Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: mothers grief (page 1 of 2)

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.

 

 

 

 

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!!!!!!!

My Father’s Day Fantasy Of You

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Matt,  tomorrow is Father’s day.   Today my mind is full of what if’s.   What if you found recovery.   What if you found the one.   What if you married on the beach like we both dreamed you would.   I picture you standing by the crashing waves holding the hands of your bride.    Her gown is softly blowing lifted by the soft sea breeze.   You are dressed in khaki pants and a white shirt.  Both wearing flip flops.   Your sun kissed face so handsome.   You glance my way as our eyes meet sharing the joy of your recovery    The sun is shining down as you become man and wife.    I’m standing by your side.   Tears of joy falling from my smiling eyes.   The sound of the crashing waves take the place of a band.   We dance in the sand to the sound of the gulls laughing as if they know how amazing this day truly is.

I imagine getting that call.   I can hear your voice.   The joy and fear mingled together as you tell me you are going to be a father.   My heart so ready to welcome your child.   I close my eyes and remember my little tow headed boy.   Your crooked smile and silly laugh.   I remember your tenderness with animals.  Your love for the sea.  Your feistiness when trying to keep up with your big brother, Mike.   Most of all I remember your beautiful eyes.   Indescribable in color.   A beautiful contrast to your natural sandy hair.

Memories of your childhood rush through my mind.   Losing your first tooth.   Your first home run in Little League.   That proud smile as you yelled at me to let you go as I stood back and watched you take off on your first bike.   Your tan face shining in the sun as the biggest fish hung from your pole.

I allow myself to imagine you as a father.   Meeting you at the hospital as you welcome your first child.   I always imagined you with a girl.   A sweet tow head like you.  A tiny thing you would carry close to your heart.   I would watch as you wore your heart on your sleeve as she wrapped you around her finger.   I imagine you placing your precious child in my arms as we both cry tears of joy at this miracle of life.

I stare into those amazing eyes just as I did so many years before when you were placed into my arms for the first time.    Overwhelming love floods my being as I remember your softness.   Your smell.   I imagine her grabbing my finger like you did and holding on as we rock together.

I imagine you bringing her to the sea you love.   I see the two of you running through the surf with a black lab puppy biting at your feet.   Familiar squeals fill the air.   You glance back at me remembering when it was us.   A mother and her young son loving the innocence of running  through the crashing surf.   The dogs barking, the gulls yelling.   You are now a man, a father, and my heart is soaring like a kite caught in a beautiful breeze as I  watch you.

Reality hits and shatters the beauty of my fantasy..  You are gone.  You left no one behind.   No precious child to help your broken mother survive life without you.   During your active addiction I was relieved there was no child to witness your struggle.   Today my arms ache to hold a piece of you.   To be able to hear a voice and see a smile that brings you back to me.   To be able to look into those incredible eyes and know you are still with me.

In my Heart I pray that Heaven is a beach and you are holding a child on your shoulders looking out at the vastness of the sea remembering me.   My beautiful boy you are loved forever.

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.

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..

 

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