Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Author: MaryBeth Cichocki (page 2 of 16)

My Life Before & After Losing You

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Matt.  I wish I could tell you that things are getting better.  That after 32 months my grief has become manageable.  That it no longer holds the power it once did over my heart and mind.  I wish I could say time is helping to lessen your loss.  I wish I could lie and say the days of gut punches, struggling to breathe and the uncontrollable flow of tears after a song, a smell or a memory hit my heart are gone.  I wish all those things people say to make things better were true.

The reality is my life doesn’t follow any path or pattern.  My reality continues to be one of unexplainable loss and unrelenting grief.

I remember me before the loss of you.  A smart girl who loved life.  Always finding joy in the little things.  Always able to turn lemons into lemonade.

I had a large circle of friends.  My home filled with laughter and love.  Holidays were full with friends who had no family.  The more the merrier.  We laughed until our faces hurt and then we laughed some more. Happy hours on the weekends with whoever was in town.  Crabs and beer.   People and pups.  Life always full of plans and adventures.  Exploring new places in a kayak or on a bike.  I was called the clown, the practical joker.  Always ready to put myself out there at the drop of a hat.  Old pictures show smiling eyes and happiness.

Today, I struggle to find peace.  To accept who I have become since you left.  Joy is something I briefly remember but no longer feel.

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Our house is quiet.  Many Friends have moved on.  I’m no longer that smart girl.  Saving babies is a beautiful memory.  Holidays once so cherished and looked forward to are now something I fight to struggle through. Once celebrated now survived.

I never knew the incredible power of grief.  I would never believe how it changes who you are from the inside out.  I remember holding a screaming mother as she said goodbye to her precious infant. I never in a million years though I would be that mother screaming for my precious son.  Experiencing the heartbreaking loss I witnessed many times in my nursing career.

This grief so much like childbirth.  Until you live it you could never imagine the pain.  My life is in two parts now.  I call it the before and the after.  I no longer recognize the face that stares back at me from my mirror. Grief has taken its toll.  My light is gone.  My eyes show a soul that’s shattered.  I’ve forgotten how to smile. My laughter is a thing of the past.

I look at pictures taken before you left and it hits me that in reality we are both gone.  Pictures of happiness and joyful occasions.  You and me our faces covered in smiles.  Eyes filled with light and life.  From simple everyday stuff to you walking me down the aisle of the tiny church in the woods when you stood by my side as I said I do.  Those pictures encompass our before.  Bittersweet and what I have left of our life so precious, so cherished.

Time is now counted out in the months and days since you left.   I remember the last conversation.   The exact time we spoke.   Our last sharing of the words I love you.   Before I never counted time.  Days, weeks and months flew by unnoticed.   Today everyday that passes is a constant reminder of how long its been since I’ve heard your voice or seen your face.

I now wear a mask.   It protects me from the world.  I’m so tired of defending my grief.  Defending the person I am today.   Wearing my mask is easier.  I’m protected from a cruel world where grieving has an expiration date.  Where grief has overstayed its welcome but refuses to go.

Some days my longing to have you back walks hand in hand with my longing to have me back.   We left together on the very same day hours and miles apart.

No Candles, No Cake, Just Forever Heartbreak

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Matt.   Today, July 30th is your birthday.   It’s one of those milestones that we all get teased about.  The big 40.  Forty years ago you came crashing into my world.   Barely giving me time to breathe let alone make it to the hospital.   You had your own timetable and did it your way.   Fast and furious with barely a warning that you were making your grande entrance into  life.   I remember the first time I saw you.   Your tiny perfect face.  Those amazing green eyes.  Your birth came weeks before I was ready.   Your death came just as quickly leaving me as breathless as your birth.

There will be no family party celebrating your entering the fortieth decade of life.  There will be no teasing about gray hair or the beginnings of bald spots.  No worries about wrinkles or losing your physique.   Your brother won’t be able to dare you to bend low as you blow out your candles setting you up for a face full of cake.   There will be no laughter, burgers or beer.   The only sound will be in the depths of my soul silently screaming for a redo.

Memories flood my mind of past birthdays.   The house full of people and pups.   Celebrating your life.  I remember your smile, your contagious laugh.  I remember you and Mike sitting around the table thick as thieves sharing stories of your shared escapades,  belly laughing over things done  and hidden from mom.  You never acted your age when you were together.   Your personality  brought out the child in you both and I loved sitting back  watching  my men relive their boyish antics.   You and Mike one year and 20 days apart.   Both July babes.  People called you Irish twins.   I called you the loves of my life.

As clearly as I remember the first time I saw you I also remember the last.   Such a contrast in seasons.   Your birth a beautiful warm day in July.   Your death a bitter cold day in January.   I remember hearing your first cries.   Letting the world know you had arrived.   I remember the quietness that greeted me in your death.   The only sound in the room was the sobbing in my soul as I looked at my sleeping boy, so quiet, so cold.   The only similarity in your birth and death was once again it was just us.   You and me.   A mother and her beautiful boy.

I remember running my fingers through your hair.  Still soft even in death.   There will be no grays for you my boy, your hair forever light brown.   I remember touching your face.   Skin smooth and wrinkle free.   A hint of the growth you never shaved shadowed your perfect face.   Your amazing  eyes forever closed.   You could not see me standing next to you.   You could not hear my voice telling you how much I loved you as I did when we first met.    I held your hand and remembered the first time you wrapped your fingers around mine.   The times you reached out for me as we ran into the crashing surf.   Your hands always reaching for mine.  Your hands now so still.  You, my beautiful boy forever frozen in time.   Forever 37.

Today,  I will close my eyes and let the memories of you flood my heart.   I will remember the joy, the love, and the pain that bonds us forever.   I will remember your crazy smile.  Your goofy laugh.   Your big bear hug.  I will picture you and your brother from birthdays long ago.   I will remember you crashing into my life on that July night and I will remember you leaving on that cold January morning.    I will pray that you have found peace.   I will pray that you are whole in body and mind.   I pray that your heaven is a beach and when my time comes you will be there holding out your hand reaching for mine.

Happy 40th birthday my beautiful boy.  How I wish you were here.

 

 

 

 

My Encounter With An Angel

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Matt,   I was having one of those days.   The one where grief lay waiting for me to open my eyes before it slammed into my heart.  The hit so powerful that I found myself breathless even before my feet hit the floor.   Your loss has rocked my world like nothing I could ever have imagined.    These days I find myself unsteady.    Shaking from the inside of my soul.   The ground beneath me is hard to navigate.   My journey is one I never saw coming.   I have lost my compass, my anchor.

On these days I’ve learned I must stay active.  I must physically challenge my body.   I must train my mind to stay away from the reality of my life.   I must keep moving physically escaping the nagging thoughts that constantly take over my brain.   I must outrun grief like it’s a rabid dog biting at my heals.

This day I ignored the excessive heat warnings.   Loading my bike on it’s rack I could feel the weight of my grief getting ready to follow me on this journey of survival.   It was ready to tag along like an unwanted friend as I struggled to find a few moments of peace.

Biking is my therapy.   It has become a way to soothe my soul.  Feeling the breeze on my face as the scenery changes.   Pumping my legs, feeling that adrenaline rush helps push the grief out of my mind.

A bright blue sky with huge puffy clouds greeted me as I headed to my old college town.   This town has trails holding memories from a time long ago.   A time of innocence and expectation.   College life so full of possibilities, hopes and dreams.   Biking down these familiar paths brought memories of happy times before life took me to places I’d never thought I would travel.

I remember biking past Rita’s and thinking I should stop.   Ignoring my thoughts I continued on my journey but I was unable to out run that urge to stop.   Rita’s was considered a treat.   I’d always order a mango Gelati savoring every bite.   Being out of water and soaked with sweat made the decision to stop a no brainer.   My thoughts turned to how great that Gelati would feel sliding down my parched throat.

I found a cool spot in the shade and let my mind wander.   Remembering those happy times long ago when I was a carefree student.   Wanting a do over.  Dreaming of going back in time knowing what I know now.   Wanting your story to have a different ending.   Wanting not to be the grieving mother of a man who lost his battle with addiction.   Wanting to leave my grief behind and rekindle the joy that now eluded my life.

I remember the feeling of being watched.   I was so lost in my own thoughts I wasn’t aware of the couple who decided to join me in my shady paradise.   We exchanged smiles and I surprisingly felt a connection.   Trying to pretend we weren’t glancing in each others direction, the conversation began.

“Hey, I remember you” this man now moving closer tells me.  “You were our nurse in the NICU”.    His wife now standing by his side.   “Yes, you took care of our daughter”.    We shake hands like old friends meeting again.   I remember the mother lowering her head and whispering “She was born addicted”.   “We spent weeks in the NICU”.   With tear filled eyes she shared her story of struggling everyday to get and stay clean. Sharing her embarrassment that her baby was born addicted.   They told me how hard they have worked, both beaming with pride as they spoke of their beautiful, healthy daughter and their journey to recovery.

My eyes filled with tears.   I also remembered.   Seeing them again filled me with both joy and pain.   My grief poured out as I told your story.   Sharing your seven year struggle and your death.   Your struggles so similar to theirs yet your ending so different.   We hugged, both of them holding onto your broken mother.   Tears mingling for a lost life.   Sharing a bond beyond explanation.

We parted with a mixture of smiles and tears.   Connected by love and loss.   I began to walk toward my bike still wiping away my tears.   I felt a hand on my shoulder.  This father built so much like you wrapped me in his arms.   I closed my eyes and for a brief moment felt you.  I allowed myself to disappear into the comfort of his touch.   I drank in the warmth of his big bear hug.   So much like yours.   Memories of how it felt to be wrapped up in your arms flooded my broken heart.   I wanted to hold on forever.   To trick my mind.   Never letting you go.

Biking away I felt peaceful.   Like you reached down from heaven and touched my soul.   I began to think my stopping had nothing to do with enjoying a Gelati.   My chance encounter with a couple who’s life I touched.   Both struggling with addiction.   A son of another mother.   A mother who lost her son.   A man who brought you back to me for an incredible moment.   This man hiding behind your beautiful angel wings.

 

 

 

Screaming Through The Stages Of Grief

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Matt.   I remember being a nursing student and studying the 5 stages of grief.   The book On Death & Dying written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross became every nurses’ bible.   I studied each stage trying to understand the power of grief over our hearts and souls.   During my nursing career,  I became a witness to the grief experience as I helped many families say good bye to their loved ones.   The echo of screams and uncontrollable sobbing etched themselves forever into my brain.   I carried these experiences with me throughout my career.   Never once did I ever think I would be the one screaming.

My education consisted of the theory  that grief followed a straight path.   That we put one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steps from one stage to the next.   I always pictured grief as a linear process.   We had to pass one stage before we could emotionally handle the next.  Textbook grief was so well defined.   Like a Lego project, one step built upon the other until you reached the top and returned to the old you.   People were thought to be “returning to normal” or “getting on with life” after “surviving” all the firsts.   Grief was supposed to be a temporary place where hearts and souls healed.   Grief was like a passing ship.   The impact was felt as the wake hit the pier but soon the waters became calm again and supposedly life returned to “normal”.    I always felt grief was like an exam.   You had to start with the first question before you could get to the last question.

My grief theory was crushed on a snowy January day.   Grief found me.   You died and my world came crumbling down.   That supposedly predictable and orderly pattern that I studied made no sense now that I was the one living it.    To be honest nothing made sense.   30 months later nothing makes sense.

Your death has been such a devastating, disorienting time.   There are days I don’t know how I will ever reach that final step of Acceptance.   Really, am I supposed to just accept that your addiction killed you?   I’m just supposed to chalk it up to life.   I’m just supposed to accept that I can’t pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Accept that you left without warning.   Without a chance to hold you as you took your last breath as I did after you took your first?

I am stuck.   Denial and Anger hold my hands.   They are my constant companions.   Denial keeps me somewhat sane.   Anger fuels my desire to fight the broken system.   The system that let us down and let you die.   I was not prepared for the power of my grief.   I was not prepared to become a stranger to who I once was.   I was not prepared for the reflection staring back at me when I glance in a mirror.   Grief has washed my face and lives in my eyes.   Grief doesn’t know its stages.   It doesn’t know that after all “the firsts” I’m supposed to keep climbing that grief staircase until I get to the top and shout Hoorah I’m done.  I survived.   I made it through and to the top!

My grief is clever.   It’s tricky.   Letting me think that today will be ok.   Today I will be “normal”.   Today I will feel joy.   Today I will not be carrying its weight on my chest.  Today will be better.   Today my grief will be predictable.

The reality of my grief is floating on a tiny raft in a big unpredictable ocean.   Waves hit hard tossing me in the frigid water.   They pull away allowing me to catch my breath before hitting again.    My grief has me floating in a fog never knowing when it will sneak up.  Grief creeps up and squeezes me from behind as a memory hits or a song plays.   I’m dry eyed one minute, a sobbing mess the next.

I have learned in my reality there are no stages of grief.   Grief is a crapshoot.   It shifts and changes.   It’s never the same minute to minute, hour to hour.    Grief ebbs and flows.   Grief has it’s own mind.   It makes you feel like you’re losing what’s left of your mind.  Grief cannot be contained or controlled.     Grief has moved into my soul and I have no idea how to evict it.

 Grief is as unique as a fingerprint.   Grief has no set pattern.  However we survive is how we survive.   The only thing I’ve learned for sure is that until you meet grief you have no imaginable idea of it’s power over your life.   The other think I know for sure is that Grief Sucks!!!!!!!

Denial Is My New Best Friend

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Matt.   Denial is defined as a refusal to accept a past or present reality.   It’s a self defense mechanism  that comes from the subconscious mind in an attempt to protect both the psychological and emotional wellbeing of the person struggling to accept the harshness of the thing we call reality.

Denial is used to protect our minds from a painful reality repressing the truth to guard our mental health.   In other words, denial keeps me from losing my mind.

I think my denial started very early in your addiction.   Like most parents I just never thought that dirty word would ever come crashing into our perfect family.   How could it?   I was a nurse.   We lived in great neighborhoods and you went to a private school.   You went on to trade school.   You started a business, lived at the beach.   You were living my dream life.    How in the hell did addiction creep into our fairy tale and shatter it to pieces?

I remember the call.   You hurt your back.   You needed help.   The injury required surgery.   You stayed with me for weeks to recover.   I drove to the pharmacy and got your script filled.   Those poison Percocet would one day lead us down the road through hell.   As a nurse, I knew post-op pain was tough.   As a nurse I should have known the dangers of giving you those pills.   As a mom, I wanted you to feel better and go back to living your life.   Little did I know how much your brain was changing right before my denying eyes.

Denial kept me in my safe place for years.   Visiting you at the beach, my denial kept me from clearly seeing the subtle changes in you.   The unkept house, the unpaid bills.   My denial allowed me to believe everything that came out of your mouth.   You worked late.   You forgot about deadlines.  Of course Mom I’m fine.

Denial is how I survived those horrific seven years as we rode the rollercoaster of your addiction.   Never once did my denial let me believe you would not survive.    I denied the ugliness as it swirled around our beings.    The words spoken, the lies told, the yelling and screaming weren’t real.   We were both just stressed and so damn tired of how your disease wrapped it’s chains around us and refused to let go.

I denied that I was an enabler.   No way, not me.   I’m a mother trying to help her son.   I denied that those pills would kill you.   After all they were just pills and they were prescribed over and over again by a doctor! A doctor would never overprescribe and watch his patient self destruct.   No way…..

My denial kept me so protected from our reality.   I was wrapped so tightly in my shell nothing could penetrate unless it hit me like a rock splitting a can wide open.   You calling the police after I hid your pills was that first split.

Denial fit perfectly.   I could poke my head out for a bit.   Deal with what I could and slip easily back into my cocoon.   The reality of our lives was harsh.   Denial was easy, denial was soft.

Denial was my first reaction upon hearing those words I denied would ever come.   “It’s Matt”.  “He’s dead”.   No way.   The first reaction was NO.   Matt promised me he was ok.   He promised me he would never hurt me like this.   He Promised.  I refused to believe you were gone.   Those bastard pills, those f…….. doctors.   No it had to be a mistake.   Someone stole your wallet.   It’s another mother who should be called, not me.

I denied it was you until my cocoon shattered as I saw you laying so still.   You, my Matt were gone.   My denial slowly slipped away as I ran my fingers through your hair still soft in death and laid my head on your chest to hear nothing but the echoes of my sobs.

There are days I allow myself to slip back into my safe world.   Days I walk by your urn and tell myself to breathe.  Days I deny reality and allow myself the luxury of denial.    You are living in Florida.   Spending your days by the sea we both love.   You are in recovery and very much alive.

Denial is how I get through those days when I feel my mind starting to break.   It’s how I keep myself from falling into a million pieces and blowing away in the harsh winds of my reality.   Denial is a friend I call upon to survive when survival is nothing I want.    Denial is that warm blanket holding my broken pieces together as I learn to live life without you.

 

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