Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

New Year Same Grief

Matt,   Today is the second day of the New Year 2020.    My mind keeps drifting back to the second day of the New Year except the year was 2015.   That year I had such high hopes for you. I remember your Facebook post on New Year’s Eve stating you were doing it right.   Attending an all night NA meeting.   I can’t tell you how my heart soared with joy thinking this New Year would be the beginning of a new us.  That your addiction would finally take a back seat to your new life.

We spoke on January 2nd at 6;23pm.   I had no clue that would be the last time I would ever hear your voice.   The last time I would ever hear the words “Love you, Mom”.   There were no red flags.   My ears had been trained by the years of your struggle to listen for verbiage changes.  There were none.   No clue that in just a few hours my world would spin off it’s axis and come crashing down at my feet.

Tomorrow January 3rd, marks your 5 year anniversary.   2020 feels like 2015 all over again.   The fact that 5 years has passed means nothing.   5 years feels like yesterday.   The grief hits with a vengeance that still has the power to bring me to my knees.   My body remembers hearing those words.   It remembers hearing the guttural sounds of a wounded animal as she sees the dead body of her young.   It remembers the grip on my heart.   The breathlessness as if my lungs collapsed and would never know how to breathe again.

I am restless.   Edgy.   Unsettled.   My mind is spinning out of control.   Reality and fantasy vie for top spot in my head.   I want to scream YOU ARE NOT DEAD.   I want to dial your number and talk to you about your day.   I want to hear your children laughing in the background as they yell hi to their mom mom.   I want to turn back time and fix our lives.   I want you and Mike and your families here for Friday night pizza and Sunday barbecues.   I want life to be want I want not what we’ve been dealt.   I want you HERE…..

There is a foolish perception that time and grief are friends.   That in the beginning time holds griefs hand and leads it down the path of firsts.   That path is hazy, dark and uncomfortable.  But time is seen as a hero.   Time continues to pass and as it does grief is supposed to suddenly lighten.   To change.   To become acceptable.   Bearable.   Doable.   Society is afraid to acknowledge what so many like me know and live.    Time is no friend to grief.

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Time changes NOTHING.   Time continues to pass bringing painful memories to the surface.   Time doesn’t stop for your birthday.    It doesn’t care how many painful days it drags along your path.   The only thing true about time is it continues to march on no longer caring as those empty, painful years pass with no new pictures, cards or memories.

The problem with grief is you can never imagine its power until it finds your soul.   Grief knows no time frame.   Once it moves in it has no intention of leaving.   It wraps itself around your being with a grip that doesn’t know how to let up.   Grief makes you feel like you are slowly losing your mind.   It makes you question how you will make it through all those next painful days that time continues to drag into your life.

If I’ve learned anything during these last 5 years its that the passing of time means nothing to the power of my grief.   Making it through all those firsts means nothing.   Time seems to sharpen the edges of life.   Time takes me back to those moments and memories that are all I have left of you.

The passing of time and the power of grief have no relationship to each other.   There is no connection between the two.   Time is no friend to grief and grief knows nothing regarding time.    My heart and soul will grieve you forever.   The passing of time will continue as it has done these last five years.

Grief comes with no instruction manual.   It has a mind of its own.    Lying low then hitting hard as a memory, song or smell assaults my senses.   Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.   There are no stages.   No rhyme or reason.   Grief is a part of who I am and who I will continue to be.   I will embrace my grief allowing it to have its way on those dark days and allowing it to ebb and flow through my soul as time keeps marching on…….

 

Walking The Path You Walked…..

Matt,   I feel as though I’m reliving your journey.   I remember so clearly your phone call.   “Mom, I was lifting an engine and I felt something in my back pop.   The pain is horrible.  I can barely walk.”   Little did I know that almost 5 years later I would be reliving your experience.

The similarities are mind boggling.   You lifted an engine, I lifted a stuck window.   As soon as I felt the pop and felt that searing pain shoot down my leg I thought of you.   They say you can never understand what someone goes through until you go through it yourself.   I am a living testimony to that truth.

Looking back I wish I had known how life altering your pain was.   I never thought it was as horrible as you described.   Living with your pain, I now feel so ashamed that I lacked compassion for your pain.   All I saw was your addiction to the opioids.   Your addiction became my focus.  Your pain was a secondary concern.

Now I get it.   I’m facing the same surgery you survived.   I’m facing trying to find a happy medium to this pain that has become a part of my life and a reminder of how you suffered.   I’m facing the possibility of becoming addicted as you did after back surgery.   I think back to how your life was affected and I’m terrified that I will become you.

Thursday I will be the patient.   I will be you.   I will be in the OR not the waiting room watching your name flip through the different phases of your surgery.   I remember scanning that board every few minutes searching for where you were in the process.   I remember walking next to your stretcher to those OR doors and giving you a kiss for luck.   Promising I would be there when you woke.   Promising to pray for a successful surgery.

So now I’ll be the name Ray and Mike will be following through the OR process.   I will be the one with the surgical scar on my back exactly like yours.   I remember seeing your scar and feeling chills come over my body.   I remember thinking how brave you were to have gone through what you did, never thinking that almost 5 years after your death your scar would be on my body.

We have always had this unexplainable connection.   You and I so much alike.   Now, even though you are no longer here,  I will be retracing your journey.   Feeling your anxiety as you waited for surgery.   Understanding your pain as it is now my own.

I pray that I will feel your presence.   That somehow, someway just for a brief moment I will know you are there.   I pray that neither time nor space will break our connection.   I pray that you have forgiven me for not understanding your pain………

 

 

 

Learning To Dance Through Shattered Glass

Matt,   Thanksgiving is in three days.   I’m feeling my grief’s grip around my throat.   That familiar tightening in my chest has returned.   This Thanksgiving feels impossible to survive.   My loss and disbelief of living through unfulfilled hopes and dreams feels heavier as the holiday season approaches.   I’ve heard the saying about learning to dance in the rain.   I feel like I’m navigating life dancing through pieces of shattered glass.   Life as I planned for us shattered at my feet the day you died.   My life was broken with no chance of ever being repaired.

This season my grief feels heavier.   I not only grieve the loss of you, I’m also grieving the loss of me.   Of how I hoped Thanksgiving would always be.   It’s so hard to feel thankful this year.   Your empty seat continues to break my heart.   My cancer battle has left me with little reserve and feelings of just giving up.   It feels like I’m layered in grief.   Of wondering how to survive the triggers the holiday season brings.

I have days where I’m so thankful for your life.   Days I feel like I will survive your loss.   Days when even my cancer is put on the back burner and I feel joy in the blessings  of everyday life.   Then I see those painful commercials.   The one’s of beautiful, happy families celebrating Thanksgiving together.  Everyone around the table is smiling.   There are no tears of loss.   No empty chair where a loved family member will no longer be seated.   It’s those moments when our reality hits like a cold slap and I want to scream letting the world know that life is not as it appears in these fantasy advertisements for how the holidays should be.

It seems the holiday season highlights my grief.   Memories of how life used to be unbury themselves from my safe place and resurface bringing a heightened awareness of my loss.   I’m ashamed that my feelings leave me unthankful for the blessings I do have in my life.

The blessings of memories.   Remembering our last Thanksgiving together.   You and Mike out back bundled up against the cold.   Your breath floating above your heads as you shared a memory that brought a smile to both your faces.   The blessing of that moment captured in time as I snuck a photo of my two boys together.   I look at that photo and feel a mixture of pain and love.   How I wish I could blink my eyes and return to that holiday.

The blessing of a loving husband.   Ray has been amazing.   My broken body is no longer capable of physical activity.   Everything I used to do has now fallen on his shoulders.   I watch as he walks the dogs down the street.   My heart fills with gratitude for this man.   He has taken over everything with a smile and a positive attitude of for better or worse.   He sits by my side on those chemo days.   He continues to tell me we will get through this.   He is such a gift from God as he has held me on those days I sobbed over your loss or cried over losing who I used to be.   He reminds me that I am still beautiful with or without my crazy, curly hair.

In my brokenness true friends have shined through my darkness.   Rallying around me as I struggle to find my new normal.   These women stood by me as I grieved your death and continue to stand by as I battle this cancer.   Letting me know they have my back.   Being sounding boards when my reality becomes too hard to carry and I need to rant and repeat the things they’ve all heard before.   True friends.   Another gift from God.

The blessing of your brother.   He understands my grief.   He is the only one who really gets what your death has done to our family.   We cry together on those days when the grief finds us both.   The holidays hold painful memories that only we share.   Memories of brothers fighting over the last piece of pumpkin pie.   Brothers who would share stories of childhood antics as I cringed at the holiday table.   I’m thankful for his presence in my life.   His mannerisms are yours.   He is the part of you that remains with me.

This holiday season when I’m not feeling so thankful, I will remember these blessing God has placed in my life.   I will remember that the holidays although painful also hold joy.   I will remember our life together.   I will shed tears as memories hit but will focus on the light that shines through my darkest days.   I will continue to pray for acceptance and peace, knowing I am in control of nothing.

This Thanksgiving I will give thanks for your life.   I will give thanks for those who remain in my life.   I will give thanks for the days I feel like I’m human again.   I will give thanks for another day of life.   I will search for the beauty that finds it way through my brokenness…………

 

 

 

The Layers Of My Grief

Matt,

Somedays I feel like I’m layered in grief.   I remember how I would layer my clothing on those iffy weather days.  Never knowing if the sun would break through the clouds and warm the gloomy day.   This grief is heavier than my clothing and unlike my clothing cannot be ripped off when the waves hit and the tide recedes.

I feel like an onion.   Peeling through the multiple layers will leave you in tears.  Whenever I feel I’ve come to grips with your death, I’m hit by another wave.   My tears come as the overwhelming feeling of sinking into my abyss hits like a slap.

My cancer diagnosis has compounded your death.   I need you here.   I want you here.   You should be here.   I need to hear your voice telling me, “You got this Mom.”   I need you to talk to your brother as only brothers can.  I need you to be here to help me face the unknown.  I need you so badly that I feel myself reliving that horrific fresh pain I experienced early after your death.

I grieve what could have been.  I grieve who I used to be.   I grieve for the life I took so for granted.  I grieve for Ray and all he has lost in a companion.   Layer after layer after layer.   The grief builds up like volcanic ash.   Get too close and you get burned.   Tears flows like ash completely out of my control.   Then the flow stops and mountains of ash are left behind.   Mountains that block this journey to finding peace.

Mountains of tests since my diagnosis.   Grief over the possibilities.   Mountains of newly woken grief over you not being here to hug me.   Grief over how quickly plans and life changes.   Grief when I hear your brothers voice begin to crack as we both share our feeling about your absence.

I’ve read that grieving is a life long process.   I will never get over your loss.  I will never get over losing me.    I pray for the strength to carry my layers as my journey with multifaceted grief will continue as long as I live.

Peeling an onion is like dealing with grief one step at a time.   The onion comes apart one layer at a time.   If you peel harshly you can tear through the  layers causing damage.   If you peel gently the layers fall off easily.

I will work to peel gently through my layers.   Working through one layer at a time.   Dealing with the feelings that I try to run from.   Dealing with my losses in hopes of recovering a small slice of peace………..

 

I Miss You I Miss Me Too…….

Matt,

I don’t know why your anniversary on October 3rd hit me so hard.   It’s been 4 years and 9 months since you left this earth, but for some reason this anniversary hit me like a well thrown brick.   Perhaps it’s because we are only 3 months short of your 5th year angelversary   My brain knows you have been gone this long, my heart still struggles with this painful reality.

I feel like a broken piece of pottery.   Once whole.  Once beautiful.   Once useful.   Now I’ve been shattered so many times the pieces that compose me are sharp and  jagged.   No longer fitting perfectly together.   Leaving large gaps that will never fit together to make me whole again.

I look at pictures of us.  Smiling faces stare back at me.   You as an innocent child in my arms.   The joy radiating from my eyes.   I look at pictures of you and Mike.   Both happy and healthy.   Sadly,  there will be no more pictures of you.   What I have is all that will ever be.

My pictures look nothing like the broken woman I have morphed into.   My eyes carry a sadness that cannot be disguised.   My smile is nothing like the one before your death.   Some days I look at my reflection in the mirror and I want to cry.   I miss who I was before your death.   Now as I battle cancer, my reflection is even more painful.

I look like a ghost of the woman I was before.   Pain has taken its toll on my face and body.   Your loss continues to shock and shatter me.   Our pictures never gave a clue as to how our lives would take a turn that would change me into someone I no longer recognize.

My losses just keep piling on.   First your death.   Then my career.  Next were the friends who ran out of my life as fast as their legs would carry them.  Losing both Bella and Simon within weeks of each other was losing another connection to you.    Now, it’s my health.   I wonder if I will ever be able to piece myself together again.   I wonder if my body will return to a state of normal allowing me to enjoy the little things again.   Yoga and biking.   Walking the dogs and making dinner.   Things I always took for granted as I took for granted that you would beat your disease and live.

So now I struggle to pick up my pieces and find a way to make them fit.   The problem with broken pottery is once it’s broken it can never be repaired to the original state.   It will always show the cracks.   It will always show signs of damage.

The life I’m left to live is one I never saw coming.   I’ve read that grief consists of two parts.   The first being loss.   The next is the remaking of life.   Funny, life has continued to go on around me.   I am older and somewhat wiser.   I have learned not to sweat the small stuff.   As so much of life really is small stuff.   I have learned to stop and feel my grief.   I’ve forgiven myself for not being able to save you.   I know I will never return to the woman I was before your death.   I’m trying to rebuild my pieces.   Somedays I remember you, me and Mike holding hand and singing Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.   Humpty Dumpty had a big fall.   All the Kings’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Matt, never did I think I would be Humpty.   I miss you.   I miss me.   I miss who we used to be…………….

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