Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: mother surviving after sons death (page 1 of 4)

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…………

Hanging On By A Christmas Thread

Matt,   December 3rd marked the 35th month since your death.   35 months.   I still can’t believe you are really gone.   I heard the second year was tougher than the first.   Never in a million years could I ever allow my mind to believe it to be true.   It seems the protective fog has blown out to sea leaving me a clear view of the empty shoreline.

This second year has beat me to the ground.   My cocoon shredded and blown away with the wind.   My mind reminds me daily that you are dead.   I feel naked, stripped of the protection that the shock of grief provided during those first months when my mind was in complete denial.   Grief protects you from reality.   The brain builds that impenetrable wall able to withstand the assault of reality.   The second year, cracks begin to form and the wall slowly begins to crumble at your feet.   Leaving you with a clear view of life.

Last year I was numb.   Able to go through the motions of life.   My holiday mask was intact and firmly secured to my face as I navigated my way through the usual festivities.   My mind allowed me the fantasy that you were alive.   Living in Florida.  My mind allowed my heart to stay on track providing multiple distractions keeping the grief under wraps in public.  This year I’ve found the mask has dissolved from the flow of my tears.   This year my grief has gained power.   This year my grief doesn’t seem to care that this is the happiest time of the year.

Your loss continues to stun me.   I’m shocked when reality slaps me with the knowledge that you won’t be coming home for Christmas when I hear that holiday song.  Reality grabs my heart and causes me to forget to breathe.  I was told in time I would get angry.   I’M ANGRY.   I’m angry at our reality.   I’m angry at happy strangers shopping with a spring in their step and joy on their faces.   I’m angry that my grief continues to hurt so deeply.  I’m angry that I’ve just survived Thanksgiving and Christmas is being shoved down my throat.   Not everyone is merrily anticipating holiday traditions.   For some of us our holidays will never be the same.   I’m angry that the woman I see in the mirror is not who I used to be.

This second year has a power I could have never anticipated.    My mind now clear vividly remembers painful events.   My guilt has returned full force.    My double whammy.   Grief and guilt have renewed their friendship bullying me every chance they get.   My mind remembers things it buried to protect my shattered heart.   Things said and done during your addiction.   The I should haves or could haves haunt me like ghosts from Christmas past.   I look at family pictures.   You and Mike on Santa’s lap.   Childhood innocence.   A time of joy and anticipation of things to come.   Never did I see this coming.   Never did I ever think my youngest son would be gone in the blink of an eye.

I hear strangers stating what they want for Christmas.   Children rattle off a list of toys.   Adults want more money, a better job or world peace.   I cringe and feel the tears start to form.   The song,  “All I Want For Christmas Is You”,  starts playing in my head.   I close my eyes squeezing as hard as I can.   Trying desperately to balance myself on the edge of my abyss.

I want a visit from the ghost of Christmas past.   I want to see my boys squeal with delight as they rip into beautifully wrapped gifts.   I want to hear the laughter of two boys as they compare super hero capes.   I want to feel the joy and completeness of having my family intact.   I want to travel back in time.   Before you  became adults.   Before your injury led you down the path of no return.  I want to fix what is broken.   I want to close my eyes and see you walk in my door.  I want to hear “Hey Mom, Merry Christmas”.   As your wife and kids wrap me in a hug.  I want to see you and Mike standing side by side belly laughing as a childhood memory cracks you up.   I want every chair at the table full.  I want to raise a glass and toast to a future full of possibilities.

Unfortunately,  A Christmas Carol is just that.   A fantasy script written long ago addressing second chances.  Our reality is a painful reminder that death doesn’t give a redo.   There will be no second chances for us.   No more watching you and Mike standing together surrounded by your  family.   No more holiday pictures full of smiles and joy.   No more hearing a Christmas song without the punch of grief taking my breath away.

This year when everyone else is dreaming of a White Christmas, I’ll be dreaming of the family we used to be…….

 

 

 

Keeping Us Alive By Telling Your Story

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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.

There Is No Black and White In Addiction

 

 

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Matt,   Today is my birthday.   My third without you.   I still have such a hard time believing that there will be no phone call or card signed Love Matt.  You won’t be hiding in the house to surprise me.   Once again I try to get though another milestone without you.   I’m in New York.   Funny you know I would have rather spent my day at the beach walking on the sand listening to the sea birds and the crashing of the ocean.   But my article about your addiction was featured in a magazine and I was invited to attend the reveal here in NY.  This humbling experience was something I could not miss.

Since your death, I have become an advocate for the treatment of addiction.   I write and speak about how horribly you were treated by the Insurance Industry and treatment facilities.  I speak out about the ugly stigma that follows addiction.   I work to make changes in our state laws.   It’s the only way I survive.  Your death rocked me to my core.   Everyday I struggle to find my new normal.   Everyday I pray that you are finally at peace.   Everyday I wake to this empty house.    My regrets about letting you go to Florida smack me swiftly in the face.  I feel so guilty about your death.   I still can’t believe I didn’t see how wrong it was for you to leave home and go so far away.   The thought of you being dumped in a motel to die kills me more and more each day.   My guilt beats at my soul.   My brain questions what kind of mother lets her son go so far away?

I wanted you to have a fresh start at a new life.   I was tricked into believing that new people, places and things would cure you.   All those books written about addiction by people who think they are experts in the field led us down the path of no return.   Parents who talk about tough love and disowning their kids because of addiction.   So much misinformation published by people who think they have the answers to addiction.   Don’t they know that every family is different?

There is no black and white once size fits all in this ugly disease.   Misleading parents like me that if we follow what they did our story would have the same happy ending.   Looking back I should have followed my gut.   I should have known you would never survive without your family close by to support you when you fell.   I knew you better than anyone and still I let you go.   Those books have been trashed as they should have been so long ago.

It’s ironic.   I wrote the truth about us.   The ugly, horrible, brutally honest truth about how your addiction stomped our family to death.   How your addiction shattered us to the core.   How I became addicted to your addiction and turned into a person I no longer recognized.   Funny, the editor I sent it to told me it was too ugly to publish.   That both you and I were horrible people.   That no one would want to read my work.

At first her words crushed me.   Then reality hit.  The reason this epidemic continues to have such power  killing far more than any disaster or war is because many people don’t want ugly.   People want pretty.  People want fairy tale endings.   People want to think that if we continue to ignore addiction it will go away. That it won’t affect our families.  That addiction is something that happens to others.  That addiction is something we can walk away from and never look back.   We only want to hear about beautiful children from perfect families who go on to lead successful lives.

I blame myself.   I should have never let you go.   I lived the ugliness with you.   Yes, there were a few glimpses of pretty.   The few times you came back as the Matt I knew before.   Times when the possibility of our fairy tale ending played tricks with my mind.   Your addiction was more powerful than even I could have ever imagined.   Your addiction won.

Now I live with regret.   I live with guilt.    The joke was on me.  I live knowing that birthdays, holidays and life in general will never hold the same meaning.   Oh how I wish I read how brutally ugly the true reality of addiction could be.

My Tug Of War With Guilt

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Matt,   Guilt is defined as a feeling of having done something wrong.   A feeling of letting someone down.   A painful emotion when one believes that their behavior has affected the outcome of another.   Guilt has moved into my psyche and refuses to leave.

During your active addiction, my head was spinning.   Taking time to quiet my mind was a luxury I didn’t have.   Now the quiet is deafening.   The quiet has become a powerful enemy.   It gives me time to replay every thought, every decision, every move I made to save your life.   This unwelcome quiet knows my every move.   It lurks ready to pounce when I least expect.

All of a sudden the lightbulbs that remained dark have illuminated my mind allowing me to see clearer than ever before.   My Aha moment.   A moment I so desperately needed during your addiction once illusive now smacks me in the face every chance it gets.

I have become a crime scene investigator.   Sifting through the rubble of our shattered lives.   Searching for clues as to what went wrong.   The belief that I let you down holds tight to my heart.   Searching my mind for the actions done and not done that might have changed your outcome.

Yes, I know you were an adult.   I hear that voice of reason trying to break through my subconscious when I’m beating myself into the ground.   When the guilt joins my grief swallowing me whole and refusing to let me come up for air.   I try to remember that you were a man.   All my broken heart sees is my little tow headed boy reaching out for a mother who was a thousand miles away.

Mothers are supposed to protect their children.   That belief comes with no expiration date.   We don’t stop loving, protecting or saving when our kids become men.   You were so controlled by your addiction you could not save yourself.   Being a man really had nothing to do with who was responsible to save you.   You were brainwashed into believing you controlled the disease.   You were a victim to a deadly mindset that even a mother’s love could not break through.

So now I’m left to sort through endless emotions.   To rethink every decision made.   To replay and rewind every scene of our very tragic story.   The mind is a powerful thing.   It has no on-off switch.   It has a mind of its own and I have little to no control when the memory will hit taking my breath with it.

Mother’s are born with the guilt gene.   I know I was.  It came to life as you were placed in my arms and moved into my soul becoming more powerful each year as I tried to protect you from yourself.   I feel like I failed you.   I look for signs that you see what I go through.   I question if you understand that you are really gone from this life.   I wonder what it was like for you.   Did you finally understand that you crossed the line and would not wake up?   Did you think of me or did the euphoria carry you away without a care?    Did you picture my face or hear my voice telling you that one day you would forget and fall asleep forever?   Did you wonder what your death would do to my life?

So now I fight to survive.   I fight to allow a little of my guilt to fall on your shoulders.   I fight myself when the full responsibility of your death punches my heart and drops me to my knees.   I fight the image of my tow headed innocent son allowing a small slice of our reality to ease my pain.   Yes, you were a man with a disease you had no control over.   This disease took you away.   I try to recall facts, statistics, anything that helps me to understand that I like you were powerless over your disease.

I wish you and I could have one last conversation.   I wish I could hear you tell me it’s not my fault.   My heart would love to hear that I am forgiven.   That you knew I fought for you and against you to save you.   God how I wish Heaven had visiting hours……….

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