Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: grieving mother battling cancer

Looking Back Through Tears.

Matt, it’s been a while since I’ve written.  I’ve thought of you everyday but this cancer treatment and the two surgeries have really beat me down.  I don’t even have the energy to cry about everything that’s happening to me.  Your loss hits so hard every time I remember you complaining about your back pain after your surgery. 

Never in a million years could I ever have imagined that pain would one day invade my body as like you I’ve had back surgery and I’m filled with screws and rods.  

How I wish you could come back just for a few hours.  I would beg your forgiveness for not being more compassionate towards your pain.  I always thought you just wanted an excuse to use the opioids that finally got you addicted and contributed to your death.

All I wanted to do was get you off the pills so you could get your life back in order.  Little did I know how you were suffering every day of your life.  

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I guess that saying is true, Until you walk in someone’s shoes keep your opinions to yourself.  I now understand why you would never sleep in your bed.  I’d always come downstairs to find you sleeping on the couch with the TV blaring.  I blamed you getting high and falling asleep in positions that looked horribly uncomfortable.  I remember waking you up and urging you to go to bed only to have you scowl at me.  

Now I get it. I can’t believe that I have such a hard time sleeping through the night.  I start out in my bed but wake after a few hours in excruciating pain.  I need to get up and walk until the pain settles and then I find myself in the recliner just like I found you.  

I’ve also been given OxyContin.  I’ll admit I had no choice but to take a few as my pain was unbearable at times.  Every time I handle that prescription bottle I flash back to you.    It is the only thing that helps with the pain but I’m terrified of becoming addicted like you did.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to continue to live in pain every moment of every day.  I feel like God is teaching me a very valuable lesson in empathy.  I truly had no idea what you went through until now as I’m going through the same painful journey after back surgery.  

I wish we could go back in time.  Knowing what I now know I would have treated you with compassion instead of expecting you to go to work everyday functioning like a person in perfect shape.  Telling you I understand now really makes no difference as you’ve been gone for 5 years and 2 months.  

I hope you hear my prayers for you.  I hope you know how sorry I am and most of all I hope you forgive me.  I’ve been living like this for 3 months, you lived with this for 7 years as you struggled with chronic pain and the horror of addiction.  

There are no words to describe my grief over losing you and now losing me.  I can no longer advocate the way I used to.  I can’t walk the dogs or do anything that once brought me stress relief and a slice of happiness.  This is not the life I envisioned for us.   I saw you married with children, living at your happy place by the sea.  I saw family vacations with grandkids and grand pups running and jumping in the surf as you and I sat together on the sand sharing the beauty of life.  I saw you and Mike growing older together sharing the joys of fatherhood.  I never saw you dying at 37 or me fighting cancer at 63.   I guess it’s true, we have no control over how life will twist and turn.  That for me is the hardest to accept.  I thought I could save you.  Now I’m fighting for my life not knowing what the outcome will be.   I can only hope that one day we will be together again sitting by the sea, no longer in pain but in paradise. 💜♥️

Time Doesn’t Lessen Grief, Time Magnifies It

Matt,   There is a saying that time heals all wounds.  People tell you to give it time.  Time will help.  As if time has the magical power to help you forget that your child is gone.  As if they have a clue as to how it feels to walk around with half your heart missing.  All time has done for me is to deepen my already intense pain.  All time has done is rob me of the blessing of watching my sons grow old together. Time passes and I realize that I haven’t heard your voice or seen your handsome face for 5 years.

Time is not my friend.  Time has become a painful march of family birthdays and holiday celebrations that are no more.  Time deepens the grief as reality seeps in reminding me that this emptiness will be a part of my soul forever.  Weeks have turned to months.  Months to years.  Yet my grief refuses to loosen its grip on my soul.  Grief has taken over every cell of my body.  It pulses through my veins with every beat of my heart.  Breaking it again as I recognize that memories are all I have left of you.  Happy times when life was as it should be.  Family barbecues, laughter and love.  My two sons enjoying each other’s company as siblings do.

But time doesn’t have a clue.  It marches on and with each new day comes the pain of knowing there will be no phone call or visit today, tomorrow or forever.  Time is like that crack.   It starts small and barely noticeable until it transforms into an enormous undeniable rupture separating life into the before and after.

As time passes people forget.  Returning to their normal lives afraid that grief is catchy.  Friends disappearing into the sunset.  Running as far and as fast as they can.  As if I’m contagious.  Time is a great teacher.  It teaches you who gives a damn.

Time does nothing to lessen grief.  It does everything to magnify it.  I now understand those things I took for granted like having all the time in the world to say the things I wanted to say, to do the things we dreamed about doing were never under our control.  Time fools you into thinking you will always have more.

Time marches on and doesn’t care who it mows down as it marches.  It has no respect for the grieving heart.

The only thing I want to do with time is have it rewind.  Go back to the time when you lived.  I call it a do over.  A time when my heart was whole.  A time when life held joy and hope not pain and regret.

Before your death I wanted time to slow down.  I complained that time was going by too quickly.  Days and months were flying by.  I wanted time to give me more moments to enjoy life.  To allow the seasons to change slowly allowing the beauty of each one to linger longer.

Now time can’t move fast enough.  I want the holidays to fly away and be gone.  Birthdays too.  I want my head to spin and not have time to know my reality and the pain it continues to bring.

I was never afraid of getting older.  I take care of myself.  I’m physically active, not bad looking for a sixty something mom.  Aging didn’t really bother me.  Although it does feel like I was only thirty a few days ago.  I’m not high maintenance, never worried about a new wrinkle popping up as I’ve earned every one being the mother of two boys.  Now I want to close my eyes and be eighty.  I want to be closer to the time I will see you again.  I want to see your face and hear your voice.  I want to be able to hold you and tell you it’s ok.   Matt, you were a beautiful man with a terrible, misunderstood disease.  Prior to your death my time was spent keeping an eye on you.

Before your death time was of short supply.  Working and trying to keep you safe took every second of every day.  Now time is empty, standing still, endless.

Time has also taught me a life lesson.  I have no control over it and what it may bring.  We’ve all heard the saying “In Gods Time Not Ours”.  Now I finally get it.  Time does not belong to us.

The gift of time for me is a double edged sword.  Sharp and cutting one minute.  Peaceful and too quiet the next. I’m learning that time stops for no one.

For as long as I have left I will cherish those beautiful memories and wish I knew then what I know now.  I would have stayed longer and cherished our time sitting together by the sea.  I would have hugged more and argued less.  I would have fought harder to save you.

Living through time without you is hell.  I’ve read that “ Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”

Until we meet again I will treasure the moments we’ve made in the time we had together.  Precious moments that time cannot erase 💜

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.

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 Layers Of My Grief

Matt,

Somedays I feel like I’m layered in grief.   I remember how I would layer my clothing on those iffy weather days.  Never knowing if the sun would break through the clouds and warm the gloomy day.   This grief is heavier than my clothing and unlike my clothing cannot be ripped off when the waves hit and the tide recedes.

I feel like an onion.   Peeling through the multiple layers will leave you in tears.  Whenever I feel I’ve come to grips with your death, I’m hit by another wave.   My tears come as the overwhelming feeling of sinking into my abyss hits like a slap.

My cancer diagnosis has compounded your death.   I need you here.   I want you here.   You should be here.   I need to hear your voice telling me, “You got this Mom.”   I need you to talk to your brother as only brothers can.  I need you to be here to help me face the unknown.  I need you so badly that I feel myself reliving that horrific fresh pain I experienced early after your death.

I grieve what could have been.  I grieve who I used to be.   I grieve for the life I took so for granted.  I grieve for Ray and all he has lost in a companion.   Layer after layer after layer.   The grief builds up like volcanic ash.   Get too close and you get burned.   Tears flows like ash completely out of my control.   Then the flow stops and mountains of ash are left behind.   Mountains that block this journey to finding peace.

Mountains of tests since my diagnosis.   Grief over the possibilities.   Mountains of newly woken grief over you not being here to hug me.   Grief over how quickly plans and life changes.   Grief when I hear your brothers voice begin to crack as we both share our feeling about your absence.

I’ve read that grieving is a life long process.   I will never get over your loss.  I will never get over losing me.    I pray for the strength to carry my layers as my journey with multifaceted grief will continue as long as I live.

Peeling an onion is like dealing with grief one step at a time.   The onion comes apart one layer at a time.   If you peel harshly you can tear through the  layers causing damage.   If you peel gently the layers fall off easily.

I will work to peel gently through my layers.   Working through one layer at a time.   Dealing with the feelings that I try to run from.   Dealing with my losses in hopes of recovering a small slice of peace………..

 

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