Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

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

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..

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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.

 

 

 

The Struggle Is Real

 

Matt,  I find it shocking how those waves of emotion can hit and cause me to crash back into that dark, angry place.   My mind continues to battle anxiety, grief and guilt.  I feel like a juggler.  Trying to keep those emotions high in the air, far away from my heart.   Life is different now.   Time has done nothing to lessen the reality that continues to send shock waves through my soul.

This grief is like none other.   I continue to tell myself that this is my new reality.   That you really did die.   It’s like my brain knows the truth but continues to put up that barrier protecting my sanity.   My body has taken a hit.   When the memory of hearing those painful words replay in my brain my throat starts to constrict.   My heart starts to race and my stomach turns inside out.   There are days I feel like I’m silently dying.   That little by little my body is slowly disengaging from life.   I feel like I’ve been knocked senseless.  There are days I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Memories are so bittersweet.   Flashes of your smiling face, images of you walking on the beach with the dogs continue to take my breath away.   I want so badly to reach out and touch your skin.   To see you turn around and open your arms to me.   I want to wake up from this nightmare and hug you.   I want to be transported back in time.

I struggle trying to make sense of what I never saw coming.   Why would a parent ever think they would outlive their child?   My worry was how you would fare if something happened to me.   Now I touch your urn and force my heart to accept that this is all that’s left of your beautiful face, your amazing eyes, your contagious laugh and your heartwarming smile.

I struggle with my faith.   My belief in heaven.   My hope of seeing you again.   Of never again being separated by death.   I continue to question why God allowed you to die.   Is it punishment for something I’ve said or done?   Was your death at 37 already predestined at your birth?   So many unanswered questions haunt me as I lay in bed enveloped in the darkness of my grief.

I struggle with societies perception of how long grief should last.   I question myself.   Its been 4 years and 2 months yet it continues to hurt like hell and feel like yesterday.   I feel like I’m starring in Groundhog Day.   Reliving your death every morning as I remember I can’t pick up the phone and hear your voice.  We can’t share whats been happening in our day.  I relive it every night as I drag my exhausted mind into bed realizing I haven’t wished you a peaceful night.

I search for book written by other grieving parents.   Looking for answers on how to survive this devastating loss.   I’ve found we all share the common bond of shock, numbness and despair.   That others like me share the feeling of losing their minds over the unthinkable loss of their child.  That like me their bodies and brains have taken a hit.   That life will never return to normal.   We all live in the reality of before and after.   We’ve learned that everything we thought we knew about grief was a lie.   It knows no boundaries.   It has no timeline.   It hits hard when least expected.   It moves in and never leaves.

I struggle with friends who are no longer.   Those who chose to walk away.   As if my grief was a virus they needed protection from.   Fellow nurses who’s ups and down’s I’ve shared.   Holding them up as they buried husbands.   Celebrating marriages and grandchildren.   Giving me one last hug at your funeral and disappearing into the sunset.

I struggle with the disappearance of family members.    Life is just too busy for a visit or phone call.   Those I though would have become closer have drifted away.   I’ve learned we are not promised tomorrow.   I was one of them before your death.   Always thinking there was time to make that call or plan that visit.   I struggle to lower my expectations of people.   I struggle with the reality that along with you I’ve lost many more..

I struggle with expectations of myself.   Who I am and what I must do to survive the rest of my life.  I struggle accepting that I had no say in how my life would be.   I struggle with self kindness and care.   I struggle with giving myself permission to throw my mask against the wall allowing the world to see the real me.   I struggle with cutting myself a break when I realize that tears flow at a moments notice with no warning as to why.

Then I remember.   I lost my son.   I have earned the right to scream if I need to.   I’ve earned the right to take a step back and hold onto whatever or whoever is throwing a life preserver my way.   I’ve earned the right to be pissed at the world.   To be pissed at people who complain about their lives on days when reminders of you are everywhere.

Most of all I’ve accepted that my struggle to find peace will continue for a lifetime.   As will my longing to see you again…….

 

 

 

 

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