Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: complicated grief

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.”

 

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……………..

 

Imagining Heaven

Matt,   Since your death I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Heaven.   I want to know everything there is to know.   I want to know if your happy.   If your Heaven really is a beach.   I have memories of us laughing sitting side by side watching the waves crash onto the shore and both saying “Heaven is a beach”.   We were so alike.   Our love of the sea is a tie that will forever bind us.

My bookshelves are lined with books written by those who returned after a near death experience.   I read their words closing my eyes and letting my soul imagine the colors, shapes and sounds.   I see your smile in my mind.   I hear the song of the gulls and remember the salty spray in my face.   I see you as a child.  Racing your brother through the waves.   Your laughter was beautiful music to my ears.   The vastness of the sea always made me feel the wonder of God.

I wonder about the nature of life after death.   I search my bible for comfort in knowing that you arrived in Heaven and never looked back.   Looking for answers anywhere they can be found.   I scour book stores like someone dying of thirst.   I need to know.   There are days the clouds roll into my heart and I question everything I believe.   Those dark days bring such pain to my heart.   Those are the days you’ll find me talking out loud to God.    Days I beg for a sign.   My desperate heart needs proof.   Those are the days I feel the weight of my grief.   Questioning everything I’ve ever believed about God and his Heaven.

The hardest part of your death besides missing you everyday is the wonder if I will ever see your handsome face again.   So much was left unsaid and undone.   Always thinking there would be more time.   Never thinking you would leave me behind to find my new normal.   I wonder if you will be there when I leave this earth.   You were never afraid to die.   I remember our conversations.   How you amazed me with your thoughts about God and Heaven.   How many times it was you comforting me.   How ironic a child giving peace to his mother.

I’m left with unanswerable questions.   Questions that have the power to haunt my broken heart.   Questions that cause me to sit on the edge of the dark abyss of the unknown.   Questions that shake me to my core.  On those days I reach for my Bible.   This amazing book spent so much time sitting on my shelf unopened.   I talk to God asking him to speak to me.   To give me what I need to survive your loss and the emptiness that has taken up residence in my heart.    Matt, I can hear you laughing as I write this.    Your Mom reads the Bible.

I found John Verse 14.  “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me.  In my fathers house are many rooms, if it were not so I would have told you.   I go to prepare a place for you.   And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself;  that where I am you will also be”.   Reading this verse filled my aching soul with a peace I haven’t felt since you left.

I remember begging God to keep you safe.   To take care of you until we were together again.   Never did I think my prayers would be answered the way they were.  Never did I think God would take you home before me.   Your death broke my faith and at the same time is helping to slowly rebuild it.   If you lived, my Bible probably would have remained unopened.   Now the Scriptures are where I run to on those rocky days.   Sitting alone, my bible opened looking for answers.   I can feel you surround me with your peace.   I close my eyes and see your face.   Your beautiful eyes.   Your smile.   I see you walking near the most beautiful sea.   The bluest water.   Kahlua running by your side.

Oh Matt, my beautiful boy the sea continues to connect us.  My dream is that one day when my eyes close on earth they will open again to see your beautiful eyes face to face.  Together we will run into the waves holding onto each other, never letting go.   My grief will wash away with the tide.   The gulls will sing a song of joy and Jesus will greet us saying “Yes my children, Heaven is indeed a beach”.

 

 

 

Why Is This Grief So Complicated?????

Matt,  This complicated grief is nothing like the grief people who have never experienced think it is.  Most people, at least some of the people I’ve come in contact with still think grief has a time frame.  Supposedly, normal grief is still thought of as something you glide through.  Going from one stage to the next until you reach the finish line.  After that so called specific acceptable time frame, the grief just disappears into thin air.  Like magic, poof, it’s gone.  Life then supposedly returns to normal.

Unlike the so called “normal” grief, complicated grief doesn’t seem to follow a time line.   It doesn’t seem to care that it’s been years.  It seems that time can continue to pass and complicated grief just clings tightly to your heart.   Complicated grief is usually associated with the loss of a child.   This grief is unbearably devastating.

What makes this grief so tough is that I find you have to constantly defend it.  People will bring up how long it’s been.  Oh yes, believe me I know how long its been.   So does every other parent who has lived through the death of their child.  What I don’t understand is why how long its been should have any impact on how long or how deep a parent continues to grieve.

The loss of a child goes against mother nature.  Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.   The loss of a child shatters the foundation of what we have been taught to be normal in our world.   The loss of a child rocks parents to their core.   We begin to question everything we have learned throughout our lifetime.   We question our faith.   We wonder how a loving God could have allowed our child to die.   I remember my daily prayers.   Every morning and night I prayed to God for your safety.   I prayed for you to have the strength to beat your addiction.   I truly believed that if I let go and let God all would be ok.   Imagine how I felt when I got that life shattering call that you were gone.

I felt totally betrayed by my God.   I felt like I had done something so horrible that he was punishing me by allowing my greatest fear to come true.   I felt abandoned and alone.   I questioned every belief I’d ever known.   Feeling that I’d not only lost you but also lost my trust in how the world should be.   It’s taken years to rebuild my faith.   To know that God did answer my prayers.   He saved you not my way but his.   To this day God and I have an agreement.   We agree to disagree on answered prayers.

Through my grief I have found many blessings.   At first I felt abandoned, alone.   Many friends walked away and never looked back.   Apparently my grief made them uncomfortable.   Believing that I should get over it and get back to a so called “normal”.   They wondered how they could be around someone who was so deeply grieving.   Rather than helping me through they simply disappeared.   The years of friendship meant nothing.   Shared experiences all forgotten.  Grief scaring them so deeply it was safer to abandon a friend than to stand by her side.

Isolation is a large part of how grief becomes complicated.   I never believed what I’d heard.   But since living it I know it’s true.   People forget you are still here.   Forget you are trying to navigate through your new life.   Trying to figure out how to survive without your child.  Mourning the hopes and dreams once so alive now gone in the blink of an eye.  No more phone calls or visits,  just complete abandonment by people who were once considered close friends.   You wake up one day and it hits.  Not only have you lost a huge piece of your life, but you’ve also lost any connection to life outside your grief.

I also live that famous verse, “If God closes one door, He opens another”.    Through my grief I have found a new family.   Other women who like me have suffered the ultimate loss.   We share a bond and belong to a club we never wanted to join.   Finding peace and strength through our loss.   We lift each other on dark days.   There is no need to defend our grief.   No need to explain why those special days re-break our healing hearts.   The gift of these friendships are priceless.   Understanding that time does not heal all wounds.  That healing has no dead line.   That there is no shame in missing our children every day of our lives.  We are a gift to one another.

Being honest with myself is tough.   To realize that even after 3 years 2 months and 20 days I’m still shocked by your death.  To think that the years have passed without you here continues to take my breath away.   Simple things still cause deep pain.   A can of Beefaroni or hearing a song by Guns and Roses can be overwhelming.   There are days when seeing a father with his baby reminds me of things that will never be.

I’ve learned that grief is not a race to be run.   It’s a process to be survived.   A place to move through at our own pace.   Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.   My grief is mine alone.   It is not something I should ever have to defend or be ashamed of.   Grief is love that has been rerouted.   It lives in every fiber of our being.   Grief is how we love.   Love never dies.   It lasts forever.

So does Grief……………………………

 

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