Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

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.

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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……

 

 

The Space You Left Behind

Matt,   Today is Thanksgiving.   I can feel the grief stalking me as I try to keep my mask in place as I  face this bittersweet day.   That battered mask I wear hiding my true heartbreak from the world.   Today is a day to give thanks for all the blessings we have received throughout the year.   Yes, I know I have been blessed.   I have my health, my home, a loving husband.   I have your brother and a beautiful granddaughter.   I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but your loss puts my life into a different perspective.   What I long for is to have you here.

Memories of past Thanksgivings flood my brain.   I close my eyes and go back to a time when holidays were full of crazy family chaos.   I can see you and Mike standing side by side frying the turkey as your laughter surrounded your faces as frozen breaths of air.   I can still hear your voices and see your heads almost touching as you tried to keep your conversation from drifting into the house.

The rest of us inside staying warm, sipping wine as we prepared the rest of our feast.   The dogs underfoot trying to grab whatever morsel of food that fell to the floor.   My heart was full of gratitude having both my boys and my family under one roof to celebrate our blessings and each other.

Thanksgiving of 2014 would be your last Thanksgiving on earth.   If only I had known.  You were in a sober home in Florida as your addiction reared it’s ugly, unrelenting head once again.   I was celebrating with family at home, but my heart was in Florida with you.   Your absence left a void that nothing could fill.   As we sat around the table I dialed your number longing to make you a part of the family’s conversation.   Your voice sounded amazing.  Clear and strong.   I could picture your smile as you shared your holiday plans with us.

You were gathering with friends to share turkey and fellowship.   You sounded excited about life once again.   I could hear the old Matt back in your voice and although I missed you terribly I knew your recovery was priority over my wanting you home.   As I passed the phone around the table, everyone agreed how great you sounded.   We were all so proud of your recovery and looked forward to future holidays together.   If only I had known.

I remember stalking your Facebook page sitting alone in the dark Thanksgiving night.   Family gone.  The house cleaned and quiet.   I needed to see your face and convince myself that I could relax and trust that my blessings would continue along with your recovery.   You posted the best picture of you and all your friends.   Happy smiling faces all wrapped up in one big hug.   I have that picture in a frame.   I stare at your face in disbelief.  If only I had known…………

 

 

Searching For A “New Normal”

Matt,   the definition of normal is something that conforms to a general pattern, ordinary or usual, typical, something that would be expected.   I can tell you, I’ve been searching for “normal” for 46 months.   Ever since you died nothing for me has felt “normal”.    It’s not normal for a mother to bury her child.   There is nothing normal about having to visit your child at a memorial garden.   Nothing ordinary about not being able to pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Nothing expected as I put my hands on your urn in my attempt to feel close to you.

It’s not normal to feel like your choking everyday.   Not normal to feel like your heart split in half but still remains beating in your chest.  My emotions are wild changing from moment to moment.   Memories still have the power to bring me to my knees.   Normal is not breaking down when hearing a song, seeing a young father holding hands with his child or having to choke back tears as two little brothers ring your doorbell yelling Trick or Treat.

It’s not normal to walk around on unstable ground.   Feeling anxious and foggy.  I’ve suffered through losses before.   This is worlds apart from anything I’ve ever lived through.   This normal was never expected.   What was expected was you to grow old.  To marry.   To be in my life until it was time for me to go, not you.   Normal is burying your parents, not your child.

So how do I find my “new normal?”    I’ve heard that term so much I want to scream.   How in the hell can anything be normal after your child has died.   I know people mean well.   People who have never lost a child are so quick to tell me how to adjust to this new phase in my life.   Really, people who can hug their kids, call their kids, share meals with their kids telling me that this is my “new normal.”

These well meaning strangers have never ridden my emotional rollercoaster.   They don’t experience my triggers.   They haven’t been hit by the grief bus.   The one that returns time and time again to slam me over and over.   They don’t get the fact that my future has changed.   Plans, goals and dreams are no more.   My brain gets it but my heart struggles to accept the collateral damage that I walk through everyday.

Believe me,  I have trouble believing that after all the time that has passed I’m still breathless when reality hits.   That 46 months feels like yesterday.   That there is no way that we are 2 months away from the 4 year mark.   My brain screams how, how, how have I survived this long?   How can it truly be that I have not heard your voice or seen your smile for almost 4 years?

There is nothing normal about not having your child in your life.   There is nothing normal about having to put on your mask to face a world that is terrified of the grieving.   I’ve learned that this so called “new normal” is just a polite way to tell grieving parents to get over it.   It’s just one of those new terms that’s supposed to fix our broken lives.

What I’ve learned is that life will never be normal.   Whether it be “new” or not there is nothing normal about life after losing a child.  I’ve also come to understand that grief has no timetable.   It follows no predictable course.   Nothing about grief is normal.   It is a personal journey that no one can walk for you.   Grief is heartbreaking, complicated, powerful and unbalancing.   It is anything but “Normal.”

 

As The Seasons Continue To Change My Grief Remains Unchanged

Matt,   It’s hard for me to believe that you have been gone for 45 months and 18 days.   But who’s counting?   Right.   I am.  I’ve been counting the days as they turned from weeks to months, then  from months to years.   I’ve watched as Spring brings new life to the earth. Plants burst forth in a riot of color.   Birds fly in and out of the garden houses building nests in anticipation of new life.  The summer sun warms my soul as the earth continues its beautiful transformation.   In the blink of an eye Summer becomes Fall.  Magnificent colors continue to mark the earth with incredible beauty.   Before long a cold wind blows bringing in the darkness that announces the arrival of Winter.

The changing seasons remind me of another time of counting.  I counted the months while  carrying you.   Praying we would make it past that first trimester sailing along until you decided to announce yourself to my world.   You were a Summer baby.   You became an incredible man who died on a cold winter day.   You took your first breaths on July 30th and your last on January 3rd.   I look at your stone and compare the J’s and 3’s asking myself the question that has no answer.   Why?

I started a garden to honor you.   To have a place to come and talk to you.   A place to scream and cry.  To be alone in the grief that continues to grip my heart as I see your name engraved on that cold stone.   You never wanted to be in the ground.   Some of your ashes are scattered here.   Your garden changes with the seasons.    My grief remains the same.

Somedays it hits without warning.   I will be digging in the cool soil clearing out the old plants, while planning for the new.    My mind focusing on colors and smells.   A memory hits of another time when we knelt side by side planting flowers in another garden.   Both muddy and laughing as the dogs did their best to trample our new plantings.   I can hear your laughter and see your smile.   I am reduced to tears as that one poignant memory leads to another.

As the seasons change your garden follows.    Summer perennials attract butterflies and colorful birds.   Summer brings another reminder that you will be forever 37.   Summer brings birthday candles to your garden.    I light them and sing out loud.  Watching the flames flicker in the soft breeze.   I wait for them to blow out and wonder if you are there with me.  Memories of past celebrations come and join us.  Days when we thought time was on our side.   That birthdays would never end as abruptly as they did.  The peace of the garden hugs my heart allowing my grief to be present.

Fall brings a new beauty to your garden.   Mums in an array of blazing colors surround your stone.   Dead flowers are removed allowing room for a new brightness.   Bright red cardinals surround the feeder as leaves fall covering the damp grass.   An unwanted reminder that soon the ground will freeze and the season of planting will be done.

Winter brings a deep stillness to your garden.  It will surrender to sleep just as you did that cold January morning.   Do not fear.   My need to feel close leads me back to you.    I will continue to come and brush the snow off your stone.   I will continue to tend to your garden as I tend to my heart.   I will keep the feeder full giving the cardinals a reason to come.    I will sit quietly allowing my grief a place to be as the seasons change and memories find me.

Similar to the passage of time and the changing of the seasons my grief marches on………..

 

 

 

 

Wrapping Us Up With You.

Matt.   I had myself fooled.   Thinking that after 43 months I would be able to walk into your closet and not lose what was left of my mind.   A friend had offered to make a quilt out of your shirts and I so wanted this to happen.   I remember my self pep talk all morning.   I kept telling myself to be strong.   I kept saying over and over again, “You can do this.”    I kept telling myself it was time to go through your clothing and donate some to a homeless shelter, knowing you would approve.   I kept telling myself that your sweaters and coats would be useful in keeping a stranger warm this winter.   I kept thinking how wasteful it was to keep everything just as it was when you were alive.   Like you would come walking through the door looking for your favorite sweater.   Like I was expecting you to come up to the kitchen freshly showered smelling of Phoenix telling me about your work day.

Your closet was the biggest in the house.   A huge walk in fully carpeted and lined with shelves.   Before you moved home, I used it for storing winter coats and odds and ends that I couldn’t decide what to do with.    I remember putting my hand on the door.   Giving myself that last push.   Once again telling myself I could do this.

Pushing through the doors allowed light to flood the room.    I stood surrounded by you.   Your tee shirts and sweaters neatly folded on the shelves.   Jackets hanging in the order last worn.    I closed my eyes taking a deep breath as I sat on the floor and started to unfold your clothing.   I didn’t realize the power of my grief.   I started burying my face in your clothing.   Pulling things off hangers and wrapping myself up in sweaters, coats and anything I could get my hands on.    I didn’t understand the sounds coming from the depths of my soul had broken through the silence of the house.    I didn’t realize that I was no longer alone lying sobbing on your closet floor until I felt her wet nose.

Belle lay down next to me.   Trying to comfort me with her body.   She like me would bury her nose in your clothing.   Occasionally lifting her head and smelling the air.   I could see it in her eyes that her heart recognized your smell just like mine did.    Belle tilted her head when I mentioned your name.   She like me was looking for you.

We sat together for most of the afternoon.   Belle laying in the pile.   Me wrapped up in the mess I’d created.   Both of us smelling each piece trying to recover your scent.  Every shirt held a bittersweet memory.    Each one telling a story.    Some came from travels to the Caribbean.   Some bought just because you couldn’t  stop laughing after reading their message.    In my mind I could picture you wearing each one.    Some were captured in the photos lining our bookshelves.

I lost track of time as I allowed myself the gift of grieving you with no one to witness my brokenness.   Just the dog we both loved.   I sat talking to Belle as if she understood.    I talked about you and I walking together on the beach as Belle and Kahlua played in the surf.   I talked about all the times we shared with the dogs in our happy place.   I told her how she lived with you while I found a new home.   I told her you constantly told me she was your dog now and you weren’t giving her back with that big grin on your face.   I swear she understood as her snout continued to smell the air surrounding us.   I let myself relax into her as memories of happy times at the beach flooded my brain.   It was as if my dam broke and all the tears and memories were released together.

I don’t remember putting your things in a bin.   I think that fog settled into my brain.   The fog that protected my psyche as I was driving to my dear friends home allowing her to transform the most precious pieces left of your life.   I do remember sobbing as I placed the bin in her arms.   Almost as if I was a new mom turning over my precious child to the care of another.   She asked if I wanted to assist her in how the quilt would be put together.   Wanting me to give her guidance in how to create a piece to honor your life.

I just couldn’t do it.   As ashamed as I was of my inability to help, I was emotionally spent.   I would never survive holding those precious pieces so soon before I could begin to repair my shattered soul.

The call came days later.   Your quilt was complete.   Emotions swam through my brain.   I wasn’t ready to face the reality that your quilt would represent.   These shirts would never be worn by you again.   This reality hit over and over as I drove through blinding tears to pick you up bringing  you home again.

Walking through her door I saw her masterpiece.   The quilt was displayed on her couch.   I put my hand over my mouth to cover my sobs as she wrapped me in her hug.   She laid the quilt in my arms like a precious newborn.   I drink you in.    Holding you and burying my face into you.   Heading home I placed you on the passenger seat.  Talking to you as I did when you were alive.

I carried you upstairs and laid you across my bed.    Belle now by my side.   Her nose seeking your scent.    We sat next to each other, a grieving mother and her loyal dog sharing a loss felt deeply by both.    Wrapped up together with the memories of the boy we both loved and lost……………..

 

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