Personal Stories

Finding Our Way…

I know MANY of you have so kindly been inquiring: 

How are you REALLY doing?

How are your kids coping? Is there anything I can do for them?

How can I help/pray for you during this difficult time?

 

My Reality… Raw & Real 

IN THE FURNACE:

I flew out of Haiti in May and my family soon joined me a week later. The few months we had left with Lori are forever embedded in my mind. Both the beautiful & hilarious moments… as well as those filled with sorrow. 

After her passing – there were days where I cried for hours – like 6-8 hours straight. (I still do  – just not every day). Once I start crying – I just can’t stop it. I sink into this deep place that no one can pull me out of. My mom, dad, Jose, & Malaya would spend hours with me trying desperately to calm me… but I was trapped in my sorrow.

There were days where the panic attacks felt like heart attacks.  I thought I was losing my mind. There were days where the darkness was so heavy – I was terrified I’d never see the light.

My sister died on a Saturday and on Monday we received a call that they were going to cremate her. I never put much thought into the process of cremation. My best friend Diane was also cremated in January.  I never thought about it then. But once someone said it outloud – my nightmares became vivid beasts that could NOT be caged.

EVERY night for over 2 months I had the exact same dream…. I can vividly see my sister’s body lying inside an old brick furnace. (I studied WW2 and have actually visited the concentration camps in Poland. I was explained the process in great detail as I visited the crematories. They used to shave the heads of the Jews so they would melt quicker.)

Somehow I merged that experience with my sister. In my dreams I saw her body melting. I could smell the burning flesh – something I’ve smelled in Haiti before. I could hear the crackling sounds of the fire. I could actually feel the warmth of the fire. I kicked off my blankets as I felt the heat from the dream.

The dream always ends with me waking up gasping for air. At first I only dreamed this about my sister…but a month ago I also started picturing Diane. Even typing it out right now brings flaming tears down my cheeks.

Thinking about going to bed at night brought on debilitating anxiety every afternoon…. because I knew what the night would hold. I became dangerously sleep-deprived. I was too afraid to sleep. I was too exhausted to drive. I was too anxious to leave the house. My mind was too foggy to work. I was too overwhelmed to be the mother & wife I needed to be. I was lonely – isolated – dead inside. 

I wished it would have been me. I said it a lot as I weeped. I firmly believe that my sister had more ministry left in her to do. I KNOW she could reach more people with more enthusiasm than I ever could. Why her?

I NEEDED to touch her face and put her moisturizer on. I NEEDED to brush her hair and put her favorite lipgloss on. I did it twice a day for months. I felt out of routine. I had basically moved in with my sister this past year.

So – she died and then I’m just suppose to pack my stuff up and go home? It’s just done? I’m no longer tracking her food intake, giving her IV’s, driving her around, tracking her prescriptions, laughing with her, loving on her, being loved by her? I’m just suppose to put my clothes in a suitcase and walk away? Just like that?

My world changed drastically after her diagnosis and now it was changing drastically again. My mind couldn’t understand the finality of it all.

JOURNEY TO HEALING:

As I began daily counseling, we looked back at the past 5 years. There has been so much drama over the past 5 years – that I was never able to grieve/process each major event. We lived from one crisis to the next.

Our family motto is #NeverADullMoment. We live it out daily….from little things to big things. Here are just a few of the “events” I listed on my past 5-year timeline.

This Past Year Alone
Lori died
Ruth died (Malaya’s best friend – my best friend’s mom)
Youth minister committed suicide
Diane died (my best friend)
Malonea died (my special needs 9+ year employee we took care of)
Lori was diagnosed with cancer

Past Few Years
Several of MY kids experienced trauma and had to have therapy
Diane diagnosed with cancer
Hurricane & Season of flooding nearly destroyed our Haitian town
Our boat delivering $45,000+ worth of supplies sank during a different hurricane
6 miscarriages in 2 years
Nora died (my husband’s sister – exactly the same age as Lori was)
Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Community Sex trafficking/abuse was exposed in major ways
I underwent half a dozen surgeries
Not to mention the day to day struggles, staff changes, dealing with voodoo/darkness, etc.

Turns out….I’m a hot mess!! LOL!  

I was diagnosed with PTSD. I tease how everyone proudly lists their credentials after after their name – like MD, RN, BSN, PHD, CPA, etc.  It’s a running joke with my friends that I sign my emails – 

In Kingdom Service,
Jody Castillo BSN, RN, PTSD

**

Through the daily counseling, EMDR, and the unrelenting  prayers of close friends & family – I’m finding my way out. If I told you all the ways God is moving right now – this blog might never end. But I’m learning & believing that even though the furnace is hot – God is standing with me.

My therapist invited me to attend the American Association of Christian Counselors Conference. I wasn’t sure my anxiety would allow me to be fully present. Jose & Gabe came with us for support. I can tell you it’s already been a life changing week and I finally feel alive. 

Just one example – One evening during worship – I had an awakening. I don’t even know the name of the song that they played. I hadn’t heard it before. But it talked about us bowing down WITH the angels in reverence to God.

Now I’ve had all kinds of people talk to me about Heaven. But my mind could never leave the furnace.

But in a God-ordained moment while this beautiful song was playing and 7000 counselors were lifting up their voices to Jesus…  Gabriel leaned over and asked me, “Do you think Auntie Lolo is bowing down before God right now with the angels?”

WOW! I can’t even begin to describe how his innocent question – his tender heart – and his tear-filled eyes penetrated that darkness in the depths of my soul.

That night  – for the FIRST time ever – there wasn’t a furnace consuming me. Instead…. Lori, Diane, & Malonea were like little girls skipping down the streets of gold…. heading to the Golden Corral! (LOL!) 

HOW ARE YOUR CHILDREN DOING?

Each of my kids are finding their footing and healing in their own way. Watching their momma fall apart hasn’t been easy on them. They needed me & I was a mess. I’m thankful for our therapist and the way she continues to embrace us… making herself available 24/7. 

We started homeschool in September. It’s actually been a great experience as it’s reconnecting us and providing some normalcy.

My sister’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. My mom has requested that all kids/grandkids come together that week. This means my entire family will be in the states for a total of 6 months. This is the longest we’ve been out since I was pregnant with Asher/Levi.

We are desperate to be home. We yearn to be with the rest of our family – Fabi, Gigi, & Izzy! We miss our friends – our staff – all of our campus kids – our community – dance classes – children’s church – clinic – play therapy – soccer – joking with everyone on campus – – sleeping in our own beds – and “some” of us even miss our dogs!

My kids feel lonely and bored! They want to go home. If you would like to send them a card or a small gift of encouragement (just to let them know you’re thinking of them) we would appreciate that. You could write them all together – or send it separately. Malaya, Mikela, Rosie, Asher, Levi, & Gabe are the 6 kids we have with us.

Mailing address:
Castillo
PO BOX 516
Versailles, KY 40383

Over the past year my journey has been 5 weeks in the states, 3 weeks in Haiti, another 5 weeks in the states, etc. It was a constant back and forth.   

Jose & I have been separated most of the year. Even when the family flew out in May – my sister was too weak to be with all of my children at one time. So Jose and I typically met up once a week – switching out kids. 

I am so thankful for Tom & Sharon Snivley – who took all our kids & Momma Gigi for 10 days so that Jose & I could reconnect.

I am thankful for Brian & Leila Austin – who took in our clan for an extended weekend. Their friends and family loved & cared for ALL of us as we were….broken & in need of love.

I am thankful for all those who’ve reached out – texted – emailed – messaged – and stretched their hands through the screen embracing us as though they were sitting right beside us.

**

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Most importantly we are desperate for prayers! Please pray for the light to shine where darkness tries to reign. Pray for continued healing and growth. Pray for our hearts as we miss home. Pray that I can keep my anxiety at bay. Pray that we may know that we know –  that Christ is alive and well – that He will not leave or forsake us – and that we will feel HIS peace & presence daily. 

This year our family will be out for 6 months… which is 4 months longer than a typical year.  This past year has been full of many unplanned trips & extended times out. As a family of 9  – you can imagine how expensive it is to travel, feed, & care for everyone.

I REALLY struggle to share this need with you. We received a comment many years ago that we were using our sorrow as a fundraising mechanism. We were trying to do a big feeding in someone’s honor. It stung the depths of our soul in a way we’ve never experienced. We immediately took down the post. We still did the feeding on our own because we knew in our hearts that our efforts would truly honor this person’s memory.

My parents reminded me that allowing that comment to keep us from sharing the need is really a form of pride and that it’s time to finally lay that at HIS feet. 

If you feel led to help us during this time out here’s how you can:

Online Donation Please click here

Checks:

NWHCM
7301 N Georgetown Rd
Suite 190
Indianapolis, IN 46268
Memo: Castillo

Categories: Personal Stories

1 reply »

  1. “Instead…. Lori, Diane, & Malonea were like little girls skipping down the streets of gold…. heading to the Golden Corral! (LOL!)”
    I laughed SO hard at this!!! Oh man, they would go to the Golden Corral! I can’t even imagine how big Malonea’s eyes would be at all the food there! Her smile would be so big too!

    Praying for you all!

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