Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: grief (page 1 of 13)

Heaven’s A Little Closer In A House By The Sea

Matt,

It’s Memorial Day weekend.   The weather is cloudy and grey.   You have been gone 3 years 4 months and I still find myself shocked when reality hits.   I remember when you lived at the beach.  You hated summers.   All the traffic and crowds.   I can still hear your voice complaining about how long it took to get from one place to another.

What I wouldn’t give to have you here complaining about summer tourists invading your paradise.   I can still see you standing in your boat. “ The only way to get anywhere around here is by boat”.   You still had that large grin on your handsome face.   I knew this was just an excuse to get you out on the water, your favorite place to be.

I dreamed about the house the other night.   I drove by and realized it was for sale.   I sat in my car calling the realtor.   I had to get inside.   I had to be where you were.   She was kind and listened as I told her this house once belonged to you.   I told her I desperately needed to walk through those rooms once again.   I had to touch where you touched.   She told me she had adult sons and couldn’t imagine what I was feeling.   Handing me the keys without any questions.  My tears started to fall as the lock turned opening the door. My mind flooding with memories of walking through this door hundreds of times before.

The house was vacant.   Eerily quiet.  Looking exactly as it was the last time we walked through these rooms together.   Both of us with tears in our eyes knowing your disease robbed us of our happy place.

I sat on the living room floor, the carpet showing signs of wear.   Familiar spills and puppy accidents marking years of our life were still apparent.   Each mark told a story.   I could picture our house the way it used to be.   Full of love and laughter.   Sandy dogs running through the kitchen after romping in the surf.   Both of us trying to shoo them outside.   Laughing as we became as sandy as the dogs.

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I remembered every detail.   Every moment we shared together.   Ten years of wonderful memories flooded my brain.  My mind allowing me the gift of going back in time.   I could see you standing in the kitchen.   Khaki shorts, bare feet, sun kissed hair.   “Hey Mom, can I get you a drink?”   Your face handsome and tan. Your beautiful eyes always smiling.   You loved this house by the sea.   I loved your happiness.

I walked from room to room as precious memories washed over my shattered heart.   Memories of a time when life was perfect. Settlement day.   Moving in.   Hanging pictures.   Sandy floors.   The chaos of boxes everywhere.  The joy that living by the sea brought to both of us.   Oh how proud you were of the life you built.   I remember that beautiful smile.   “Mom, can you believe this is mine”.

How I wished I had the power to go back in time.   I wanted to open my eyes and see you standing there.   I wanted to undo the ugliness that took you away.   I wanted to wake up from the nightmare that is now my reality.

I felt a profound sadness wash over me.   Still in disbelief that you were gone.   Oh God, how did this happen?   How did life take this ugly turn?   I felt your loss like never before.   This once cozy, little home so full of life, love, and laughter now stood as empty as my soul.   Tears began again as I walked through that door for the last time.   This house now a symbol of profound loss.

Walking to my car, I allowed myself one last look.   My mind playing tricks on my heart as I see you coming through the door.   That smile on your face.   Your sun bleached hair hidden under your hat.   Kahlua bouncing at your heels.  For a brief moment you were there.  I wanted to yell out.  To reach toward you touching your face.  For a fleeting second everything returned to normal.   Life was as it used to be.    I felt joy.

I remember hearing of a saying,  “Heaven Is A Little Closer In A House By The Sea”.   Imagine my surprise finding that  print while visiting a seaside town.   I couldn’t wait to hang it in our little house that represented Heaven to both of us.   I remember standing on a chair trying to guide you.   A little to the right.  No just a smidge left.   Perfect.

That print became the centerpiece of the wall.   Surrounded by pictures we both loved.   The dogs running through the breaking waves.   You standing by your precious boat.   You and Mike swimming in the bay.   Both of you tanned and smiling.   Pictures of a life that now feels a lifetime ago.   Almost like a dream.

Those memories live protected and preserved forever in my heart.  That loved print now hangs in my home.    Seeing it tugs at my heart.    Its meaning now signifies unspeakable loss.  The casualties of addiction.   My beautiful boy and a little piece of Heaven by our beloved sea. 💜💜

A Letter To My Son On Mother’s Day

Matt,  This Sunday is Mother’s Day.   My fourth without you.   I actually had to stop and count the years.  I was so shocked and breathless that I needed to count the years on my fingers like a preschooler.   May of 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018.   Four years and I’m still having trouble believing you won’t be calling or walking through my door.

Today is only Friday but I feel that familiar grief grabbing onto my chest and starting to tighten its grip on my heart.   I’ve tied hard to not go there.   To forget that this Sunday is that day.   The one that honors all Moms.   Unfortunately,  every other commercial shows kids and flowers.   Smiling mothers giving hugs and kisses to their precious children.

I’ve kept very busy today.   Cleaning out closets. Exchanging winter clothes for summer.   Cleaning like the energizer bunny.   Trying to keep my brain occupied and away from what is coming.   As fate would have it, or maybe it was you, a box of pictures fell from a shelf to my closet floor.   I found your smiling face staring back at me.   I could no longer fight.   Seeing your picture, knowing there would be no more shattered the pieces of my already broken heart.   I slid to the floor and cried out like a wounded animal.   Raw, guttural sounds flying out of my battered soul.

I tried to resist looking further.   But my hands were already searching through the scattered prints searching for more of you.   Pictures from years ago.   You and Mike standing side by side.   Two precious smiling faces.   Brothers 1 year and 20 days apart.   People called you Irish twins.   I called you double trouble.   I never remember seeing one without the other.

Memories of past Mother’s Day flooded my mind.   My two boys running into the house.   Hands full of buttercups and dandelions.   “Happy Mother’s Day”  your little voices shouted together.   When you got older, my gifts became more sophisticated.   Pieces of jewelry or a hand painted picture.

After Mike left for the Coast Guard, you realized how much he was missed.    You never failed to remember my day.   A card, flowers, or a surprise visit.   Distance never mattered.   You’d leave your precious beach and spend the day with me.   You were never too old for a hug or to say “I love you, Mom”.

Now, I’m left with precious memories.   Cards from Mother’s Day long ago.   Oh God, how precious they have become.   Treasured pieces of paper signed by you.   I’ve kept them all these years, never thinking they would become so priceless.   I run my finger along your signature remembering teaching you to write.  Never thinking that one day your unique signature would be something left behind that would bring both joy and unspeakable pain to your mothers heart.    Both my boys so precious.   One now gone forever.

Mother’s Day, once a day I looked so forward to has become a day of loss.   Memories of two boys becoming men.   Always showing up together to surprise their mom.   Both so handsome, sharing childhood antics that bonded them forever.   Stories kept secret from Mom, being shared with howls of laughter.   Mother’s Day now so different from anything I could ever have imagined.

This year I will give myself a gift.   I will allow myself the luxury of tears.   Tears I hide from the world will flow as I remember you as a young man.   Bounding through my door with flowers in your hand.   Your handsome face.   Your smile filling my heart with joy.   I will allow memories to fill my mind.   I will reaffirm that I will always be your mother and you will always be my son.   Our connection continuing through time and space.

I will pray for a sign, a feeling from you.   Your gift to me on this most painful day.   Be the rays of the sun gently kissing my face.   Be the tender breeze whispering in my ear.  Be that puffy cloud or the cardinal in my garden.    Be with me in spirit as I remember your love as both a child and as a man.   My love for you will live on forever.    A bond stronger than death.   A Mothers love transcending time and space.    Her youngest son gone.  Forever holding a piece of her heart.

 

A Broken Heart Doesn’t Show Up On EKG

Matt,  Since your Death I’ve had several episodes where it feels like my heart is actually breaking apart.  The medical community uses the term “Broken Heart Syndrome”.  Although the cause of broken heart syndrome is not completely known, it is thought to be triggered by extreme emotional stress.  Intense grief is listed as one of its causes. The heart is stunned by an unexpected, shocking event.  When stunned, the heart no longer works efficiently and causes severe pain and anxiety.

I can tell you I’ve become the poster child for Broken Heart Syndrome.  I’ve been in the ER more since your death than I have my entire life.

My first trip was the day before Christmas Eve.  It was the first Christmas after your death and I think reality gut punched me and started the shattering of my heart to begin.  I was a mess.  Breathless and in agony.  Trying to describe my pain to doctors was like trying to explain color to a blind man.  Nothing like your classic heart attack signs just an unending ache deep in my soul.

I remember the doctor coming in to tell me all the tests were normal.  Seriously, I thought.  I’m dying and you’re missing it.  Then he asked what’s been going on in my life.  That simple question opened my floodgates.  His face said it all.  Your death, then my career screeching to a halt was tough enough but when you threw in the death of a dear friend ten months later, I was drowning in grief.

Returning home I remember feeling so foolish.  I was an active, healthy person.  Why did I feel like I was dying.  Once again I put one foot in front of the other taking baby steps trying to navigate this new life.

Strike two was in April of the following year.  Year two was shaping up to be another brutal round of reality.  I made it through all those “firsts” and never expected the “seconds” to come with stronger gut punches.  I was in my garden.  Clearing out old leaves trying to remember the joy I once felt digging in the dirt.  My garden was my sanctuary.  The place I fled to trying to find peace during your addiction.

Seeing your cigarette butts was a sharp slap across my face.   Memories flooded my brain.   You sitting on the deck pitching your smoked butts into my precious gardens.   I remember yelling at your disrespect for all my hard work.   What should have been minor fix turned into a major fight as you continued to flick your butts into the garden with that look of defiance on your face.    Oh God,  that memory long since buried was dancing through my head.   I held them to my nose trying to pick up the scent of your mouth.  Oh God,  what I would give to have you sitting there again.   This time I would hold you and hug you knowing how our journey would end.

Once again that familiar pain shot across my chest.   Struggling to catch my breath.   That lump in my throat growing larger each second.   This time I’m sure something will show up.   My heart hurting so badly yet again everything was “normal”.    Sent home once again feeling foolish.   Even my nursing education wasn’t any help in controlling my thought that I must be dying.

Strike three arrived 5 days after returning home from Florida.   Even the beauty of the Keys couldn’t  lift my grief.    I felt it the second week there.   I could see you everywhere and no where.   Dear God, you died in Florida was all I could think of.   You should have been  enjoying the turquoise water.   We should be having lunch.   I should be seeing your place, meeting your friends.  You should be alive.

Returning home was another slap of reality.   My eyes finding your urn.   Seeing your smiling face staring back at me forever frozen in time.    I can’t breathe.   This time I heard my heart break.   Feeling the shards of glass tearing into my throat.  I can’t be alive and survive this pain.   I must be dying.   Once again the doctor wants to know what’s been happening in my life.   Once again I see the look of compassion for your broken mother on her face.

This time a stress test is ordered.   I’m injected with an isotope and told to start walking.   The treadmill belt is moving.   I think of you. I’m walking too fast.   Trying to run from reality.   I’m told to slow down.   The speed needs to build up.   All I want to do is run.   Pictures are taken and reviewed by the heart experts.   I’m told I have a beautiful, healthy heart.   I sit and listen as tears run down my face.   How can they not see the cracks, the shards that live where my heart used to.

The NP gives me a hug.   Tears mingling with mine.   She too knows living with a broken heart.   Losing her daughter years ago.   She tells me our mother’s hearts never forget.   Eventually the breaks won’t be as severe and gut wrenching.   Time will eventually put some pieces back where they belong.   One day my heart will remember only the love rather than the loss.

Until then I’ve learned that a heart breaking never makes noise.  It’s only felt by the soul of the one experiencing the pain.    Unseen to the human eye but  deeply felt by the griever.   And like grief, the break signifies unspeakable, unending  love…….

 

 

 

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.

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”.

 

 

 

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