Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: grief (page 1 of 9)

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..

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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.

Memorial Day Memories

Matt,   Today is Memorial Day.   The day is bright and beautiful.   White puffy clouds dot the blue sky.   A hint of a breeze stirs the tree tops.   Memories are flooding my mind this morning as I sit on the deck listening to the birds sing.   Memories of happy times before you left.   Memories of sun and sand.   Dogs running through the surf while you and I enjoyed the warmth of the sun on our pale winter skin.

Closing my eyes I can hear your voice.   You hated the beginning of the summer season.   The noise, the crowds.   You complained that the tourists invaded your piece of heaven.   I can see that scowl on your face as you contemplated trying to find your way to the sea while fighting through hours of traffic.

The summer season was upon your precious peaceful place and you had little tolerance for the hustle and bustle that those crowds brought to your sleepy little beach town.    I remember you pacing as you grabbed leashes that would now be required when we walked the dogs.   Days of running free on the beach had come to a screeching halt.   I could see their eyes questioning what you’re doing as you leashed them up heading out your door.

I remember walking with you to the bay as we moved from one side of the street to the other avoiding the golf carts driving through the once quiet streets of town.   I knew better not to try to bring you out of your funk.  Grabbing your hand I reminded you of times not too long ago when I was the one complaining of the noise while you were enjoying every minute of being part of the beach crowds.   Funny how as you matured, we blended together in our dislike of noise and crowds.

Those were the days we would escape to the sea.   Packing the cooler with plenty of ice for the dogs we would head out for the day.   I was in awe of your ability to control such a powerful machine.   You became one with your boat.   I could see your face begin to relax as the sea spray hit and we bounced over the waves.   Your laughter was music to my ears.

So many lazy days were spent away from the noise.   You would anchor us as I watched you become one with the sea.   You would spot a school of dolphins and jump in while I stood back watching trying to keep the dogs from joining your party.  You taught me to not fear life but to embrace it.   So many great conversations were shared as we sat together under the warm sun floating on the bluest of seas.

Today my heart grows heavy as I remember those precious times together.   My heart refusing to think they would ever end.   Years have passed since we shared our Memorial Day tradition of escaping the crowds to spent the day in our peaceful place.

Both your precious boat and you, my precious son are gone.   I am left to remember and grieve the loss of times that are never to be again.   I always think of you as I look out at the vastness of the ocean.   Closing my eyes I can see you standing at the wheel, the sea spray hitting your face as your laughter dances in my heart.

They Said Time Would Heal The Pain. They Lied.

Matt,  Today is Mother’s Day.  My 5th without you.  Even as I write these words I still struggle with my reality.   The thought that you really aren’t coming through my door with flowers in your hand and a dog at your heel continues to break my heart.

How did we get here?   I still question why you left.   Why life turned out to be this nightmare.   Why God didn’t answer my prayers like I wanted.   You should be here.

Today is such an incredibly painful day.   For weeks I’ve been tortured by the Hallmark commercials with smiling Moms and beautiful children.   The perfect family gathered around the perfect mother celebrating their perfect day.

Doesn’t Hallmark know that for some of us Mother’s Day is a brutal reminder of what we no longer have?   Of children that no longer live.  Children who won’t be calling or sending cards to celebrate our day.   Children who’s voices were  silenced by an untimely death.   Children who’s faces and smiles are frozen in time.

Mother’s Day was once a day I looked forward to.   If my love was enough, you would be sitting beside me surrounded by family.   We would be laughing and hugging.   Filling our plates with crabs and corn.   Sharing stories of your childhood antics with your brother.   Pups would be chasing squirrels as we enjoyed the beauty of my gardens and the warmth of the shining sun.

Today all I have are precious memories and cards from past Mother’s Day.   Treasured pieces of paper signed by you.   I hold them close reading each word while running my finger over your signature.   You always laughed at me for saving cards now perhaps you understand why.

Today there is no family gathering.   No shining sun.  Today, the weather mimics my soul.   Dreary and cold.  Rain hitting the window makes me think that the angels are crying for Mom’s like me.   Knowing this pain will never let go.   I will mourn you as long as I breathe.

Today I will give myself a gift.   I will allow memories to overflow in my mind as my tears fall shamelessly from my eyes.   I will not pretend to be ok.   The mask I wear to get through life will remain in hiding.   Today I will be true to my grief.   I will allow it to wrap  it’s arms around my soul as I remember you as my loving son.   Today I will allow myself to break.   I will close my eyes and see your smiling face.

Today I will reaffirm that I will always be your Mother.   I pray I will feel you with me.  That you will be with me in spirit as I remember your love as both my little boy and as an amazing man.    I will speak to you as if you were sitting next to me.   I will pray for a sign showing me you are near.

Today I will be that Mother learning to survive her day.   A Mother learning to live with a broken heart on her special day.   A Mother living with a child who lives in Heaven.

 

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.

 

 

 

Grief Is Like A Jar Of Pickles

Matt,

Since your death, I’ve been living not just with complicated grief, but also with PTSD.   There are days when the slightest noise has me hanging from the ceiling.   I struggle with feelings of not knowing where I fit in anymore.   There are days I question my role here on earth.   Your addiction kept me crazy but your death left me broken and questioning life.

The old me left the day you did and the new me struggles with who I’m supposed to be now.   It feels like being transported to another place where you don’t understand the language.   You constantly get lost and find yourself looking for something familiar.

I’ve learned that very few people understand when I try to explain what it’s like to be me.   They think I should be back to my pre-grief state.   That life should just return to normal and drag me with it.   What they don’t and never will understand is that profound loss slices you in half.   You become the “before” and the “after” pieces of your tragedy.   As time passes the “before” you drifts further and further away.   Leaving you with an identity that even you can’t identify with.   You long for the old you but know the road back to finding her again has imploded.

I find it harder and harder to remember the woman I was before your death.   The girl who laughed at the stupidest of things.   Who would even laugh at herself.   I remember looking forward to little things.   I remember having happy hours and bon fires.   I remember having lots of fun.   I remember a reflection with bright eyes and a natural smile.   Now I see a silhouette in a fog slowly drifting away.

Trauma changes you.   It unravels you.  It takes you to the darkest of places.   Things you once thought would never happen have happened leaving you hanging from that mental cliff clinging to the last piece of your soul.   The “before” you has been sucked away and the “after” you lay in pieces at your feet.   You try to make sense of this “after” you, but the pieces are hard to fit together.   Like a puzzle that just doesn’t make sense when a large part of it is missing.

I was with a friend one day.   This friend totally gets where I’m coming from.   She understands when I say the “before” me has vanished and this new “after” me is still struggling to fit.   Like a pair of old jeans that once felt like home now rewoven and uncomfortable.   She has survived her own trauma.   The assault of breast cancer on her body and mind.   Like me the “before” her was totally destroyed and replaced with an “after” person she continues to try to identify with.   We both grieve the women we once were.   We often compare notes on how things continue to have a trickle down effect on both our lives.

During one of these conversations she said something that gave me an Ah ha moment putting a true perspective on what I’ve been living with since your death.   Without even knowing how profound this statement was and how it would impact me for the rest of my life she calmly looked me in the eye and said, “Once you become a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber”.    Yes, I know it sounds like a crazy thing to say in the midst of an emotional conversation, but when you really think about it, it’s the most insightful statement I’ve ever heard about who you become after you live with grief or survive a trauma.

The transformation from cucumber to pickle can never be reversed.   Everything used in the process leaves a permanent mark.   The same with grief, whether it’s over the loss of a child or the loss of a healthy you, it leads you through a process that can never be undone.

There are days when the world can be sweet, then without warning an unexpected trigger can turn everything dark.   Just like a jar of pickles we never know how the day will taste.   Will it leave us with an unpleasant bitterness or a fleeting moment of unexpected pleasure.  We never know how the “after” effects of grief  will play out as we navigate unfamiliar territory.

It continues to amaze and comfort me that a simple statement had the power to  validate what I feel on a daily basis.  It also brings me extreme comfort knowing that I’m not the only pickle trying to find my place in the glass jar called life…..

 

 

 

 

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