Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: mothers anger after loss of son (page 1 of 2)

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.

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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……….

United By Addiction. Bonded By Grief

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Matt,

I had the amazing experience of attending The Fed Up Rally and the Unite to Face Addiction concert in Washington DC this weekend.   When I was in the midst of the battle to find you help I felt so alone.   I felt isolated.   I felt that no one cared.   I had no idea how many other mother’s knew my heartbreak.

I was having second thoughts about attending.   Every weather report dampened my spirits and made me think of staying home and staying dry.   Then I looked at your picture and felt that gut punch of knowing you were really gone.    The broken system  failed us both and you paid with your life.   As I continued to stare into your  beautiful eyes, I felt a power in my soul like I’d never experienced  before.   I’d walked through hell during your active addiction, why would I let the threat of heavy rain and wind keep me away.

I read about the Rally in the paper.   They were asking for stories of recovery and hope.   I had written a piece telling our story and included your picture.   To my surprise, It was published and I was humbled.   I also sent your picture to be included in The Addicts Mom’s quilt.   There was no way I was going to miss seeing your face being remembered at this amazing event.

I took a bus early Saturday morning with a small group from Delaware.   We knew each other’s grief, each of us losing a child.   Saturday was an emotional day for me.   It was the nine month anniversary of your death and here I was riding a bus in the rain to attend a rally for drug addiction.   My tears fell along  with the rain drops as I remembered the struggle to find you help.    Unfortunately, Delaware had no rehabs.   We have one detox unit that never had any beds when you finally agreed to get clean.    I remembered conversations begging your insurance company to approve treatment only to be told that you had no days left.   How could they treat your disease like you were not worth the time or money spent to save your life?   Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think you would die and I would be on a bus heading to Washington participating in a march to The White House.

The bus dropped our group off at the hotel.   We grabbed our rain gear and headed to the memorial.  The sky was grey with a light rain falling mimicking my mood.   The closer I got the more I could feel the atmosphere changing.   When we reached the mall, I was shocked at the size of the crowd.   People just like me.   Strangers who knew my grief and walked in my shoes.   Strangers whose faces looked just like mine.   Shock and disbelief marked us as those left behind.  Eyes swollen and empty as we wiped tears away with the sleeve of our shirt.

The stage held a memorial filled with names of those who lost their battle.  I was brought to my knees when I saw your name.  My precious son surrounded by hundreds of those who like you are gone forever.  I felt that too familiar gut punch as my tears started to fall.  I wore your picture on a lanyard around my neck.   I grabbed it and started to sob.     A complete stranger came and wrapped me in her arms.   Whispering that she understood my pain.   Here we were two mothers, strangers, holding each other up as the rain mixed with our tears.    Sharing stories of children lost.   I witnessed the kindness of strangers forever bonded by a common grief.

I was waiting outside The Addicts Mom’s tent.   They were preparing to unveil the quilt.   I remember the wind blowing  and the rain hitting my face.   My eyes searching the many squares until I saw your face.   Your beautiful smile right in the center of this beautiful handmade creation.   The sound of a wounded animal came from my lips as I stood letting the rain mix with my tears hugging myself against the heartbreaking pain.   Arms reached for me.   Another mother who got it.   We rocked each other in the rain and wind as we shared our heart breaking grief.   Another mother living my life, knowing my pain.   Angels walking among the crowd comforting strangers.

We formed groups as we prepared to walk to the White House.   I looked around in awe.   Thousands of people all here for the same reason.   The broken system failed their loved ones.   I was no longer alone.   We marched together.   We hugged each other.   We shed tears together as we shouted out against a system that must be changed.   We were empowered by the numbers.   We were heard.   I walked back to the hotel with a couple who lost their son.   We now call each other friend.   This event formed a bond never to be broken.

Sunday morning came with my familiar face in the mirror.   Puffy eyes staring back at me.   My face changed by grief.   The price of addiction is what I now call my new look.   I have forgotten how to smile.   I attended a breakfast in Arlington hosted by The Addicts Mom group.   A group no mother wants to belong to but the circumstances of life have left us no choice.   It was emotional to meet all the mothers I’ve supported and who have supported me on Facebook.   These women have walked through the same hell and get it.   Again I came face to face with the quilt.   Your smiling face staring back at me and again another mother held me as I shattered into pieces.

There really are no words to describe Sunday’s event.   The crowd tripled from Saturday.  The weather cold, and dreary.   I stood on the hill by The Monument.   In awe at the number of people from all parts of the country coming together to demand better care for the disease of addiction.   Many holding pictures and banners with names and dates.   All here to honor the ones they loved and lost.  Those in recovery were celebrating  a new sober life.   Everyone had a story to tell.   Strangers sharing their souls with strangers.  Sharing the bonds of love, loss and hope.

Sunday evening Joe Walsh and his fellow musicians held a concert to honor those lost and those struggling to survive.   A tribute to this deadly disease.   The crowd came alive.  When the music started the atmosphere became one of happiness and hope.   Rich and famous artists coming out and admitting they were once addicts.  Speeches by people who care and will fight to make changes.  Hope.   I could feel it in the air, at last there was hope.   Our new Surgeon General gets it.   Lawmakers now ready to join our fight  providing equal treatment for the disease of addiction.  Hope.   I stood with a crowd of strangers and danced to the music.  Joy I hadn’t felt for so long coursed through my soul.  We held onto each other when a  song hit a nerve and tears returned.   We sang out loud.  We were empowered.   Too many people fighting for the same cause.   Everyone remembering loved ones.   Honoring them by speaking out against the stigma.

I still get chills when I look at my pictures of all the faces lost.   Pictures of people coming together and lifting each other up in spirit.   Strangers becoming friends.   Promises of keeping in touch.  Of working together for the greater good.   I’m humbled by this experience and I know I will never be the same.   I no longer feel alone as I remember the beauty of seeing thousands of people coming together demanding change.

There is a saying, If God closes one door he opens another.   My new door has opened and I know I have thousands of people fighting the same fight.   I will be your voice.   I will remember your smiling face on that quilt surrounded by a hundred others.    No longer alone but humbled by the compassion of strangers.

Anger Transforms Into Advocacy

 

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Matt,  there are days when all I can do is sit and think about your addiction.   Days I devour every article I can find trying to understand what went so horribly wrong.  I disassemble your entire journey in my mind trying to find that missing piece.   The piece that somehow got overlooked during your struggle with addiction.   Since your death, I find myself immersed in your world.   I feel like a detective always searching for answers to questions that dance through my brain.   Educating myself like I’m about to take the exam of a lifetime and if I fail I will disappear.   Trying to understand the power of cravings and how your prescribed pills changed the chemistry of your brain.   Changing you into someone I only recognized from the outside.  Your looks didn’t change.   You were still handsome with those eyes that melted my heart.  Your changes were  in the depths of your soul.

I remember calling your addiction our dirty little secret.   I wanted to keep it safe and sound protecting both of us from the ugliness and stigma that surrounded your misunderstood disease.   I remember those brief periods of time when we were given a glimpse of normal.   Those too short periods when treatment brought you back from the abyss that had become your life.   I think back on the struggle to find that perfect place.  The one that would keep you safe and provide me with a much needed brake from the endless worry that danced through my mind.  Watching your struggle taught me that helping an addict is like matching fingerprints.   You must continue until that perfect match is found.

We were never able to continue.   Never able to find your perfect match.   Too many roadblocks set you up for failure.   People were trusted and money was wasted.   I’ve heard addiction referred to as chasing the scream.   My version was chasing the dream.   The dream that we would bust through the roadblocks and you would be a survivor.   The dream that life would return to normal and your addiction would ride off into the sunset.

That dream now lay shattered at my feet.   I am the lone survivor of your addiction.   I wanted to deal with my grief and let your addiction become a part of my past.   I wanted to disappear and lick my wounds.   Guarding my heart like a mama bear.   No more pain for me.  I wanted quiet times and precious memories to fill my broken heart.   I thought I could bury the pain with you and move on.   What I never understood before your death slapped me in the face and shook me to my core was that once you have witnessed the struggle and have lost your child to this mistreated disease it becomes a part of who you are.   The pain and loss course through your being.   Once you live the stigma and witness the hate, addiction becomes inescapable.   I was not the addict, but I’ve learned how society hates those who suffer.   I’ve learned that stigma lives long after the addict dies.

I never planned on becoming an advocate.   I craved some type of normal.   For seven years my life was a rollercoaster ride.   During that time all I wanted was to get off and find stable ground.   Now, that ride has ended and it’s the only place I crave to be.  I have nothing from the only world I knew.   No Matt, no career, just endless time to think about what should have been.

I’ll never forget the day my life found a new path.   I read an article about a first responder.   This man felt using Narcan was a waste of time.   He felt addicts should just die.   I remember my body starting to shake.  My heart beating like a war drum.   Anger burning in the depths of my soul.   You were one of those people he wanted dead!   I was out of control.   He never knew you.   He had no idea that you were the victim of a pill mill practice.   That by following doctors orders you became addicted.   He had no clue how hard you fought for your life.   Yet, here he was someone in uniform wanting those suffering from addiction to just die.

With shaking hands I called his Fire Chief and then the Mayor of his town.  I felt a calmness envelope me like you were there wrapping your soul around mine.   A sense of peace that I hadn’t felt in such a long time.   Your spirit was with me on that cold winter day.   You guided my words and calmed my heart.   I told our story.    A beautiful man and his grieving mother.    The battle for treatment.   The struggle for compassion.   I felt that by sharing the reality of your struggle I could open the eyes of people who have no clue.   By sharing the grief of loving then losing you, I could strike back at the stigma that continued to fuel the hate toward your misunderstood disease.   My call was met with compassion and concern.   A man who understood your mothers grief.   The firefighter was relieved of his duties.   A victory for all those impacted by addiction.

On that bitter winter day an ember caught fire.    My soul experienced a rebirth.   A new passion burning for truth and justice.   Staring into the star filled sky, I could see your smiling face.  Your beautiful eyes.  The whisper of the icy wind saying your name.   Matt,  as long as I live you live.   Forever connected by the bond that even death can not break.   Forever in my heart…….Your grieving mom has put on a new hat..

 

Grief and Guilt My Constant Companions

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Matt,   Grief is defined as keen mental suffering over loss.   It encompasses sharp sorrow and painful regret. Grief and Guilt take turns pounding pain into my heart.   Each hitting me when I least expect.   Sweeping me up in emotions I can no longer control.   I never knew that Grief could physically hurt.  I never knew that Guilt could be so cruel.  My body feels beat up. Every muscle and bone feels the pain of loss that no one can see.   This incredible anguish cannot be described.  I could never imagine that this type of pain existed until it crept into my soul the day you left me behind.

My books on Addiction have been replaced by books on Grief.  Books that no mother should ever have to touch or read.  Books on the stages of grief and how to survive each one.   Titles lining the shelves that bring tears to my eyes.   The Bereaved Parent, Transcending Loss and When A Child Dies From Drugs have replaced Stay Close, An Addict In The Family and Beautiful Boy.   Those books gave me a false sense that you like their children would also survive.   Those books met their demise on a snowy, grief filled night as I tossed each one into my roaring fire.   These books made me feel like I failed to be that perfect parent who did everything right.  You know the parents who can brag that their child beat the demons and now leads a productive life.   My jealousy rears its ugly head and  my Guilt slaps me like a foulmouthed child.  Where were the books that had our ugly ending?   The books that would have warned me that endings are not always answers to our prayers.   The books warning of middle of the night phone calls that bring parents to their knees..

Guilt then replaces my grief.  The what if’s and I should haves wrap me up in a tight cocoon refusing to let me go.  Feelings of failure course through my veins replacing my grief with powerful emotions of hopelessness and regret.   Flashbacks dance through my brain .   Things done and said in anger and frustration whirl through my mind.  Knowledge I have now eluded me then.   Trying to save you and survive life changed my rational mind into a crazy, calculating one.   Your addiction became mine.   Staying a step ahead of your demons took every ounce of my being.   Now, in a calmer state I see things clearly.   My mind in a rational state sees things I should have seen when I was losing it.   I have become someone I do not want to be.   My soul caught in a perfect storm.   Tossed between two painful emotions.   Grief and guilt holding hands as they dance over my heart.

Some days weathering the storm is almost impossible.  There are days I want the storm surge to carry me out with the tide.   To drown my grief in the sea we both so loved. To stop my pain, to sweep me away allowing my pain to dissipate with the sea spray.   Sadly, I have become a swimmer.   I am the one pulling parents out when I find them struggling to stay float fighting the same storm surge that has consumed my soul.    I throw the life preserver forgetting how soaked I am in my own grief and rescue those drowning in my sea.   Still there are days that even rescuing another has no impact on my heart.   I fall into the abyss of the perfect storm.   I wonder why your grip kept slipping from the life preserver I continued to throw in the midst of our storm. Why were you swept so far away from my attempts to save your life?   I look at the sea and remember holding tight to your small hand.   So tiny, but fitting perfectly into mine.   As you grew, your hand became harder to hold slipping away again and again until you disappeared.

There are days the grief storm is manageable.   Putting on storm shutters and hunkering down, I survive. There are days the power of the grief and guilt pulls me into the undertow of reality sucking the breath from my lungs.  This sea of grief and guilt ever changing is where I live since you left me that cold January day.    Navigating through the powerful waves on a daily basis.  Some days the waves hit gently and I can walk through without falling down.  Other days a wave hits without warning knocking me to my knees.   Learning to weather the unpredictability of my storm takes practice, patience and self forgiveness.    Navigating through this storm is tough.   Attempting to hold myself together while I slowly pick up pieces of broken sea glass that used to be my heart.

A Letter to Matt on Easter

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Matt, it’s been 27 months and 13 days since you left.   Today is Easter.   It’s also the third Easter since you’re death.   I can tell you that time has not helped my grief.  It’s a beautiful summer like day.   I’m sitting on the deck letting the sunshine warm my aching heart.   I keep telling myself to be brave.   I keep telling myself that I have been here before.   I keep trying to convince myself that I survived past Easters without you.   My brain is trying but my hearts not buying my attempt to be strong.

I woke to birds singing and sun shining.   For a brief second I felt joy.   I tried to remember the real meaning of this day.   Jesus has risen.   Sinners are saved.   I thought I could hold back my tears.  Then a memory hit.  Walking down the stairs I could see my two tow headed boys.  I could hear the squeals of delight as you raced down stairs seeking your treasure left by the Easter Bunny.   My precious boys, so close in age.   Laughing and running inside and out seeking eggs hidden everywhere I could find a perfect spot.

My heart so full of joy as you and Mike tried to out do each other in your race to find the most eggs.   Perfect little boy faces smeared with chocolate.   I watched as you shared your secrets with big belly laughs and sticky fingers.   Each so proud of your stash.   Each trying to get your hands on the others candy.   Your laughter so innocent echoes in my mind.

Two boys sharing life as only brothers can.   Memories and pictures so precious in my heart.  Your last Easter here brought laughter and joy.  Your face now handsome smeared with chocolate as you tried to convince me that you were too old for a chocolate bunny.    Your body now grown, your heart still that of a little boy.

Memories of life before the demons.  Joy and laughter.   A mother loving every precious moment of life with her son’s.    Life as it should have been.   Life where you married and had children.  Life where this grieving mother should have been making Easter baskets for your children.   A family celebrating tradition of tow headed babies with chocolate stained faces and sticky hands running into their grandmothers arms.   Your children I will never meet.   So much loss and pain for your mother to bear.

Today I will allow myself to remember every moment of your life.   I will allow tears.   I will accept that life will never be the same without you.   Memories tucked safely in my heart will bring both joy and pain.   Dreams never to be.

Today I will accept that you are safe.   Your demons are no longer in control.   I will acknowledge that you are with Jesus celebrating his resurrection in the most beautiful of places.   I will give thanks for the years you blessed my life.  I will love and remember you forever.   Rest in the arms of Jesus.  Until we meet again.

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