Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: life after losses

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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

Memorial Day Memories

Matt,   Today is Memorial Day.   The day is bright and beautiful.   White puffy clouds dot the blue sky.   A hint of a breeze stirs the tree tops.   Memories are flooding my mind this morning as I sit on the deck listening to the birds sing.   Memories of happy times before you left.   Memories of sun and sand.   Dogs running through the surf while you and I enjoyed the warmth of the sun on our pale winter skin.

Closing my eyes I can hear your voice.   You hated the beginning of the summer season.   The noise, the crowds.   You complained that the tourists invaded your piece of heaven.   I can see that scowl on your face as you contemplated trying to find your way to the sea while fighting through hours of traffic.

The summer season was upon your precious peaceful place and you had little tolerance for the hustle and bustle that those crowds brought to your sleepy little beach town.    I remember you pacing as you grabbed leashes that would now be required when we walked the dogs.   Days of running free on the beach had come to a screeching halt.   I could see their eyes questioning what you’re doing as you leashed them up heading out your door.

I remember walking with you to the bay as we moved from one side of the street to the other avoiding the golf carts driving through the once quiet streets of town.   I knew better not to try to bring you out of your funk.  Grabbing your hand I reminded you of times not too long ago when I was the one complaining of the noise while you were enjoying every minute of being part of the beach crowds.   Funny how as you matured, we blended together in our dislike of noise and crowds.

Those were the days we would escape to the sea.   Packing the cooler with plenty of ice for the dogs we would head out for the day.   I was in awe of your ability to control such a powerful machine.   You became one with your boat.   I could see your face begin to relax as the sea spray hit and we bounced over the waves.   Your laughter was music to my ears.

So many lazy days were spent away from the noise.   You would anchor us as I watched you become one with the sea.   You would spot a school of dolphins and jump in while I stood back watching trying to keep the dogs from joining your party.  You taught me to not fear life but to embrace it.   So many great conversations were shared as we sat together under the warm sun floating on the bluest of seas.

Today my heart grows heavy as I remember those precious times together.   My heart refusing to think they would ever end.   Years have passed since we shared our Memorial Day tradition of escaping the crowds to spent the day in our peaceful place.

Both your precious boat and you, my precious son are gone.   I am left to remember and grieve the loss of times that are never to be again.   I always think of you as I look out at the vastness of the ocean.   Closing my eyes I can see you standing at the wheel, the sea spray hitting your face as your laughter dances in my heart.

Grief Is Like A Jar Of Pickles

Matt,

Since your death, I’ve been living not just with complicated grief, but also with PTSD.   There are days when the slightest noise has me hanging from the ceiling.   I struggle with feelings of not knowing where I fit in anymore.   There are days I question my role here on earth.   Your addiction kept me crazy but your death left me broken and questioning life.

The old me left the day you did and the new me struggles with who I’m supposed to be now.   It feels like being transported to another place where you don’t understand the language.   You constantly get lost and find yourself looking for something familiar.

I’ve learned that very few people understand when I try to explain what it’s like to be me.   They think I should be back to my pre-grief state.   That life should just return to normal and drag me with it.   What they don’t and never will understand is that profound loss slices you in half.   You become the “before” and the “after” pieces of your tragedy.   As time passes the “before” you drifts further and further away.   Leaving you with an identity that even you can’t identify with.   You long for the old you but know the road back to finding her again has imploded.

I find it harder and harder to remember the woman I was before your death.   The girl who laughed at the stupidest of things.   Who would even laugh at herself.   I remember looking forward to little things.   I remember having happy hours and bon fires.   I remember having lots of fun.   I remember a reflection with bright eyes and a natural smile.   Now I see a silhouette in a fog slowly drifting away.

Trauma changes you.   It unravels you.  It takes you to the darkest of places.   Things you once thought would never happen have happened leaving you hanging from that mental cliff clinging to the last piece of your soul.   The “before” you has been sucked away and the “after” you lay in pieces at your feet.   You try to make sense of this “after” you, but the pieces are hard to fit together.   Like a puzzle that just doesn’t make sense when a large part of it is missing.

I was with a friend one day.   This friend totally gets where I’m coming from.   She understands when I say the “before” me has vanished and this new “after” me is still struggling to fit.   Like a pair of old jeans that once felt like home now rewoven and uncomfortable.   She has survived her own trauma.   The assault of breast cancer on her body and mind.   Like me the “before” her was totally destroyed and replaced with an “after” person she continues to try to identify with.   We both grieve the women we once were.   We often compare notes on how things continue to have a trickle down effect on both our lives.

During one of these conversations she said something that gave me an Ah ha moment putting a true perspective on what I’ve been living with since your death.   Without even knowing how profound this statement was and how it would impact me for the rest of my life she calmly looked me in the eye and said, “Once you become a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber”.    Yes, I know it sounds like a crazy thing to say in the midst of an emotional conversation, but when you really think about it, it’s the most insightful statement I’ve ever heard about who you become after you live with grief or survive a trauma.

The transformation from cucumber to pickle can never be reversed.   Everything used in the process leaves a permanent mark.   The same with grief, whether it’s over the loss of a child or the loss of a healthy you, it leads you through a process that can never be undone.

There are days when the world can be sweet, then without warning an unexpected trigger can turn everything dark.   Just like a jar of pickles we never know how the day will taste.   Will it leave us with an unpleasant bitterness or a fleeting moment of unexpected pleasure.  We never know how the “after” effects of grief  will play out as we navigate unfamiliar territory.

It continues to amaze and comfort me that a simple statement had the power to  validate what I feel on a daily basis.  It also brings me extreme comfort knowing that I’m not the only pickle trying to find my place in the glass jar called life…..

 

 

 

 

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