your heart. I don’t feel my broken heart all the time but I do know that my emotions from grief can be negative on my health.

I am more tired than I used to be. I can work my long hours but I need my rest at night. When I am feeling a big grief wave I cannot take deep breaths when I work out and thus cannot reach my max workout goal heart rate. I don’t push myself on those days. I acknowledge my limitation with the understanding that I need to listen to my body. At least I am moving and trying to feel better. But it makes me aware of how my grief brain is hard on my body.

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PSA from a practical pediatrician

Sorry – this post has nothing to do with grief. I wear my doctor hat and put my mom hat aside with this topic.28debatableillo-jumbo

Parents have asked me if they need to worry about coronavirus.

Let’s review what is going on:  A new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) started to cause infection in China, in the Hubei province. It is thought to have started in a food market and it was initially in an animal and infected a human. Since the infection was discovered, the Chinese government and now the WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC and other countries are actively working together to control the spread. The virus’ genomic sequence is known already and all countries and agencies are working together to test for the virus and share information on spread, control and care of patients with infection.

As of 2030 hours Jan 29, 170 deaths have been reported due to the virus. There are 71 cases in 15 other countries. Only 1% of cases have occurred outside of China and no deaths have occurred outside of China. The majority of cases are minor respiratory symptoms. 20% of cases are severe such as pneumonia, ARDS, and renal failure. 2% result in death.

It is an active outbreak and scientists are learning about this virus day by day, hour by hour. This is a fluid situation. Do not think this virus is going to overtake our world and we cannot stop it. The WHO is working diligently to control the spread. 

There is no specific treatment.  There is no vaccine. The virus is different than SARS – It takes approximately 2 weeks to show symptoms after exposure and during this time the virus can be transmitted. It is spread by close respiratory contact. It is by droplet (cough and sneeze) but could also be spread by fomite (the virus staying for a time on an object, then a person touches their eyes or mouth or nose and are exposed)

It is appropriate to be concerned. It is not time to panic.

So how do I answer the question a parent asks me– what can I do so I do not get this virus? How do I keep my family safe?

My suggestions:

  • Avoid travel to China. Avoid as you can close contact to a person that has recently traveled to China.
  • Keep up to date on news. It is changing every day. The knowledge of the virus is changing too. World, US and local news are all important. When we had a high numbers of measles cases in the US I wanted to know if any cases were in the Chicago area and I paid attention to where cases were in the US.
  • Avoid the airport, train station, any areas where there is a great chance of exposure to people who are likely to be traveling internationally.
  • Depending on the number of cases in the US we may have to avoid large groups of people in big cities
  • Take care of your own health. Currently I don’t think we need to wear masks in the US but you can wash your hands often. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Get enough sleep and eat healthy.

Please understand – at this moment we have way more of a chance in the US of being exposed to influenza then this corona virus. We have seen a surge of influenza cases at our office. The last bullet point suggestion is most important to help prevent you getting the flu. Oh — and a flu shot – it is not too late!!!

 

“What is your secret Dr. Gold?”

Ahhh – the month of  January in pediatric medicine. Many people ask me “How do I stay healthy?” You can look at my dry red and painful hands and see I use hand cleanser, soap and water constantly. When you see 30-45 patients a day and clean before after and sometimes during the visit, your hands take a beating.

Do I take megadose Vit C? What else is my secret?

Twenty three years under my belt doing this – and unfortunately medical menopause is not kind in keeping my waistline from growing- but I have learned a few things.

I am under a lot of stress.

But I know I am not alone.

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I have to say in the last years my stress load is considerably high. 

You see…. stress increases the chance of illness

In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe decided to study whether or not stress contributes to illness. They surveyed more than 5,000 medical patients and asked them to say whether they had experienced any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years.

Each event called a Life Change Unit (LCU), had a different “weight” for stress. The more events the patient added up, the higher the score. The higher the score and the larger the weight of each event, the more likely the patient was to become ill.

SRRS

Many people think a stressful event is always negative but as you see many are considered good events in our lives: vacation, child leaving for college, even retirement.

Note that the scale does not list death of a child. I would argue listing it as > 100 points and having it impact for more than the two years in scoring.  Let’s say… your lifetime.

I just did my assessment. I scored > 300. Congrats Dr. Gold!!! Proof of your assumption.

So what do I do to decrease my chance of illness?152963970_wide Can I decrease my stress?

Besides washing my hands and positioning my assessment of the 2 year old so the uncovered cough doesn’t hit my face – I do the following :

 

 

  • Sleep- goal is 7 hours per night. 8 on weekends if I can
  •  Eating healthy and hydrating- I drink 16oz of water before I leave the house. I try to get 64 per day but cannot always make that goal. We cook 90% of our dinners. I rarely eat out for lunch. Three meals is my goal. All of various size and plenty of veggies. A diet as mediterranean as I can do. Kale is my friend.
  •  Exercise – wish I could get in more but running and spin and Tabata are my stress reducers
  • Medical knowledge: I know my family tree and its medical history. I see my doc yearly, I do screening exams, I don’t smoke and I keep my alcohol consumption in moderation
  •  Praying- taking care of my spiritual side. I pray every day. I read Daily Word and other writings. I say  “Let go, Let God”
  • Talking with family and friends. I may not share all I feel to everyone, but I don’t hold things in.
  • Fun time- I cook, write, read, and sing (in the car, usually 80’s alternative!) and occasionally do fun projects
  • Cry time. I let it out. Let it go, right? Sometimes I cry so much I am tired from it.  But I don’t hold back. This is the time I don’t want to be around anyone.
  • Loving my pets. When my day is too much, I get love from my cats. The best stress reducer is a cat who wants to play or curls up in your lap and does a megapurr session.

I want to say I stay free of illness but I can’t. Repeated exposure month after month and life events sometimes occurring too many and too often. (252 points alone for 4 aunts and uncles passing) make it a challenge to stay well in both mind and body.

I know illness is not just infection. Heart disease, cancer and dementia are all an increased risk due to stress.

I cannot change the past, I cannot predict the future. All I can do is live in the present and try to be as healthy as I can be.

 

 

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Christmas in Heaven

So what is it like to celebrate Christmas in heaven?

I imagine all my loved ones feeling eternal joy and love. The amount being unimaginable for us here on earth to really understand. And everyday is Christmas for them.

Until I come Home …. I will miss them all so much.

May we all try and feel the spirit of Christmas every day.

Have yourself a…..

Merry Little Christmas.

x-mas card

I remember when Nolan and Sam were little boys at Christmas time. Heck, I remember my love of  Christmas as a child! I once fell asleep with the Sear’s Christmas catalog pointing to the pogo stick I wanted SO SO much. Santa was always watching, so he would have no mistake in knowing what I wanted.

And here we are many years later. Santa knows what I want, but that is not something he can do.

Christmas day is one of the hardest days for me in missing Nolan. On Christmas day your family should be together. This is the day where the hole in my heart aches and earns so much for him. Ask anyone who is grieving the loss of a close loved one. 79756170_2605409782906686_5776488025345228800_o

I have hung Nolan’s stocking since the first Christmas without him. Why not? He is still my child, right? No candy, toys or gift cards fill his stocking now. Instead I place a letter I write to him. I have done this every year since my first Christmas without him, since 2016.

The first was a simple small hand written note. Then the next year a bit longer. Last year I typed my letter to him. I was worried he could not read what I had written. Crazy you might think. I write these letters for me. I share my love to him and tell him how much I miss him.24993563_10215056549432721_582890807462440737_n

The second Christmas without him I was really down. This was the Christmastime I can say I was depressed. A good friend invited me to her house a month later to be one of a group of women meeting a local medium friend of hers for a group reading. Ok – I was up for it. In the past I had a reading with someone else so I did not expect Nolan to come through that night.

But Nolan did.

He said he is with me at work. And at home. He knew how much I missed him. Up until now only Scott knew I wrote these letters. I told no one, no mention on social media. Yet this medium communicated how Nolan read my first letter. She mentioned blue ink and that I place them in his stocking. Scott did not even know what color pen I used.  Nolan said he has read all the letters.

I am not sure what I will write him this year. I talk to him everyday, before I wake up and in the shower since I tend to get my usual cry out then. But it is special to write to him at Christmas. It is not my wish list to Santa, but I feel it keeps my connection to him a bit stronger. Christmas #4.

christmas nolan 2018