Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: advocate mom diagnosed with cancer

Facing And Fearing The Future

Matt,   I feel like the world is spinning out of control.   My anxiety is through the roof.   Some days my heart feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest.   This is exactly how I felt those early months after your death.

I never remember having such fear over what the future holds.   The combination of your loss and my having cancer has once again knocked my world off its axis.   I find it so hard to believe you have been gone for 5 years and 5 months.   I find it hard to believe that this cancer has derailed my plans for a healthy, active future.

I have begun to fear what the future might bring.   Somedays the pain of your loss hits with an unimaginable force.   On those days I feel like I just might lose my mind.   The thought that you are really gone is still so foreign to my mind and heart.   Even today I walk through your closet smelling your clothes searching for a lingering scent.   I run my finger over your picture looking at your smiling face wondering how long my pain will remain.

Then there are the days my cancer fills my mind.   I relive the day and those words that once again shook me to my core.   Exactly like that day and those words letting me know you were gone.   I wonder if the treatments worked.   If the cancer will return.   I wonder if you can see what is happening here in my life.   I wonder if we will be together again.

I try to keep busy.   Exploring new ways to keep those frightening thoughts at bay.   Unfortunately, the back surgery has deterred me from all those physical activities I once did to stay sane.   Biking and kayaking my two go to stress reducers have been put on the back burner. I now remember you so vividly walking like you were an old man.   I remember when I would encourage you to be active in hope of helping your pain and you would look at me like I was crazy.    Well Matt, I get it now.   I walk like an old lady.

I read books about Heaven.   Written by people who had near death experiences and lived to tell of peace and beauty.   They tell of amazing colors and of not wanting to return to earth.   They speak of how their battered bodies are now whole and healthy.   They tell of meeting loved ones who had passed before them and of joyous reunions.   I devour these books looking for my own peace praying that what I’m reading is true and you are young, healthy and happy living in Heaven.   I wonder how long it will be until we are together again living in this place they refer to as paradise.

The future has never held so many unknowns for me.   At least I fooled myself  into thinking I had control when in reality if I had control you would be alive and healthy with a wife and children and I would be cancer free.

They say the future is promised to  no one.   That everyday is a gift from God.   That “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards”.    Looking back there are so many things I would do different.   Looking forward continues to take my breath away.   So many unknowns lurking in the future.

I will continue to pray for God’s peace in accepting my future without you in it.   I pray to be cancer free and to be given the time to accept those things I cannot change.   Know you are missed and loved every moment of my past and my future……..

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.  

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. 💜♥️

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……….

 

 

 

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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