Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

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

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.

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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.

 

 

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…….

 

 

 

 

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