Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: mother & son (page 1 of 9)

No Candles, No Cake, Just Forever Heartbreak

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Matt.   Today, July 30th is your birthday.   It’s one of those milestones that we all get teased about.  The big 40.  Forty years ago you came crashing into my world.   Barely giving me time to breathe let alone make it to the hospital.   You had your own timetable and did it your way.   Fast and furious with barely a warning that you were making your grande entrance into  life.   I remember the first time I saw you.   Your tiny perfect face.  Those amazing green eyes.  Your birth came weeks before I was ready.   Your death came just as quickly leaving me as breathless as your birth.

There will be no family party celebrating your entering the fortieth decade of life.  There will be no teasing about gray hair or the beginnings of bald spots.  No worries about wrinkles or losing your physique.   Your brother won’t be able to dare you to bend low as you blow out your candles setting you up for a face full of cake.   There will be no laughter, burgers or beer.   The only sound will be in the depths of my soul silently screaming for a redo.

Memories flood my mind of past birthdays.   The house full of people and pups.   Celebrating your life.  I remember your smile, your contagious laugh.  I remember you and Mike sitting around the table thick as thieves sharing stories of your shared escapades,  belly laughing over things done  and hidden from mom.  You never acted your age when you were together.   Your personality  brought out the child in you both and I loved sitting back  watching  my men relive their boyish antics.   You and Mike one year and 20 days apart.   Both July babes.  People called you Irish twins.   I called you the loves of my life.

As clearly as I remember the first time I saw you I also remember the last.   Such a contrast in seasons.   Your birth a beautiful warm day in July.   Your death a bitter cold day in January.   I remember hearing your first cries.   Letting the world know you had arrived.   I remember the quietness that greeted me in your death.   The only sound in the room was the sobbing in my soul as I looked at my sleeping boy, so quiet, so cold.   The only similarity in your birth and death was once again it was just us.   You and me.   A mother and her beautiful boy.

I remember running my fingers through your hair.  Still soft even in death.   There will be no grays for you my boy, your hair forever light brown.   I remember touching your face.   Skin smooth and wrinkle free.   A hint of the growth you never shaved shadowed your perfect face.   Your amazing  eyes forever closed.   You could not see me standing next to you.   You could not hear my voice telling you how much I loved you as I did when we first met.    I held your hand and remembered the first time you wrapped your fingers around mine.   The times you reached out for me as we ran into the crashing surf.   Your hands always reaching for mine.  Your hands now so still.  You, my beautiful boy forever frozen in time.   Forever 37.

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Today,  I will close my eyes and let the memories of you flood my heart.   I will remember the joy, the love, and the pain that bonds us forever.   I will remember your crazy smile.  Your goofy laugh.   Your big bear hug.  I will picture you and your brother from birthdays long ago.   I will remember you crashing into my life on that July night and I will remember you leaving on that cold January morning.    I will pray that you have found peace.   I will pray that you are whole in body and mind.   I pray that your heaven is a beach and when my time comes you will be there holding out your hand reaching for mine.

Happy 40th birthday my beautiful boy.  How I wish you were here.

 

 

 

 

My Encounter With An Angel

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Matt,   I was having one of those days.   The one where grief lay waiting for me to open my eyes before it slammed into my heart.  The hit so powerful that I found myself breathless even before my feet hit the floor.   Your loss has rocked my world like nothing I could ever have imagined.    These days I find myself unsteady.    Shaking from the inside of my soul.   The ground beneath me is hard to navigate.   My journey is one I never saw coming.   I have lost my compass, my anchor.

On these days I’ve learned I must stay active.  I must physically challenge my body.   I must train my mind to stay away from the reality of my life.   I must keep moving physically escaping the nagging thoughts that constantly take over my brain.   I must outrun grief like it’s a rabid dog biting at my heals.

This day I ignored the excessive heat warnings.   Loading my bike on it’s rack I could feel the weight of my grief getting ready to follow me on this journey of survival.   It was ready to tag along like an unwanted friend as I struggled to find a few moments of peace.

Biking is my therapy.   It has become a way to soothe my soul.  Feeling the breeze on my face as the scenery changes.   Pumping my legs, feeling that adrenaline rush helps push the grief out of my mind.

A bright blue sky with huge puffy clouds greeted me as I headed to my old college town.   This town has trails holding memories from a time long ago.   A time of innocence and expectation.   College life so full of possibilities, hopes and dreams.   Biking down these familiar paths brought memories of happy times before life took me to places I’d never thought I would travel.

I remember biking past Rita’s and thinking I should stop.   Ignoring my thoughts I continued on my journey but I was unable to out run that urge to stop.   Rita’s was considered a treat.   I’d always order a mango Gelati savoring every bite.   Being out of water and soaked with sweat made the decision to stop a no brainer.   My thoughts turned to how great that Gelati would feel sliding down my parched throat.

I found a cool spot in the shade and let my mind wander.   Remembering those happy times long ago when I was a carefree student.   Wanting a do over.  Dreaming of going back in time knowing what I know now.   Wanting your story to have a different ending.   Wanting not to be the grieving mother of a man who lost his battle with addiction.   Wanting to leave my grief behind and rekindle the joy that now eluded my life.

I remember the feeling of being watched.   I was so lost in my own thoughts I wasn’t aware of the couple who decided to join me in my shady paradise.   We exchanged smiles and I surprisingly felt a connection.   Trying to pretend we weren’t glancing in each others direction, the conversation began.

“Hey, I remember you” this man now moving closer tells me.  “You were our nurse in the NICU”.    His wife now standing by his side.   “Yes, you took care of our daughter”.    We shake hands like old friends meeting again.   I remember the mother lowering her head and whispering “She was born addicted”.   “We spent weeks in the NICU”.   With tear filled eyes she shared her story of struggling everyday to get and stay clean. Sharing her embarrassment that her baby was born addicted.   They told me how hard they have worked, both beaming with pride as they spoke of their beautiful, healthy daughter and their journey to recovery.

My eyes filled with tears.   I also remembered.   Seeing them again filled me with both joy and pain.   My grief poured out as I told your story.   Sharing your seven year struggle and your death.   Your struggles so similar to theirs yet your ending so different.   We hugged, both of them holding onto your broken mother.   Tears mingling for a lost life.   Sharing a bond beyond explanation.

We parted with a mixture of smiles and tears.   Connected by love and loss.   I began to walk toward my bike still wiping away my tears.   I felt a hand on my shoulder.  This father built so much like you wrapped me in his arms.   I closed my eyes and for a brief moment felt you.  I allowed myself to disappear into the comfort of his touch.   I drank in the warmth of his big bear hug.   So much like yours.   Memories of how it felt to be wrapped up in your arms flooded my broken heart.   I wanted to hold on forever.   To trick my mind.   Never letting you go.

Biking away I felt peaceful.   Like you reached down from heaven and touched my soul.   I began to think my stopping had nothing to do with enjoying a Gelati.   My chance encounter with a couple who’s life I touched.   Both struggling with addiction.   A son of another mother.   A mother who lost her son.   A man who brought you back to me for an incredible moment.   This man hiding behind your beautiful angel wings.

 

 

 

Screaming Through The Stages Of Grief

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Matt.   I remember being a nursing student and studying the 5 stages of grief.   The book On Death & Dying written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross became every nurses’ bible.   I studied each stage trying to understand the power of grief over our hearts and souls.   During my nursing career,  I became a witness to the grief experience as I helped many families say good bye to their loved ones.   The echo of screams and uncontrollable sobbing etched themselves forever into my brain.   I carried these experiences with me throughout my career.   Never once did I ever think I would be the one screaming.

My education consisted of the theory  that grief followed a straight path.   That we put one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steps from one stage to the next.   I always pictured grief as a linear process.   We had to pass one stage before we could emotionally handle the next.  Textbook grief was so well defined.   Like a Lego project, one step built upon the other until you reached the top and returned to the old you.   People were thought to be “returning to normal” or “getting on with life” after “surviving” all the firsts.   Grief was supposed to be a temporary place where hearts and souls healed.   Grief was like a passing ship.   The impact was felt as the wake hit the pier but soon the waters became calm again and supposedly life returned to “normal”.    I always felt grief was like an exam.   You had to start with the first question before you could get to the last question.

My grief theory was crushed on a snowy January day.   Grief found me.   You died and my world came crumbling down.   That supposedly predictable and orderly pattern that I studied made no sense now that I was the one living it.    To be honest nothing made sense.   30 months later nothing makes sense.

Your death has been such a devastating, disorienting time.   There are days I don’t know how I will ever reach that final step of Acceptance.   Really, am I supposed to just accept that your addiction killed you?   I’m just supposed to chalk it up to life.   I’m just supposed to accept that I can’t pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Accept that you left without warning.   Without a chance to hold you as you took your last breath as I did after you took your first?

I am stuck.   Denial and Anger hold my hands.   They are my constant companions.   Denial keeps me somewhat sane.   Anger fuels my desire to fight the broken system.   The system that let us down and let you die.   I was not prepared for the power of my grief.   I was not prepared to become a stranger to who I once was.   I was not prepared for the reflection staring back at me when I glance in a mirror.   Grief has washed my face and lives in my eyes.   Grief doesn’t know its stages.   It doesn’t know that after all “the firsts” I’m supposed to keep climbing that grief staircase until I get to the top and shout Hoorah I’m done.  I survived.   I made it through and to the top!

My grief is clever.   It’s tricky.   Letting me think that today will be ok.   Today I will be “normal”.   Today I will feel joy.   Today I will not be carrying its weight on my chest.  Today will be better.   Today my grief will be predictable.

The reality of my grief is floating on a tiny raft in a big unpredictable ocean.   Waves hit hard tossing me in the frigid water.   They pull away allowing me to catch my breath before hitting again.    My grief has me floating in a fog never knowing when it will sneak up.  Grief creeps up and squeezes me from behind as a memory hits or a song plays.   I’m dry eyed one minute, a sobbing mess the next.

I have learned in my reality there are no stages of grief.   Grief is a crapshoot.   It shifts and changes.   It’s never the same minute to minute, hour to hour.    Grief ebbs and flows.   Grief has it’s own mind.   It makes you feel like you’re losing what’s left of your mind.  Grief cannot be contained or controlled.     Grief has moved into my soul and I have no idea how to evict it.

 Grief is as unique as a fingerprint.   Grief has no set pattern.  However we survive is how we survive.   The only thing I’ve learned for sure is that until you meet grief you have no imaginable idea of it’s power over your life.   The other think I know for sure is that Grief Sucks!!!!!!!

Surviving The Reality Of Mother’s Day

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Matt.   Mother’s Day is two days away.   I can feel the dread hanging outside my heart.   Like a lost dog it’s crying to be let in.   I’ve fought all week, keeping my mind so busy hoping that I would forget what this Sunday signifies.   I’m fighting for my life.   Battling my reality against the fantasy I’ve created in my mind.   I can not allow myself to believe that you are gone.   I must protect my sanity with every ounce of my strength.   In my mind you are living at the beach.   Living life in recovery.   Working and healthy.   My fantasy is where I go when the abyss calls to me.   Threatening to take me to a place I can not allow myself to go.  Hanging on like the cat hanging from that tall tree.   Knowing if my grip loosens I will fall so deeply into grief I may never return.

My survival depends on how long I can pretend.   Reality is dark and ugly.   My legs push through quick sand trying to run from what is real.   Trying desperately to keep my mind in fantasy mode.   Knowing the mask I wear will crack and crumble if reality sinks in.   I tell myself it’s just another Sunday.   I avoid looking at Mother’s Day cards when shopping.   I stay as far away as I can from reminders that there will be no more cards signed Love Matt.

This grief can never be described.   There are no books instructing me on how to survive a day that brings such incredible pain.   A day that even Hallmark can not put into words.

I plan to run away.   Like an angry, unhappy child I am running to find my peace.   Our sea beckons me to come, to breathe and to remember.   I need to be where you were.   I need to feel you wrap around me like the ocean breeze.   I need to hear the seagulls cry your name.   I need to sit and hold onto myself while allowing my mind to go there.

I will allow myself to remember past Mother’s Days spent together by the sea.   Sitting close as the sun kissed our skin with warmth.   Walking together with the pups.   The surf soaking our pants as unexpected waves hit.   Laughing as wet, sandy dogs ran barking and biting at the surf spray hitting their noses.   A mother and her youngest son spending time together at their peaceful place.   A son, a man fighting a horrible disease.   A mother who refused to give up.   A mother now grieving your loss.   Her heart shattered into a million pieces never to be whole again.

Those days full of hope and dreams.   Sun, surf and a love shared between a mother and her son.  You were never too old to say I love you Mom.   Never too old for hugs.   A little boy in the body of a man.  My forever towhead running on the beach squealing with delight as the waves rushed to pull you in.   Reaching for me to be your anchor, pulling you safely ashore.   You and I had something special.   A truth, an honesty that few shared.   I was never afraid to tell you how much you meant to me.   How much your addiction changed my life.   How badly my heart ached for you and how helpless I felt in your battle.

This Mother’s Day,  I will allow bits of reality to find a path through my fantasy.   Memories now so painful and precious are what I have left of us.   Those precious days we shared by the sea.   Like a film projector, I will control how much my heart can handle.   I will protect my sanity while allowing those memories to keep you alive.   I will look for signs that you are there walking by my side.   I will close my eyes and hear your voice.   I will see your smile in the clouds.   I will pray that you know I’m here in our special place looking for the missing piece of my heart.   Be my anchor my beautiful boy.   I need you to keep me sane.  Until we meet again I will always look for you.

One Breath, One Hour, One Day At A Time……

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Matt,

Five months and two days have passed since you left me behind.  This is how I count out the days since your death.   The days before were filled with periods of uncertainty but also with hope.   The roller coaster ride of your addiction was starting to slow down allowing me to catch my breath and dream of a peaceful future for both of us.   The years of struggling had taken its toll and we needed a break.   I Look back now and realize how foolish I was in thinking we had outsmarted your demons.   Florida was supposed to be a new beginning but all we got was an ugly ending.

Spring is finally here.  My gardens are coming to life.  The days are sunny and warm.  I keep hearing that life goes on.   That it’s been and I should be.   No one seems to understand that I am living in an empty shell.   My heart remains in pieces.  The woman I was died with you that cold January morning.   The words still echo in my soul, “It’s Matt.  He’s dead”.   That memory stuns my heart and stops me in my tracks.   I close my eyes and all I see is your smiling face.

I’ve read that the loss of a child does not just destroy the parent but demolishes them.   My life has suffered from the result of that demolition.   I am no longer that smart girl.  No longer able to bounce back and be the fixer.  I am broken and even I can not fix myself.  I am no longer that NICU Nurse.  Nope.  I just couldn’t put the pieces of myself back together fast enough so the hospital let me go.  Thirty six years and all I got was a kick out the door.  I look back and wish I had spent those weekends and holidays with my family instead of taking care of another family.  How I wish I gave less to my profession and more to my family.     We have this false sense that we will always have one more.  One more birthday, one more Christmas, one more chance to say I love you.  How foolish.  So now I’m unemployed.  How ironic, I  used to dream about the day I could retire.  Oh how I looked forward to having time.   No more working weekends or missing holidays.  Just precious time all to myself.  Time to spend in my life, not running the rat race.  Now time has become something I crawl through.

There is a saying that time heals all wounds.   People tell you to give it time.   Time will help.   As if time has the magical power to help you forget your child is gone.   All time has done for me is to deepen my pain.   Time passes and I realize I haven’t heard your voice or seen your face.   Time is not my friend.   Time is a painful march of birthdays, holidays and special days that are no more.  Time deepens the grief as my new reality seeps in and I realize this emptiness will be a part of my soul forever.   Days have turned to weeks and weeks to months.   Time marches on and with each day I must learn to survive.   Knowing there will be no more phone calls, no visits to see your life in Florida.   No Matt coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.    Time is a painful reminder that there will be no more.   A crack that started small is now an abyss that swallowed my soul.

Before your death, I wanted time to slow down.   I complained that it was going by too quickly.   Days and months were flying by.   I wanted time to give me more moments to enjoy life.   To enjoy your recovery.   To enjoy moments between a mother and her son who survived the ultimate challenge.  To enjoy a bit of normal in our chaotic world.   I wanted the change of seasons to last longer allowing us more time to savor the beauty we had missed during your struggle.  I wanted to make up for the time we lost fighting your demons.   I wanted time to see your beautiful, clear eyes.   I wanted time to smell the roses together.   To walk by the sea laughing like we had not a care in the world.

Working and fixing you took every second of everyday.   My mind always on overdrive.    Spinning with plan A, B or C.   Always trying to be one step in front of your addiction.

Now, time can’t move fast enough.   I want the holidays to fly away and be gone.   Birthdays too.   I want time to fly making my head spin away from my reality and the pain it continues to bring.     My grief has ended a nursing career that spanned 36 years of my life.   Time is now something I have plenty of.   Something I try to fill everyday.     The void left by your absence has shattered my very core.   Your death hit me like a bucket of ice water.   Taking my breath away and putting me into a state of shock.

Time has also taught me a lesson.   I have no control over it and what it may bring.   We’ve all heard the saying, “In God’s time not ours”.   Now through my grief I understand.  Time does not belong to us.   Time, however long or short is a precious gift.

For now, I will use this time to remember you my beautiful boy.   I will let my tears flow at will.   I will scream into the wind on a cloudy beach.    I will run into the surf, close my eyes and remember.   I will continue to tell your story.   I will hold you in my heart forever.   I will have conversations with God asking questions only he can answer.   I will use this time to remember my blessings.    I will use this gift of time to start healing my heart and soul.   This gift of time is a double edge sword.   I have no choice.   You are gone and I am left behind to find my new normal.   One step, one day,  one breath at a time.

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