Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

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

As The Seasons Continue To Change My Grief Remains Unchanged

Matt,   It’s hard for me to believe that you have been gone for 45 months and 18 days.   But who’s counting?   Right.   I am.  I’ve been counting the days as they turned from weeks to months, then  from months to years.   I’ve watched as Spring brings new life to the earth. Plants burst forth in a riot of color.   Birds fly in and out of the garden houses building nests in anticipation of new life.  The summer sun warms my soul as the earth continues its beautiful transformation.   In the blink of an eye Summer becomes Fall.  Magnificent colors continue to mark the earth with incredible beauty.   Before long a cold wind blows bringing in the darkness that announces the arrival of Winter.

The changing seasons remind me of another time of counting.  I counted the months while  carrying you.   Praying we would make it past that first trimester sailing along until you decided to announce yourself to my world.   You were a Summer baby.   You became an incredible man who died on a cold winter day.   You took your first breaths on July 30th and your last on January 3rd.   I look at your stone and compare the J’s and 3’s asking myself the question that has no answer.   Why?

I started a garden to honor you.   To have a place to come and talk to you.   A place to scream and cry.  To be alone in the grief that continues to grip my heart as I see your name engraved on that cold stone.   You never wanted to be in the ground.   Some of your ashes are scattered here.   Your garden changes with the seasons.    My grief remains the same.

Somedays it hits without warning.   I will be digging in the cool soil clearing out the old plants, while planning for the new.    My mind focusing on colors and smells.   A memory hits of another time when we knelt side by side planting flowers in another garden.   Both muddy and laughing as the dogs did their best to trample our new plantings.   I can hear your laughter and see your smile.   I am reduced to tears as that one poignant memory leads to another.

As the seasons change your garden follows.    Summer perennials attract butterflies and colorful birds.   Summer brings another reminder that you will be forever 37.   Summer brings birthday candles to your garden.    I light them and sing out loud.  Watching the flames flicker in the soft breeze.   I wait for them to blow out and wonder if you are there with me.  Memories of past celebrations come and join us.  Days when we thought time was on our side.   That birthdays would never end as abruptly as they did.  The peace of the garden hugs my heart allowing my grief to be present.

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Fall brings a new beauty to your garden.   Mums in an array of blazing colors surround your stone.   Dead flowers are removed allowing room for a new brightness.   Bright red cardinals surround the feeder as leaves fall covering the damp grass.   An unwanted reminder that soon the ground will freeze and the season of planting will be done.

Winter brings a deep stillness to your garden.  It will surrender to sleep just as you did that cold January morning.   Do not fear.   My need to feel close leads me back to you.    I will continue to come and brush the snow off your stone.   I will continue to tend to your garden as I tend to my heart.   I will keep the feeder full giving the cardinals a reason to come.    I will sit quietly allowing my grief a place to be as the seasons change and memories find me.

Similar to the passage of time and the changing of the seasons my grief marches on………..

 

 

 

 

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……..

 

 

 

 

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