Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: grief over cancer diagnosis

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……….

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

Two Words Changing Life Forever

Matt,

I feel like I’ve stepped back in time.  I never thought that feeling of shocked numbness would ever hit me again like it did after hearing those two words, “Matt’s Dead”.   We’ve all heard that saying how one phone call can change the course of your life.  Once again knocking you off balance and forcing you to navigate your life on shaky, unrecognizable ground.

I remember those early days after your death.  Walking around numb.  Feeling like my insides were jelly.  Constantly shaking.  Walking through the days going through the motions of living, but really not living.  I remember the feeling of nothingness.  Of denying this was my new reality.  Of feeling foolish for sweating the meaningless small stuff that life constantly throws your way.  I now knew that life was too fragile to sweat over issues that in reality really didn’t matter.  Your death was a lesson in my life.

Foolishly, I believed that after 4 long years, I was back in control of my life.  My advocacy work allowed me to channel my grief into helping others.  I finally felt a purpose.   I still grieve you everyday, but felt like as long as I had my advocacy your death would always have meaning.

I’m still trying to understand where I am today.  Whether it was a God intervention or a Matt intervention.   I remember the day perfectly.  Reliving every step I took.  Every thought I had exactly the same as I experienced upon hearing you were gone.

A beautiful day, June 22nd.  The humidity finally broke and all I wanted was to fill the house with the cleansing breeze of fresh air.   You remember how I always hated having the house closed up.  We used to laugh as I would only put the air on when the dogs were getting too hot.  I needed to hear the songs of my garden birds.  Needed to hear the soothing sounds of the waterfall in the garden beneath the kitchen window.

I lifted the window.  It stuck.  Instead of giving up, I continued to push as hard as I could.  The pain was excruciating.  I felt like my back and leg had been stripped of muscle.  I remember my nursing instincts kicking in as I hobbled to the freezer.  Ice now.  I grabbed the bottle of Motrin swallowed quickly and hobbling to the couch.   I sat in shock.  Looking at the window with such contempt.  If I could have I would have grabbed a hammer and beat the crap out of that piece of glass.

Weeks passed.  The pain remained.  Fueling my hate for that window.  In my mind it had ruined my summer.  No more biking, hiking, dog walking, yoga, gardening.  Everything I loved gone in a split second.  All my self care practices that kept me sane on those dark days now out of my physical capacity.

After two months of continued pain an MRI was ordered.  I was expecting a herniated disc.  I was fully prepared to inform which ever neurosurgeon I would see that surgery would be my last resort.  After watching how your surgery did nothing for your back except lead you to the road that finally took your life I was perfecting my speech.

Never in a million years did I see what was coming.  You always laughed at me being the health nut.  Skipping cake,  not eating red meat.  I can hear your words so clearly now..”Mom, life”s too short, eat the cake.”

Although the two words were different, their impact on my life was the same.  Fracture.  Tumor. I remember that familiar feeling after hearing those other two words, “Matt’s Dead.”  The feeling of leaving my body as my brain went searching for that protective cocoon it once wrapped me in after I learned of your death.

Today, I am fighting another reality I never imagined.   The reality that I will now be fighting for my life as I fought for yours.  I lie awake in the dark praying for peace as I did many nights after your death.  I wake breathless and shaky.  This reality hits just as the reality of your death did.  New every morning.  Today I am once again going through the motions numb to where this journey will lead me.

Looking back, that sticking  window was a gift. A divine intervention.  My doctor calls this an incidental finding.  I have no symptoms of cancer.  I feel fine.  If not for the back injury I would be biking, gardening and living life unaware of whatever was happening inside of me.

Today, I see the light shining through that window.  I hear the birds singing and the sounds of soothing water.  I watch the dogs chase each other through the gardens.

I look at that window seeing your beautiful smile.  I know you and God worked together for whatever reason to bring this to my attention as early as possible.  Perhaps my advocacy work is not over.  I promised as long as I lived, you would continue to live.

Its almost ironic.  I’ve always told everyone that losing you was the worst, most devastating event in my life.  Surviving your death has taught me that I can survive whatever life chooses to throw my way.  Your death was my lesson in how to live.

Matt, Walk with me on this new journey.  Let me feel you by my side through the biopsies and treatments.  Give me signs that you are near.  Please thank God for me.

Believe me, I will be eating the cake.  I’ll take that burger.  I’ll remember how you lived and mimic your absolute love for life.  I remember you telling me, “Mom, I don’t have to worry, you worry enough for us both.”   Lesson learned my beautiful boy  Four years and Seven months later your death continues to teach me about life………

 

 

 

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