Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: how grief changes your life

Grief Doesn’t Keep Track Of Time

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Matt,  since your death, I’ve found that my grief doesn’t keep track of time, people do.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been made to feel like I am the crazy one.   Responses from people I hardly know continue to astound me.   I can feel my soul start to cringe as soon as I hear “Well it’s been, you should be”.   On bad days I just want to slap the shit right out of them.   I want them to feel my grief physically as I feel it everyday.

I just can’t understand how society thinks that grief has a time frame.   What is it about grieving people that scares people away?   Grief is not a disease.   Grief is not catchy.   Yet, people continue to think that as time goes on grief should let up and finally ride off into the sunset.   Like grief has a time table and an automatic shut off switch.  Like grief is some sort of mental disorder that should be over and done with in a specific time period.

The problem with grief is it’s tricky.    It finds you at unexpected moments.   On days I think I’m doing ok it finds me.   Days when I fool myself into thinking that society is right.   That it’s been and I should be.   During Yoga class or lunch with a friend it attacks unexpectedly.    The reality that I will never be the old me again, and no matter how hard I try to put up a fight grief always wins.   Grief is that monkey on my back.    It  hides and waits for the right time to show me who is in control.

People think that when you grieve there is something wrong with you.   Especially if your grief lasts longer than many think it should.   It’s like that acceptable timeframe for dating again after a divorce, grief is supposed to be short lived.   After all we all know life goes on.

I get so tired of feeling like there is something wrong with me.    Like I’m failing to follow those ridiculous stages of grief made famous by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.   I studied them in nursing school and bought into her thinking until grief slapped me to the ground with an unimaginable force I’d never known before your death.   Even Dr. Ross acknowledged before her own death that grief follows no path of rhyme or reason.   Grief ebbs, flows and shatters as it pleases.

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I’ve learned that grief is selfish.   Not allowing me to think of anything other than my deep pain.   It’s like addiction.   It changed my brain.   I think differently.  I act differently.   Somedays I really don’t care what people think.   I’m struggling to survive this quicksand that surround every step I take.    I get tired of defending my grief.    For God’s sake, I lost my son.   How do I get over that.    How does a mother get over saying goodbye to her precious child.    Age doesn’t matter.   We are not supposed to bury our children.   Yet, society continues to think that child loss is something to put away.    That we can box up our grief and put it on a closet shelf like old family albums.   That grief is something to be controlled.

I am mentally exhausted  having to explain over and over again how losing you has shattered the fabric of my life.   I try to relate my grief to childbirth.   I can tell you how painful it is but until you experience it personally there is no way you could ever understand how intense the pain can become.   How this pain takes you away from reality and you scream thinking you will never survive.    This is my grief.   Silent screams everyday.    Screams as I wake and realize that another day is added to the tally of the days since you took your last breaths.    Screams as I look at your smiling face in pictures frozen in time.    Screams as I attend weddings and baby showers knowing they will never be for you.    Screams as I try to be normal as expected by society.   Screams as I tell your story to faces that have no clue.

I remember when people were afraid to mention the word cancer.   It became the big C.    It’s the same thing with grief.   Is it becoming the big G?   Our culture sees grief as a mess that needs to be cleaned up.   I see grief as something that now lives inside my soul.

Grief is not a problem to be solved.   Grieving people are not to be shamed, dismissed or judged.   Grieving is what mothers do when the natural order of their lives has been altered with the death of their child.   I never wanted to know grief as intimately as I do.   I never wanted to experience grief brain or constantly question my sanity.   I wanted you to live a beautiful life.   I wanted to meet your wife and rock your babies.   I wanted a reality that wasn’t to be.

I know I will never return to the person I once was.   Going back to that person is not an option.    She vanished when you did.   Gone with your last breath.   My grief path is my own.    It’s rocky and full of broken glass.   I tread lightly on days I can.   I crawl through the glass on days when the pain kills and I question my survival.    My grief has no finish line.   It’s one day, one breath, one scream at a time.    My grief is the best I can do.   Navigating this path is the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do.    One thing I know for sure is I’m not ok.   I will never be ok.   And for me that just has to be ok…….

 

This Roller Coaster Ride Called Life

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Matt,   The reality of your loss sucks.   There really is no pretty way to put it.   You are dead.   The order of my life has been altered beyond repair.   Everything has changed.   I have a deep pain that can never be fixed.   There is nothing that can be done to make this right.   Your death was out of order throwing my life into a place that makes no sense.

I feel like I’m back on that roller coaster.   The one we rode together during your active addiction.   One day things were great then the very next moment that unexpected sharp turn came out of nowhere throwing us off course and breathless.   I’m a mess.  Turned inside out.   Struggling to get through the next sharp turn.

This month has been brutal.   First, flying to Florida to defend your life.   I felt like my already broken heart had been drug over shards of glass.   Left torn and bleeding in my chest.   Being in the place you lived.   Walking the beach you walked knowing you were gone hit me with an ugly dose of reality.   You really died.   You are gone.   In that moment you took your last breath I was counting down the days left before I would see you again.   All the plans I made, the things we would do.   Lunch together.  Walking on your beach.   Me getting a glimpse into your new life.   Gone with your last breath.   Like a puff of smoke on a windy day.  Here for a moment, then gone forever.  That roller coaster once on the upswing, now forever twisting and turning leaving me unprepared for this gut punching grief.

My next event where I felt strapped to that horrible coaster was Beau’s wedding.   Your best friend.   The man who sat and sobbed in my kitchen after hearing the news of your death.   His tears broke my heart.   We shared our grief over your incredible loss.   I remember hearing his voice.   I’m getting married.   I want you to be there.   Oh God,  that punch hitting again.   How can I feel joy for this man who deserves so much happiness when I will never hear those words from you.

I remember feeling that familiar throat tightening pulling up to the church.   The ride was beginning and I was holding on for dear life.   My mind kept telling me that life does go on.   This was life and I must participate.   I felt the jolt as the coaster started upon entering the church.   The first twist was seeing Beau. So handsome as he approached holding out his arms to welcome me.   A second jolt as I felt his arms wrap around me.   For a brief second my fantasy won and it was you.   The hug my heart craves.   I closed my eyes hoping to stop the flow of tears.   Reality broke through as the car sped up hurling my heart to the ground.   You are gone.

I remained strapped in the mixed emotions of joy and grief.   The ride to the reception was filled with small talk.   What a nice wedding.   How handsome Beau was.   How he and his beautiful bride only deserved the best in life.   You were the elephant in the car.   Knowing if I spoke your name my coaster would hurl off the tracks and implode into space.   Seeing Beau standing with Mike hurled me into another unexpected curve.   That twist took my breath away and left me holding onto my sanity.   The missing musketeer.   You are gone.

My wedding anniversary.   Nine years on the 25th of October.   Married to an incredible man.  A man who stood by me as your addiction wove its way through our marriage pulling us through the hell you lived.   This man who never once gave up on either of us.   Your crazy mother who was slowly losing her mind fighting to save her addicted son.  Or you the man with the horrible disease.   He rode that roller coaster hanging on for dear life as our world was thrust into the unknown of where the ride would finally end.

This man and our day should have been number one on my mind.   Instead all I could think of was you.   How handsome you looked.   Your incredible smile as you took my hand and walked me down the aisle of our tiny church in the woods.    I remember your laugh watching the kids on the dance floor.   Our picture frozen in time.   You walking me into a new life.   I stare at us.   Both glowing with joy and happiness.

You are gone.  We will never walk into a church together again.   I will never feel the joy of watching you begin a new life.   I will never see you standing next to Mike or Beau as you take a bride.   The roller coaster of emotions has become my life.   One day I think I will make it.   The ride is climbing to a new height.   Feeling hopeful that one day this overwhelming pain will start to release its grip on my heart.   Just as suddenly an event, memory or smell sends the coaster crashing toward the ground leaving me holding on wondering if I will survive this unpredictable ride.

I’ve always hated roller coasters.  But you knew that.   You tricked me into getting on one and cracked up telling me how all you could hear from the ground was me screaming.   Matt,  I’m still screaming.   Silent screams as a new day begins without you.  I scream everyday as I try to navigate this life.   I scream not knowing where the twists and turns will leave me from one day to the next.   I scream your name in my mind as I’m whipped around so many unexpected curves continuously slapped with my reality.   You are gone…….

 

There Is No Black and White In Addiction

 

 

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Matt,   Today is my birthday.   My third without you.   I still have such a hard time believing that there will be no phone call or card signed Love Matt.  You won’t be hiding in the house to surprise me.   Once again I try to get though another milestone without you.   I’m in New York.   Funny you know I would have rather spent my day at the beach walking on the sand listening to the sea birds and the crashing of the ocean.   But my article about your addiction was featured in a magazine and I was invited to attend the reveal here in NY.  This humbling experience was something I could not miss.

Since your death, I have become an advocate for the treatment of addiction.   I write and speak about how horribly you were treated by the Insurance Industry and treatment facilities.  I speak out about the ugly stigma that follows addiction.   I work to make changes in our state laws.   It’s the only way I survive.  Your death rocked me to my core.   Everyday I struggle to find my new normal.   Everyday I pray that you are finally at peace.   Everyday I wake to this empty house.    My regrets about letting you go to Florida smack me swiftly in the face.  I feel so guilty about your death.   I still can’t believe I didn’t see how wrong it was for you to leave home and go so far away.   The thought of you being dumped in a motel to die kills me more and more each day.   My guilt beats at my soul.   My brain questions what kind of mother lets her son go so far away?

I wanted you to have a fresh start at a new life.   I was tricked into believing that new people, places and things would cure you.   All those books written about addiction by people who think they are experts in the field led us down the path of no return.   Parents who talk about tough love and disowning their kids because of addiction.   So much misinformation published by people who think they have the answers to addiction.   Don’t they know that every family is different?

There is no black and white once size fits all in this ugly disease.   Misleading parents like me that if we follow what they did our story would have the same happy ending.   Looking back I should have followed my gut.   I should have known you would never survive without your family close by to support you when you fell.   I knew you better than anyone and still I let you go.   Those books have been trashed as they should have been so long ago.

It’s ironic.   I wrote the truth about us.   The ugly, horrible, brutally honest truth about how your addiction stomped our family to death.   How your addiction shattered us to the core.   How I became addicted to your addiction and turned into a person I no longer recognized.   Funny, the editor I sent it to told me it was too ugly to publish.   That both you and I were horrible people.   That no one would want to read my work.

At first her words crushed me.   Then reality hit.  The reason this epidemic continues to have such power  killing far more than any disaster or war is because many people don’t want ugly.   People want pretty.  People want fairy tale endings.   People want to think that if we continue to ignore addiction it will go away. That it won’t affect our families.  That addiction is something that happens to others.  That addiction is something we can walk away from and never look back.   We only want to hear about beautiful children from perfect families who go on to lead successful lives.

I blame myself.   I should have never let you go.   I lived the ugliness with you.   Yes, there were a few glimpses of pretty.   The few times you came back as the Matt I knew before.   Times when the possibility of our fairy tale ending played tricks with my mind.   Your addiction was more powerful than even I could have ever imagined.   Your addiction won.

Now I live with regret.   I live with guilt.    The joke was on me.  I live knowing that birthdays, holidays and life in general will never hold the same meaning.   Oh how I wish I read how brutally ugly the true reality of addiction could be.

My Life Before & After Losing You

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Matt.  I wish I could tell you that things are getting better.  That after 32 months my grief has become manageable.  That it no longer holds the power it once did over my heart and mind.  I wish I could say time is helping to lessen your loss.  I wish I could lie and say the days of gut punches, struggling to breathe and the uncontrollable flow of tears after a song, a smell or a memory hit my heart are gone.  I wish all those things people say to make things better were true.

The reality is my life doesn’t follow any path or pattern.  My reality continues to be one of unexplainable loss and unrelenting grief.

I remember me before the loss of you.  A smart girl who loved life.  Always finding joy in the little things.  Always able to turn lemons into lemonade.

I had a large circle of friends.  My home filled with laughter and love.  Holidays were full with friends who had no family.  The more the merrier.  We laughed until our faces hurt and then we laughed some more. Happy hours on the weekends with whoever was in town.  Crabs and beer.   People and pups.  Life always full of plans and adventures.  Exploring new places in a kayak or on a bike.  I was called the clown, the practical joker.  Always ready to put myself out there at the drop of a hat.  Old pictures show smiling eyes and happiness.

Today, I struggle to find peace.  To accept who I have become since you left.  Joy is something I briefly remember but no longer feel.

Our house is quiet.  Many Friends have moved on.  I’m no longer that smart girl.  Saving babies is a beautiful memory.  Holidays once so cherished and looked forward to are now something I fight to struggle through. Once celebrated now survived.

I never knew the incredible power of grief.  I would never believe how it changes who you are from the inside out.  I remember holding a screaming mother as she said goodbye to her precious infant. I never in a million years though I would be that mother screaming for my precious son.  Experiencing the heartbreaking loss I witnessed many times in my nursing career.

This grief so much like childbirth.  Until you live it you could never imagine the pain.  My life is in two parts now.  I call it the before and the after.  I no longer recognize the face that stares back at me from my mirror. Grief has taken its toll.  My light is gone.  My eyes show a soul that’s shattered.  I’ve forgotten how to smile. My laughter is a thing of the past.

I look at pictures taken before you left and it hits me that in reality we are both gone.  Pictures of happiness and joyful occasions.  You and me our faces covered in smiles.  Eyes filled with light and life.  From simple everyday stuff to you walking me down the aisle of the tiny church in the woods when you stood by my side as I said I do.  Those pictures encompass our before.  Bittersweet and what I have left of our life so precious, so cherished.

Time is now counted out in the months and days since you left.   I remember the last conversation.   The exact time we spoke.   Our last sharing of the words I love you.   Before I never counted time.  Days, weeks and months flew by unnoticed.   Today everyday that passes is a constant reminder of how long its been since I’ve heard your voice or seen your face.

I now wear a mask.   It protects me from the world.  I’m so tired of defending my grief.  Defending the person I am today.   Wearing my mask is easier.  I’m protected from a cruel world where grieving has an expiration date.  Where grief has overstayed its welcome but refuses to go.

Some days my longing to have you back walks hand in hand with my longing to have me back.   We left together on the very same day hours and miles apart.

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