Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: mother & son (page 1 of 10)

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.

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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………



Grief, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Matt,  today, January 3rd, marks the third year since you left me behind.   Three years have passed since I’ve heard your voice or seen your handsome face.   Three years.   It just doesn’t seem real.   How did I survive three years of carrying the unbearable weight of my grief.   I sit alone and remember the moment I learned you were gone.   Three years ago, January 3rd was a Saturday.  It was snowing here and all I could think about was how lucky you were to be spending your day at the beach.  I was working in the NICU feeling jealous of your new life in sunny Florida.   Jealous that I was freezing and you were laying in the warm sun.  Little did I know you were already lying in a morgue your body lifeless, cold and blue.

For three years I’ve lived in a fog.   Disbelief allowed me to survive.   Days I pretended you really were lying on that beach being warmed by the Florida sun.  Then there were days when reality snuck in and I had to crawl through choking quicksand.  Days the weight of my grief literally had me fighting for my own life.

As a nurse, I read about how debilitating complicated grief could be.   I learned how destructive this type of grief could be to the body and soul.   Never quite understanding it’s incredible power until I was thrown into the fire after your untimely death.   You see Matt, my grief has been complicated by my guilt.   For three years I have blamed myself for your death.   I became my own personal punching bag.  Constantly allowing that rollercoaster of emotions to chip away at my very soul.

I blamed myself for not being the “best” mother.  For working while you were young.  Not having the luxury of being one of those incredible moms who had time to make meals from scratch.   You know those moms who never had to be responsible for anything else except their kids.   My beatings continued as I rehashed everything I should have done to save you from your addiction.   My guilt would never allow me to see everything that I did do.   Guilt is ugly.   Guilt only let me see all of the wrongs and none of the rights.

I remember watching you withdrawal from your opioids.   I watched your body shake, sweat and fall apart.  I watched in horror.  Never quite understanding how your body could withstand the assault.   Now it’s my body that’s being assaulted.   I’m the one withdrawing from you.   I was addicted to your addiction.   For seven years, I fought to save you.   Never once thinking that I had no control of our fate.   I was so foolish thinking I was in control of anything, especially your addiction.   Call it nurses mentality.   Nurses save and your mom was a nurse.   I spent my life saving people and  could not accept that this wonder woman of a nurse could not save her own son.

So now it’s me thats been shaking, sweating and falling apart.   For most of the past three years my soul has lived in a constant state of high anxiety.   Your death caused a permanent withdrawal that I now have to navigate my way through.  Panic attacks,  ER trips thinking I’m having a heart attack, and my new friend migraines.   Every crazy symptom all anxiety and guilt related.

I remember being told that one day I would get angry.   Angry at you for causing such profound grief.  For causing my world to spin off its axis.  For causing me to drown in this dark, ugly abyss.   This overwhelming ocean of heartbreak.  Constantly fighting the powerful undertow that drags me down on the bad days.

I never did get angry.   I forgave you the moment you left.   The person I need to forgive is me.   Three years is a long time to fight the most powerful of emotions.   Three years of blaming myself for something I could not control.   Three years of near drownings when the guilt pulled me far away from my safe shore.

I will grieve and miss you forever.   This isn’t how our story was supposed to end.   I now realize that when the guilt starts dragging me under I must reach for a life preserver.   I must focus on getting back to shore.   I must learn to swim again…………

This Roller Coaster Ride Called Life


Matt,   The reality of your loss sucks.   There really is no pretty way to put it.   You are dead.   The order of my life has been altered beyond repair.   Everything has changed.   I have a deep pain that can never be fixed.   There is nothing that can be done to make this right.   Your death was out of order throwing my life into a place that makes no sense.

I feel like I’m back on that roller coaster.   The one we rode together during your active addiction.   One day things were great then the very next moment that unexpected sharp turn came out of nowhere throwing us off course and breathless.   I’m a mess.  Turned inside out.   Struggling to get through the next sharp turn.

This month has been brutal.   First, flying to Florida to defend your life.   I felt like my already broken heart had been drug over shards of glass.   Left torn and bleeding in my chest.   Being in the place you lived.   Walking the beach you walked knowing you were gone hit me with an ugly dose of reality.   You really died.   You are gone.   In that moment you took your last breath I was counting down the days left before I would see you again.   All the plans I made, the things we would do.   Lunch together.  Walking on your beach.   Me getting a glimpse into your new life.   Gone with your last breath.   Like a puff of smoke on a windy day.  Here for a moment, then gone forever.  That roller coaster once on the upswing, now forever twisting and turning leaving me unprepared for this gut punching grief.

My next event where I felt strapped to that horrible coaster was Beau’s wedding.   Your best friend.   The man who sat and sobbed in my kitchen after hearing the news of your death.   His tears broke my heart.   We shared our grief over your incredible loss.   I remember hearing his voice.   I’m getting married.   I want you to be there.   Oh God,  that punch hitting again.   How can I feel joy for this man who deserves so much happiness when I will never hear those words from you.

I remember feeling that familiar throat tightening pulling up to the church.   The ride was beginning and I was holding on for dear life.   My mind kept telling me that life does go on.   This was life and I must participate.   I felt the jolt as the coaster started upon entering the church.   The first twist was seeing Beau. So handsome as he approached holding out his arms to welcome me.   A second jolt as I felt his arms wrap around me.   For a brief second my fantasy won and it was you.   The hug my heart craves.   I closed my eyes hoping to stop the flow of tears.   Reality broke through as the car sped up hurling my heart to the ground.   You are gone.

I remained strapped in the mixed emotions of joy and grief.   The ride to the reception was filled with small talk.   What a nice wedding.   How handsome Beau was.   How he and his beautiful bride only deserved the best in life.   You were the elephant in the car.   Knowing if I spoke your name my coaster would hurl off the tracks and implode into space.   Seeing Beau standing with Mike hurled me into another unexpected curve.   That twist took my breath away and left me holding onto my sanity.   The missing musketeer.   You are gone.

My wedding anniversary.   Nine years on the 25th of October.   Married to an incredible man.  A man who stood by me as your addiction wove its way through our marriage pulling us through the hell you lived.   This man who never once gave up on either of us.   Your crazy mother who was slowly losing her mind fighting to save her addicted son.  Or you the man with the horrible disease.   He rode that roller coaster hanging on for dear life as our world was thrust into the unknown of where the ride would finally end.

This man and our day should have been number one on my mind.   Instead all I could think of was you.   How handsome you looked.   Your incredible smile as you took my hand and walked me down the aisle of our tiny church in the woods.    I remember your laugh watching the kids on the dance floor.   Our picture frozen in time.   You walking me into a new life.   I stare at us.   Both glowing with joy and happiness.

You are gone.  We will never walk into a church together again.   I will never feel the joy of watching you begin a new life.   I will never see you standing next to Mike or Beau as you take a bride.   The roller coaster of emotions has become my life.   One day I think I will make it.   The ride is climbing to a new height.   Feeling hopeful that one day this overwhelming pain will start to release its grip on my heart.   Just as suddenly an event, memory or smell sends the coaster crashing toward the ground leaving me holding on wondering if I will survive this unpredictable ride.

I’ve always hated roller coasters.  But you knew that.   You tricked me into getting on one and cracked up telling me how all you could hear from the ground was me screaming.   Matt,  I’m still screaming.   Silent screams as a new day begins without you.  I scream everyday as I try to navigate this life.   I scream not knowing where the twists and turns will leave me from one day to the next.   I scream your name in my mind as I’m whipped around so many unexpected curves continuously slapped with my reality.   You are gone…….


Let The Battle Begin



The day has finally arrived.   The day I’ve been dreading and wanting to put behind me all mixed into a crazy bag of emotions.   My mind is spinning knowing that I will be facing the men who are defending those who feel dumping addicts while under the influence of drugs who have no sense of the imminent danger of losing their lives is an acceptable practice.   My emotions are on high alert.   Fight or flight, hot then shaking, anger then tears anticipating what is to come.   I feel like I’m being sent before the firing squad for a crime I did not commit while the criminal pulls the trigger.

I remember hearing the words he is here.   I felt the bile rise in my throat.   I had to stop the urge to run away and vomit.   How dare the man who dropped you off in a hotel when you needed help feel the need to sit in a room with your grieving mother.

Walking into the conference room, I felt as if I walked into a vacuum.    I could here those words over and over again,  “It’s Matt”.   “He’s dead”.    My mind started to scream as the pig smiled my way!   I kept telling myself to breathe,  just breathe.    I couldn’t let them know that what I really wanted to do was squeeze the life out of this smiling arrogant man.   I wanted to repeat the words he said to me when he finally found the time to call me days after he knew you were dead.    “People die here everyday”.    Yes, those were the words that came from the mouth of the man I trusted to keep you safe.   The man who cashed my checks and pretended to give a damn about your recovery.    I wanted to watch the color drain from his hideous face as I repeated those ugly words as I stared into his eyes knowing that my grieving face would be the last thing he would ever remember.

My fantasy of revenge was short lived as question after question came flying my way.   Some so absurd I wondered what these lawyers were trying to prove.   Ridiculous questions that had nothing to do with the fact that he woke you from a sound sleep and made the decision to dump you knowing you had used and were in a compromised state.   He told your roommate  to watch you.   Really, a man who professed to be an expert in the field of treating addicts dumped you off with a kid and told him to watch you!   Well, he did.   He watched as you died.

As I sat there answering those incredibly painful questions I thought of you.   The last conversation we had. The I love you Matt and I love you Mom spun around in my head.   I tried to remember what your voice sounded like.   I tried to find strength in knowing that you knew you were loved.   Then a flash back to the last time I saw you.   My heart broke silently as I remembered you lying so still on a gurney.   Your face blue.   Forever frozen in time.   Forever 37.   I remember holding onto to you, placing my head on your chest listening and praying that I would hear your beating heart.   I closed my eyes and prayed that this was a nightmare and I would soon wake up.

That familiar gut punch found it’s way to where I sat.   Once again I was being swallowed into my dark abyss.   I wanted to disappear.   My tears began to fall.   I looked across the table through blurry eyes and wondered how these men would feel if you were their son?   Would they be questioning why I am suing this man or would they be outraged that he neglected to get their son to a safe place?   It’s so easy to judge when your life has not been shattered into pieces that no longer fit together.   It’s easy to sit back and place blame on those who paid the ultimate price for a decision that was not their own.

Hours later we are done.   I gathered my strength and look directly into his eyes.   I tell him that I will forever blame him for your death.   I will forever live knowing that he is a fraud, a liar.   His decision that fateful night forever changed our lives.   I was never given the chance to hear your voice or tell you I will be there with the first available flight.   His decision tore the fabric of our family.  You are gone and I am broken.   Oh how I wanted to say so much more.   Words are useless to a man who has no conscious or ethics.   I decided not to waste my breath.

I found myself on the beach in Boca.   The beach you loved.  I walked to the spot you stood.   Your handsome, smiling face, your beautiful eyes captured in a picture days before you left.   Your image forever burned into my brain.   I closed my eyes and saw you running in the surf.   My tow headed beautiful boy jumping and laughing.   Reaching your hand toward mine.   The wind blew my hair like a gentle kiss from your lips.   For a brief second you were there and my heart felt complete.   I walked on the sand you walked.   I breathed the air you breathed.   I prayed for your peace and for strength to continue my fight for you.

As my plane climbed higher into the clouds taking me away from where you last walked the earth, I felt a piece of myself stay behind.   Almost as if I was standing by your side on your beach watching as the plane grew smaller and smaller until all that could be seen was a trace of smoke.   A piece of my soul sits and waits for you to come again.   To once again walk side by side hearing the crash of the waves whisper, I love you Matt.   I love you Mom.

Keeping Us Alive By Telling Your Story


Matt,  Today a news crew is interviewing me about your addiction.   I am sharing our story about how horribly you were treated during your struggle.  I want the world to know that you did not have to die from this very treatable disease.  That had society and the insurance industry felt the need to save you, you would be alive today.   But society sees addiction as a dirty disease and feel that those who suffer from it aren’t worth saving.

I have a different opinion.  You were worth saving.  Your life had meaning and value.  I remember you before the addiction took control of your brain.  Your giving heart.  Your beautiful soul.  The problem with society is that people are blinded by the disease.  They refuse to see beyond behaviors that are part of the damaged brain.  I wonder how many parents would punish their child after a diagnosis of any other disease. Would they disown the child sneaking the candy bar because he doesn’t understand the harm of eating it after becoming a diabetic?  Why does society feel its acceptable to label addicts as not worth saving?  How can strangers be so harsh in their judgement of people they know nothing about?

After living the nightmare of your addiction I chose to fight back against a society who has no clue.  To honor your life that was cut short because of stigma.  I tell your story to whoever will listen.  I fight to save other mothers from my grief.  I fight to save other mother’s children from your fate.  I speak out about how you were treated and how society thinks addiction is a dirty disease and those who suffer from it are disposable people.

There is a world wide misconception that addiction is a self inflicted disease.  I guess it’s easier to form an opinion when you disregard the facts.  The brutal reality is that addiction is a man made disease.  Created by overprescribing physicians.  Many who received kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing opioids for every ache and pain.  You followed doctors orders.  You trusted the pill pushers hiding behind their white coats.  You became a victim of an industry that cares more about profit than it does for quality of human life.

I guess its easier for people to point fingers and whisper behind our backs passing judgement about a disease they know very little about.  I guess perceptions and pre-conceived notions are more acceptable when you haven’t lived the disease or witnessed the struggle.

I’ve learned that pre-conceived notions fuel the stigma and contribute to the bias against this most powerful, deadly disease.

I pray that telling your story will begin to break down the walls and change the hearts and minds of those who believe that people like you are disposable.  That your life didn’t matter.  That the disease of addiction wiped away your worth and made your death acceptable to society.  I pray that seeing your smiling face and my grieving one will start the crack that begins to unravel misconceptions regarding those who suffer from the disease of addiction.  Telling our story keeps you alive.   Telling your story keeps me alive.

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