Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: hopes and dreams (page 1 of 10)

Learning To Dance Through Shattered Glass

Matt,   Thanksgiving is in three days.   I’m feeling my grief’s grip around my throat.   That familiar tightening in my chest has returned.   This Thanksgiving feels impossible to survive.   My loss and disbelief of living through unfulfilled hopes and dreams feels heavier as the holiday season approaches.   I’ve heard the saying about learning to dance in the rain.   I feel like I’m navigating life dancing through pieces of shattered glass.   Life as I planned for us shattered at my feet the day you died.   My life was broken with no chance of ever being repaired.

This season my grief feels heavier.   I not only grieve the loss of you, I’m also grieving the loss of me.   Of how I hoped Thanksgiving would always be.   It’s so hard to feel thankful this year.   Your empty seat continues to break my heart.   My cancer battle has left me with little reserve and feelings of just giving up.   It feels like I’m layered in grief.   Of wondering how to survive the triggers the holiday season brings.

I have days where I’m so thankful for your life.   Days I feel like I will survive your loss.   Days when even my cancer is put on the back burner and I feel joy in the blessings  of everyday life.   Then I see those painful commercials.   The one’s of beautiful, happy families celebrating Thanksgiving together.  Everyone around the table is smiling.   There are no tears of loss.   No empty chair where a loved family member will no longer be seated.   It’s those moments when our reality hits like a cold slap and I want to scream letting the world know that life is not as it appears in these fantasy advertisements for how the holidays should be.

It seems the holiday season highlights my grief.   Memories of how life used to be unbury themselves from my safe place and resurface bringing a heightened awareness of my loss.   I’m ashamed that my feelings leave me unthankful for the blessings I do have in my life.

The blessings of memories.   Remembering our last Thanksgiving together.   You and Mike out back bundled up against the cold.   Your breath floating above your heads as you shared a memory that brought a smile to both your faces.   The blessing of that moment captured in time as I snuck a photo of my two boys together.   I look at that photo and feel a mixture of pain and love.   How I wish I could blink my eyes and return to that holiday.

The blessing of a loving husband.   Ray has been amazing.   My broken body is no longer capable of physical activity.   Everything I used to do has now fallen on his shoulders.   I watch as he walks the dogs down the street.   My heart fills with gratitude for this man.   He has taken over everything with a smile and a positive attitude of for better or worse.   He sits by my side on those chemo days.   He continues to tell me we will get through this.   He is such a gift from God as he has held me on those days I sobbed over your loss or cried over losing who I used to be.   He reminds me that I am still beautiful with or without my crazy, curly hair.

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In my brokenness true friends have shined through my darkness.   Rallying around me as I struggle to find my new normal.   These women stood by me as I grieved your death and continue to stand by as I battle this cancer.   Letting me know they have my back.   Being sounding boards when my reality becomes too hard to carry and I need to rant and repeat the things they’ve all heard before.   True friends.   Another gift from God.

The blessing of your brother.   He understands my grief.   He is the only one who really gets what your death has done to our family.   We cry together on those days when the grief finds us both.   The holidays hold painful memories that only we share.   Memories of brothers fighting over the last piece of pumpkin pie.   Brothers who would share stories of childhood antics as I cringed at the holiday table.   I’m thankful for his presence in my life.   His mannerisms are yours.   He is the part of you that remains with me.

This holiday season when I’m not feeling so thankful, I will remember these blessing God has placed in my life.   I will remember that the holidays although painful also hold joy.   I will remember our life together.   I will shed tears as memories hit but will focus on the light that shines through my darkest days.   I will continue to pray for acceptance and peace, knowing I am in control of nothing.

This Thanksgiving I will give thanks for your life.   I will give thanks for those who remain in my life.   I will give thanks for the days I feel like I’m human again.   I will give thanks for another day of life.   I will search for the beauty that finds it way through my brokenness…………

 

 

 

The Layers Of My Grief

Matt,

Somedays I feel like I’m layered in grief.   I remember how I would layer my clothing on those iffy weather days.  Never knowing if the sun would break through the clouds and warm the gloomy day.   This grief is heavier than my clothing and unlike my clothing cannot be ripped off when the waves hit and the tide recedes.

I feel like an onion.   Peeling through the multiple layers will leave you in tears.  Whenever I feel I’ve come to grips with your death, I’m hit by another wave.   My tears come as the overwhelming feeling of sinking into my abyss hits like a slap.

My cancer diagnosis has compounded your death.   I need you here.   I want you here.   You should be here.   I need to hear your voice telling me, “You got this Mom.”   I need you to talk to your brother as only brothers can.  I need you to be here to help me face the unknown.  I need you so badly that I feel myself reliving that horrific fresh pain I experienced early after your death.

I grieve what could have been.  I grieve who I used to be.   I grieve for the life I took so for granted.  I grieve for Ray and all he has lost in a companion.   Layer after layer after layer.   The grief builds up like volcanic ash.   Get too close and you get burned.   Tears flows like ash completely out of my control.   Then the flow stops and mountains of ash are left behind.   Mountains that block this journey to finding peace.

Mountains of tests since my diagnosis.   Grief over the possibilities.   Mountains of newly woken grief over you not being here to hug me.   Grief over how quickly plans and life changes.   Grief when I hear your brothers voice begin to crack as we both share our feeling about your absence.

I’ve read that grieving is a life long process.   I will never get over your loss.  I will never get over losing me.    I pray for the strength to carry my layers as my journey with multifaceted grief will continue as long as I live.

Peeling an onion is like dealing with grief one step at a time.   The onion comes apart one layer at a time.   If you peel harshly you can tear through the  layers causing damage.   If you peel gently the layers fall off easily.

I will work to peel gently through my layers.   Working through one layer at a time.   Dealing with the feelings that I try to run from.   Dealing with my losses in hopes of recovering a small slice of peace………..

 

Life Is Just One Crazy Rollercoaster Ride

Matt,

I feel like I did during those days we battled your addiction.   One day when things were going as planned I felt like I could fly.   I was always so hopeful everytime you agreed to treatment.  Like life would return to normal and you would finally return to the life your addiction stole from you.

Well we all know how that worked out.  Your addiction was stronger than my love.  It was so conniving and clever it convinced you that you were in control.   You left this world on January 3, 2015.   You were gone forever and my world was changed in the blink of an eye.   For years I walked around in a fog.   Disbelief and denial became my constant companions.  Just when I was starting to feel like I had a handle on my grief after living the uncharted life of a grieving mother 4 years and 8 months after your death, life once again became a rollercoaster ride.

I was diagnosed with cancer.   Once again that rollercoaster plummeted to the earth.  Once again my world was thrust into the unknown.  Shock, disbelief and panic found me again.   Those feelings returned with a vengeance.  I walked around numb like I did during your active addiction.   All those feelings I had buried came rushing to the surface.

My cancer made your absence even more traumatic.   I wondered if you knew what was happening here on earth.  I prayed for so long that you would come to me just for a moment to  let me know you were ok.  Finally finding your peace that eluded you here on earth.. imagine my joy when I received a message from a friend that you came to her and asked her to get a message to me.

You told her you were Matt.  You asked her to let me know you still wore your ball cap backwards.  You told her it was not my time and I must fight.  You told her things only you could know..   Your message meant the world to me.  Knowing you were still here was the best gift I could have received.  Once again I felt like I could fly.   The roller coaster was going up, up, up.  Little did I know that once again it would crash to the ground.

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed Belle would have attacked Molly for no reason.   I immediately called our vet.  Belle had stated to show signs of aggression that was so not her.  Belle was the sweetest dog I’d ever rescued.  I thought she was reacting to my stress until the aggression continued to get worse.  It got to the point we had to slightly sedate her to make sure the aggression would stop.

I remember the day I felt her head and thought I was going to vomit.   We were sitting on the deck and she was rubbing her head against the furniture.  I called her over and started to rub her head hoping to find the spot that was bothering her.   What I felt was the size of a golf ball solid rock mass..  I immediately panicked.  Snapped a picture and sent to Stephanie our vet.

The news broke my heart.  Belle had a quick growing brain tumor.   Her aggression, like your addiction would take her life.  For one week Bella was spoiled.  Steak, hamburger, pizza anything she wanted she got.   The thing that was hardest for me was that emotionally and physically I could not go to vet with her.

Your brother was so full of compassion.  He told me Mom it’s not physically possible for you to be there.  I will be there for you.  You know Mike loved Bella as much as I did.  Mike like you took to her as soon as I brought her home.  We spent many days together with our dogs playing in the surf.

Stephanie was not just our vet.  She was my friend for years.   She loved Belle as much as we did..  I could not have asked for two better people to say goodbye to my dearest friend.  We put if off as long as possible.  I had to fight my selfish need to keep her here with me.  I spoke to so many of my dog mom friends who all relieved my guilt for doing the right thing for my beloved companion of 14 years.

Bella was the one who paced with me at night after your death.  Sleep was not something that came easy.  She was constantly by my side.  Bella was the one who found me in your closet surrounded by your clothing sobbing like a wounded animal.  I remember her walking into the closet, lifting her nose and taking in your scent.  I could  see in her eyes she knew it was you.  She kept nudging me with her nose, forcing her body into my lap.  She lay there with me for hours, once again licking my tears off my face and comforting me with her presence..

Bella left me the day after my birthday.  She could hold on no longer.  I could not watch her suffer any longer.  I prayed that you would be there with Kahlua when she crossed the rainbow bridge.  Mike said her last act of love was to kiss his face as if saying thank you.

Another tremendous loss.  Losing you, now losing another connection to you.   The roller coaster continues to keep my life on unstable ground.  Never knowing if I will be soaring toward the sky or crashing to the ground.  I do know I have no control over the ride.   I just have to hold on, pray and let Jesus lead the way……

 

 

Two Words Changing Life Forever

Matt,

I feel like I’ve stepped back in time.  I never thought that feeling of shocked numbness would ever hit me again like it did after hearing those two words, “Matt’s Dead”.   We’ve all heard that saying how one phone call can change the course of your life.  Once again knocking you off balance and forcing you to navigate your life on shaky, unrecognizable ground.

I remember those early days after your death.  Walking around numb.  Feeling like my insides were jelly.  Constantly shaking.  Walking through the days going through the motions of living, but really not living.  I remember the feeling of nothingness.  Of denying this was my new reality.  Of feeling foolish for sweating the meaningless small stuff that life constantly throws your way.  I now knew that life was too fragile to sweat over issues that in reality really didn’t matter.  Your death was a lesson in my life.

Foolishly, I believed that after 4 long years, I was back in control of my life.  My advocacy work allowed me to channel my grief into helping others.  I finally felt a purpose.   I still grieve you everyday, but felt like as long as I had my advocacy your death would always have meaning.

I’m still trying to understand where I am today.  Whether it was a God intervention or a Matt intervention.   I remember the day perfectly.  Reliving every step I took.  Every thought I had exactly the same as I experienced upon hearing you were gone.

A beautiful day, June 22nd.  The humidity finally broke and all I wanted was to fill the house with the cleansing breeze of fresh air.   You remember how I always hated having the house closed up.  We used to laugh as I would only put the air on when the dogs were getting too hot.  I needed to hear the songs of my garden birds.  Needed to hear the soothing sounds of the waterfall in the garden beneath the kitchen window.

I lifted the window.  It stuck.  Instead of giving up, I continued to push as hard as I could.  The pain was excruciating.  I felt like my back and leg had been stripped of muscle.  I remember my nursing instincts kicking in as I hobbled to the freezer.  Ice now.  I grabbed the bottle of Motrin swallowed quickly and hobbling to the couch.   I sat in shock.  Looking at the window with such contempt.  If I could have I would have grabbed a hammer and beat the crap out of that piece of glass.

Weeks passed.  The pain remained.  Fueling my hate for that window.  In my mind it had ruined my summer.  No more biking, hiking, dog walking, yoga, gardening.  Everything I loved gone in a split second.  All my self care practices that kept me sane on those dark days now out of my physical capacity.

After two months of continued pain an MRI was ordered.  I was expecting a herniated disc.  I was fully prepared to inform which ever neurosurgeon I would see that surgery would be my last resort.  After watching how your surgery did nothing for your back except lead you to the road that finally took your life I was perfecting my speech.

Never in a million years did I see what was coming.  You always laughed at me being the health nut.  Skipping cake,  not eating red meat.  I can hear your words so clearly now..”Mom, life”s too short, eat the cake.”

Although the two words were different, their impact on my life was the same.  Fracture.  Tumor. I remember that familiar feeling after hearing those other two words, “Matt’s Dead.”  The feeling of leaving my body as my brain went searching for that protective cocoon it once wrapped me in after I learned of your death.

Today, I am fighting another reality I never imagined.   The reality that I will now be fighting for my life as I fought for yours.  I lie awake in the dark praying for peace as I did many nights after your death.  I wake breathless and shaky.  This reality hits just as the reality of your death did.  New every morning.  Today I am once again going through the motions numb to where this journey will lead me.

Looking back, that sticking  window was a gift. A divine intervention.  My doctor calls this an incidental finding.  I have no symptoms of cancer.  I feel fine.  If not for the back injury I would be biking, gardening and living life unaware of whatever was happening inside of me.

Today, I see the light shining through that window.  I hear the birds singing and the sounds of soothing water.  I watch the dogs chase each other through the gardens.

I look at that window seeing your beautiful smile.  I know you and God worked together for whatever reason to bring this to my attention as early as possible.  Perhaps my advocacy work is not over.  I promised as long as I lived, you would continue to live.

Its almost ironic.  I’ve always told everyone that losing you was the worst, most devastating event in my life.  Surviving your death has taught me that I can survive whatever life chooses to throw my way.  Your death was my lesson in how to live.

Matt, Walk with me on this new journey.  Let me feel you by my side through the biopsies and treatments.  Give me signs that you are near.  Please thank God for me.

Believe me, I will be eating the cake.  I’ll take that burger.  I’ll remember how you lived and mimic your absolute love for life.  I remember you telling me, “Mom, I don’t have to worry, you worry enough for us both.”   Lesson learned my beautiful boy  Four years and Seven months later your death continues to teach me about life………

 

 

 

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.

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