Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: overdose death (page 1 of 3)

Come, Sit, Grieve…..Repeat

Matt,   I could never have imagined the impact your death would have on every aspect of my life.   Never did I ever think my grief would turn me into a leper.   It seems people are terrified of those who are grieving.   Scared to death of contact with me or have that famous opinion on how long grief should last.   I’m guessing my time is up.  Even strangers run when I bring up addiction and your death.   It’s almost that I carry a contagious disease and if they get close enough they will carry it home to their family.   Like the flu, only worse.

Unfortunately, your disease still carries an ugly stigma.   I see the look on peoples faces when they learn how you died.   They can’t get away fast enough.   Quickly changing the subject as they scurry away.   I feel like I have that huge A branded on my forehead.  Except my A stands for Addiction.    I still find it mind boggling that even today as we continue to lose people from all walks of life  Addiction is still thought of as a dirty mans disease.

Experts on grief tell you to find a support group.   Sounds easy right.  I had a better chance of being struck by lightening.  You see Matt,  my grief comes with a ton of baggage.   All those what if’s and I should have’s cling to my heart and take turns tearing little pieces away.   Death due to overdose comes with such regret.   Things said and done dance with those things not said and not done.   Until you have lived that rollercoaster with your child one could ever understand the helplessness and hopelessness parents feel as we struggle to save our kids.   Death from overdose is unlike any other loss.   Not only do we struggle with grief but the stigma continues to rear its ugly head throwing daggers in our direction.

My attempts to find that group where I would fit in was futile.   Believe me I tried for several months.   I sat next to mothers who lost their children to cancer and felt the compassion ooze around the room.   I remember sitting there feeling that all familiar tightness grip my throat.   Then it was death by car accident.   Once again compassion.   I wanted to be Alice and slide down that rabbit hole.   I wanted to be Jeannie wiggling my nose and disappearing into thin air.   I wanted to be anywhere but in that room when I said that ugly word and felt the compassion wash away with the breaths of shock and stares.

Then it was off to another group that actually dealt with addiction.   Oh I had such high hopes.   Finally a group that got it.   Imagine my surprise when I was subjected to another parent beaming with joy.   My mind whirling as I realized this group was largely made up of parents who’s kids were either in recovery or still active in their addiction.   My mind whirling, my gut revolting as I heard her voice praising God for saving her child.   I felt like I’d been slapped.   How dare God save her child and not mine.   I remember wanting to run.   Wanting once again to disappear.   I made myself sit for an hour hearing more stories of recovery.   Stories of continued struggles that I knew too well.   I left sobbing and defeated.

I hid for months, licking my wounds feeling isolated and alone.   I scoured bookstores.   My shelves now lined with books on grief and grieving.   Reading the stories of other parents whose children also died from addiction gave me the push I needed.   I once read that when God closes one door, He opens another.   As a nurse I’ve spend many years holding hands and shedding tears with people who have lost their loved ones.   As a NICU nurse I’ve also helped grieving parents say goodbye to their child.   I remember praying asking God what my purpose was now that you were gone.   I spent the last 7 years fighting to save you.   Now I had all this time to discover my new path.

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Support After Addiction Death (SAD) was born on a rainy, bitter day.   Sitting at my computer I designed a pamphlet.   Explaining how and why I was starting a support group exclusively for parents who lost a child to the misunderstood disease of addiction.   Our pastor offered our church.   The same church I said my final goodbye to you.   The same church where your ashes were scattered in the garden I tend as we celebrated your first birthday in Heaven.

Today I have a new family.   Mothers and fathers who know and live the same grief that envelopes my life.   We gather together and shed our tears.  Our eyes mirror images of unfathomable  pain.   Lifting each other on those dark days when one of us is drowning.   I look into their eyes and know no words are necessary.   We have lived the nightmare.   Our ending is not the one we dreamed of but together we find strength in the blessing of finding each other.   There is no shame, no stigma.   Sharing pieces of our broken hearts we begin to slowly heal.   Our children gone but never forgotten.   Pictures are shared.   Birthdays are remembered.   Names are spoken.   Many tears are shed.   Memories are cherished.

God did close the door for me when it came to saving you.   God also opened a new world where I can once more reach out, offer a hug and just show up.   Grief doesn’t scare this group.   Grief is a part of who we are.  Grief is the unwanted, unspeakable place that bonds us more than blood.  As long as I live I will be grateful for the people who say your name, offer a hug and stay……….

 

 

 

 

Imagining Heaven

Matt,   Since your death I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Heaven.   I want to know everything there is to know.   I want to know if your happy.   If your Heaven really is a beach.   I have memories of us laughing sitting side by side watching the waves crash onto the shore and both saying “Heaven is a beach”.   We were so alike.   Our love of the sea is a tie that will forever bind us.

My bookshelves are lined with books written by those who returned after a near death experience.   I read their words closing my eyes and letting my soul imagine the colors, shapes and sounds.   I see your smile in my mind.   I hear the song of the gulls and remember the salty spray in my face.   I see you as a child.  Racing your brother through the waves.   Your laughter was beautiful music to my ears.   The vastness of the sea always made me feel the wonder of God.

I wonder about the nature of life after death.   I search my bible for comfort in knowing that you arrived in Heaven and never looked back.   Looking for answers anywhere they can be found.   I scour book stores like someone dying of thirst.   I need to know.   There are days the clouds roll into my heart and I question everything I believe.   Those dark days bring such pain to my heart.   Those are the days you’ll find me talking out loud to God.    Days I beg for a sign.   My desperate heart needs proof.   Those are the days I feel the weight of my grief.   Questioning everything I’ve ever believed about God and his Heaven.

The hardest part of your death besides missing you everyday is the wonder if I will ever see your handsome face again.   So much was left unsaid and undone.   Always thinking there would be more time.   Never thinking you would leave me behind to find my new normal.   I wonder if you will be there when I leave this earth.   You were never afraid to die.   I remember our conversations.   How you amazed me with your thoughts about God and Heaven.   How many times it was you comforting me.   How ironic a child giving peace to his mother.

I’m left with unanswerable questions.   Questions that have the power to haunt my broken heart.   Questions that cause me to sit on the edge of the dark abyss of the unknown.   Questions that shake me to my core.  On those days I reach for my Bible.   This amazing book spent so much time sitting on my shelf unopened.   I talk to God asking him to speak to me.   To give me what I need to survive your loss and the emptiness that has taken up residence in my heart.    Matt, I can hear you laughing as I write this.    Your Mom reads the Bible.

I found John Verse 14.  “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me.  In my fathers house are many rooms, if it were not so I would have told you.   I go to prepare a place for you.   And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself;  that where I am you will also be”.   Reading this verse filled my aching soul with a peace I haven’t felt since you left.

I remember begging God to keep you safe.   To take care of you until we were together again.   Never did I think my prayers would be answered the way they were.  Never did I think God would take you home before me.   Your death broke my faith and at the same time is helping to slowly rebuild it.   If you lived, my Bible probably would have remained unopened.   Now the Scriptures are where I run to on those rocky days.   Sitting alone, my bible opened looking for answers.   I can feel you surround me with your peace.   I close my eyes and see your face.   Your beautiful eyes.   Your smile.   I see you walking near the most beautiful sea.   The bluest water.   Kahlua running by your side.

Oh Matt, my beautiful boy the sea continues to connect us.  My dream is that one day when my eyes close on earth they will open again to see your beautiful eyes face to face.  Together we will run into the waves holding onto each other, never letting go.   My grief will wash away with the tide.   The gulls will sing a song of joy and Jesus will greet us saying “Yes my children, Heaven is indeed a beach”.

 

 

 

Baby Steps & Hiding Behind Masks

Matt,   We’ve hit the three year mark.   Actually, it’s 3 years and 24 days.   That’s how life is for me now.   It’s become a count down to how long it’s been since your death.   When my brain realizes how long it’s been I find myself  breathless.   Still shocky, still unsteady.   Unlike public perception, times does not heal this wound.

January’s slap was extra harsh this year.   Not only was I trying to survive the anniversary of your death, but Ray’s father was dying.   I sat at his bedside on your anniversary holding his hand.   I told him it was ok if he needed to go on your day.   I asked him to give you a hug and tell you how much you are loved and missed.   I sat watching the life leaving his body but my heart was thinking of you.   I was thinking of what it must have been like for you.   No family at your bedside.   No one holding your hand telling you how much you were loved.   How your life was well lived and there should be no regrets.  You see Matt, that’s the hardest part for me.   Knowing that as you were taking your last breaths I was a thousand miles away totally unaware that you were gone.

Grief enveloped our home.   Me continuing to grieve you.   Ray just beginning to grieve for his dad.   I recognized that wave hitting Ray.  Seeing his face change as reality hit his heart.   Seeing him in pain filled me with shame.   I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to be who I needed to be to support him through his loss.  I was barely surviving falling into the abyss that threatened my mind.  How could I not think of the three years since I heard your voice.

50 years separated your deaths.   Your life cut short at 37.   Rays dad living to be 87.   You see Matt, all I could think of was how many years we never had.   Your death was out of the natural order of how things are supposed to be.  Ray was experiencing death as it is supposed to be.   People grow old and then they die.   We bury our parents.   We don’t bury our children.

Planning a funeral sucks.   The ritual is too painful.   It becomes unbearable when wounds are reopened.   Watching Ray was like watching the rerun of a bad movie.   Memories of everything I crawled through being brought back to life.   Obituaries.   Pictures of happy times.   Torture.  Torture.  Torture.

I found myself reliving those first days.   The days when I survived one minute at a time.   Those first days where baby steps were the best I could do.   Dressing for this funeral brought back dressing for yours.   I dreaded the funeral scene.   I was shocked at how strong memories hit.   Closing my eyes I relived every moment.   Feelings I’d been able to suppress flooded my heart.   The profound loss.   The ugly reality of death.   I was helpless to help anyone but myself.   My mask broken beyond repair.

Rays father’s funeral remains a blur.   Memories of hugs, smells and whispers.    The cold January wind once again slapping my face with the ugly reality of loss.   Bone chilling cold reminding my heart that three years ago to the day I said goodbye to you my beautiful boy.

Watching Ray I must admit I’m jealous.   His life returning to normal.   Back to work.   Back to life.   Oh how I wish my grief would allow my life to stabilize.   To allow me to have a day when I don’t think of you.   When I don’t think of what life could have been had you survived your addiction.

I understand our losses are different.   My heart is still shattered by your death.   It will always hold evidence of a deep, painful, unimaginable loss.   It will always dream of the what if’s, the possibilities of having you here.    Child loss is the most devastating grief known to man.   It never leaves and strikes at the most unexpected times.   Losing a child is losing yourself.   The present and future are tainted with profound confusion and denial.

I’ve heard it said that grief is not a life sentence, it’s a life passage.   I thought long and hard about that statement.   I think about this every time my phone rings and I hear an unfamiliar voice asking for me.   I hear the choking tears as another mother calls my name.   Oh this grief of child loss is a life sentence.   One with no stages or reprieve.   One we must take in slowly.   One we crawl through every day for the rest of our lives….

 

 

 

 

 

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…………

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!!!!!!!

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