Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Surviving Those Aftershocks

Matt,   an aftershock is defined as a smaller earthquake that follows a larger earthquake.   It generally occurs in the same area as where the main shock occurred and is caused by the displacement of the earth that followed that first main shock.

Part of living through earthquakes is learning to live with aftershocks.   It’s obvious I lived through my first major quake.   January 3rd 2015 my world was hit with a quake of unmeasurable magnitude.   That day my life was knocked off it’s axis and left free spinning into an atmosphere of shock and immeasurable grief.

Since that day these unexpected aftershocks hit just when my mind is starting to feel stable once again.    I’ve read aftershocks can last for years.   I’m living proof of that truth.    Four years and ten days have passed and the ground beneath my feet remains unsteady.

Grief is a lot like aftershocks.    One never knows when that shaking, unstable feeling will strike.    Usually there is no warning.   A thought, a memory, a word can bring on the most unsteady of feelings.   Almost like the ground is moving under my feet.    It’s a feeling of being out of control.   Of wondering what is happening and why now.

I’ve come to understand that most of what has been written about grief is untrue.    Grief knows no time limit.   It doesn’t lessen as the years pass.   It doesn’t let go after you have passed all those “firsts”.    It certainly doesn’t follow any stages or steps.   It knows no boundaries.    There are no certain series of programs or steps to follow to get you through to the end.   Because there really is no end.    Grief is the journey of aftershocks that hit unexpectedly and can be as powerful as that first major shock.

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I have days where I feel pretty steady.   Days where I can think of you and smile as a memory flows through the projector in my brain.   Days when I can tell your story without feeling that jolt of reality hit my piece of earth.   Days when I can enjoy the warmth of the sun on my face as I remember our talks on the beach.   Days I see your smiling face as a breeze blows my hair gently across my cheek as if a kiss is coming from heaven.  I treasure those days.   Those are the days I feel like I will survive even when the aftershocks hit.

Just when I’m feeling the illusion of joy, I feel the shift.   Some days the jolt hits as my eyes open and reality is there waiting for me.    My brain starts screaming, “He is dead”.   “Matt really died”. Its then the aftershock throws me off balance.   I see the cracks opening in the earth beneath my feet.   I catch my breath as I try to navigate through the rubble that was once my intact heart.   The immense power of the aftershock of reality put me on unstable ground and has me questioning my surviving the next one.

I want to scream.   I want to punch.   I just want not to be.    I want to disappear.   I want to run as far away as I can.   To leave this unstable ground and find a safe place to dwell.   I want my ground not to shift on a dime.   I want to walk on a steady path not this twisted, shattered piece of earth.

There are days the aftershocks leave me paralyzed as I try to navigate an escape.    Days when the grief is relentless and nothing I do helps erase the pain.    What I once thought about life has shifted.   I used to think life would go according to my plans.   Every belief has started to crack as I continue to live with your loss.   All my hopes and dreams fell through the earth and have disappeared from my life forever.

Aftershocks have been noted to be more dangerous and damaging than the original earthquake.    I once thought that had to be a falsehood.   But as I continue to live through years of aftershocks, I realize they are far more powerful than the original assault.   The aftershocks are constant reminders that my ground will never go back to what it once was.    That I will always be at risk for an aftershock to hit and knock me off my feet.   That my terrain will always be full of fault lines and my grief will find a way through.

Grief and aftershocks have a lot in common.    We are never given a warning.    They hit.   Making us unstable.   Shaking our once steady world changing the way we look at life.   Aftershocks like grief can be deep or close to our surface.   What matters most is we recognize them when they hit.   We stop and feel them.   We allow ourselves to be where we need to be as the earth shifts.   We allow ourselves the time to learn how to navigate through our fault lines.

 

I Never Expected This……

Matt,   Today is January 3rd.   The 4th anniversary of your death.  The weather mimics my spirit, cold and gloomy.   I’ve made no plans for today.  I just can’t come to the beach and walk where we once did.  I’ve chosen to just be and let my grief have its way……..

I can remember every moment after hearing those words I prayed never to hear.   Four years ago at 12:15 while working in the NICU taking care of ill babies, I learned that you were gone.  I remember a feeling of leaving my body to escape the pain as my heart was breaking.  I remember someone screaming, never thinking it was me…

I remember hearing words telling me to breathe, to sit, to drink.   I remember how badly I wanted my heart to stop beating so I could be where you were…

Four years later I still seek you.   I expect to see you coming through my door with Kahlua at your heels.  I expect you to grab a drink from the fridge and suck it down from the carton, laughing at me as I try to force a glass into your hand.

I expect you at the dinner table as we share stories about our day.   I expect you to give me a hug and to hear “love you Mom”, before you descend the stairs to your man cave.

I never expected this.   This overwhelming, never ending, life shattering grief.   I never expected to lose you so suddenly and unexpectedly.   I never thought that pictures and memories would be all that was left of our life.   I never expected that four years later my heart would still be screaming as it was the moment you left me behind….

I never expected that I would be constantly be looking for signs.   Searching the clouds for angels and crosses.  Searching for stones and leaves in the shape of hearts.   I never expected to have my breath sucked out of my lungs after seeing a can of Beef-A-Roni in the grocery isle.   I never expected to have a meltdown at the moment I hear a song or see the waves hitting the shore where we once walked together…

I never expected that seeing two little boys playing together would cause a physical ache in my soul.   I never expected that seeing two fathers laughing together watching their children play would remind me of what I would never see now that you are gone….

I never expected to be this person.   A ghost of who I used to be.   The eyes staring back at me break my heart.  I never expected to be the one left behind.   I never expected the pain of losing you would continue to be so powerful and soul crushing.  I never expected that four years later the tears would still fall as they did in the early days.  I never expected to visit a garden with a cold stone engraved with your name….

I never expected to fight for my sanity.   I never expected to walk this painful journey.   I never expected that life would turn out as it has.   I never expected to live this painful lesson of not taking a day for granted…..

I never expected to be writing letters to you that you would never read.  I never expected any of what I live with since your death.   I never expected you to die….

Four years later.   I never expected this…………………….

Nothing Happy About My New Year

Matt,   Today is December 31st.   The final day of 2018.   I’m fighting my demons.   Trying to stay away from that dark place where I sit on that slippery slope.   The place where memories become almost too painful that I fight to keep them out of my head.

Our last New Years Eve was in 2014.   We were one thousand miles apart.   I was sitting watching the snow fall and the ball drop welcoming 2015 into our lives.   You were sitting on a beach attending an outdoor NA meeting.   Two different places but with hearts connected.   We spoke briefly.   I told you how proud I was of you and your new found sobriety.   We talked about how your life was finally getting back on track.   We talked about our expectations for 2015 and started the count down until we would see each other again.   I was so looking forward to getting out of this cold and joining you on a sunny beach.

We ended our call with I love you’s as we always did.   I saw your Facebook post about doing the right thing.   You were posting about attending a meeting on New Years Eve instead of partying. My heart was so happy to read those words.   My hope for 2015 was to have you back.   That my amazing Matt was coming back to the surface.   The Matt I knew before the demons took over your soul.   Gazing at the stars on that crisp night, I sent a prayer to the heavens to keep you safe.   I feel asleep thinking we had survived your addiction and this New Year would bring us both peace.

Two days later you were dead.   January 3rd of 2015.  That day hopes and dreams for a happy new year shattered at my feet.   That day my soul shattered like a glass thrown against a concrete wall.   In too many pieces to salvage.

So here I am facing another New Years Eve with only memories to sooth my broken heart.   Facing the fact that January 3rd is coming again.   Reality is difficult to comprehend.   The fact that 2018 will be gone in the blink of an eye, at the drop of a ball, as smiling people begin their resolutions for this New Year.

My heart is jealous of the happy crowds.   Those people who have no idea how painful it is to watch 2014 or 2018 disappear to the count of ten.   Ushering in a New Year is not what I want to do.   I want that ball to go backward.   I want that ball not to drop but to travel back in time.   I want the new year to be an old year returning to when you were alive.

A month after you died, I received a box from Florida.   It contained a few of your personal possessions.   As I opened the box, your smell surrounded my being.   The hat you wore to your meeting on New Years Eve was staring back at me.   Immediately that photo of you flashed through my brain.   I could see your smiling face as you blew a horn welcoming in 2015.

I can’t tell you how many times through the year I’ve run my hands over your hat.   I cover my face searching for your scent.   I hold that hat close to my heart as if I’m giving you a New Years hug.

Tonight I will let my tears flow at will.   Tonight I will gaze at the stars sending a prayer that you are at peace spending this night celebrating in heaven.   Tonight I allow myself to feel what I feel taking each moment as I can.   Tonight watching the ball drop will  be a painful reminder that time does not stop marching on……..

 

All I Want For Christmas Is A Re-Do

Matt,   It’s Christmas day.   My fourth Christmas without you.   I heard the song,  All I Want For Christmas Is You and thought what I really want is a re-do.   I want to re-do our entire lives.   I want father time to give me the power to turn back the clock to when you and Mike were young boys.   I want to take back this knowledge of how our lives would unravel and redirect our outcome.

I want to go back to the Christmases’ of complete chaos.   The ones when the GI bug hit all of us and we took turns running to the bathroom while we struggled to open presents from Santa.   I want to return to that time in life when Christmas brought great joy to my heart.   Watching both my boys laughing as wrapping paper piled up under the tree.

I want to go back to your teenage years knowing that your career choice would lead to your ultimate death.   I would give up everything to have known that one day your passion for cars would lead to injury that would then turn into a deadly disease.  If only I had the knowledge then that I have now perhaps you would be sharing Christmas with me.

I want to go back to your first surgery and rip that script from your hands.  I want to make the nightmare of your addiction magically disappear.   I want the ghost of Christmas past to come and sweep me away from the reality of Christmas present.   I want to hear the doorbell ring and see you walk in with a wife and kids in tow.   I want to once again watch you and Mike sitting side by side as your tear into festive wrapping paper laughing over the gifts from your crazy mom.   I want to hear your voices, your laughter.   I want pictures showing both my boys together as men.

I want to never take anything for granted.   I would treat every Christmas as if it could be our last together.   Enjoying every moment of chaos.   Every moment of laughter.   I would have hugged you longer.   I would have taken more pictures of us together.   I would have spend more time memorizing your face.

I remember watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with you and Mike.   Never thinking that one day those words so innocently spoken by Charlie Brown would shatter what’s left of my broken heart.   Material things, gifts, and decorations mean nothing when those you love are missing from around the Christmas tree.

There’s Nothing Silent About The Night

Matt,   Tis the season.   Wherever I go, Christmas music always seems to be playing.   I can’t even run into the grocery story without being punched in my gut.   There is no escaping the joy of the season.   People with smiles on their glowing faces are singing along to the carols.  Hearing I’ll Be Home For Christmas left me sobbing in the cereal isle as I wanted to scream out that No, he won’t be coming home this Christmas or next.   I wanted to stand in the middle of that aisle and scream at the top of my lungs.  My son is Dead.  Everyone shut up!  There is no Merry or Happy in my holiday.

Sleep used to be my only reprieve.   The only time I could crawl under the covers and disappear.   The quiet of the night used to bring a comfort to my soul like nothing else.  Wrapping myself up in my safe cocoon I could shut out the noise of the happy world and just be.

I don’t know what the trigger was.   I don’t understand why.   Suddenly, the night became my enemy.   The silence I once craved is now full of noise.   My brain, like a newborn babe has confused day and night.   Maybe it’s the season.   Maybe it’s ugly reality.   Perhaps my grief found my safe place and decided to move in.   Quietly, with the cunning of a predator, grief found me in the silence of the night.

Now, like a child fearing the monster in the closet I dread the night.   The night awakens all those  thoughts that were safely buried in my psyche.   Those visions of your disease swirling through my head.  The what if’s and why’s come flooding into my brain ripping me from the safety of slumber.   My body instantly reacts causing my heart to pound and hot tears to form.   There will be no escape from the questions that continue to tug at my heart.

The silence.   The lack of distractions allow my eyes to focus on your picture smiling back at me in the night.   My mind goes to places I refuse to visit in the daylight.   The darkness, the stillness  has a way of surrounding me with the despair I can no longer outrun.   The darkness allows the grief a power that is nonexistent in daylight.

In my mind I have conversations with you.   I pray for your peace and mine.   I wipe my tears quietly as my mind does the delicate dance of acceptance versus disbelief.   I allow myself memories of how holidays used to be.   Holidays when I was the one singing in the aisles with a smile on my face and childlike anticipation for our gathering in my heart.

I’ve come to realize that nothing will ever be the same.  Holidays will never get easier.   I will continue to feel your loss as long as I walk the earth.   Certain Christmas carols will most certainly come with gut punches.

Sleepless nights have become a part of my present life.   Reminding me of past sleepless nights when I held you close and rocked you as a baby.   Holding your sweet body next to mine those nights bonding us forever.   Under the cover of darkness I will close my eyes and try to remember your smell.   Your laugh.   Your amazing eyes.   I will allow the darkness to hide my weeping from the world.   I will allow myself to imagine you spending the holidays in a beautiful peace.   I will lay in the darkness and allow myself to grieve……

 

 

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