Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: hopes and dreams (page 1 of 9)

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.

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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.

Grief Is Like A Jar Of Pickles

Matt,

Since your death, I’ve been living not just with complicated grief, but also with PTSD.   There are days when the slightest noise has me hanging from the ceiling.   I struggle with feelings of not knowing where I fit in anymore.   There are days I question my role here on earth.   Your addiction kept me crazy but your death left me broken and questioning life.

The old me left the day you did and the new me struggles with who I’m supposed to be now.   It feels like being transported to another place where you don’t understand the language.   You constantly get lost and find yourself looking for something familiar.

I’ve learned that very few people understand when I try to explain what it’s like to be me.   They think I should be back to my pre-grief state.   That life should just return to normal and drag me with it.   What they don’t and never will understand is that profound loss slices you in half.   You become the “before” and the “after” pieces of your tragedy.   As time passes the “before” you drifts further and further away.   Leaving you with an identity that even you can’t identify with.   You long for the old you but know the road back to finding her again has imploded.

I find it harder and harder to remember the woman I was before your death.   The girl who laughed at the stupidest of things.   Who would even laugh at herself.   I remember looking forward to little things.   I remember having happy hours and bon fires.   I remember having lots of fun.   I remember a reflection with bright eyes and a natural smile.   Now I see a silhouette in a fog slowly drifting away.

Trauma changes you.   It unravels you.  It takes you to the darkest of places.   Things you once thought would never happen have happened leaving you hanging from that mental cliff clinging to the last piece of your soul.   The “before” you has been sucked away and the “after” you lay in pieces at your feet.   You try to make sense of this “after” you, but the pieces are hard to fit together.   Like a puzzle that just doesn’t make sense when a large part of it is missing.

I was with a friend one day.   This friend totally gets where I’m coming from.   She understands when I say the “before” me has vanished and this new “after” me is still struggling to fit.   Like a pair of old jeans that once felt like home now rewoven and uncomfortable.   She has survived her own trauma.   The assault of breast cancer on her body and mind.   Like me the “before” her was totally destroyed and replaced with an “after” person she continues to try to identify with.   We both grieve the women we once were.   We often compare notes on how things continue to have a trickle down effect on both our lives.

During one of these conversations she said something that gave me an Ah ha moment putting a true perspective on what I’ve been living with since your death.   Without even knowing how profound this statement was and how it would impact me for the rest of my life she calmly looked me in the eye and said, “Once you become a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber”.    Yes, I know it sounds like a crazy thing to say in the midst of an emotional conversation, but when you really think about it, it’s the most insightful statement I’ve ever heard about who you become after you live with grief or survive a trauma.

The transformation from cucumber to pickle can never be reversed.   Everything used in the process leaves a permanent mark.   The same with grief, whether it’s over the loss of a child or the loss of a healthy you, it leads you through a process that can never be undone.

There are days when the world can be sweet, then without warning an unexpected trigger can turn everything dark.   Just like a jar of pickles we never know how the day will taste.   Will it leave us with an unpleasant bitterness or a fleeting moment of unexpected pleasure.  We never know how the “after” effects of grief  will play out as we navigate unfamiliar territory.

It continues to amaze and comfort me that a simple statement had the power to  validate what I feel on a daily basis.  It also brings me extreme comfort knowing that I’m not the only pickle trying to find my place in the glass jar called life…..

 

 

 

 

The Future That Was Never Meant To Be

Matt,   I’m having such a hard time believing that we are coming up on 50 months.   The 3rd of March marks another month added to the long list of the months that have passed since your death.   I find myself feeling guilty and anxious that I’ve not been able to follow that so called grief path.   Society continues to believe that grief comes with an expiration date.   I find this disturbing as it makes me feel like there really is something wrong with me.

I’m tired of trying to talk myself into feeling “better”.   Like I should be able to adjust to life without my youngest son like someone adjusts to a change in the weather.  As if enough time will ever pass to make me less vulnerable to those grief waves.

Those who have never experienced child loss have no idea how life altering and complicated our grief truly is.   I’ve seen the look on peoples faces when I tell your story and begin to choke up.   I’ve heard,  ‘Oh, I thought it just happened recently, not four years ago”.    As if a mother should put on the stiff upper lip as she speaks about her dead child.

I tell those who have never buried a child that this experience resembles childbirth.   One can tell you how it feels and what might be expected, but until you experience it on a personal level you will never come close to imagining how those contractions can take you to a place of excruciating pain almost unimaginable to the human mind.   The pain of child loss does the same.

As child birth comes with hopes and dreams for the future, child loss comes with the demolition of those dreams.   That’s the worst part of a parents grief.   Not only have we lost our child, we’ve also lost their future.   In losing that future we have lost a large part of ourselves.

That’s the biggest misconception society will never understand.   When a parent buries their child they bury so much more.    Child loss goes against what society deems as normal.   Children are supposed to bury their parents not the other way around.   That is the so called “norm” we are taught to believe from childhood.   I stressed about how you would survive after I died.   Never once did I think I would be the one struggling to survive after your death.

You will be forever 37.   Your future cut brutally short.   The dreams of what I desperately wanted for you died with you and left me struggling to accept that your future was never meant to be.   Those dreams of watching you take a bride.   Of receiving a call that your son or daughter had arrived.   Watching you experience fatherhood.   Or watching you grow old, get gray and still want to walk on the beach with your mom.

Child loss is like non other.   Parents like me remain unnamed.  We are not widows, nor are we orphans.   The English language has yet to identify a word to describe us.   Losing a child is absolutely undescribable.

The length of time after child loss makes no difference.   It’s new each day as parents wake and reality hits.   Our brains and bodies have the grueling task of moving into the future as we leave a part of our hearts behind.

 

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