Dealing with Loss and Keeping my Faith

Where do I even begin with this one. Many of my friends have asked me about how what happened to my mom affected my faith. To give you the short answer, it’s fine. But in a long answer let me explain why it’s going to be better than “fine”…

What has gotten me through this whole “ordeal” has been my faith and nothing else. I KNOW He has been with me through my mom’s entire journey and His timing through all this was perfect.

I left my other job as a manager at a stationery store and took over our family business for my mom in September of 2012. It wasn’t because she knew she was sick, she actually had no idea. 1 month later, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. You can read more about that time of our lives in this post.

Here we are at Ninong's days before she leaves for surgery
Here we are at Ninong’s in 2013 days before she leaves for surgery in the Philippines

The Lord gave me 1 month to learn what I could from my mom and just take over as best I can. Mind you, we had no idea she was leaving. She was taking her time showing me what she knew, probably thinking she had maybe 6 months or a year to teach me (and boss me around lol). I had NEVER run a restaurant before in my life. If I hadn’t had those mere 4 weeks with her to show me what she knew Ninong’s might have closed down shortly after she left for surgery. There were days while she was gone that I would sit in her office at the shop and cry because I didn’t think I could do it. Running a restaurant is no joke and I didn’t believe I had it in me to do it. There were so many times when I just wanted to give up. But I didn’t, I just kept praying and praying and working and working. And look at that, we didn’t close! By God’s grace we are still standing. I say God’s grace because I didn’t do anything differently. I just took what I learned from my previous jobs, cried and fell before His feet and told Him that I need Him to show me His will for this place – whether it be to close down or stay open. And He did. He showed me that we were right where we needed to be. We are still open and our business is continuing to grow every year, and I was able to do it without my mom there!

When my mom returned from surgery she did chemo and radiation for about 1 year. After the year was done she went back to the Philippines for vacation with my dad to celebrate but while there was constantly nauseous so they took her to the hospital. There they found out the cancer had moved to her brain.

Here we are on Christmas Day 2013 before my mom started her first round of treatment
Here we are on Christmas Day 2013 before my mom started her first round of treatment

At that point my family went through a very dark time for another year. My mom wasn’t able to go back to work (which drove her crazy, she’s a workaholic just like me), there was another round of chemo and radiation ahead. This time for the brain. My mom was devastated but was trying to stay strong through it all; trying to shield me, my dad, and Charlie from what she was going through. She wasn’t able to be as social as she usually was, at times she didn’t want to take her medication anymore, and her health was clearly deteriorating. I had no idea how bad it was, whenever I would talk to her she would never want to talk about it with me. I think we were all in a bit of denial. But I wasn’t stupid, I knew what was happening wasn’t good. I went through a period of depression during that time. With the frustration of not knowing what was happening to the endless negative thoughts that were running through my head of the worst case scenario could you blame me? I stopped going to church consistently, I became lethargic, our Friday night bible studies stopped, I stopped taking care of myself, and I just wasn’t feeling that “fire” for my faith anymore. I didn’t necessarily lose my faith, but I felt immense guilt. I was focused on my mom and our relationship, all while trying to take care of our business, my marriage, and trying to ignore this bad gut feeling I had. I was fighting the urge to succumb to the depression. I was fighting the urge to give up and let the enemy win, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t let him win.

Here we are in San Diego our last family trip
Here we are in San Diego on our last family trip in May of 2015

It all happened so quickly. It felt like one moment she was walking, the next day she needed a walker, and next thing I know she was suddenly in a wheelchair. It was so hard to see her like that because whenever I picture my mom she was always laughing, smiling, strong, and so determined. Then one day in January, my dad called and she was in the ER. She was no longer talking and her vitals had changed drastically. When my dad called I had a bad feeling, this growing burning in my stomach. I dropped what I was doing and rushed to the hospital. My life was never the same after that, my faith was never the same after that. About 2-3 weeks after that she passed away in home care.

Here's a photo of my mom on her 65th birthday just a few days before she went to the hospital
Here’s a photo of my mom on her 65th birthday about a week before she went to the hospital

It’s hard to admit that I rejected the Lord in those times. It’s not that I ever blamed Him for what was happening. Yes I would go to church every once in a while (when I felt like it), yes I would say a quick prayer before I eat, yes I would open up my bible every once in a while. But that’s not what is embarrassing for me. What’s embarrassing is that when hopelessness, sadness, guilt, anger, or grief filled my heart I didn’t turn to Him. I didn’t ask Him for strength, His grace, or for Him to just simply comfort me. I wanted to “punish” myself and just rot in my own filth.

Through all of that I somehow kept my faith. I am so grateful that the Lord stayed with me when I wanted to give up on Him. I never blamed Him, but my consistency in opening up my bible, going to church, and praying just fell and I felt distant from Him. But He kept showing me that He was there, He just wouldn’t give up on me. I knew my faith was still there, even if it was a mustard seed size, it was still there. During the time I started to see my mom’s health slowly get worse and worse I made a decision that I would be obedient and trust in His plan for her, for me, and for my family. I made a choice. I definitely didn’t like what was happening but I promised myself that I would not lose faith in Him no matter if He healed her or not. And thankfully I was able to keep that promise.
So why am I writing this post, you ask? I’m here to tell you that just because you believe in Christ doesn’t mean everything is sweet and wonderful. Life is real, it’s ruthless, rude, and painful. That’s why we need a Savior and we need His salvation. You think drinking to help you forget the pain might help but it doesn’t. Trust me, I tried it. The pain is still there when you sober up. You can’t sleep at night. Your stress, sadness, emptiness, and pain keep you up at night. I know, I’m right there with you. But those sleeping drugs will do you more bad than good. You hope the words of loved ones or busying yourself can help. Trust me, I’ve tried that too and it doesn’t help. They say time heals, but that’s only half the truth. It’s not only time, it’s confronting your pain with strength. It’s that time when you’re alone and confront the pain within the silence that the Lord will be with you; when you have to face your reality and be completely vulnerable. That’s what heals. Not because of anything you do/did but what He does to heal you and transform that pain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working through the pain and sadness of the most important woman in my life. There are times when I’m fine and there are moments when I just break down in tears out of nowhere, or feel this immense physical emptiness. But every time I go through something like that what I need is the comforting arms of the Lord and not the things of this world. They don’t work. They just mask that pain, and masking it will never get you through it.
Through all of this my faith has changed for the better. Am I 100% over the loss of my mom? NO, absolutely not. I probably never will be. But my relationship has changed from what we call the “honeymoon phase” to something REAL because of it. I might not have the same fire for my faith that I had when I first started in my faith but it’s a different flame now. It’s fueled by a love and trust of a Father and daughter. Our relationship is deeper than it has ever been before. There is banter between us, true conversation, appreciation that He will never give up on me, respect for Him, a grace in the truth of his healing/forgiveness, and transparency that comes with that kind of relationship and realization. I am extremely thankful for that.

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