Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: grief and how it affects your life (page 1 of 2)

Go Ahead and Call Me Crazy

Matt,   I know it’s been a while since I’ve written.   I feel like I’ve been hit by a tsunami and I’m still struggling to come up for air.   For some reason, the holidays smacked me in the face as reality that another Christmas was here and you weren’t coming home.   I could feel the darkness beginning  to close in and surround me with dread.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the New Year brought your 6th year angelversary.   January 3rd the day you left my life continued to batter me like an unexpected wind knocking me off balance.   January 4th added to my unsteadiness as I had to be at Penn for my total body Cat Scan to evaluate my cancer.   I felt like I just couldn’t carry the weight of all that was happening piled on top of each other day after day.

Just when I started to regain some balance, Aunt Mary ended up needed more care than we could handle and it was up to me to find her a safe place to spend the rest of her life.   I remember spending hours on the phone begging for some help from the medical professionals who really seemed not to give a damn.

In the midst of all this I was still dealing with my unresolved grief over the sudden death of your grandmother.   Still reeling from all the things left unsaid and undone.   I was also waiting for a biopsy result from a mole removed from my eye lid.   I felt like I was surrounded by doom and I started thinking a lot about death.   Both yours and mine.

I became obsessed.   I could think of nothing else.   I began to find myself in a constant state of panic.   I wondered what it was like for you as you were taking your last breaths.   I wondered if you were afraid or in pain.   I wondered if you were really in Heaven and if I would ever see you again.   I then relived the moment I was told you were gone.   It was like my life was a replay of everything I feared the most.   I wondered how I would die.   How much longer it would be before my cancer returned.   I focused on the treatments I endured to get where I am today.    Chemo, two major surgeries and 54 rounds of radiation.

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I felt like I was losing my mind.   Like after 6 years I was no longer able to cope with what life threw my way.

I finally went to seek professional help.   As I sat before a new doctor and spilled out my journey since your death I felt as if the horrible weight was being lifted.    Telling my story out loud and seeing the doctors face I felt validated.   I felt like I had every right to feel like I was losing what was left of my mind.

She confirmed that I had PTSD.   Her validating what I felt started the road to my self healing.   Rather than fearing what I can not control, I’ve started to count my blessings.   I’ve started praying more and worrying less.   I talk to you and your grandmother asking for signs that you are together and healed in heaven.   I’ve started saying the rosary everyday.   It gives me a peace I haven’t felt in such a long time.   I’ve started to attend support groups where I can be the grieving parent rather than the facilitator of the meeting.   I’ve come to realize that I like every other grieving mother needs to find support on this journey of unrelenting loss.

Little by little I’m learning that life even though  it can be filled with pain and anxiety, it can also be filled with beauty.   It’s up to me to learn not to run and fear what might be but to open my mind to the possibilities of joy.

 

 

 

Mary Did You Know??

Matt,  Christmas is in 4 days and I’m struggling with bouts of grief.   The waves come and go at unexpected times as a memory from your childhood finds its way into my brain.   Seeing you as an innocent child warms my heart like nothing else.   Looking at photos of you from infancy to adulthood fills me with wonder as to what could have been.

I heard a song yesterday called “Mary Did You Know?”   It asks Mary if she knew who her son was born to be.   Did she know He would grow into a man who would suffer a horrible death to save people like you and me.   Listening to those words, I found myself thinking about Mary.   Knowing that she gave birth to a precious boy, raised him, loved him as I loved you then watched him die on the cross.   It hit me that Mary like me grieved the death of her precious son.

I wonder if Mary knew what she signed up for when she said ok to God’s plan.   I wonder if she knew her son would die and break her heart as your death has broken  mine.   Losing our children is not part of the plan when we think of life.   Yet, here was Mary, the mother of Jesus experiencing the excruciating grief of child loss.   As mother’s we only see a bright future for our son’s and daughters.   We never think of losing them in our lifetime.

Like me, Mary was as helpless in trying to save Jesus as I was in trying to save you.  Like me, I’m sure her mother’s instinct took over as she tried to protect her son from harm.   Her grief journey parallels mine as both our son’s lost their lives and we were helpless to intervene.

It hit me as I listened to the words of that powerful song, that I’ve been selfish in my grief.   Never thinking that the mother of my savior felt the same soul shattering heartbreak at the loss of her son.   I’ve heard that song before.   I’ve read the story of the crucifixion, but never once did I think of Mary and the pain she lived at her son’s death.

Mary never questioned God’s plan for her son like I have.   She never demanded answers like I have.   She never yelled and screamed at God like I have.   Mary trusted in God’s plan knowing he knew best.

As fate would have it, I was visiting your garden as that song started playing on the car radio.   I sat in silence and looked at the cross.   It stands in the center of your garden.   Some of your ashes are scattered beneath your stone.   I closed my eyes and could feel a peace come over my soul.   I no longer felt so bitterly alone as I looked up at the cross.

I want to be more like Mary.   I want to trust that God saved you.  That he knew what your future would be and spared us both of more pain.   I need to believe you are healed and living in paradise with Jesus and his mother.    I need to believe that one day you and I will be reunited as were Mary and Jesus.

Neither Mary or I knew that when we gave birth to our precious son’s we would share a bond of grief.   That we would lose our son’s very close in age, one due to the sins of mankind, one to the power of a horrible disease.

Mary did you know???????????

 

Together Again………

Matt,   this world has gone crazy.  I wonder if you know whats happening down on earth.   I wonder what life would be like if you were here.   We’ve been hit with this deadly virus.   Our state has come to a screeching halt.   Every nonessential business has closed its doors and we are all confined to our homes.  It’s been a month and I’m feeling the stress of this new normal.

I’m still undergoing radiation everyday.   I call it groundhog day.   Ray and I drive to Penn Monday through Friday.   I wear a mask and gloves as does everyone who is venturing out of their homes.   It’s almost like being an extra in a movie.   It’s something I never thought would happen in our country.   I wonder what your reaction would be if you were alive.

Your Grandmother was more upset about them closing churches during Lent.   The Catholic girl in her just couldn’t understand the need for social distancing to stop the spread of this deadly virus.   For her going to church was part of her routine during Lent.   She was more worried about not being able to worship than she was of catching the virus.   She wanted to know how we would celebrate Easter without going to church.

I had no idea how stressed she was.   Looking back I should have seen the red flags but I’ve been so preoccupied with my cancer battle that I totally missed her distress.

I will never forget the call.    Asking if I was Marybeth.   I would get those exact same calls during your active addiction.   A stranger on the other end of the phone asking for me.   My heart started racing before another word was said.   Your grandmother was found in her car in front of the soup kitchen where she volunteered feeding the poor and homeless.   It seems even though we told her to stay home she was doing what her heart told her to do.   She suffered a massive stroke.

She remained in the hospital holding on for a week.   I was unable to visit.   The hospitals had stopped visitors and with my immune system being down I was told to stay away.   Stacey was given permission to stay with mom mom because of the gravity of her condition.   I was able to speak to her as Stacey would FaceTime with me while she was at the bedside.   I was able to say all those things we think we will have time to say.   I apologized for not understanding her distress.   For all the arguments we had since your death.   Mom Mom never lost a child and had no clue how my life had drastically changed.   We had so many arguments about my grief.   Many times I would find myself screaming into the phone as I tried to get her to understand that time did not help with my grieving.   It was a difficult relationship.   One I foolishly thought we would fix before time ran out.

I asked her to give you a hug from me and to let you know how much I love and miss you.   She left this earth the Monday after Palm Sunday.   The nurses said it was a peaceful death.

I feel like I’ve been slapped by reality once again.   There was so much left to say and now the chance is gone forever.   I mourn the relationship we should have had.   After you died she walked away from me.   I know she loved you and I thought we would mourn your death together.  I will never know why she acted the way she did.   Why she stayed away and offered no support.   That was the one question we argued about.   Now I will never have my answer.   Funny how now that she’s gone it doesn’t seem as important as I once felt it was.

I was having a bad day and opened a photo album I hadn’t touched for a year.   I wondered if you two were together again.   I prayed that she found you and would keep you safe until  my time comes to be with you for eternity.   The pages fell open to this beautiful picture of you and mom mom.   Holding each other close.   Your smiles so beautiful, radiating happiness and love.   Was this you sending me a sign?    Are you together again?

Oh Matt, I pray you are both at peace.   Mom mom was so upset about missing church during Holy Week but here she was witnessing the beauty of Easter in the most heavenly place.   I mourn what could have been for all of us.

Life has a way of teaching us difficult lessons.   I’m learning that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.   I’m learning to say what I feel and never think there will be a tomorrow to fix things.  The hardest lesson for me is that we really have no control of anything in this life.

I printed out your picture.   Every time I look at it my heart gets a warm feeling.   Knowing you are reunited with your grandmother helps my grieving heart.   Godspeed to you both.   Together again in paradise.

 

 

Rogue Waves……

Matt,   You would think after 5 years, I would have a handle on my grief.   Maybe a small part of my heart started to believe the myth that time would soften the blow of your death.   Maybe to survive I had to think the pain would not always have the crushing power it did in those early days.   Perhaps to continue my journey on earth without you I had to live briefly the fantasy that society wants me to believe.

My reality is the polar opposite.   This grief continues to hit unexpectedly, but just as powerfully as it always has.   I call them rogue waves.   I thought that the passing of time would at least soften the edges of my grief.   Sadly, I’m finding those edges remain sharp.   Like jagged pieces of glass ready to rip my heart to shreds once again.

These waves continue to hit at unexpected times.   Days when I think I’ve got a shred of control over my emotions  I find quite the opposite.   I don’t know if it’s the stress of my cancer diagnosis or just the fact that I continue to rethink your struggle with addiction.   Perhaps I’ve got too much time on my hands now as I recover from back surgery and have had to put my advocacy work on the back burner.   I’m no longer physically capable of running to meetings or being your voice in Legislative Hall.   I’m no longer able to keep my mind busy with changing the broken system that took your life.   Time gives my mind the opportunity to relive it all over and over again.

My empathy for your pain is heightened.   I now get it.   Back surgery is no picnic and this recovery has tested my patience.   I think about how I just didn’t understand your pain.   It’s like any other situation.   Until you live it you can’t get it.

So now my insides churn like an unsettled sea.   I feel like I’m being turned inside out.   I want to lash out at people who think addiction was your choice.   Who think addiction is a moral flaw.  My anger rises to the surface when I least expect it.   Like those rogue waves it leaves me struggling to regain control.

I rethink your last days until I can think no more.   I want to physically hurt the man who dumped you off at a motel to die rather than doing the right thing by taking you to the ER or a detox center.   I want him to hurt physically and emotionally like your death has hurt me.   I want him rotting in jail with no hope of ever seeing the blue sky or hearing the birds sing.   I want him to die alone as much as I want you to be alive.

My grief is now multifaceted.   I grieve us both.   I grieve for what used to be.   I grieve the son you once were and the woman I once was.   I grieve for the future that could have been but now will never be.    I grieve the grandchildren my arms will never hold.   I grieve watching my boys grow old together.   I grieve the years we have lost, the future we will never share.

My grief and my anger walk hand and hand.  Dancing through my mind.   I am helpless to contain either when the reality of life hits with the power of those rogue waves knocking me off my feet  leaving me struggling to find the surface to catch my breath.   Grief is a powerful and never ending emotion.   It does not tell time.  It does not conform to societies perception that time softens the blow of death.

I’ve learned that my grief will last a lifetime.   As will my anger over your unnecessary, untimely death.   I’ve learned those waves are out there and will hit again and again.   I’ve learned that I am helpless when they hit and all I can do is ride them to the best of my ability.

Surviving my reality, your death and my cancer is a challenge.  Never did I see either coming.   I’ve learned life is fragile and full of unexpected events.   I’ve learned that grief is a part of who I am and will remain a part of my life until I cease to be……….

 

 

 

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…….

 

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