Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Looking Back Through Tears.

Matt, it’s been a while since I’ve written.  I’ve thought of you everyday but this cancer treatment and the two surgeries have really beat me down.  I don’t even have the energy to cry about everything that’s happening to me.  Your loss hits so hard every time I remember you complaining about your back pain after your surgery. 

Never in a million years could I ever have imagined that pain would one day invade my body as like you I’ve had back surgery and I’m filled with screws and rods.  

How I wish you could come back just for a few hours.  I would beg your forgiveness for not being more compassionate towards your pain.  I always thought you just wanted an excuse to use the opioids that finally got you addicted and contributed to your death.

All I wanted to do was get you off the pills so you could get your life back in order.  Little did I know how you were suffering every day of your life.  

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I guess that saying is true, Until you walk in someone’s shoes keep your opinions to yourself.  I now understand why you would never sleep in your bed.  I’d always come downstairs to find you sleeping on the couch with the TV blaring.  I blamed you getting high and falling asleep in positions that looked horribly uncomfortable.  I remember waking you up and urging you to go to bed only to have you scowl at me.  

Now I get it. I can’t believe that I have such a hard time sleeping through the night.  I start out in my bed but wake after a few hours in excruciating pain.  I need to get up and walk until the pain settles and then I find myself in the recliner just like I found you.  

I’ve also been given OxyContin.  I’ll admit I had no choice but to take a few as my pain was unbearable at times.  Every time I handle that prescription bottle I flash back to you.    It is the only thing that helps with the pain but I’m terrified of becoming addicted like you did.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to continue to live in pain every moment of every day.  I feel like God is teaching me a very valuable lesson in empathy.  I truly had no idea what you went through until now as I’m going through the same painful journey after back surgery.  

I wish we could go back in time.  Knowing what I now know I would have treated you with compassion instead of expecting you to go to work everyday functioning like a person in perfect shape.  Telling you I understand now really makes no difference as you’ve been gone for 5 years and 2 months.  

I hope you hear my prayers for you.  I hope you know how sorry I am and most of all I hope you forgive me.  I’ve been living like this for 3 months, you lived with this for 7 years as you struggled with chronic pain and the horror of addiction.  

There are no words to describe my grief over losing you and now losing me.  I can no longer advocate the way I used to.  I can’t walk the dogs or do anything that once brought me stress relief and a slice of happiness.  This is not the life I envisioned for us.   I saw you married with children, living at your happy place by the sea.  I saw family vacations with grandkids and grand pups running and jumping in the surf as you and I sat together on the sand sharing the beauty of life.  I saw you and Mike growing older together sharing the joys of fatherhood.  I never saw you dying at 37 or me fighting cancer at 63.   I guess it’s true, we have no control over how life will twist and turn.  That for me is the hardest to accept.  I thought I could save you.  Now I’m fighting for my life not knowing what the outcome will be.   I can only hope that one day we will be together again sitting by the sea, no longer in pain but in paradise. 💜♥️

Time Doesn’t Lessen Grief, Time Magnifies It

Matt,   There is a saying that time heals all wounds.  People tell you to give it time.  Time will help.  As if time has the magical power to help you forget that your child is gone.  As if they have a clue as to how it feels to walk around with half your heart missing.  All time has done for me is to deepen my already intense pain.  All time has done is rob me of the blessing of watching my sons grow old together. Time passes and I realize that I haven’t heard your voice or seen your handsome face for 5 years.

Time is not my friend.  Time has become a painful march of family birthdays and holiday celebrations that are no more.  Time deepens the grief as reality seeps in reminding me that this emptiness will be a part of my soul forever.  Weeks have turned to months.  Months to years.  Yet my grief refuses to loosen its grip on my soul.  Grief has taken over every cell of my body.  It pulses through my veins with every beat of my heart.  Breaking it again as I recognize that memories are all I have left of you.  Happy times when life was as it should be.  Family barbecues, laughter and love.  My two sons enjoying each other’s company as siblings do.

But time doesn’t have a clue.  It marches on and with each new day comes the pain of knowing there will be no phone call or visit today, tomorrow or forever.  Time is like that crack.   It starts small and barely noticeable until it transforms into an enormous undeniable rupture separating life into the before and after.

As time passes people forget.  Returning to their normal lives afraid that grief is catchy.  Friends disappearing into the sunset.  Running as far and as fast as they can.  As if I’m contagious.  Time is a great teacher.  It teaches you who gives a damn.

Time does nothing to lessen grief.  It does everything to magnify it.  I now understand those things I took for granted like having all the time in the world to say the things I wanted to say, to do the things we dreamed about doing were never under our control.  Time fools you into thinking you will always have more.

Time marches on and doesn’t care who it mows down as it marches.  It has no respect for the grieving heart.

The only thing I want to do with time is have it rewind.  Go back to the time when you lived.  I call it a do over.  A time when my heart was whole.  A time when life held joy and hope not pain and regret.

Before your death I wanted time to slow down.  I complained that time was going by too quickly.  Days and months were flying by.  I wanted time to give me more moments to enjoy life.  To allow the seasons to change slowly allowing the beauty of each one to linger longer.

Now time can’t move fast enough.  I want the holidays to fly away and be gone.  Birthdays too.  I want my head to spin and not have time to know my reality and the pain it continues to bring.

I was never afraid of getting older.  I take care of myself.  I’m physically active, not bad looking for a sixty something mom.  Aging didn’t really bother me.  Although it does feel like I was only thirty a few days ago.  I’m not high maintenance, never worried about a new wrinkle popping up as I’ve earned every one being the mother of two boys.  Now I want to close my eyes and be eighty.  I want to be closer to the time I will see you again.  I want to see your face and hear your voice.  I want to be able to hold you and tell you it’s ok.   Matt, you were a beautiful man with a terrible, misunderstood disease.  Prior to your death my time was spent keeping an eye on you.

Before your death time was of short supply.  Working and trying to keep you safe took every second of every day.  Now time is empty, standing still, endless.

Time has also taught me a life lesson.  I have no control over it and what it may bring.  We’ve all heard the saying “In Gods Time Not Ours”.  Now I finally get it.  Time does not belong to us.

The gift of time for me is a double edged sword.  Sharp and cutting one minute.  Peaceful and too quiet the next. I’m learning that time stops for no one.

For as long as I have left I will cherish those beautiful memories and wish I knew then what I know now.  I would have stayed longer and cherished our time sitting together by the sea.  I would have hugged more and argued less.  I would have fought harder to save you.

Living through time without you is hell.  I’ve read that “ Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”

Until we meet again I will treasure the moments we’ve made in the time we had together.  Precious moments that time cannot erase 💜

Rogue Waves……

Matt,   You would think after 5 years, I would have a handle on my grief.   Maybe a small part of my heart started to believe the myth that time would soften the blow of your death.   Maybe to survive I had to think the pain would not always have the crushing power it did in those early days.   Perhaps to continue my journey on earth without you I had to live briefly the fantasy that society wants me to believe.

My reality is the polar opposite.   This grief continues to hit unexpectedly, but just as powerfully as it always has.   I call them rogue waves.   I thought that the passing of time would at least soften the edges of my grief.   Sadly, I’m finding those edges remain sharp.   Like jagged pieces of glass ready to rip my heart to shreds once again.

These waves continue to hit at unexpected times.   Days when I think I’ve got a shred of control over my emotions  I find quite the opposite.   I don’t know if it’s the stress of my cancer diagnosis or just the fact that I continue to rethink your struggle with addiction.   Perhaps I’ve got too much time on my hands now as I recover from back surgery and have had to put my advocacy work on the back burner.   I’m no longer physically capable of running to meetings or being your voice in Legislative Hall.   I’m no longer able to keep my mind busy with changing the broken system that took your life.   Time gives my mind the opportunity to relive it all over and over again.

My empathy for your pain is heightened.   I now get it.   Back surgery is no picnic and this recovery has tested my patience.   I think about how I just didn’t understand your pain.   It’s like any other situation.   Until you live it you can’t get it.

So now my insides churn like an unsettled sea.   I feel like I’m being turned inside out.   I want to lash out at people who think addiction was your choice.   Who think addiction is a moral flaw.  My anger rises to the surface when I least expect it.   Like those rogue waves it leaves me struggling to regain control.

I rethink your last days until I can think no more.   I want to physically hurt the man who dumped you off at a motel to die rather than doing the right thing by taking you to the ER or a detox center.   I want him to hurt physically and emotionally like your death has hurt me.   I want him rotting in jail with no hope of ever seeing the blue sky or hearing the birds sing.   I want him to die alone as much as I want you to be alive.

My grief is now multifaceted.   I grieve us both.   I grieve for what used to be.   I grieve the son you once were and the woman I once was.   I grieve for the future that could have been but now will never be.    I grieve the grandchildren my arms will never hold.   I grieve watching my boys grow old together.   I grieve the years we have lost, the future we will never share.

My grief and my anger walk hand and hand.  Dancing through my mind.   I am helpless to contain either when the reality of life hits with the power of those rogue waves knocking me off my feet  leaving me struggling to find the surface to catch my breath.   Grief is a powerful and never ending emotion.   It does not tell time.  It does not conform to societies perception that time softens the blow of death.

I’ve learned that my grief will last a lifetime.   As will my anger over your unnecessary, untimely death.   I’ve learned those waves are out there and will hit again and again.   I’ve learned that I am helpless when they hit and all I can do is ride them to the best of my ability.

Surviving my reality, your death and my cancer is a challenge.  Never did I see either coming.   I’ve learned life is fragile and full of unexpected events.   I’ve learned that grief is a part of who I am and will remain a part of my life until I cease to be……….

 

 

 

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.

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………

 

 

 

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