Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: life after child loss (page 1 of 2)

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.

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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 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.

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.

 

A Letter To Matt On What Should Have Been His 42nd Birthday

Matt,  Today would have been your 42nd birthday. I should be on my way to the beach to spend time with you on your special day. You and I would spent time together on the beach, taking the dogs and watching their joy as they ran through the surf while we caught up on the happenings in our lives.  We would be planning our dinner feast of crabs, shrimp and beer.   We would be heading to JD Shuckers your favorite restaurant.  Our family would be together at our happy place to celebrate you.

But today our reality is much different from my dreams for your birthday.  For you are forever 37 and this is your fifth birthday in heaven.  💔

Today I will spend the morning letting my grief pour out from my soul.  Looking through every album I own with pictures of our life.  Beautiful memories of a life with two boys who were always together.  Boys staring back at the camera with innocent, beautiful faces. You with your green eyes and Mike with his blue eyes.

Pictures of you with that smile and those beautiful eyes staring back at me through all the phases of your life.  Pictures that prove you lived. Beautiful memories 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 the 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.

Brothers laughter blending together as you tell stories of childhood antics that mom should never know. Sharing your accomplishments in life as your children listen at your feet.

Your brother, Mike  will never know the joy of being an uncle.   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 father.

Mike will never have the opportunity to take your son fishing or show your daughter treasures saved from your childhood.  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.

No more pictures of my boys with arms wrapped over each other’s shoulders.  No more memories of happy times as we celebrate you growing older.  No more handsome faces staring back at the camera telling me to stop with the pictures already.  No more blended laughter for your mother to hear.

Losing you is losing a future of love, laughter and beautiful memories.  Losing you has left an undeniable void in our lives.  Losing you is never seeing my boys together again.  Never hearing your laughter as you tell your children stories about your childhood sharing secrets that only your brother would know. Losing you is never dancing at your wedding.  Losing you is never sharing the joy of holding your newborn child for the first time. Losing you has split my life into the before and after.

Pictures of me before your death are almost unrecognizable to me.  A real smile. Similar green eyes staring back at the camera.  Happiness shining through every photo.  Today my pictures reflect an emptiness in my eyes.  A forced smile. A face broken by grief.  Pictures of before and after tell the story of how grief changed me from the inside out.  Pictures showing a shadow of who I used to be.

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 future generation to share stories of your childhood antics.  No more of you.  😢

How I wish Heaven had visiting hours just for these special days. 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 the gift to grieve. To feel the profound loss of your death.

Today I will close my eyes and remember your hugs, your voice, your smile.  I will remember two boys chasing each other through the surf  throwing wet sand as your laughter was carried by  the ocean breeze.  Today I will accept the reality of knowing that I will grieve for what should have been for the rest of my life.

Happy Birthday my beautiful boy.   May you celebrate by dancing on the stars and swinging from the moon.   May you fly free knowing you are forever in my heart.

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.

It’s Not The Firsts, It’s The Seconds,Thirds & Fourths That Kill You

Matt,   Im still feeling the aftershocks of your death.   Four years later I still find myself on shaky, unstable ground.   I flip from acceptance as if I have any choice, to a blatant denial that your addiction ended your life and my dreams for your future.

I still find myself beating back a rage that I thought had become a little softer.  Oh how wrong I was.   This rage grips my soul.  Makes me want to lash out and scream until my lungs are void of air.   I want to shake my fist toward the heavens and demand answers.   I want God to show his face and help me to understand why my heart although shattered into jagged little pieces continues to beat.

Everything about grief is a blatant lie.   I’ve read that if you just make it through all the firsts, life suddenly  will take an upward swing.   Like winning an unexpected lottery.   Wow,  the firsts I’ve found were the easiest to survive.   My brain remained in shock.   Shrouded by that protective impenetrable fog.   Keeping my heart and soul tightly enclosed in a barrier that nothing could touch.

I  walked around in a daze.   Numb to what was happening around me.   Denial became my constant companion.   I could not even allow myself to think that your addiction won.

Slowly as the years continued, the fog started to lift.   The barrier began to crumble and reality began to slap my face on a daily basis.   The pain that was once living at a safe distance hit my heart like a well aimed arrow piercing what was left of my soul.

Society believes that time heals all wounds.   The only thing time does for grief is give it a powerful grip over your soul.   The passing years bring new triggers.   I’m still shocked by the force of gut punches I feel when memories hit out of the blue.   I still choke as I walk by a bag of Salt and Vinegar chips.   I still face an internal battle as I walk down the deodorant aisle and see a stick of Axe sitting innocently on the store shelf.   I battle touching the bottle.  Lifting the lid and taking in your favorite scent.   I hear your voice asking for me to look for the Phoenix scent if I was going shopping.   I can’t explain this guttural reaction to a stranger as unexpected sobs fill the aisle as I remove the lid and allow myself a moment to remember.  To smell a scent that is you.

After 4 years I’m still learning to navigate shaky ground.   Land mines are everywhere.   These passing years continue to be filled with aftershocks from the first days of my world imploding under my feet.   Some days I can feel them coming.   Birthdays, holidays and anniversary dates cause my body to react with physical pain.   I am shaking and breathless knowing that even after “surviving” those firsts, its the years coming that will continue to bring me to the edge of my dark abyss.   Threatening what little piece of sanity I’ve somehow managed to maintain.

I now understand that grief has no time limit.   It has a mind of its own.  It has no logic or compassion.  It hurts like hell and no amount of passing time will ease the pain that has a death grip on my soul.  It strikes without warning.   It is the most powerful, misunderstood emotion known in this life.  I also understand why society lies about grief.   If we knew the truth we would choose not to exist.

As time passes I continue to wonder what you would look like.   What you would be doing with your life.  Questions that will never have answers continue to haunt my reality.   Losing you was losing a big piece of me.   Your future was also mine.   A daughter in law, more babies to give my heart joy.   Your death was not yours alone.

I’m learning that my grieving for you will never be completed.   I will never get over it.   There will be no closure.   The aftershocks and reality slaps will continue to find me.   Some expected, some out of the blue.   My anger will ebb and flow.   Rearing its ugly head at the injustice of how your life pages were ripped from the book that should have held so many more chapters…….

 

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