Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: grief over sons death (page 2 of 6)

A Broken Heart Doesn’t Show Up On EKG

Matt,  Since your Death I’ve had several episodes where it feels like my heart is actually breaking apart.  The medical community uses the term “Broken Heart Syndrome”.  Although the cause of broken heart syndrome is not completely known, it is thought to be triggered by extreme emotional stress.  Intense grief is listed as one of its causes. The heart is stunned by an unexpected, shocking event.  When stunned, the heart no longer works efficiently and causes severe pain and anxiety.

I can tell you I’ve become the poster child for Broken Heart Syndrome.  I’ve been in the ER more since your death than I have my entire life.

My first trip was the day before Christmas Eve.  It was the first Christmas after your death and I think reality gut punched me and started the shattering of my heart to begin.  I was a mess.  Breathless and in agony.  Trying to describe my pain to doctors was like trying to explain color to a blind man.  Nothing like your classic heart attack signs just an unending ache deep in my soul.

I remember the doctor coming in to tell me all the tests were normal.  Seriously, I thought.  I’m dying and you’re missing it.  Then he asked what’s been going on in my life.  That simple question opened my floodgates.  His face said it all.  Your death, then my career screeching to a halt was tough enough but when you threw in the death of a dear friend ten months later, I was drowning in grief.

Returning home I remember feeling so foolish.  I was an active, healthy person.  Why did I feel like I was dying.  Once again I put one foot in front of the other taking baby steps trying to navigate this new life.

Strike two was in April of the following year.  Year two was shaping up to be another brutal round of reality.  I made it through all those “firsts” and never expected the “seconds” to come with stronger gut punches.  I was in my garden.  Clearing out old leaves trying to remember the joy I once felt digging in the dirt.  My garden was my sanctuary.  The place I fled to trying to find peace during your addiction.

Seeing your cigarette butts was a sharp slap across my face.   Memories flooded my brain.   You sitting on the deck pitching your smoked butts into my precious gardens.   I remember yelling at your disrespect for all my hard work.   What should have been minor fix turned into a major fight as you continued to flick your butts into the garden with that look of defiance on your face.    Oh God,  that memory long since buried was dancing through my head.   I held them to my nose trying to pick up the scent of your mouth.  Oh God,  what I would give to have you sitting there again.   This time I would hold you and hug you knowing how our journey would end.

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Once again that familiar pain shot across my chest.   Struggling to catch my breath.   That lump in my throat growing larger each second.   This time I’m sure something will show up.   My heart hurting so badly yet again everything was “normal”.    Sent home once again feeling foolish.   Even my nursing education wasn’t any help in controlling my thought that I must be dying.

Strike three arrived 5 days after returning home from Florida.   Even the beauty of the Keys couldn’t  lift my grief.    I felt it the second week there.   I could see you everywhere and no where.   Dear God, you died in Florida was all I could think of.   You should have been  enjoying the turquoise water.   We should be having lunch.   I should be seeing your place, meeting your friends.  You should be alive.

Returning home was another slap of reality.   My eyes finding your urn.   Seeing your smiling face staring back at me forever frozen in time.    I can’t breathe.   This time I heard my heart break.   Feeling the shards of glass tearing into my throat.  I can’t be alive and survive this pain.   I must be dying.   Once again the doctor wants to know what’s been happening in my life.   Once again I see the look of compassion for your broken mother on her face.

This time a stress test is ordered.   I’m injected with an isotope and told to start walking.   The treadmill belt is moving.   I think of you. I’m walking too fast.   Trying to run from reality.   I’m told to slow down.   The speed needs to build up.   All I want to do is run.   Pictures are taken and reviewed by the heart experts.   I’m told I have a beautiful, healthy heart.   I sit and listen as tears run down my face.   How can they not see the cracks, the shards that live where my heart used to.

The NP gives me a hug.   Tears mingling with mine.   She too knows living with a broken heart.   Losing her daughter years ago.   She tells me our mother’s hearts never forget.   Eventually the breaks won’t be as severe and gut wrenching.   Time will eventually put some pieces back where they belong.   One day my heart will remember only the love rather than the loss.

Until then I’ve learned that a heart breaking never makes noise.  It’s only felt by the soul of the one experiencing the pain.    Unseen to the human eye but  deeply felt by the griever.   And like grief, the break signifies unspeakable, unending  love…….

 

 

 

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”.

 

 

 

Why Is This Grief So Complicated?????

Matt,  This complicated grief is nothing like the grief people who have never experienced think it is.  Most people, at least some of the people I’ve come in contact with still think grief has a time frame.  Supposedly, normal grief is still thought of as something you glide through.  Going from one stage to the next until you reach the finish line.  After that so called specific acceptable time frame, the grief just disappears into thin air.  Like magic, poof, it’s gone.  Life then supposedly returns to normal.

Unlike the so called “normal” grief, complicated grief doesn’t seem to follow a time line.   It doesn’t seem to care that it’s been years.  It seems that time can continue to pass and complicated grief just clings tightly to your heart.   Complicated grief is usually associated with the loss of a child.   This grief is unbearably devastating.

What makes this grief so tough is that I find you have to constantly defend it.  People will bring up how long it’s been.  Oh yes, believe me I know how long its been.   So does every other parent who has lived through the death of their child.  What I don’t understand is why how long its been should have any impact on how long or how deep a parent continues to grieve.

The loss of a child goes against mother nature.  Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.   The loss of a child shatters the foundation of what we have been taught to be normal in our world.   The loss of a child rocks parents to their core.   We begin to question everything we have learned throughout our lifetime.   We question our faith.   We wonder how a loving God could have allowed our child to die.   I remember my daily prayers.   Every morning and night I prayed to God for your safety.   I prayed for you to have the strength to beat your addiction.   I truly believed that if I let go and let God all would be ok.   Imagine how I felt when I got that life shattering call that you were gone.

I felt totally betrayed by my God.   I felt like I had done something so horrible that he was punishing me by allowing my greatest fear to come true.   I felt abandoned and alone.   I questioned every belief I’d ever known.   Feeling that I’d not only lost you but also lost my trust in how the world should be.   It’s taken years to rebuild my faith.   To know that God did answer my prayers.   He saved you not my way but his.   To this day God and I have an agreement.   We agree to disagree on answered prayers.

Through my grief I have found many blessings.   At first I felt abandoned, alone.   Many friends walked away and never looked back.   Apparently my grief made them uncomfortable.   Believing that I should get over it and get back to a so called “normal”.   They wondered how they could be around someone who was so deeply grieving.   Rather than helping me through they simply disappeared.   The years of friendship meant nothing.   Shared experiences all forgotten.  Grief scaring them so deeply it was safer to abandon a friend than to stand by her side.

Isolation is a large part of how grief becomes complicated.   I never believed what I’d heard.   But since living it I know it’s true.   People forget you are still here.   Forget you are trying to navigate through your new life.   Trying to figure out how to survive without your child.  Mourning the hopes and dreams once so alive now gone in the blink of an eye.  No more phone calls or visits,  just complete abandonment by people who were once considered close friends.   You wake up one day and it hits.  Not only have you lost a huge piece of your life, but you’ve also lost any connection to life outside your grief.

I also live that famous verse, “If God closes one door, He opens another”.    Through my grief I have found a new family.   Other women who like me have suffered the ultimate loss.   We share a bond and belong to a club we never wanted to join.   Finding peace and strength through our loss.   We lift each other on dark days.   There is no need to defend our grief.   No need to explain why those special days re-break our healing hearts.   The gift of these friendships are priceless.   Understanding that time does not heal all wounds.  That healing has no dead line.   That there is no shame in missing our children every day of our lives.  We are a gift to one another.

Being honest with myself is tough.   To realize that even after 3 years 2 months and 20 days I’m still shocked by your death.  To think that the years have passed without you here continues to take my breath away.   Simple things still cause deep pain.   A can of Beefaroni or hearing a song by Guns and Roses can be overwhelming.   There are days when seeing a father with his baby reminds me of things that will never be.

I’ve learned that grief is not a race to be run.   It’s a process to be survived.   A place to move through at our own pace.   Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.   My grief is mine alone.   It is not something I should ever have to defend or be ashamed of.   Grief is love that has been rerouted.   It lives in every fiber of our being.   Grief is how we love.   Love never dies.   It lasts forever.

So does Grief……………………………

 

Baby Steps & Hiding Behind Masks

Matt,   We’ve hit the three year mark.   Actually, it’s 3 years and 24 days.   That’s how life is for me now.   It’s become a count down to how long it’s been since your death.   When my brain realizes how long it’s been I find myself  breathless.   Still shocky, still unsteady.   Unlike public perception, times does not heal this wound.

January’s slap was extra harsh this year.   Not only was I trying to survive the anniversary of your death, but Ray’s father was dying.   I sat at his bedside on your anniversary holding his hand.   I told him it was ok if he needed to go on your day.   I asked him to give you a hug and tell you how much you are loved and missed.   I sat watching the life leaving his body but my heart was thinking of you.   I was thinking of what it must have been like for you.   No family at your bedside.   No one holding your hand telling you how much you were loved.   How your life was well lived and there should be no regrets.  You see Matt, that’s the hardest part for me.   Knowing that as you were taking your last breaths I was a thousand miles away totally unaware that you were gone.

Grief enveloped our home.   Me continuing to grieve you.   Ray just beginning to grieve for his dad.   I recognized that wave hitting Ray.  Seeing his face change as reality hit his heart.   Seeing him in pain filled me with shame.   I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to be who I needed to be to support him through his loss.  I was barely surviving falling into the abyss that threatened my mind.  How could I not think of the three years since I heard your voice.

50 years separated your deaths.   Your life cut short at 37.   Rays dad living to be 87.   You see Matt, all I could think of was how many years we never had.   Your death was out of the natural order of how things are supposed to be.  Ray was experiencing death as it is supposed to be.   People grow old and then they die.   We bury our parents.   We don’t bury our children.

Planning a funeral sucks.   The ritual is too painful.   It becomes unbearable when wounds are reopened.   Watching Ray was like watching the rerun of a bad movie.   Memories of everything I crawled through being brought back to life.   Obituaries.   Pictures of happy times.   Torture.  Torture.  Torture.

I found myself reliving those first days.   The days when I survived one minute at a time.   Those first days where baby steps were the best I could do.   Dressing for this funeral brought back dressing for yours.   I dreaded the funeral scene.   I was shocked at how strong memories hit.   Closing my eyes I relived every moment.   Feelings I’d been able to suppress flooded my heart.   The profound loss.   The ugly reality of death.   I was helpless to help anyone but myself.   My mask broken beyond repair.

Rays father’s funeral remains a blur.   Memories of hugs, smells and whispers.    The cold January wind once again slapping my face with the ugly reality of loss.   Bone chilling cold reminding my heart that three years ago to the day I said goodbye to you my beautiful boy.

Watching Ray I must admit I’m jealous.   His life returning to normal.   Back to work.   Back to life.   Oh how I wish my grief would allow my life to stabilize.   To allow me to have a day when I don’t think of you.   When I don’t think of what life could have been had you survived your addiction.

I understand our losses are different.   My heart is still shattered by your death.   It will always hold evidence of a deep, painful, unimaginable loss.   It will always dream of the what if’s, the possibilities of having you here.    Child loss is the most devastating grief known to man.   It never leaves and strikes at the most unexpected times.   Losing a child is losing yourself.   The present and future are tainted with profound confusion and denial.

I’ve heard it said that grief is not a life sentence, it’s a life passage.   I thought long and hard about that statement.   I think about this every time my phone rings and I hear an unfamiliar voice asking for me.   I hear the choking tears as another mother calls my name.   Oh this grief of child loss is a life sentence.   One with no stages or reprieve.   One we must take in slowly.   One we crawl through every day for the rest of our lives….

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging On By A Christmas Thread

Matt,   December 3rd marked the 35th month since your death.   35 months.   I still can’t believe you are really gone.   I heard the second year was tougher than the first.   Never in a million years could I ever allow my mind to believe it to be true.   It seems the protective fog has blown out to sea leaving me a clear view of the empty shoreline.

This second year has beat me to the ground.   My cocoon shredded and blown away with the wind.   My mind reminds me daily that you are dead.   I feel naked, stripped of the protection that the shock of grief provided during those first months when my mind was in complete denial.   Grief protects you from reality.   The brain builds that impenetrable wall able to withstand the assault of reality.   The second year, cracks begin to form and the wall slowly begins to crumble at your feet.   Leaving you with a clear view of life.

Last year I was numb.   Able to go through the motions of life.   My holiday mask was intact and firmly secured to my face as I navigated my way through the usual festivities.   My mind allowed me the fantasy that you were alive.   Living in Florida.  My mind allowed my heart to stay on track providing multiple distractions keeping the grief under wraps in public.  This year I’ve found the mask has dissolved from the flow of my tears.   This year my grief has gained power.   This year my grief doesn’t seem to care that this is the happiest time of the year.

Your loss continues to stun me.   I’m shocked when reality slaps me with the knowledge that you won’t be coming home for Christmas when I hear that holiday song.  Reality grabs my heart and causes me to forget to breathe.  I was told in time I would get angry.   I’M ANGRY.   I’m angry at our reality.   I’m angry at happy strangers shopping with a spring in their step and joy on their faces.   I’m angry that my grief continues to hurt so deeply.  I’m angry that I’ve just survived Thanksgiving and Christmas is being shoved down my throat.   Not everyone is merrily anticipating holiday traditions.   For some of us our holidays will never be the same.   I’m angry that the woman I see in the mirror is not who I used to be.

This second year has a power I could have never anticipated.    My mind now clear vividly remembers painful events.   My guilt has returned full force.    My double whammy.   Grief and guilt have renewed their friendship bullying me every chance they get.   My mind remembers things it buried to protect my shattered heart.   Things said and done during your addiction.   The I should haves or could haves haunt me like ghosts from Christmas past.   I look at family pictures.   You and Mike on Santa’s lap.   Childhood innocence.   A time of joy and anticipation of things to come.   Never did I see this coming.   Never did I ever think my youngest son would be gone in the blink of an eye.

I hear strangers stating what they want for Christmas.   Children rattle off a list of toys.   Adults want more money, a better job or world peace.   I cringe and feel the tears start to form.   The song,  “All I Want For Christmas Is You”,  starts playing in my head.   I close my eyes squeezing as hard as I can.   Trying desperately to balance myself on the edge of my abyss.

I want a visit from the ghost of Christmas past.   I want to see my boys squeal with delight as they rip into beautifully wrapped gifts.   I want to hear the laughter of two boys as they compare super hero capes.   I want to feel the joy and completeness of having my family intact.   I want to travel back in time.   Before you  became adults.   Before your injury led you down the path of no return.  I want to fix what is broken.   I want to close my eyes and see you walk in my door.  I want to hear “Hey Mom, Merry Christmas”.   As your wife and kids wrap me in a hug.  I want to see you and Mike standing side by side belly laughing as a childhood memory cracks you up.   I want every chair at the table full.  I want to raise a glass and toast to a future full of possibilities.

Unfortunately,  A Christmas Carol is just that.   A fantasy script written long ago addressing second chances.  Our reality is a painful reminder that death doesn’t give a redo.   There will be no second chances for us.   No more watching you and Mike standing together surrounded by your  family.   No more holiday pictures full of smiles and joy.   No more hearing a Christmas song without the punch of grief taking my breath away.

This year when everyone else is dreaming of a White Christmas, I’ll be dreaming of the family we used to be…….

 

 

 

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