Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: mother surviving after sons death (page 1 of 6)

Together Again………

Matt,   this world has gone crazy.  I wonder if you know whats happening down on earth.   I wonder what life would be like if you were here.   We’ve been hit with this deadly virus.   Our state has come to a screeching halt.   Every nonessential business has closed its doors and we are all confined to our homes.  It’s been a month and I’m feeling the stress of this new normal.

I’m still undergoing radiation everyday.   I call it groundhog day.   Ray and I drive to Penn Monday through Friday.   I wear a mask and gloves as does everyone who is venturing out of their homes.   It’s almost like being an extra in a movie.   It’s something I never thought would happen in our country.   I wonder what your reaction would be if you were alive.

Your Grandmother was more upset about them closing churches during Lent.   The Catholic girl in her just couldn’t understand the need for social distancing to stop the spread of this deadly virus.   For her going to church was part of her routine during Lent.   She was more worried about not being able to worship than she was of catching the virus.   She wanted to know how we would celebrate Easter without going to church.

I had no idea how stressed she was.   Looking back I should have seen the red flags but I’ve been so preoccupied with my cancer battle that I totally missed her distress.

I will never forget the call.    Asking if I was Marybeth.   I would get those exact same calls during your active addiction.   A stranger on the other end of the phone asking for me.   My heart started racing before another word was said.   Your grandmother was found in her car in front of the soup kitchen where she volunteered feeding the poor and homeless.   It seems even though we told her to stay home she was doing what her heart told her to do.   She suffered a massive stroke.

She remained in the hospital holding on for a week.   I was unable to visit.   The hospitals had stopped visitors and with my immune system being down I was told to stay away.   Stacey was given permission to stay with mom mom because of the gravity of her condition.   I was able to speak to her as Stacey would FaceTime with me while she was at the bedside.   I was able to say all those things we think we will have time to say.   I apologized for not understanding her distress.   For all the arguments we had since your death.   Mom Mom never lost a child and had no clue how my life had drastically changed.   We had so many arguments about my grief.   Many times I would find myself screaming into the phone as I tried to get her to understand that time did not help with my grieving.   It was a difficult relationship.   One I foolishly thought we would fix before time ran out.

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I asked her to give you a hug from me and to let you know how much I love and miss you.   She left this earth the Monday after Palm Sunday.   The nurses said it was a peaceful death.

I feel like I’ve been slapped by reality once again.   There was so much left to say and now the chance is gone forever.   I mourn the relationship we should have had.   After you died she walked away from me.   I know she loved you and I thought we would mourn your death together.  I will never know why she acted the way she did.   Why she stayed away and offered no support.   That was the one question we argued about.   Now I will never have my answer.   Funny how now that she’s gone it doesn’t seem as important as I once felt it was.

I was having a bad day and opened a photo album I hadn’t touched for a year.   I wondered if you two were together again.   I prayed that she found you and would keep you safe until  my time comes to be with you for eternity.   The pages fell open to this beautiful picture of you and mom mom.   Holding each other close.   Your smiles so beautiful, radiating happiness and love.   Was this you sending me a sign?    Are you together again?

Oh Matt, I pray you are both at peace.   Mom mom was so upset about missing church during Holy Week but here she was witnessing the beauty of Easter in the most heavenly place.   I mourn what could have been for all of us.

Life has a way of teaching us difficult lessons.   I’m learning that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.   I’m learning to say what I feel and never think there will be a tomorrow to fix things.  The hardest lesson for me is that we really have no control of anything in this life.

I printed out your picture.   Every time I look at it my heart gets a warm feeling.   Knowing you are reunited with your grandmother helps my grieving heart.   Godspeed to you both.   Together again in paradise.

 

 

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.

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.

Believing While I’m Grieving

Matt,   Since your death my faith has taken a beating.   I was so numb that first year my brain didn’t have the capacity to grasp that your death was my reality.   My foggy brain refused to let that reality break through the steel cocoon that kept me sane and surviving all those firsts.

Now as the years have passed I find myself in a constant state of anxiety wondering about the afterlife.  I remember praying for God to keep you safe when you moved to Florida for treatment.   I prayed day and night that you would survive your disease and find your way to recovery.   When you died I questioned if God ever heard my prayers or if God saw the big picture and saved you the only way he could.

I continue to search for answers.   I scan the internet for articles written by those who survived a near death experience.   Those who speak about seeing their bodies floating above the accident scene or surgical suite.   Those who speak about feeling peaceful and experiencing a joy they never knew here on earth.  Of bright lights, magnificent flowers, and beautiful voices.  Of being welcomed by beings they felt an immediate kinship with.   Of never being afraid.

My bookshelf holds books written by doctors and experts on Near Death Experiences.  I feel like I’m walking through the desert dying of thirst and trying to quench this thirst by reading everything I can find to help my heart in accepting that you are in a better place.   I continue to search for anything that will give my heart hope.

The one book I never opened was my Bible.   It remained on my nightstand untouched.   I don’t know if I was mad at God or just didn’t trust him anymore.   A part of me felt He either didn’t hear my prayers to keep you safe or He chose to ignore them.   Every conversation I’ve had with God since your death ends with me saying to God that we must agree to disagree.   I wanted you saved on earth.   Obviously, God had other plans for you.

One day while searching the internet I found a reference on death and life after death.   To my surprise that piece was referencing the Bible.

I was having one of those very dark days when my grief was overwhelming my soul and  I felt like I was not going to make it through the day.   The reality that you were gone and I would never see you again on this earth was just too painful for me to accept.  It was on that day I reached for that book I had ignored for so long and began to read.

I found the copy of the passages that had been referenced in my internet search.   Before I knew what was happening I started to feel a slight sense of peace.   The more I read, the more I wanted to read.   I can’t explain what happened to me as my eyes read those words written over 2000 years ago but I know I felt a shift in my soul.

Everything I’d been searching for all these years was right here.   Everything I needed to know about where you were had been sitting untouched on my nightstand.   My Bible has become my go to book.   I know you are probably laughing at me but it’s true.   I read the Bible every morning and continue to find a peace that even baffles me.

My favorite verse is found in the book of John.   One my bad days I sit by myself and let those words wash over me.   John 14 gives me hope that you are with Jesus and one day I will be there with you.  “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were no so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I’m not going to lie.   I still have those days when I question why God didn’t save you the way I wanted him to.   I still have days that my anxiety gets the best of me.   I still tell God we will continue to agree to disagree about your death, but I also have days where I feel a peace come over me as I read those words written so long ago.

I remember sitting on the beach together.   We both loved the beach so much.  I remember laying back looking at the blue sky and saying Heaven is a beach.   I remember you laughing and saying I hope so Mom.  Matt, I hope so too.  I hope when it’s my time I will wake up on a beach and see you running toward me.   Until then I hold onto John 14 and  slowly begin to rekindle my faith.

 

 

 

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