Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Author: MaryBeth Cichocki (page 1 of 22)

Grief Is Like A Jar Of Pickles

Matt,

Since your death, I’ve been living not just with complicated grief, but also with PTSD.   There are days when the slightest noise has me hanging from the ceiling.   I struggle with feelings of not knowing where I fit in anymore.   There are days I question my role here on earth.   Your addiction kept me crazy but your death left me broken and questioning life.

The old me left the day you did and the new me struggles with who I’m supposed to be now.   It feels like being transported to another place where you don’t understand the language.   You constantly get lost and find yourself looking for something familiar.

I’ve learned that very few people understand when I try to explain what it’s like to be me.   They think I should be back to my pre-grief state.   That life should just return to normal and drag me with it.   What they don’t and never will understand is that profound loss slices you in half.   You become the “before” and the “after” pieces of your tragedy.   As time passes the “before” you drifts further and further away.   Leaving you with an identity that even you can’t identify with.   You long for the old you but know the road back to finding her again has imploded.

I find it harder and harder to remember the woman I was before your death.   The girl who laughed at the stupidest of things.   Who would even laugh at herself.   I remember looking forward to little things.   I remember having happy hours and bon fires.   I remember having lots of fun.   I remember a reflection with bright eyes and a natural smile.   Now I see a silhouette in a fog slowly drifting away.

Trauma changes you.   It unravels you.  It takes you to the darkest of places.   Things you once thought would never happen have happened leaving you hanging from that mental cliff clinging to the last piece of your soul.   The “before” you has been sucked away and the “after” you lay in pieces at your feet.   You try to make sense of this “after” you, but the pieces are hard to fit together.   Like a puzzle that just doesn’t make sense when a large part of it is missing.

I was with a friend one day.   This friend totally gets where I’m coming from.   She understands when I say the “before” me has vanished and this new “after” me is still struggling to fit.   Like a pair of old jeans that once felt like home now rewoven and uncomfortable.   She has survived her own trauma.   The assault of breast cancer on her body and mind.   Like me the “before” her was totally destroyed and replaced with an “after” person she continues to try to identify with.   We both grieve the women we once were.   We often compare notes on how things continue to have a trickle down effect on both our lives.

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During one of these conversations she said something that gave me an Ah ha moment putting a true perspective on what I’ve been living with since your death.   Without even knowing how profound this statement was and how it would impact me for the rest of my life she calmly looked me in the eye and said, “Once you become a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber”.    Yes, I know it sounds like a crazy thing to say in the midst of an emotional conversation, but when you really think about it, it’s the most insightful statement I’ve ever heard about who you become after you live with grief or survive a trauma.

The transformation from cucumber to pickle can never be reversed.   Everything used in the process leaves a permanent mark.   The same with grief, whether it’s over the loss of a child or the loss of a healthy you, it leads you through a process that can never be undone.

There are days when the world can be sweet, then without warning an unexpected trigger can turn everything dark.   Just like a jar of pickles we never know how the day will taste.   Will it leave us with an unpleasant bitterness or a fleeting moment of unexpected pleasure.  We never know how the “after” effects of grief  will play out as we navigate unfamiliar territory.

It continues to amaze and comfort me that a simple statement had the power to  validate what I feel on a daily basis.  It also brings me extreme comfort knowing that I’m not the only pickle trying to find my place in the glass jar called life…..

 

 

 

 

The Struggle Is Real

 

Matt,  I find it shocking how those waves of emotion can hit and cause me to crash back into that dark, angry place.   My mind continues to battle anxiety, grief and guilt.  I feel like a juggler.  Trying to keep those emotions high in the air, far away from my heart.   Life is different now.   Time has done nothing to lessen the reality that continues to send shock waves through my soul.

This grief is like none other.   I continue to tell myself that this is my new reality.   That you really did die.   It’s like my brain knows the truth but continues to put up that barrier protecting my sanity.   My body has taken a hit.   When the memory of hearing those painful words replay in my brain my throat starts to constrict.   My heart starts to race and my stomach turns inside out.   There are days I feel like I’m silently dying.   That little by little my body is slowly disengaging from life.   I feel like I’ve been knocked senseless.  There are days I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Memories are so bittersweet.   Flashes of your smiling face, images of you walking on the beach with the dogs continue to take my breath away.   I want so badly to reach out and touch your skin.   To see you turn around and open your arms to me.   I want to wake up from this nightmare and hug you.   I want to be transported back in time.

I struggle trying to make sense of what I never saw coming.   Why would a parent ever think they would outlive their child?   My worry was how you would fare if something happened to me.   Now I touch your urn and force my heart to accept that this is all that’s left of your beautiful face, your amazing eyes, your contagious laugh and your heartwarming smile.

I struggle with my faith.   My belief in heaven.   My hope of seeing you again.   Of never again being separated by death.   I continue to question why God allowed you to die.   Is it punishment for something I’ve said or done?   Was your death at 37 already predestined at your birth?   So many unanswered questions haunt me as I lay in bed enveloped in the darkness of my grief.

I struggle with societies perception of how long grief should last.   I question myself.   Its been 4 years and 2 months yet it continues to hurt like hell and feel like yesterday.   I feel like I’m starring in Groundhog Day.   Reliving your death every morning as I remember I can’t pick up the phone and hear your voice.  We can’t share whats been happening in our day.  I relive it every night as I drag my exhausted mind into bed realizing I haven’t wished you a peaceful night.

I search for book written by other grieving parents.   Looking for answers on how to survive this devastating loss.   I’ve found we all share the common bond of shock, numbness and despair.   That others like me share the feeling of losing their minds over the unthinkable loss of their child.  That like me their bodies and brains have taken a hit.   That life will never return to normal.   We all live in the reality of before and after.   We’ve learned that everything we thought we knew about grief was a lie.   It knows no boundaries.   It has no timeline.   It hits hard when least expected.   It moves in and never leaves.

I struggle with friends who are no longer.   Those who chose to walk away.   As if my grief was a virus they needed protection from.   Fellow nurses who’s ups and down’s I’ve shared.   Holding them up as they buried husbands.   Celebrating marriages and grandchildren.   Giving me one last hug at your funeral and disappearing into the sunset.

I struggle with the disappearance of family members.    Life is just too busy for a visit or phone call.   Those I though would have become closer have drifted away.   I’ve learned we are not promised tomorrow.   I was one of them before your death.   Always thinking there was time to make that call or plan that visit.   I struggle to lower my expectations of people.   I struggle with the reality that along with you I’ve lost many more..

I struggle with expectations of myself.   Who I am and what I must do to survive the rest of my life.  I struggle accepting that I had no say in how my life would be.   I struggle with self kindness and care.   I struggle with giving myself permission to throw my mask against the wall allowing the world to see the real me.   I struggle with cutting myself a break when I realize that tears flow at a moments notice with no warning as to why.

Then I remember.   I lost my son.   I have earned the right to scream if I need to.   I’ve earned the right to take a step back and hold onto whatever or whoever is throwing a life preserver my way.   I’ve earned the right to be pissed at the world.   To be pissed at people who complain about their lives on days when reminders of you are everywhere.

Most of all I’ve accepted that my struggle to find peace will continue for a lifetime.   As will my longing to see you again…….

 

 

 

 

The Future That Was Never Meant To Be

Matt,   I’m having such a hard time believing that we are coming up on 50 months.   The 3rd of March marks another month added to the long list of the months that have passed since your death.   I find myself feeling guilty and anxious that I’ve not been able to follow that so called grief path.   Society continues to believe that grief comes with an expiration date.   I find this disturbing as it makes me feel like there really is something wrong with me.

I’m tired of trying to talk myself into feeling “better”.   Like I should be able to adjust to life without my youngest son like someone adjusts to a change in the weather.  As if enough time will ever pass to make me less vulnerable to those grief waves.

Those who have never experienced child loss have no idea how life altering and complicated our grief truly is.   I’ve seen the look on peoples faces when I tell your story and begin to choke up.   I’ve heard,  ‘Oh, I thought it just happened recently, not four years ago”.    As if a mother should put on the stiff upper lip as she speaks about her dead child.

I tell those who have never buried a child that this experience resembles childbirth.   One can tell you how it feels and what might be expected, but until you experience it on a personal level you will never come close to imagining how those contractions can take you to a place of excruciating pain almost unimaginable to the human mind.   The pain of child loss does the same.

As child birth comes with hopes and dreams for the future, child loss comes with the demolition of those dreams.   That’s the worst part of a parents grief.   Not only have we lost our child, we’ve also lost their future.   In losing that future we have lost a large part of ourselves.

That’s the biggest misconception society will never understand.   When a parent buries their child they bury so much more.    Child loss goes against what society deems as normal.   Children are supposed to bury their parents not the other way around.   That is the so called “norm” we are taught to believe from childhood.   I stressed about how you would survive after I died.   Never once did I think I would be the one struggling to survive after your death.

You will be forever 37.   Your future cut brutally short.   The dreams of what I desperately wanted for you died with you and left me struggling to accept that your future was never meant to be.   Those dreams of watching you take a bride.   Of receiving a call that your son or daughter had arrived.   Watching you experience fatherhood.   Or watching you grow old, get gray and still want to walk on the beach with your mom.

Child loss is like non other.   Parents like me remain unnamed.  We are not widows, nor are we orphans.   The English language has yet to identify a word to describe us.   Losing a child is absolutely undescribable.

The length of time after child loss makes no difference.   It’s new each day as parents wake and reality hits.   Our brains and bodies have the grueling task of moving into the future as we leave a part of our hearts behind.

 

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Grief

Matt,   I never wanted to have this personal relationship with grief that I do.   I never really thought I would know this heartbreaking,  life changing type of grief.   I never thought it would become my life partner.   I never thought it would become a part of my soul and stay forever in my heart.  This grief is like the blood that pumps through my body.  It has become part of who I am.

I’ve learned that grief doesn’t keep track of time.   Although four years have passed since your death, this grief is as powerful as it was in the very beginning.   I’ve learned that the first year is not the hardest.   Surviving all those firsts really means nothing.   That first year fog protects you like a warm cocoon.   It shields you from the reality that life will never be the same.   It enables you to continue to breathe, to survive.   But it in no way prepares you for what is to come.

I’ve learned that this grief does not soften with the passing of time.   I’ve learned there is no escape from those unexpected gut punches.   Those powerful, crushing waves continue to knock me off balance just as they did in the very beginning.   Time brings with it the harsh reality that this is it.   This grief is here to stay.   This grief remains as overpowering and relentless showing no signs of letting up.   Time continues to march on as years follow dragging me through the next birthday and holiday without you.   Dragging me kicking and screaming begging for a short break from the pain of your loss.

I’ve learned there are no stages of grief.   I bounce from one emotion to the next without warning.   There are no straight set of rules.   There is no passing one stage to get to another.   No passing go to find peace.  Grief is not linear.   Grief is a tangled mess.   The more you fight the emotions, the tighter it’s grip becomes on your heart.   Grief is anxious and dirty.   Grief is losing control in the blink of an eye.   Grief is a trigger that hits like an explosion in your head and heart.   Grief is the mess your life becomes after losing a child.

I’ve learned grief never sleeps.   She’s there lurking in every corner waiting to pounce as soon as she feels your vulnerability surface.   Grief grabs you as soon as you awaken and follows you through your day.   Like a lost pup she nips at your heels.   Tiny bites with a sharpness that can’t be ignored.   Grief follows as you close your eyes to rest.   She comes in those haunting memories, the what if’s, the I should have’s, the why’s.   Grief is a 24/7 animal.

I’ve learned that grief can partner with guilt.   Adding regret for things done, said, not done and not spoken.   She teams up with so many powerful emotions that leaves the heart and soul spinning out of control.   Grief is a constant reminder of reality.   Grief continues to beat you down until you are battered and bruised.   Grief however long she’s been in your life will continue to take your breath away.

I’ve learned that grief will shake your beliefs about God.   I questioned why he allowed you to die.   I questioned why my prayers of keeping you safe were ignored.   I questioned where God was when you were taking your last breaths.   I questioned where he is now.   I’ve learned that without God I would never have survived your death.   I’ve learned that God is quiet and I need to let him be in control.   I’ve learned that what happened in your life and at the time of your death was between you and God.   I’ve learned to talk to God like he is a friend not always in a prayer but like he is standing beside me.   I’ve learned that if I open myself up to signs they will be there.

I’ve learned that I will never be the same woman.   The eyes looking back at me show a profound sadness.   I’ve learned that I have an inner strength I never knew existed.   I fear nothing.   I’ve learned never to take life for granted.  I appreciate the sunrise, the birds singing, the warmth of a winter sun.   I look at life through a different lens.   I judge less.   I’ve learned everyone is living through something hidden behind the masks we wear.

I’ve learned that living with grief is not for the faint of heart.   I’ve learned my grief has a life of it’s own.   I know there is no escape.   I’ve learned my grief must be accepted and acknowledged. My grief is as powerful as my love was and remains for you.  I’ve learned not to fight when the waves hit.   I must allow the grief to wash over me knowing that my life will always be vulnerable to those little things that bring you back to me.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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