Tag Archives: God

Hope in Seasons of Loss

traces of hope

How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?

This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275

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Traces of Hope

Over the past few years I have used the opportunity offered by this blog to reflect on my journey of healing from the loss of my son. I thank all those who have reached out to me or shared their stories on this blog.

I have a new book coming out that tells the story of my healing journey and my journey through grief and loss if you are interested in my full story.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426982211&sr=1-1&keywords=Mona+villarrubia

Life is Loss; Life is Gain

Life is Loss. We begin life with the loss of the security of the womb, our first
loss, and then it’s downhill from there. Every day, every second we are losing time, losing a piece of our lifespan, losing opportunities. Every year we accumulate more and more losses: relationships, jobs, friends, spouses, children, parents.

But life is also Gain. All is grace; all is gift. Undeserved. Unearned. With each
breath life animates every cell of our bodies, providing one more opportunity
to claim our joy, pursue our bliss, eat chocolate, make love, eat more
chocolate.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I refused to accept it. I didn’t feel bad. I was overweight, but I had been overweight since my first pregnancy and to tell the truth I had never in my life been skinny. I had curves when I was twelve.

After I accepted the diagnosis I became angry – at God mostly. I used to joke that if God really wanted to mess with me God would give me diabetes. I have a suspicion that genetics and weight and a perennial sweet tooth have more to do with my diabetes than God, but I blamed God anyway. Blaming God is convenient, more convenient than exercise and diet for sure.

So I had a reason for keeping God in the picture: God makes a great scapegoat.

Isn’t that ironic. We usually think God is using us as scapegoats – making New Orleans take the blame for the sins of the decadent South, for example. And all the time God is our scapegoat. We give God the blame for every bad thing, even things human beings are obviously responsible for: pollution, the spread of Aids, the abuse of children. If there is no God there is no excuse, and I am left with diet and exercise.

Back to chocolate or the loss of it. To a chocoholic like myself that is no small thing. I can do without white bread, only ever ate it at parties – you know those crustless triangles of mayonnaisey goodness. I can do without white rice, and I have learned to deal with whole wheat pasta. I have always loved veggies and whole grain bread. I can usually do without the cookies, and pass on the ice-cream and cake (unless it is Death by Chocolate cake or those brownies with
thick fudge chocolate icing on top), but sugar-free chocolate is for the birds.
Actually, no! It’s not for the birds, because if their digestive response is
the same as mine I would need larger windshield wipers.

So…giving up chocolate, is it a loss or a gain? Surely a loss, right? Not necessarily. I thought it was a loss for a long time and was very bitter about it. But now, every morsel of real chocolate I treat myself to after a low carb meal is absolute and unmitigated joy, or it can be if I do it right. Like oxygen to an asthmatic, chocolate has the power to bring absolute bliss to every cell of my being. When I eat my chocolate miniatures, malt balls, or Hershey kisses one at a time, slowly allowing a piece to dissolve on my tongue and the sugary sweetness to suffuse my mouth, instead of shoveling down a handful at once, I can enjoy each moment of the experience. When I eat gobs at once I only taste the last one I swallow. So my gain is that I am learning to truly enjoy chocolate, to truly taste it. I am not saying that I am always able to control my shoveling compulsion, but I am getting better at it. And as a result chocolate has become more precious to me and now gives me more joy than it ever did in my pre-diabetic days.

What a paradigm for life this could be. Of course we hear it all the time: slow down and smell the roses. But if you have allergies and can’t smell, or have no garden, or have only smelled the indifferent vegetative aroma of store-bought roses, the metaphor is lost on you. Chocolate on the other hand is pretty universal. So how about a re-write: slow down and taste the chocolate.

There is another gain, too: Self control. Not something we are very good at in the over-indulgent, fast-food eating, immediate gratification seeking, poor impulse controlling Western hemisphere.

Maybe there’s a new book in here somewhere: God and Chocolate, or, How I got Diabetes and Discovered my Bliss.

From Faith to Doubt to … Hope

This is a draft of an introduction to my next book. I would very much appreciate feedback.

Natural disaster, institutional evil, the suicide of a loved one. The experience of each of these tragedies results in grief and loss: denial, anger, blaming, depression, and eventually, so the theory goes, acceptance and renewal of hope – a new beginning. In the face of tragedy, understanding the common stages of grief and loss can offer victims some sense of order in an otherwise chaotic emotional landscape. But what if, while reeling under the impact of a tragedy, we also face the loss of our religious faith, and along with it the very structures of meaning that have held us together for so long? What if we find ourselves doubting the goodness of our church, the existence of God, the purposeful nature of creation, the meaning of life, the very possibility of hope?

Three separate tragedies – Hurricane Katrina, the Catholic abuse scandal, the loss of a son to suicide – connected through the common ground of grief and loss, and carrying in their wake a profound challenge to religious faith. This may seem too wide a topic for a single book, but it can’t be: this book is not an intellectual exercise; these tragedies tell the story of my life. The questions I raise here surface from the depths of my own grief and sorrow and from my desperate need to reclaim hope, the hope I once relied on, the hope I tried to offer my students, the hope that my son wrote of, even as he prepared to die.

If you are looking for a story of spiritual transformation, a wrenching tragedy followed by a poignant renewal of faith, then this book is not for you. If you need to find immediate comfort, and the reassurance that God has a Plan and everything happens for a Reason, this book will not serve you well. I’m telling you this because I don’t want to cause any more pain: grief and loss are too damn difficult already. But if you are grasping for a raft in the midst of overwhelming tragedy, emotional chaos, or spiritual drought, if you are disillusioned with organized religion, and not even sure about God, let alone God’s plan, then we are on a similar journey and maybe we can share the road for a while.

Typically, spiritual odyssey stories generate speaking engagements, t-shirts, and affirmation cards. They take the reader from the pain and chaos of suffering, sin, and loss to the comfort of forgiveness and the renewal of faith. This story travels in the other direction: from a career teaching theology and leading liturgical music — feeling that I was in God’s hands — to the desolation of suddenly feeling that God had let go.

I used to readily call myself Catholic; now I don’t know what label fits. If “Catholic” can be a cultural descriptor, the way “Jewish” is for many Jews, then I am certainly Catholic. I was born and raised in the Church, received all the relevant sacraments, earned two degrees from Catholic universities, taught theology for nearly three decades in Catholic schools, and raised two sons in the Church. I would not hesitate to check “Catholic” on a census or on a hospital admissions chart. Nonetheless, I am currently ambivalent about God and find it too distressful to attend Church with any regularity.

My story will not nurture a soul hungry for immediate spiritual enrichment, but to those who are struggling to make sense of suffering and God it offers the consolation that you are not alone. It may even help you let go of the guilt of doubting God. And for those who are searching for some sense of meaning and purpose when life seems devoid of any, perhaps it will even offer you a little hope. That is certainly my hope.