Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Page 2 of 25

A Letter To Matt On What Should Have Been His 42nd Birthday

Matt,  Today would have been your 42nd birthday. I should be on my way to the beach to spend time with you on your special day. You and I would spent time together on the beach, taking the dogs and watching their joy as they ran through the surf while we caught up on the happenings in our lives.  We would be planning our dinner feast of crabs, shrimp and beer.   We would be heading to JD Shuckers your favorite restaurant.  Our family would be together at our happy place to celebrate you.

But today our reality is much different from my dreams for your birthday.  For you are forever 37 and this is your fifth birthday in heaven.  💔

Today I will spend the morning letting my grief pour out from my soul.  Looking through every album I own with pictures of our life.  Beautiful memories of a life with two boys who were always together.  Boys staring back at the camera with innocent, beautiful faces. You with your green eyes and Mike with his blue eyes.

Pictures of you with that smile and those beautiful eyes staring back at me through all the phases of your life.  Pictures that prove you lived. Beautiful memories of your life from infancy through adulthood.  Looking so happy and healthy.  It is so hard for me to understand this reality.  My brain knows you are gone.  My heart struggles with the truth.

Today there will be no family party.  No cake, no funny card.  I will never see you with your brother standing side by side laughing about how your both over the big 4 0.

Brothers laughter blending together as you tell stories of childhood antics that mom should never know. Sharing your accomplishments in life as your children listen at your feet.

Your brother, Mike  will never know the joy of being an uncle.   He will never know the joy of holding his brothers children in his arms or teaching them to run through the surf with you by his side.   He will never watch his younger brother discover the joys and heartbreaks of being a father.

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Mike will never have the opportunity to take your son fishing or show your daughter treasures saved from your childhood.  He will never be able to offer advice or share his list of do’s and don’ts of fatherhood.   There will be no more children squealing with joy as that new puppy comes running into their arms.   No more brothers sharing the secret of what makes a house a home.

No more pictures of my boys with arms wrapped over each other’s shoulders.  No more memories of happy times as we celebrate you growing older.  No more handsome faces staring back at the camera telling me to stop with the pictures already.  No more blended laughter for your mother to hear.

Losing you is losing a future of love, laughter and beautiful memories.  Losing you has left an undeniable void in our lives.  Losing you is never seeing my boys together again.  Never hearing your laughter as you tell your children stories about your childhood sharing secrets that only your brother would know. Losing you is never dancing at your wedding.  Losing you is never sharing the joy of holding your newborn child for the first time. Losing you has split my life into the before and after.

Pictures of me before your death are almost unrecognizable to me.  A real smile. Similar green eyes staring back at the camera.  Happiness shining through every photo.  Today my pictures reflect an emptiness in my eyes.  A forced smile. A face broken by grief.  Pictures of before and after tell the story of how grief changed me from the inside out.  Pictures showing a shadow of who I used to be.

Reality is that I will never see you coming through my door with your children in tow.  That smile and those eyes forever gone.  No mini Matt’s for me to spoil and hug.  No future generation to share stories of your childhood antics.  No more of you.  😢

How I wish Heaven had visiting hours just for these special days. I would throw myself into your arms and never let you go.  I would tell you how much your loss has changed my life. I would tell you over and over again how much I love you. I would beg you to stay with me forever.

Today I will honor your life.  I will let my grief have its way.  Today I will let my tears flow no longer fighting or pretending that I am ok.  Today I will remember the joy you brought to my life.  I will allow myself the gift to grieve. To feel the profound loss of your death.

Today I will close my eyes and remember your hugs, your voice, your smile.  I will remember two boys chasing each other through the surf  throwing wet sand as your laughter was carried by  the ocean breeze.  Today I will accept the reality of knowing that I will grieve for what should have been for the rest of my life.

Happy Birthday my beautiful boy.   May you celebrate by dancing on the stars and swinging from the moon.   May you fly free knowing you are forever in my heart.

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..

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.

It’s Not The Firsts, It’s The Seconds,Thirds & Fourths That Kill You

Matt,   Im still feeling the aftershocks of your death.   Four years later I still find myself on shaky, unstable ground.   I flip from acceptance as if I have any choice, to a blatant denial that your addiction ended your life and my dreams for your future.

I still find myself beating back a rage that I thought had become a little softer.  Oh how wrong I was.   This rage grips my soul.  Makes me want to lash out and scream until my lungs are void of air.   I want to shake my fist toward the heavens and demand answers.   I want God to show his face and help me to understand why my heart although shattered into jagged little pieces continues to beat.

Everything about grief is a blatant lie.   I’ve read that if you just make it through all the firsts, life suddenly  will take an upward swing.   Like winning an unexpected lottery.   Wow,  the firsts I’ve found were the easiest to survive.   My brain remained in shock.   Shrouded by that protective impenetrable fog.   Keeping my heart and soul tightly enclosed in a barrier that nothing could touch.

I  walked around in a daze.   Numb to what was happening around me.   Denial became my constant companion.   I could not even allow myself to think that your addiction won.

Slowly as the years continued, the fog started to lift.   The barrier began to crumble and reality began to slap my face on a daily basis.   The pain that was once living at a safe distance hit my heart like a well aimed arrow piercing what was left of my soul.

Society believes that time heals all wounds.   The only thing time does for grief is give it a powerful grip over your soul.   The passing years bring new triggers.   I’m still shocked by the force of gut punches I feel when memories hit out of the blue.   I still choke as I walk by a bag of Salt and Vinegar chips.   I still face an internal battle as I walk down the deodorant aisle and see a stick of Axe sitting innocently on the store shelf.   I battle touching the bottle.  Lifting the lid and taking in your favorite scent.   I hear your voice asking for me to look for the Phoenix scent if I was going shopping.   I can’t explain this guttural reaction to a stranger as unexpected sobs fill the aisle as I remove the lid and allow myself a moment to remember.  To smell a scent that is you.

After 4 years I’m still learning to navigate shaky ground.   Land mines are everywhere.   These passing years continue to be filled with aftershocks from the first days of my world imploding under my feet.   Some days I can feel them coming.   Birthdays, holidays and anniversary dates cause my body to react with physical pain.   I am shaking and breathless knowing that even after “surviving” those firsts, its the years coming that will continue to bring me to the edge of my dark abyss.   Threatening what little piece of sanity I’ve somehow managed to maintain.

I now understand that grief has no time limit.   It has a mind of its own.  It has no logic or compassion.  It hurts like hell and no amount of passing time will ease the pain that has a death grip on my soul.  It strikes without warning.   It is the most powerful, misunderstood emotion known in this life.  I also understand why society lies about grief.   If we knew the truth we would choose not to exist.

As time passes I continue to wonder what you would look like.   What you would be doing with your life.  Questions that will never have answers continue to haunt my reality.   Losing you was losing a big piece of me.   Your future was also mine.   A daughter in law, more babies to give my heart joy.   Your death was not yours alone.

I’m learning that my grieving for you will never be completed.   I will never get over it.   There will be no closure.   The aftershocks and reality slaps will continue to find me.   Some expected, some out of the blue.   My anger will ebb and flow.   Rearing its ugly head at the injustice of how your life pages were ripped from the book that should have held so many more chapters…….

 

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.

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