Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: grief knows no timeframe (page 1 of 2)

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.

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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……….

 

 

 

New Year Same Grief

Matt,   Today is the second day of the New Year 2020.    My mind keeps drifting back to the second day of the New Year except the year was 2015.   That year I had such high hopes for you. I remember your Facebook post on New Year’s Eve stating you were doing it right.   Attending an all night NA meeting.   I can’t tell you how my heart soared with joy thinking this New Year would be the beginning of a new us.  That your addiction would finally take a back seat to your new life.

We spoke on January 2nd at 6;23pm.   I had no clue that would be the last time I would ever hear your voice.   The last time I would ever hear the words “Love you, Mom”.   There were no red flags.   My ears had been trained by the years of your struggle to listen for verbiage changes.  There were none.   No clue that in just a few hours my world would spin off it’s axis and come crashing down at my feet.

Tomorrow January 3rd, marks your 5 year anniversary.   2020 feels like 2015 all over again.   The fact that 5 years has passed means nothing.   5 years feels like yesterday.   The grief hits with a vengeance that still has the power to bring me to my knees.   My body remembers hearing those words.   It remembers hearing the guttural sounds of a wounded animal as she sees the dead body of her young.   It remembers the grip on my heart.   The breathlessness as if my lungs collapsed and would never know how to breathe again.

I am restless.   Edgy.   Unsettled.   My mind is spinning out of control.   Reality and fantasy vie for top spot in my head.   I want to scream YOU ARE NOT DEAD.   I want to dial your number and talk to you about your day.   I want to hear your children laughing in the background as they yell hi to their mom mom.   I want to turn back time and fix our lives.   I want you and Mike and your families here for Friday night pizza and Sunday barbecues.   I want life to be want I want not what we’ve been dealt.   I want you HERE…..

There is a foolish perception that time and grief are friends.   That in the beginning time holds griefs hand and leads it down the path of firsts.   That path is hazy, dark and uncomfortable.  But time is seen as a hero.   Time continues to pass and as it does grief is supposed to suddenly lighten.   To change.   To become acceptable.   Bearable.   Doable.   Society is afraid to acknowledge what so many like me know and live.    Time is no friend to grief.

Time changes NOTHING.   Time continues to pass bringing painful memories to the surface.   Time doesn’t stop for your birthday.    It doesn’t care how many painful days it drags along your path.   The only thing true about time is it continues to march on no longer caring as those empty, painful years pass with no new pictures, cards or memories.

The problem with grief is you can never imagine its power until it finds your soul.   Grief knows no time frame.   Once it moves in it has no intention of leaving.   It wraps itself around your being with a grip that doesn’t know how to let up.   Grief makes you feel like you are slowly losing your mind.   It makes you question how you will make it through all those next painful days that time continues to drag into your life.

If I’ve learned anything during these last 5 years its that the passing of time means nothing to the power of my grief.   Making it through all those firsts means nothing.   Time seems to sharpen the edges of life.   Time takes me back to those moments and memories that are all I have left of you.

The passing of time and the power of grief have no relationship to each other.   There is no connection between the two.   Time is no friend to grief and grief knows nothing regarding time.    My heart and soul will grieve you forever.   The passing of time will continue as it has done these last five years.

Grief comes with no instruction manual.   It has a mind of its own.    Lying low then hitting hard as a memory, song or smell assaults my senses.   Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.   There are no stages.   No rhyme or reason.   Grief is a part of who I am and who I will continue to be.   I will embrace my grief allowing it to have its way on those dark days and allowing it to ebb and flow through my soul as time keeps marching on…….

 

Life Is Just One Crazy Rollercoaster Ride

Matt,

I feel like I did during those days we battled your addiction.   One day when things were going as planned I felt like I could fly.   I was always so hopeful everytime you agreed to treatment.  Like life would return to normal and you would finally return to the life your addiction stole from you.

Well we all know how that worked out.  Your addiction was stronger than my love.  It was so conniving and clever it convinced you that you were in control.   You left this world on January 3, 2015.   You were gone forever and my world was changed in the blink of an eye.   For years I walked around in a fog.   Disbelief and denial became my constant companions.  Just when I was starting to feel like I had a handle on my grief after living the uncharted life of a grieving mother 4 years and 8 months after your death, life once again became a rollercoaster ride.

I was diagnosed with cancer.   Once again that rollercoaster plummeted to the earth.  Once again my world was thrust into the unknown.  Shock, disbelief and panic found me again.   Those feelings returned with a vengeance.  I walked around numb like I did during your active addiction.   All those feelings I had buried came rushing to the surface.

My cancer made your absence even more traumatic.   I wondered if you knew what was happening here on earth.  I prayed for so long that you would come to me just for a moment to  let me know you were ok.  Finally finding your peace that eluded you here on earth.. imagine my joy when I received a message from a friend that you came to her and asked her to get a message to me.

You told her you were Matt.  You asked her to let me know you still wore your ball cap backwards.  You told her it was not my time and I must fight.  You told her things only you could know..   Your message meant the world to me.  Knowing you were still here was the best gift I could have received.  Once again I felt like I could fly.   The roller coaster was going up, up, up.  Little did I know that once again it would crash to the ground.

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed Belle would have attacked Molly for no reason.   I immediately called our vet.  Belle had stated to show signs of aggression that was so not her.  Belle was the sweetest dog I’d ever rescued.  I thought she was reacting to my stress until the aggression continued to get worse.  It got to the point we had to slightly sedate her to make sure the aggression would stop.

I remember the day I felt her head and thought I was going to vomit.   We were sitting on the deck and she was rubbing her head against the furniture.  I called her over and started to rub her head hoping to find the spot that was bothering her.   What I felt was the size of a golf ball solid rock mass..  I immediately panicked.  Snapped a picture and sent to Stephanie our vet.

The news broke my heart.  Belle had a quick growing brain tumor.   Her aggression, like your addiction would take her life.  For one week Bella was spoiled.  Steak, hamburger, pizza anything she wanted she got.   The thing that was hardest for me was that emotionally and physically I could not go to vet with her.

Your brother was so full of compassion.  He told me Mom it’s not physically possible for you to be there.  I will be there for you.  You know Mike loved Bella as much as I did.  Mike like you took to her as soon as I brought her home.  We spent many days together with our dogs playing in the surf.

Stephanie was not just our vet.  She was my friend for years.   She loved Belle as much as we did..  I could not have asked for two better people to say goodbye to my dearest friend.  We put if off as long as possible.  I had to fight my selfish need to keep her here with me.  I spoke to so many of my dog mom friends who all relieved my guilt for doing the right thing for my beloved companion of 14 years.

Bella was the one who paced with me at night after your death.  Sleep was not something that came easy.  She was constantly by my side.  Bella was the one who found me in your closet surrounded by your clothing sobbing like a wounded animal.  I remember her walking into the closet, lifting her nose and taking in your scent.  I could  see in her eyes she knew it was you.  She kept nudging me with her nose, forcing her body into my lap.  She lay there with me for hours, once again licking my tears off my face and comforting me with her presence..

Bella left me the day after my birthday.  She could hold on no longer.  I could not watch her suffer any longer.  I prayed that you would be there with Kahlua when she crossed the rainbow bridge.  Mike said her last act of love was to kiss his face as if saying thank you.

Another tremendous loss.  Losing you, now losing another connection to you.   The roller coaster continues to keep my life on unstable ground.  Never knowing if I will be soaring toward the sky or crashing to the ground.  I do know I have no control over the ride.   I just have to hold on, pray and let Jesus lead the way……

 

 

The Collateral Beauty Of Shared Grief

Matt,

One definition of Collateral beauty is beauty that is impossible to be seen.   Perhaps a devastating tragedy has broken your life beyond repair.  This tragedy so unimaginable, so incomprehensible, has rendered you powerless to see beyond your brokenness.

This weekend I witnessed the reoccurring presence of Collateral beauty as I attended The Compassionate Friends National Conference In Philadelphia.

This conference was specifically for parents like me.   Parents who have survived the unsurvivable.   We have out lived our children.   We have received the phone call that no parent could ever imagine receiving.  We have heard those words.   Your child is dead.   We  know what it’s like to continue to breathe after our hearts have been ripped from our chests and lay shattered at our feet.  We know the pain of planning a celebration of life when we should have been planning a birthday, a family barbecue, a wedding.

I really had no idea what to expect.  I could feel my anxiety gripping my throat as I stood in line waiting to be given the conference materials.   I remember looking around and recognizing the pain etched on parents who knew my grief.  We were each given a red lanyard with our names displayed for everyone to see.  Many like me carried pictures of beautiful smiling faces.   Faces that should be here.  Faces that should be laughing and living.  Faces not memorialized but alive and well.

My heart began to race.  My twisted thoughts gripped my brain.  I wanted to scream.  Hey!  Do you really think we need to wear a lanyard?   Look at our faces.  Look at our eyes.  Grief has been etched permanently into our being.  All you need to do is look.  We are marked by unimaginable loss..

I remember walking into the Ballroom and scanning the room.   I could feel my tears beginning as I found the nearest table.  So many people gathered together.  It was as if we were one broken soul encompassing every inch of available space.  No longer strangers.  No shame, no uneasiness.  Our connection was palpable.  Pictures, names and stories were being shared without one thought of judgement or guilt.

Conversations that are taboo in society flowed like nectar from a exquisite flower.  Nothing was off limits.   The time frame of our losses were never an issue.   The cause of death was shared without the worry of judgement.  The reality that our child died overrode the how’s or the why’s.  Grieving parents understand that this life altering grief will last a lifetime.

Unlike societies perception of grief having a time table with stages that lead to the completion of mourning, parents recognize that the loss of a child is not linear or logical.   It’s layered with secondary losses.  We have not just lost a child.  We have lost the present and the future.  We have lost hopes and dreams.

During this amazing time I never felt the need to defend my grief.  I never felt the awkwardness I’ve felt among those who feel that enough time has passed and I should be over Matt’s death.  I felt connected to those who needed no explanation when my tears flowed and my sobs were heard across the crowded room.

Mothers I’ve come to know and love due to the power of social media showed me compassion and comfort.  Hugs and tears mingled as we were finally able to physically wrap our arms around each other knowing that nothing need be said.  We live it.  We get it.

I was given the gift of just being Matt’s Mom.   I was given permission to leave my mask behind.  To let my advocacy have a few days off.  To disappear into and acknowledge my son and the sorrow of the profound loss I live with everyday.   Permission to mourn is the greatest gift we can ever give to another bereaved parent.

I silently watched as Collateral Beauty surrounded me.  I witnessed it as parents who were once strangers came together and carried each other’s grief.  Just for an incredible moment our grief was lifted by another allowing our hearts to see the beauty of compassion and understanding that defies explanation.

Collateral beauty shining a light through the darkness of our brokenness.  A light I will carry with me as I continue to live my grief.  The experience of catching that  glimpse of beauty among the dark ashes of child loss will remain in my heart forever.

My Father’s Day Fantasies

Matt,  tomorrow is Father’s Day.   It’s the first Father’s Day since your death that we will be having what used to be our traditional family crab feast.   Except this time it’s only going to be your brother, Heather and Maddie who will be here with us.  Since your death these special days are just too painful to continue the traditions of the past.  Your absence leaves a huge void in what used to be a happy time together.   There is no avoiding the empty space your death left behind.

Even after four years, my mind still slips into denial allowing me to fool myself and pretend you are just away.   Knowing that reality is just too painful to bear, I fantasize what life would be like today had you survived your disease.

I picture you with a little girl.  A towheaded beauty.  With the most amazing green eyes and crooked smile.   You would come bouncing in like you always did and she would be riding on your shoulders squealing with joy.   Of course a black lab would be in hot pursuit of the giggling girl.

You would greet me with a kiss wrapping me in that big bear hug while your girl wiggled away and ran to greet her Uncle Mike.   I picture my two boys, now men hitting each other on the back  and sharing your famous “Hey Bro”.

You would be grabbing a crab out of the pile and chasing the kids around the table.   You were always the prankster even as a grown man.   We would gather outside and share the happenings of our lives.   Laughter and love would envelope us like the rays of the sun as we shared the bond of  being a close nit family.

I picture the kids and dogs chasing each other through the gardens, laughter mingling with barking as we tried to regain a semblance of control.   Seeing my boys and their families together for a day to celebrate fatherhood would have been a dream come true for me.

You would have been an amazing father.   You were such a loving Uncle to Maddie.

Sadly I will never live that dream.   You are gone and there is no little towhead for me to love.     No wife, no child here for me to hold onto.   No child who has your beautiful eyes for me to gaze into and find you.   You took it all when you left.   All I have is deep unrelenting grief on what could have been and what is.

There are no words to explain how losing you is losing me.   All the hopes and dreams I once had for us shattered into pieces that will never fit together again.

Tomorrow I will think of you as I watch your brother and his beautiful daughter.  I will imagine you walking through my door.   I will close my eyes and see your smiling face.   I will always long for one more hug.  One more Hey Mom.   One more day of having my son’s together.

 

 

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