Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: denial after son’s death

Grief, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Matt,  today, January 3rd, marks the third year since you left me behind.   Three years have passed since I’ve heard your voice or seen your handsome face.   Three years.   It just doesn’t seem real.   How did I survive three years of carrying the unbearable weight of my grief.   I sit alone and remember the moment I learned you were gone.   Three years ago, January 3rd was a Saturday.  It was snowing here and all I could think about was how lucky you were to be spending your day at the beach.  I was working in the NICU feeling jealous of your new life in sunny Florida.   Jealous that I was freezing and you were laying in the warm sun.  Little did I know you were already lying in a morgue your body lifeless, cold and blue.

For three years I’ve lived in a fog.   Disbelief allowed me to survive.   Days I pretended you really were lying on that beach being warmed by the Florida sun.  Then there were days when reality snuck in and I had to crawl through choking quicksand.  Days the weight of my grief literally had me fighting for my own life.

As a nurse, I read about how debilitating complicated grief could be.   I learned how destructive this type of grief could be to the body and soul.   Never quite understanding it’s incredible power until I was thrown into the fire after your untimely death.   You see Matt, my grief has been complicated by my guilt.   For three years I have blamed myself for your death.   I became my own personal punching bag.  Constantly allowing that rollercoaster of emotions to chip away at my very soul.

I blamed myself for not being the “best” mother.  For working while you were young.  Not having the luxury of being one of those incredible moms who had time to make meals from scratch.   You know those moms who never had to be responsible for anything else except their kids.   My beatings continued as I rehashed everything I should have done to save you from your addiction.   My guilt would never allow me to see everything that I did do.   Guilt is ugly.   Guilt only let me see all of the wrongs and none of the rights.

I remember watching you withdrawal from your opioids.   I watched your body shake, sweat and fall apart.  I watched in horror.  Never quite understanding how your body could withstand the assault.   Now it’s my body that’s being assaulted.   I’m the one withdrawing from you.   I was addicted to your addiction.   For seven years, I fought to save you.   Never once thinking that I had no control of our fate.   I was so foolish thinking I was in control of anything, especially your addiction.   Call it nurses mentality.   Nurses save and your mom was a nurse.   I spent my life saving people and  could not accept that this wonder woman of a nurse could not save her own son.

So now it’s me thats been shaking, sweating and falling apart.   For most of the past three years my soul has lived in a constant state of high anxiety.   Your death caused a permanent withdrawal that I now have to navigate my way through.  Panic attacks,  ER trips thinking I’m having a heart attack, and my new friend migraines.   Every crazy symptom all anxiety and guilt related.

I remember being told that one day I would get angry.   Angry at you for causing such profound grief.  For causing my world to spin off its axis.  For causing me to drown in this dark, ugly abyss.   This overwhelming ocean of heartbreak.  Constantly fighting the powerful undertow that drags me down on the bad days.

I never did get angry.   I forgave you the moment you left.   The person I need to forgive is me.   Three years is a long time to fight the most powerful of emotions.   Three years of blaming myself for something I could not control.   Three years of near drownings when the guilt pulled me far away from my safe shore.

I will grieve and miss you forever.   This isn’t how our story was supposed to end.   I now realize that when the guilt starts dragging me under I must reach for a life preserver.   I must focus on getting back to shore.   I must learn to swim again…………

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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