Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: life after death of addicted son (page 1 of 5)

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.

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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…………………….

Searching For A “New Normal”

Matt,   the definition of normal is something that conforms to a general pattern, ordinary or usual, typical, something that would be expected.   I can tell you, I’ve been searching for “normal” for 46 months.   Ever since you died nothing for me has felt “normal”.    It’s not normal for a mother to bury her child.   There is nothing normal about having to visit your child at a memorial garden.   Nothing ordinary about not being able to pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Nothing expected as I put my hands on your urn in my attempt to feel close to you.

It’s not normal to feel like your choking everyday.   Not normal to feel like your heart split in half but still remains beating in your chest.  My emotions are wild changing from moment to moment.   Memories still have the power to bring me to my knees.   Normal is not breaking down when hearing a song, seeing a young father holding hands with his child or having to choke back tears as two little brothers ring your doorbell yelling Trick or Treat.

It’s not normal to walk around on unstable ground.   Feeling anxious and foggy.  I’ve suffered through losses before.   This is worlds apart from anything I’ve ever lived through.   This normal was never expected.   What was expected was you to grow old.  To marry.   To be in my life until it was time for me to go, not you.   Normal is burying your parents, not your child.

So how do I find my “new normal?”    I’ve heard that term so much I want to scream.   How in the hell can anything be normal after your child has died.   I know people mean well.   People who have never lost a child are so quick to tell me how to adjust to this new phase in my life.   Really, people who can hug their kids, call their kids, share meals with their kids telling me that this is my “new normal.”

These well meaning strangers have never ridden my emotional rollercoaster.   They don’t experience my triggers.   They haven’t been hit by the grief bus.   The one that returns time and time again to slam me over and over.   They don’t get the fact that my future has changed.   Plans, goals and dreams are no more.   My brain gets it but my heart struggles to accept the collateral damage that I walk through everyday.

Believe me,  I have trouble believing that after all the time that has passed I’m still breathless when reality hits.   That 46 months feels like yesterday.   That there is no way that we are 2 months away from the 4 year mark.   My brain screams how, how, how have I survived this long?   How can it truly be that I have not heard your voice or seen your smile for almost 4 years?

There is nothing normal about not having your child in your life.   There is nothing normal about having to put on your mask to face a world that is terrified of the grieving.   I’ve learned that this so called “new normal” is just a polite way to tell grieving parents to get over it.   It’s just one of those new terms that’s supposed to fix our broken lives.

What I’ve learned is that life will never be normal.   Whether it be “new” or not there is nothing normal about life after losing a child.  I’ve also come to understand that grief has no timetable.   It follows no predictable course.   Nothing about grief is normal.   It is a personal journey that no one can walk for you.   Grief is heartbreaking, complicated, powerful and unbalancing.   It is anything but “Normal.”

 

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.

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………..

 

 

 

 

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………

 

 

Baby Steps & Hiding Behind Masks

Matt,   We’ve hit the three year mark.   Actually, it’s 3 years and 24 days.   That’s how life is for me now.   It’s become a count down to how long it’s been since your death.   When my brain realizes how long it’s been I find myself  breathless.   Still shocky, still unsteady.   Unlike public perception, times does not heal this wound.

January’s slap was extra harsh this year.   Not only was I trying to survive the anniversary of your death, but Ray’s father was dying.   I sat at his bedside on your anniversary holding his hand.   I told him it was ok if he needed to go on your day.   I asked him to give you a hug and tell you how much you are loved and missed.   I sat watching the life leaving his body but my heart was thinking of you.   I was thinking of what it must have been like for you.   No family at your bedside.   No one holding your hand telling you how much you were loved.   How your life was well lived and there should be no regrets.  You see Matt, that’s the hardest part for me.   Knowing that as you were taking your last breaths I was a thousand miles away totally unaware that you were gone.

Grief enveloped our home.   Me continuing to grieve you.   Ray just beginning to grieve for his dad.   I recognized that wave hitting Ray.  Seeing his face change as reality hit his heart.   Seeing him in pain filled me with shame.   I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to be who I needed to be to support him through his loss.  I was barely surviving falling into the abyss that threatened my mind.  How could I not think of the three years since I heard your voice.

50 years separated your deaths.   Your life cut short at 37.   Rays dad living to be 87.   You see Matt, all I could think of was how many years we never had.   Your death was out of the natural order of how things are supposed to be.  Ray was experiencing death as it is supposed to be.   People grow old and then they die.   We bury our parents.   We don’t bury our children.

Planning a funeral sucks.   The ritual is too painful.   It becomes unbearable when wounds are reopened.   Watching Ray was like watching the rerun of a bad movie.   Memories of everything I crawled through being brought back to life.   Obituaries.   Pictures of happy times.   Torture.  Torture.  Torture.

I found myself reliving those first days.   The days when I survived one minute at a time.   Those first days where baby steps were the best I could do.   Dressing for this funeral brought back dressing for yours.   I dreaded the funeral scene.   I was shocked at how strong memories hit.   Closing my eyes I relived every moment.   Feelings I’d been able to suppress flooded my heart.   The profound loss.   The ugly reality of death.   I was helpless to help anyone but myself.   My mask broken beyond repair.

Rays father’s funeral remains a blur.   Memories of hugs, smells and whispers.    The cold January wind once again slapping my face with the ugly reality of loss.   Bone chilling cold reminding my heart that three years ago to the day I said goodbye to you my beautiful boy.

Watching Ray I must admit I’m jealous.   His life returning to normal.   Back to work.   Back to life.   Oh how I wish my grief would allow my life to stabilize.   To allow me to have a day when I don’t think of you.   When I don’t think of what life could have been had you survived your addiction.

I understand our losses are different.   My heart is still shattered by your death.   It will always hold evidence of a deep, painful, unimaginable loss.   It will always dream of the what if’s, the possibilities of having you here.    Child loss is the most devastating grief known to man.   It never leaves and strikes at the most unexpected times.   Losing a child is losing yourself.   The present and future are tainted with profound confusion and denial.

I’ve heard it said that grief is not a life sentence, it’s a life passage.   I thought long and hard about that statement.   I think about this every time my phone rings and I hear an unfamiliar voice asking for me.   I hear the choking tears as another mother calls my name.   Oh this grief of child loss is a life sentence.   One with no stages or reprieve.   One we must take in slowly.   One we crawl through every day for the rest of our lives….

 

 

 

 

 

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