Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: complicated grief

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.

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Grief

Matt,   I never wanted to have this personal relationship with grief that I do.   I never really thought I would know this heartbreaking,  life changing type of grief.   I never thought it would become my life partner.   I never thought it would become a part of my soul and stay forever in my heart.  This grief is like the blood that pumps through my body.  It has become part of who I am.

I’ve learned that grief doesn’t keep track of time.   Although four years have passed since your death, this grief is as powerful as it was in the very beginning.   I’ve learned that the first year is not the hardest.   Surviving all those firsts really means nothing.   That first year fog protects you like a warm cocoon.   It shields you from the reality that life will never be the same.   It enables you to continue to breathe, to survive.   But it in no way prepares you for what is to come.

I’ve learned that this grief does not soften with the passing of time.   I’ve learned there is no escape from those unexpected gut punches.   Those powerful, crushing waves continue to knock me off balance just as they did in the very beginning.   Time brings with it the harsh reality that this is it.   This grief is here to stay.   This grief remains as overpowering and relentless showing no signs of letting up.   Time continues to march on as years follow dragging me through the next birthday and holiday without you.   Dragging me kicking and screaming begging for a short break from the pain of your loss.

I’ve learned there are no stages of grief.   I bounce from one emotion to the next without warning.   There are no straight set of rules.   There is no passing one stage to get to another.   No passing go to find peace.  Grief is not linear.   Grief is a tangled mess.   The more you fight the emotions, the tighter it’s grip becomes on your heart.   Grief is anxious and dirty.   Grief is losing control in the blink of an eye.   Grief is a trigger that hits like an explosion in your head and heart.   Grief is the mess your life becomes after losing a child.

I’ve learned grief never sleeps.   She’s there lurking in every corner waiting to pounce as soon as she feels your vulnerability surface.   Grief grabs you as soon as you awaken and follows you through your day.   Like a lost pup she nips at your heels.   Tiny bites with a sharpness that can’t be ignored.   Grief follows as you close your eyes to rest.   She comes in those haunting memories, the what if’s, the I should have’s, the why’s.   Grief is a 24/7 animal.

I’ve learned that grief can partner with guilt.   Adding regret for things done, said, not done and not spoken.   She teams up with so many powerful emotions that leaves the heart and soul spinning out of control.   Grief is a constant reminder of reality.   Grief continues to beat you down until you are battered and bruised.   Grief however long she’s been in your life will continue to take your breath away.

I’ve learned that grief will shake your beliefs about God.   I questioned why he allowed you to die.   I questioned why my prayers of keeping you safe were ignored.   I questioned where God was when you were taking your last breaths.   I questioned where he is now.   I’ve learned that without God I would never have survived your death.   I’ve learned that God is quiet and I need to let him be in control.   I’ve learned that what happened in your life and at the time of your death was between you and God.   I’ve learned to talk to God like he is a friend not always in a prayer but like he is standing beside me.   I’ve learned that if I open myself up to signs they will be there.

I’ve learned that I will never be the same woman.   The eyes looking back at me show a profound sadness.   I’ve learned that I have an inner strength I never knew existed.   I fear nothing.   I’ve learned never to take life for granted.  I appreciate the sunrise, the birds singing, the warmth of a winter sun.   I look at life through a different lens.   I judge less.   I’ve learned everyone is living through something hidden behind the masks we wear.

I’ve learned that living with grief is not for the faint of heart.   I’ve learned my grief has a life of it’s own.   I know there is no escape.   I’ve learned my grief must be accepted and acknowledged. My grief is as powerful as my love was and remains for you.  I’ve learned not to fight when the waves hit.   I must allow the grief to wash over me knowing that my life will always be vulnerable to those little things that bring you back to me.

 

 

 

Why Is This Grief So Complicated?????

Matt,  This complicated grief is nothing like the grief people who have never experienced think it is.  Most people, at least some of the people I’ve come in contact with still think grief has a time frame.  Supposedly, normal grief is still thought of as something you glide through.  Going from one stage to the next until you reach the finish line.  After that so called specific acceptable time frame, the grief just disappears into thin air.  Like magic, poof, it’s gone.  Life then supposedly returns to normal.

Unlike the so called “normal” grief, complicated grief doesn’t seem to follow a time line.   It doesn’t seem to care that it’s been years.  It seems that time can continue to pass and complicated grief just clings tightly to your heart.   Complicated grief is usually associated with the loss of a child.   This grief is unbearably devastating.

What makes this grief so tough is that I find you have to constantly defend it.  People will bring up how long it’s been.  Oh yes, believe me I know how long its been.   So does every other parent who has lived through the death of their child.  What I don’t understand is why how long its been should have any impact on how long or how deep a parent continues to grieve.

The loss of a child goes against mother nature.  Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.   The loss of a child shatters the foundation of what we have been taught to be normal in our world.   The loss of a child rocks parents to their core.   We begin to question everything we have learned throughout our lifetime.   We question our faith.   We wonder how a loving God could have allowed our child to die.   I remember my daily prayers.   Every morning and night I prayed to God for your safety.   I prayed for you to have the strength to beat your addiction.   I truly believed that if I let go and let God all would be ok.   Imagine how I felt when I got that life shattering call that you were gone.

I felt totally betrayed by my God.   I felt like I had done something so horrible that he was punishing me by allowing my greatest fear to come true.   I felt abandoned and alone.   I questioned every belief I’d ever known.   Feeling that I’d not only lost you but also lost my trust in how the world should be.   It’s taken years to rebuild my faith.   To know that God did answer my prayers.   He saved you not my way but his.   To this day God and I have an agreement.   We agree to disagree on answered prayers.

Through my grief I have found many blessings.   At first I felt abandoned, alone.   Many friends walked away and never looked back.   Apparently my grief made them uncomfortable.   Believing that I should get over it and get back to a so called “normal”.   They wondered how they could be around someone who was so deeply grieving.   Rather than helping me through they simply disappeared.   The years of friendship meant nothing.   Shared experiences all forgotten.  Grief scaring them so deeply it was safer to abandon a friend than to stand by her side.

Isolation is a large part of how grief becomes complicated.   I never believed what I’d heard.   But since living it I know it’s true.   People forget you are still here.   Forget you are trying to navigate through your new life.   Trying to figure out how to survive without your child.  Mourning the hopes and dreams once so alive now gone in the blink of an eye.  No more phone calls or visits,  just complete abandonment by people who were once considered close friends.   You wake up one day and it hits.  Not only have you lost a huge piece of your life, but you’ve also lost any connection to life outside your grief.

I also live that famous verse, “If God closes one door, He opens another”.    Through my grief I have found a new family.   Other women who like me have suffered the ultimate loss.   We share a bond and belong to a club we never wanted to join.   Finding peace and strength through our loss.   We lift each other on dark days.   There is no need to defend our grief.   No need to explain why those special days re-break our healing hearts.   The gift of these friendships are priceless.   Understanding that time does not heal all wounds.  That healing has no dead line.   That there is no shame in missing our children every day of our lives.  We are a gift to one another.

Being honest with myself is tough.   To realize that even after 3 years 2 months and 20 days I’m still shocked by your death.  To think that the years have passed without you here continues to take my breath away.   Simple things still cause deep pain.   A can of Beefaroni or hearing a song by Guns and Roses can be overwhelming.   There are days when seeing a father with his baby reminds me of things that will never be.

I’ve learned that grief is not a race to be run.   It’s a process to be survived.   A place to move through at our own pace.   Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.   My grief is mine alone.   It is not something I should ever have to defend or be ashamed of.   Grief is love that has been rerouted.   It lives in every fiber of our being.   Grief is how we love.   Love never dies.   It lasts forever.

So does Grief……………………………

 

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