Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: how grief changes your life (page 1 of 4)

The Blessings Of Incidental Findings

Matt,

I must admit when you died I was so pissed off at God.   I felt let down.  Abandoned.  Like my prayers to keep you safe fell on deaf ears.   That my prayers weren’t good enough to be answered.   God and I had many ugly conversations as I sat in the dark and said things that would have had my grade schools nuns running for the Holy Water to wash out my mouth.

I was shocked at the depth and power of my anger.   Growing up in the Catholic church attending Catholic School I knew I had better straighten out my thoughts and get control of my out of control mouth.   I dared God to appear to me and explain why he let you die when I prayed you would beat your addiction and recover to live a beautiful life.

I was a spitting mad grieving mom and nothing would ever convince me that Jesus knew what was really happening in your life when I just had my fantasies of how you were living.   All I wanted was you back.   Under any circumstances.  I really didn’t care if you were suffering from your disease, I just wanted you back.

I remember going to your garden at our church and sitting under the cross.   Seeing your name carved in stone was like another slap from God.   Seeing your name, birth date and death date was having my soul ripped from my body and shattered into a million pieces.   No mother should ever see her precious child’s name on a cold stone.

I took my anger and turned it into an advocacy against those who poisoned you with their pills.  I was relentless.   I held nothing back.   I named names and called people out for who they truly were.   I began helping those who reminded me of you.   Fighting for them as I fought for you.   Four years of advocacy work culminated in six bills that would change how Delaware treats those who suffer from your disease.  I surrounded myself with the best advocates Delaware had to offer and channeled my anger into leaving a legacy to honor your life.

Little did I know that once again my life would be turned upside down.   Looking back it’s really not surprising.   My friends kept telling me to take a much needed break.   To just enjoy the fact that summer was here and Legislative Hall was out of session.   But advocacy is in my blood.   Hard to turn it off when people are calling for help to find treatment.   No way was I not going to do everything in my power to get another mother’s son or daughter in a safe place.

Well, it seems that God had another plan for me.   Funny how God just decides to take the stubborn bull by the horns and say enough.

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I know you know.   I have this crazy uncommon cancer.   Of course why not?   You and I were always the misfits.

Except this time I have no anger against God.  I have never felt closer to Jesus in my entire life.   It seems Jesus has been beside me all this time.   I just ignored him.   My grief blocked his peace.   My anger did not allow me to feel his presence.   He was knocking all along.

Jesus has taken over my care.   He has placed me in the hands of experts.   Jesus has saved me from the wrong diagnosis.   He has saved me from an extensive surgery that might not have been the best first step in my fight.

Matt, I know you are here.   I feel you and see your smiling face.   You gave me such a gift by getting your message to me to fight.   You told a friend you still wear your ball cap backwards.   You told her about my cancer and my advocacy.   You talked about your brother by name.   So many messages I know it’s you.

So just like Jesus you never really left me.   I just needed to let my grief open to see the most amazing light shining through.   I have a peace like never before.   I feel totally confident that Jesus has both of us in the palm of his hand.

Matt,  you were always my beautiful boy.   Now I know you are my guardian angel.   I know that you will be watching from heaven.   I know you are at peace and that is the most beautiful gift I could have ever received in the middle of my storm.

Blessings continue to find me.   Ray is amazing.  My friends, those precious few who stood by me after your death are carrying me through this new journey.

Blessings totally unexpected but so welcomed.   I continue to learn from you my beautiful boy.   I now sit and remember our conversations when your wisdom shined though.   Believe me Matt, I’m going to enjoy those little things I always overlooked.   I see you in the stars,  I see you in the sunsets.   I know Heaven is your beach and you my son are enjoying a peace by your precious sea.

I will fight for you and my family.   But when my time comes meet me by the sea.   We will run through the surf together.   You wearing your ball cap backwards and me with my crazy curls.  Together forever one day.   Godspeed my boy.   Tell Jesus your mom says thanks for not giving up on her.

 

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..

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.

My Father’s Day Fantasies

Matt,  tomorrow is Father’s Day.   It’s the first Father’s Day since your death that we will be having what used to be our traditional family crab feast.   Except this time it’s only going to be your brother, Heather and Maddie who will be here with us.  Since your death these special days are just too painful to continue the traditions of the past.  Your absence leaves a huge void in what used to be a happy time together.   There is no avoiding the empty space your death left behind.

Even after four years, my mind still slips into denial allowing me to fool myself and pretend you are just away.   Knowing that reality is just too painful to bear, I fantasize what life would be like today had you survived your disease.

I picture you with a little girl.  A towheaded beauty.  With the most amazing green eyes and crooked smile.   You would come bouncing in like you always did and she would be riding on your shoulders squealing with joy.   Of course a black lab would be in hot pursuit of the giggling girl.

You would greet me with a kiss wrapping me in that big bear hug while your girl wiggled away and ran to greet her Uncle Mike.   I picture my two boys, now men hitting each other on the back  and sharing your famous “Hey Bro”.

You would be grabbing a crab out of the pile and chasing the kids around the table.   You were always the prankster even as a grown man.   We would gather outside and share the happenings of our lives.   Laughter and love would envelope us like the rays of the sun as we shared the bond of  being a close nit family.

I picture the kids and dogs chasing each other through the gardens, laughter mingling with barking as we tried to regain a semblance of control.   Seeing my boys and their families together for a day to celebrate fatherhood would have been a dream come true for me.

You would have been an amazing father.   You were such a loving Uncle to Maddie.

Sadly I will never live that dream.   You are gone and there is no little towhead for me to love.     No wife, no child here for me to hold onto.   No child who has your beautiful eyes for me to gaze into and find you.   You took it all when you left.   All I have is deep unrelenting grief on what could have been and what is.

There are no words to explain how losing you is losing me.   All the hopes and dreams I once had for us shattered into pieces that will never fit together again.

Tomorrow I will think of you as I watch your brother and his beautiful daughter.  I will imagine you walking through my door.   I will close my eyes and see your smiling face.   I will always long for one more hug.  One more Hey Mom.   One more day of having my son’s together.

 

 

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Grief

Matt,   I never wanted to have this personal relationship with grief that I do.   I never really thought I would know this heartbreaking,  life changing type of grief.   I never thought it would become my life partner.   I never thought it would become a part of my soul and stay forever in my heart.  This grief is like the blood that pumps through my body.  It has become part of who I am.

I’ve learned that grief doesn’t keep track of time.   Although four years have passed since your death, this grief is as powerful as it was in the very beginning.   I’ve learned that the first year is not the hardest.   Surviving all those firsts really means nothing.   That first year fog protects you like a warm cocoon.   It shields you from the reality that life will never be the same.   It enables you to continue to breathe, to survive.   But it in no way prepares you for what is to come.

I’ve learned that this grief does not soften with the passing of time.   I’ve learned there is no escape from those unexpected gut punches.   Those powerful, crushing waves continue to knock me off balance just as they did in the very beginning.   Time brings with it the harsh reality that this is it.   This grief is here to stay.   This grief remains as overpowering and relentless showing no signs of letting up.   Time continues to march on as years follow dragging me through the next birthday and holiday without you.   Dragging me kicking and screaming begging for a short break from the pain of your loss.

I’ve learned there are no stages of grief.   I bounce from one emotion to the next without warning.   There are no straight set of rules.   There is no passing one stage to get to another.   No passing go to find peace.  Grief is not linear.   Grief is a tangled mess.   The more you fight the emotions, the tighter it’s grip becomes on your heart.   Grief is anxious and dirty.   Grief is losing control in the blink of an eye.   Grief is a trigger that hits like an explosion in your head and heart.   Grief is the mess your life becomes after losing a child.

I’ve learned grief never sleeps.   She’s there lurking in every corner waiting to pounce as soon as she feels your vulnerability surface.   Grief grabs you as soon as you awaken and follows you through your day.   Like a lost pup she nips at your heels.   Tiny bites with a sharpness that can’t be ignored.   Grief follows as you close your eyes to rest.   She comes in those haunting memories, the what if’s, the I should have’s, the why’s.   Grief is a 24/7 animal.

I’ve learned that grief can partner with guilt.   Adding regret for things done, said, not done and not spoken.   She teams up with so many powerful emotions that leaves the heart and soul spinning out of control.   Grief is a constant reminder of reality.   Grief continues to beat you down until you are battered and bruised.   Grief however long she’s been in your life will continue to take your breath away.

I’ve learned that grief will shake your beliefs about God.   I questioned why he allowed you to die.   I questioned why my prayers of keeping you safe were ignored.   I questioned where God was when you were taking your last breaths.   I questioned where he is now.   I’ve learned that without God I would never have survived your death.   I’ve learned that God is quiet and I need to let him be in control.   I’ve learned that what happened in your life and at the time of your death was between you and God.   I’ve learned to talk to God like he is a friend not always in a prayer but like he is standing beside me.   I’ve learned that if I open myself up to signs they will be there.

I’ve learned that I will never be the same woman.   The eyes looking back at me show a profound sadness.   I’ve learned that I have an inner strength I never knew existed.   I fear nothing.   I’ve learned never to take life for granted.  I appreciate the sunrise, the birds singing, the warmth of a winter sun.   I look at life through a different lens.   I judge less.   I’ve learned everyone is living through something hidden behind the masks we wear.

I’ve learned that living with grief is not for the faint of heart.   I’ve learned my grief has a life of it’s own.   I know there is no escape.   I’ve learned my grief must be accepted and acknowledged. My grief is as powerful as my love was and remains for you.  I’ve learned not to fight when the waves hit.   I must allow the grief to wash over me knowing that my life will always be vulnerable to those little things that bring you back to me.

 

 

 

I Never Expected This……

Matt,   Today is January 3rd.   The 4th anniversary of your death.  The weather mimics my spirit, cold and gloomy.   I’ve made no plans for today.  I just can’t come to the beach and walk where we once did.  I’ve chosen to just be and let my grief have its way……..

I can remember every moment after hearing those words I prayed never to hear.   Four years ago at 12:15 while working in the NICU taking care of ill babies, I learned that you were gone.  I remember a feeling of leaving my body to escape the pain as my heart was breaking.  I remember someone screaming, never thinking it was me…

I remember hearing words telling me to breathe, to sit, to drink.   I remember how badly I wanted my heart to stop beating so I could be where you were…

Four years later I still seek you.   I expect to see you coming through my door with Kahlua at your heels.  I expect you to grab a drink from the fridge and suck it down from the carton, laughing at me as I try to force a glass into your hand.

I expect you at the dinner table as we share stories about our day.   I expect you to give me a hug and to hear “love you Mom”, before you descend the stairs to your man cave.

I never expected this.   This overwhelming, never ending, life shattering grief.   I never expected to lose you so suddenly and unexpectedly.   I never thought that pictures and memories would be all that was left of our life.   I never expected that four years later my heart would still be screaming as it was the moment you left me behind….

I never expected that I would be constantly be looking for signs.   Searching the clouds for angels and crosses.  Searching for stones and leaves in the shape of hearts.   I never expected to have my breath sucked out of my lungs after seeing a can of Beef-A-Roni in the grocery isle.   I never expected to have a meltdown at the moment I hear a song or see the waves hitting the shore where we once walked together…

I never expected that seeing two little boys playing together would cause a physical ache in my soul.   I never expected that seeing two fathers laughing together watching their children play would remind me of what I would never see now that you are gone….

I never expected to be this person.   A ghost of who I used to be.   The eyes staring back at me break my heart.  I never expected to be the one left behind.   I never expected the pain of losing you would continue to be so powerful and soul crushing.  I never expected that four years later the tears would still fall as they did in the early days.  I never expected to visit a garden with a cold stone engraved with your name….

I never expected to fight for my sanity.   I never expected to walk this painful journey.   I never expected that life would turn out as it has.   I never expected to live this painful lesson of not taking a day for granted…..

I never expected to be writing letters to you that you would never read.  I never expected any of what I live with since your death.   I never expected you to die….

Four years later.   I never expected this…………………….

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