Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: how grief changes your life (page 1 of 2)

Life Will Never Be The Same.

Matt,   today would have been your 41st birthday.   I should be on my way to the beach to spend time with you on your special day.  We would have headed for the beach, walking the dogs letting them run through the surf while we caught up on life. We would have planned our dinner feast of crabs, shrimp and beer. But today our reality is much different from my dreams for this day.   For you are forever 37 and this is your fourth birthday in heaven.

Today I spent the morning letting my grief pour out from my soul.  Looking through every album I own with pictures of our life.  Beautiful memories flooded my broken heart as I asked myself how this nightmare became our reality.

Pictures of you with that smile and those beautiful eyes staring back at me through all the phases of your life.  From infancy through adulthood.  Looking so happy and healthy.  It is so hard for me to understand this reality.  My brain knows you are gone.  My heart struggles with this  truth.

Today there will be no family party.  No cake, no funny card.  I will never see you with your brother standing side by side laughing about how your both over the big 4 0.
Comparing how childhood dreams became a reality or remained still a dream.

Losing you is losing a future of love, laughter and future memories.  Losing you is never seeing my sons together again.  Never hearing your laughter as you tell of childhood antics that were kept secret from mom.   Losing you is never meeting the girl who stole your heart.  Losing you is never dancing at your wedding.  Losing you is never sharing your joy of holding your newborn child for the first time.  Losing you has taken its toll on me.   Losing you is losing me

Reality is that I will never see you coming through my door with your children in tow. That smile and those eyes forever gone.  No mini Matt’s for me to spoil and hug.   No babes to be rocked to sleep.  No babes to soothe my aching heart.   No future generation to share stories of your childhood antics.  No more of you.

Your brother will never know the joy of being an uncle.   He will never take your son fishing or show your daughter treasures saved from your childhood.  He will never know the joy of holding his brothers children in his arms or teaching them to run through the surf with you by his side.   He will never watch his younger brother discover the joys and heartbreaks of being a parent.   He will never be able to offer advice or share his list of do’s and don’ts of fatherhood.   There will be no more children squealing with joy as that new puppy comes running into their arms.   No more brothers sharing the secret of what makes a house a home.

How i wish Heaven had visiting hours. I would throw myself into your arms and never let you go. I would tell you how much your loss has changed my life. I would tell you over and over again how much I love you. I would beg you to stay with me forever.

Today I will honor your life. I will let my grief have its way. Today I will let my tears flow no longer fighting or pretending that I am ok. Today I will remember the joy you brought to my life.   I will allow myself to  feel the profound loss of your death.
Today I will close my eyes and remember your hugs, your voice, your smile.  Today I will wrap myself up in you. ❤️

Come, Sit, Grieve…..Repeat

Matt,   I could never have imagined the impact your death would have on every aspect of my life.   Never did I ever think my grief would turn me into a leper.   It seems people are terrified of those who are grieving.   Scared to death of contact with me or have that famous opinion on how long grief should last.   I’m guessing my time is up.  Even strangers run when I bring up addiction and your death.   It’s almost that I carry a contagious disease and if they get close enough they will carry it home to their family.   Like the flu, only worse.

Unfortunately, your disease still carries an ugly stigma.   I see the look on peoples faces when they learn how you died.   They can’t get away fast enough.   Quickly changing the subject as they scurry away.   I feel like I have that huge A branded on my forehead.  Except my A stands for Addiction.    I still find it mind boggling that even today as we continue to lose people from all walks of life  Addiction is still thought of as a dirty mans disease.

Experts on grief tell you to find a support group.   Sounds easy right.  I had a better chance of being struck by lightening.  You see Matt,  my grief comes with a ton of baggage.   All those what if’s and I should have’s cling to my heart and take turns tearing little pieces away.   Death due to overdose comes with such regret.   Things said and done dance with those things not said and not done.   Until you have lived that rollercoaster with your child one could ever understand the helplessness and hopelessness parents feel as we struggle to save our kids.   Death from overdose is unlike any other loss.   Not only do we struggle with grief but the stigma continues to rear its ugly head throwing daggers in our direction.

My attempts to find that group where I would fit in was futile.   Believe me I tried for several months.   I sat next to mothers who lost their children to cancer and felt the compassion ooze around the room.   I remember sitting there feeling that all familiar tightness grip my throat.   Then it was death by car accident.   Once again compassion.   I wanted to be Alice and slide down that rabbit hole.   I wanted to be Jeannie wiggling my nose and disappearing into thin air.   I wanted to be anywhere but in that room when I said that ugly word and felt the compassion wash away with the breaths of shock and stares.

Then it was off to another group that actually dealt with addiction.   Oh I had such high hopes.   Finally a group that got it.   Imagine my surprise when I was subjected to another parent beaming with joy.   My mind whirling as I realized this group was largely made up of parents who’s kids were either in recovery or still active in their addiction.   My mind whirling, my gut revolting as I heard her voice praising God for saving her child.   I felt like I’d been slapped.   How dare God save her child and not mine.   I remember wanting to run.   Wanting once again to disappear.   I made myself sit for an hour hearing more stories of recovery.   Stories of continued struggles that I knew too well.   I left sobbing and defeated.

I hid for months, licking my wounds feeling isolated and alone.   I scoured bookstores.   My shelves now lined with books on grief and grieving.   Reading the stories of other parents whose children also died from addiction gave me the push I needed.   I once read that when God closes one door, He opens another.   As a nurse I’ve spend many years holding hands and shedding tears with people who have lost their loved ones.   As a NICU nurse I’ve also helped grieving parents say goodbye to their child.   I remember praying asking God what my purpose was now that you were gone.   I spent the last 7 years fighting to save you.   Now I had all this time to discover my new path.

Support After Addiction Death (SAD) was born on a rainy, bitter day.   Sitting at my computer I designed a pamphlet.   Explaining how and why I was starting a support group exclusively for parents who lost a child to the misunderstood disease of addiction.   Our pastor offered our church.   The same church I said my final goodbye to you.   The same church where your ashes were scattered in the garden I tend as we celebrated your first birthday in Heaven.

Today I have a new family.   Mothers and fathers who know and live the same grief that envelopes my life.   We gather together and shed our tears.  Our eyes mirror images of unfathomable  pain.   Lifting each other on those dark days when one of us is drowning.   I look into their eyes and know no words are necessary.   We have lived the nightmare.   Our ending is not the one we dreamed of but together we find strength in the blessing of finding each other.   There is no shame, no stigma.   Sharing pieces of our broken hearts we begin to slowly heal.   Our children gone but never forgotten.   Pictures are shared.   Birthdays are remembered.   Names are spoken.   Many tears are shed.   Memories are cherished.

God did close the door for me when it came to saving you.   God also opened a new world where I can once more reach out, offer a hug and just show up.   Grief doesn’t scare this group.   Grief is a part of who we are.  Grief is the unwanted, unspeakable place that bonds us more than blood.  As long as I live I will be grateful for the people who say your name, offer a hug and stay……….

 

 

 

 

Grief Lives In Paradise

Matt,   It’s February.  You remember that first year when you were living in Florida?   February was the month I planned to come for a visit.  I anticipated seeing you again after 6 long months of nothing but phone conversations.   I imagined how it would feel to see you in person.  To be able to touch you again.  To feel your hug and see your incredible smile.  I was excited to see you in a new life.  To see you living on your own in the place you loved the most.   I envisioned us walking together on your beach and making plans for a beautiful future.

As you know, my dream was shattered by your unexpected death in January.  So here we are.  The third February since your death. I’ve returned to Florida.  To the Keys.  My piece of heaven on earth.  You see that was the original plan before your death.  I was spending that first week with you in Boca then heading for the Keys.  You were planning to come for a long weekend.   Once again I anticipated showing you my paradise.   I planned on how amazing it would be to show you what draws me back year after year.   The turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds.  The vastness of the sea that surrounds the house.  This is my heaven on earth.

You never made it.  So now my paradise is bittersweet.  I remember boarding the plane.  It was an early flight.  I remember just closing my eyes and closing off the world as my earbuds blocked out the noise.   I started to pray the Serenity Prayer,  oh please God help me to accept the things I cannot change.   You see Matt, no matter how many times I say that prayer, I will never accept that you are gone.

I’m hanging in.  Until I feel the plane start to descend.  Looking out the window I see the blue water surrounded by a scattering of homes.   I hear the pilot welcoming us to Florida.  The state you took your last breath.   I feel the slap of grief.   That familiar throat tightening.   I’m choking.  The grief lives in Florida.  I stare out the window hiding my flow of tears.  Hugging myself to stop the sobs that are escaping from my broken soul.   My therapist said, “The body remembers”.   Matt, my body is remembering and physically reacting to your loss.

The airport is full of happy people.   Families reunited.   I see a young man walk into the arms of his mother.   I allow myself the fantasy that you are here.   Waiting for us.  I see your smiling face.  I hear your “Hey Mom”.   I look for you everywhere.  I hide my tears and tell myself to breathe.

Grabbing my luggage I walk out into the welcome heat and sun.   Ray grabs my hand knowing I need to get my bearings.   That I need to allow the grief to envelope me until I can breathe again.   We reach the rental car.   The radio starts to play.   The sound of Guns and Roses, Paradise City fills the air.   Oh Matt, are you here?   Guns and Roses your favorite band singing about paradise.   My tears start to flow.   Ray grabs my hand.  Smiling he tells me it’s Matt.

The drive to the Keys is indescribable.  The salt air hitting my face.   The bridges surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds welcoming me back.   I’m surrounded by Paradise as my thoughts turn to you.

Once again I look for signs that you are here.   I wonder if you know I’m back.   I talk to you as if you are walking beside me.   Listening for your voice in the sound of the wind.  I remember all the plans we made.   Plans that have now become a grieving mothers fantasy.

Reminders of your loss are everywhere.  I see you in my mind as two little boys ride skateboards down the street.  I see you standing on yours next to your brother with that famous I can do it Mom smile on your little face.  I see you in the man carrying his child on his shoulders.   I see you in the stars shining in the night sky.

It is said that grief is a journey.   That in time the pain will lessen.   I’m finding that this journey is an endless path that neither time nor place can soften.   Even returning to Paradise has become bittersweet.   Tomorrow I head home.   Leaving both my paradise and a piece of my heart behind………

 

 

So This Is Christmas

Matt,   You remember my favorite Christmas song,  John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas And What Have You Done”.    Those words always made me stop and think about what I had done with the gift of the year I’d been given.   I would examine my behavior and think about the things I did and all the other things I wanted to do but put on the back burner for another time.    Alway under the incredibly naive assumption that I was in control and there would always be more time.

I heard the song on Pandora today and I had to sit and catch my breath.   Thinking back to another year leading up to Christmas without you.   So this is Christmas and what have I done?   Another year older and a new one just begun.   This year those words hit me as I felt that now familiar wave of grief slap against my hurting heart.   This year I became older but you remained 37.   This year I lived with a grief so powerful that many times I had to force myself to breathe.   This year as I looked back my soul fills with regret.    Things I wanted to do with you and say to you left undone.  Thought that there would  always be a tomorrow dance through my brain.   There will be no new year for us.  No my sweet boy.   No happy Christmas.   No happy New Year.

So this is Christmas and what have I learned?

I’ve learned that the pain of losing a child crushes your soul.   Changing you from the very core of your being.  The loss is indescribable,  heart obliterating,  life altering.   The pain lives in every breath and step I take.   This pain is invisible to others, but excruciating to me.   This pain has become a part of who I am.  It will remain an ever present ache with every passing moment until my last breath.

I’ve learned that grief has no stages.   Grief has a mind of its own.  Hitting so powerfully at unexpected times.  There is no rhyme, reason or warning as to when and where it will strike.   I’ve learned not to fight when those waves hit.   I’ve learned to let grief wash over my soul until it recedes.   I’ve learned grief doesn’t keep track of how long it’s been…….

I’ve learned how brutal the second year truly is when the fog has lifted and reality comes home to stay.    Never believing that any pain could be worse than that heartbreak of all the firsts.   The second has been brutal.   Kicking me to the curb slicing open my broken heart with every memory of a life that used to be.  Leaving my heart battered and bloody.     I’ve learned that shock never subsides.   I’m shocked with every punch of reality.   You are really gone.   There is no pretending this year.    My heart knows you will never be home for Christmas.   As the holidays approach pieces of me shatter to the ground.

I’ve learned that normal died the day you did.   Leaving me alone to navigate life as a bereaved parent.   For the rest of my life, I have to learn how to survive the pain.   This excruciating torture cannot be described in human language.   My grief over shadows joyful moments as I realize our life is permanently divided into before and after your death.   How I think and feel have been severely altered.   I have been taught the ultimate lesson.   We are promised nothing.  Not tomorrow, not months, nothing.   I no longer sweat the small stuff.

I’ve learned to hide behind my mask and move on.   Accepting that people are uncomfortable with grief.   I carry my elephant and play the game of surviving around those who could never imagine life after child loss.   I’ve learned that expectations lead to further heartbreak.

So this is Christmas and what have I done?

Since your death,  I have lived the experience of Gods power in my life.   He closed the door of your addiction and opened a door of understanding and compassion for others.   Out of my brokenness,  A Hug From Matt was born.   Your life taught me to see past the shell of a person by being able to look into their soul.   I honor your life by ministering to those who are addicted and homeless.   I feel your presence in their smiles and hugs.   Bringing joy to those the world forgot brings peace and joy to my heart.

I have found the words to share our story with the world.   To shatter the ugly stigma that follows those who suffer from your disease.   Words that touch another parents heart.  Words that bring help and hope to those who share our story.   From my grief a new person has emerged.   I am fearless.   An advocate for change in the treatment of Addiction.

I have surrounded myself with parents who get it.   The broken ones.  Parents who were once strangers now hold a piece of my heart.   We encourage each other and cry together as we crawl through the days that many would never survive.   Knowing that until one experiences this loss it is almost impossible to express.  We have a permanent bond.   The bond that only a bereaved parent would understand.

Your death has impacted my life in ways I would have never imagined.   Time now allows me to stop and smell those roses I once ran by.   My faith is deeper.  Prayers are no longer recited from memory instead they come directly from my heart.    I appreciate every moment I spend with those I love.   I take nothing for granted  knowing that in one breath the world can be changed forever.

So this is Christmas.   Another without you.   This year I can reflect on the beauty that came out of the ugliness of your untimely death.   I can reflect on what I have done to honor your life.   This Christmas I will remember your smile.   I will feel you in the hug from your brother.   This Christmas you will live on through me forever……..

 

 

 

 

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.

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…….

 

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