Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: faith after loss

The Blessings Of Incidental Findings

Matt,

I must admit when you died I was so pissed off at God.   I felt let down.  Abandoned.  Like my prayers to keep you safe fell on deaf ears.   That my prayers weren’t good enough to be answered.   God and I had many ugly conversations as I sat in the dark and said things that would have had my grade schools nuns running for the Holy Water to wash out my mouth.

I was shocked at the depth and power of my anger.   Growing up in the Catholic church attending Catholic School I knew I had better straighten out my thoughts and get control of my out of control mouth.   I dared God to appear to me and explain why he let you die when I prayed you would beat your addiction and recover to live a beautiful life.

I was a spitting mad grieving mom and nothing would ever convince me that Jesus knew what was really happening in your life when I just had my fantasies of how you were living.   All I wanted was you back.   Under any circumstances.  I really didn’t care if you were suffering from your disease, I just wanted you back.

I remember going to your garden at our church and sitting under the cross.   Seeing your name carved in stone was like another slap from God.   Seeing your name, birth date and death date was having my soul ripped from my body and shattered into a million pieces.   No mother should ever see her precious child’s name on a cold stone.

I took my anger and turned it into an advocacy against those who poisoned you with their pills.  I was relentless.   I held nothing back.   I named names and called people out for who they truly were.   I began helping those who reminded me of you.   Fighting for them as I fought for you.   Four years of advocacy work culminated in six bills that would change how Delaware treats those who suffer from your disease.  I surrounded myself with the best advocates Delaware had to offer and channeled my anger into leaving a legacy to honor your life.

Little did I know that once again my life would be turned upside down.   Looking back it’s really not surprising.   My friends kept telling me to take a much needed break.   To just enjoy the fact that summer was here and Legislative Hall was out of session.   But advocacy is in my blood.   Hard to turn it off when people are calling for help to find treatment.   No way was I not going to do everything in my power to get another mother’s son or daughter in a safe place.

Well, it seems that God had another plan for me.   Funny how God just decides to take the stubborn bull by the horns and say enough.

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I know you know.   I have this crazy uncommon cancer.   Of course why not?   You and I were always the misfits.

Except this time I have no anger against God.  I have never felt closer to Jesus in my entire life.   It seems Jesus has been beside me all this time.   I just ignored him.   My grief blocked his peace.   My anger did not allow me to feel his presence.   He was knocking all along.

Jesus has taken over my care.   He has placed me in the hands of experts.   Jesus has saved me from the wrong diagnosis.   He has saved me from an extensive surgery that might not have been the best first step in my fight.

Matt, I know you are here.   I feel you and see your smiling face.   You gave me such a gift by getting your message to me to fight.   You told a friend you still wear your ball cap backwards.   You told her about my cancer and my advocacy.   You talked about your brother by name.   So many messages I know it’s you.

So just like Jesus you never really left me.   I just needed to let my grief open to see the most amazing light shining through.   I have a peace like never before.   I feel totally confident that Jesus has both of us in the palm of his hand.

Matt,  you were always my beautiful boy.   Now I know you are my guardian angel.   I know that you will be watching from heaven.   I know you are at peace and that is the most beautiful gift I could have ever received in the middle of my storm.

Blessings continue to find me.   Ray is amazing.  My friends, those precious few who stood by me after your death are carrying me through this new journey.

Blessings totally unexpected but so welcomed.   I continue to learn from you my beautiful boy.   I now sit and remember our conversations when your wisdom shined though.   Believe me Matt, I’m going to enjoy those little things I always overlooked.   I see you in the stars,  I see you in the sunsets.   I know Heaven is your beach and you my son are enjoying a peace by your precious sea.

I will fight for you and my family.   But when my time comes meet me by the sea.   We will run through the surf together.   You wearing your ball cap backwards and me with my crazy curls.  Together forever one day.   Godspeed my boy.   Tell Jesus your mom says thanks for not giving up on her.

 

Believing While I’m Grieving

Matt,   Since your death my faith has taken a beating.   I was so numb that first year my brain didn’t have the capacity to grasp that your death was my reality.   My foggy brain refused to let that reality break through the steel cocoon that kept me sane and surviving all those firsts.

Now as the years have passed I find myself in a constant state of anxiety wondering about the afterlife.  I remember praying for God to keep you safe when you moved to Florida for treatment.   I prayed day and night that you would survive your disease and find your way to recovery.   When you died I questioned if God ever heard my prayers or if God saw the big picture and saved you the only way he could.

I continue to search for answers.   I scan the internet for articles written by those who survived a near death experience.   Those who speak about seeing their bodies floating above the accident scene or surgical suite.   Those who speak about feeling peaceful and experiencing a joy they never knew here on earth.  Of bright lights, magnificent flowers, and beautiful voices.  Of being welcomed by beings they felt an immediate kinship with.   Of never being afraid.

My bookshelf holds books written by doctors and experts on Near Death Experiences.  I feel like I’m walking through the desert dying of thirst and trying to quench this thirst by reading everything I can find to help my heart in accepting that you are in a better place.   I continue to search for anything that will give my heart hope.

The one book I never opened was my Bible.   It remained on my nightstand untouched.   I don’t know if I was mad at God or just didn’t trust him anymore.   A part of me felt He either didn’t hear my prayers to keep you safe or He chose to ignore them.   Every conversation I’ve had with God since your death ends with me saying to God that we must agree to disagree.   I wanted you saved on earth.   Obviously, God had other plans for you.

One day while searching the internet I found a reference on death and life after death.   To my surprise that piece was referencing the Bible.

I was having one of those very dark days when my grief was overwhelming my soul and  I felt like I was not going to make it through the day.   The reality that you were gone and I would never see you again on this earth was just too painful for me to accept.  It was on that day I reached for that book I had ignored for so long and began to read.

I found the copy of the passages that had been referenced in my internet search.   Before I knew what was happening I started to feel a slight sense of peace.   The more I read, the more I wanted to read.   I can’t explain what happened to me as my eyes read those words written over 2000 years ago but I know I felt a shift in my soul.

Everything I’d been searching for all these years was right here.   Everything I needed to know about where you were had been sitting untouched on my nightstand.   My Bible has become my go to book.   I know you are probably laughing at me but it’s true.   I read the Bible every morning and continue to find a peace that even baffles me.

My favorite verse is found in the book of John.   One my bad days I sit by myself and let those words wash over me.   John 14 gives me hope that you are with Jesus and one day I will be there with you.  “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were no so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I’m not going to lie.   I still have those days when I question why God didn’t save you the way I wanted him to.   I still have days that my anxiety gets the best of me.   I still tell God we will continue to agree to disagree about your death, but I also have days where I feel a peace come over me as I read those words written so long ago.

I remember sitting on the beach together.   We both loved the beach so much.  I remember laying back looking at the blue sky and saying Heaven is a beach.   I remember you laughing and saying I hope so Mom.  Matt, I hope so too.  I hope when it’s my time I will wake up on a beach and see you running toward me.   Until then I hold onto John 14 and  slowly begin to rekindle my faith.

 

 

 

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…….

 

 

 

 

A Can Of Beefaroni and So Much More

Never in a million years did I ever think I would find myself falling apart in the pasta aisle of my local grocery store after seeing a can of Beefaroni. The gut wrenching, hit my heart hard, kind of pain left me holding onto my cart telling myself to breathe. Tears running down my face like a hose stuck in the on position with no hope of being turned off. Oh God, I think, how am I ever going to survive the rest of my life if can’t even make it through the grocery store without a major meltdown. Seeing that can and feeling those feelings has become a part of my new life. The life I never saw coming or signed up for.

Beefaroni was my youngest son, Matt’s favorite food. I would stock up at the ten for $10 sale and hurry home to stuff his weekly care package with all his favorite foods. Sending them off with a piece of my heart to the half way house he lived in a thousand miles away from home. A can of Beefaroni, a connection to my son who is no more.

Then there is the scent of Phoenix. This was his smell. I can still hear his voice, “Hey Mom, can you pick me up my deodorant, I’m running low”. I’ve found myself in this same store walking to the deodorant aisle and finding that familiar blue can. I remove the lid and spray a tiny bit. Closing my eyes taking a deep breath I let my mind drift back to happier times. This is what my life has become. Finding pieces of my son in everyday places trying to keep our connection alive.

I once felt that being the mother of a son suffering from addiction was the worst thing that ever happened to my life. That constant feeling of helplessness and anxiety ruled my mind. I compared his addiction to being trapped on a very fast, very high roller coaster with many twists and turns. Never knowing what each day would bring, what was coming or how some days would end.

Mothers of addicts learn to live with the crazy unpredictability that goes hand in hand with the disease of addiction. We learn to expect the unexpected and we relish the thought of a possible period of recovery. Matts addiction became mine as I held onto the roller coaster for dear life. Praying for things to somehow calm down and allow us both a little piece of normal. I’ve since learned that being the mother of an addict who suffered an accidental overdose is waking up and finding the nightmare you feared the most has now become your reality.

Be careful what you pray for they say. I prayed for peace, I prayed for quiet, I prayed for his addiction to go away. My prayers have been answered but never in the way I imagined. I now struggle to survive in this all too quiet, empty new world. I long for the days of chaos. Riding the uncertainty on the roller coaster known as addiction now feels like a walk in the park compared to being the one left behind.

Learning to navigate through my grief is a daily process. I’m now the lone rider on a different coaster. This one mimics the other but now the ups and downs belong solely to me. There are days I wake up, shed my tears, pray for strength and somehow get through. There are days the darkness overrides my heart and I crawl through my brokenness as if it is surrounded by shards of glass. Each piercing my heart with knifelike accuracy.

For now I take it one day at a time. I pray that someday that can of Beefaroni or the scent of Phoenix will warm my heart not break it. Reminding me of the connection between a mother and her son that neither time nor space can break. For now I pray for understanding and strength as I continue to put one foot in front of the other attempting to navigate my new unchartered life without my son.

I know I will never return to the person I once was.   Going back to that person is not an option.    She vanished when my son died. Gone with his last breath.   My grief path is my own.    It’s rocky and full of broken pieces of a life that used to be.   I tread lightly on days I can.   I crawl through the glass on days when the pain kills and I question my survival.    My grief has no finish line.   It’s one day, one breath, one scream at a time.    My grief is the best I can do.   Navigating this path is the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do.    One thing I know for sure is I’m not ok.   I will never be ok.   And for me that just has to be ok…….

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”.

 

 

 

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