Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: hopes and dreams (page 2 of 7)

Baby Steps & Hiding Behind Masks

Matt,   We’ve hit the three year mark.   Actually, it’s 3 years and 24 days.   That’s how life is for me now.   It’s become a count down to how long it’s been since your death.   When my brain realizes how long it’s been I find myself  breathless.   Still shocky, still unsteady.   Unlike public perception, times does not heal this wound.

January’s slap was extra harsh this year.   Not only was I trying to survive the anniversary of your death, but Ray’s father was dying.   I sat at his bedside on your anniversary holding his hand.   I told him it was ok if he needed to go on your day.   I asked him to give you a hug and tell you how much you are loved and missed.   I sat watching the life leaving his body but my heart was thinking of you.   I was thinking of what it must have been like for you.   No family at your bedside.   No one holding your hand telling you how much you were loved.   How your life was well lived and there should be no regrets.  You see Matt, that’s the hardest part for me.   Knowing that as you were taking your last breaths I was a thousand miles away totally unaware that you were gone.

Grief enveloped our home.   Me continuing to grieve you.   Ray just beginning to grieve for his dad.   I recognized that wave hitting Ray.  Seeing his face change as reality hit his heart.   Seeing him in pain filled me with shame.   I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to be who I needed to be to support him through his loss.  I was barely surviving falling into the abyss that threatened my mind.  How could I not think of the three years since I heard your voice.

50 years separated your deaths.   Your life cut short at 37.   Rays dad living to be 87.   You see Matt, all I could think of was how many years we never had.   Your death was out of the natural order of how things are supposed to be.  Ray was experiencing death as it is supposed to be.   People grow old and then they die.   We bury our parents.   We don’t bury our children.

Planning a funeral sucks.   The ritual is too painful.   It becomes unbearable when wounds are reopened.   Watching Ray was like watching the rerun of a bad movie.   Memories of everything I crawled through being brought back to life.   Obituaries.   Pictures of happy times.   Torture.  Torture.  Torture.

I found myself reliving those first days.   The days when I survived one minute at a time.   Those first days where baby steps were the best I could do.   Dressing for this funeral brought back dressing for yours.   I dreaded the funeral scene.   I was shocked at how strong memories hit.   Closing my eyes I relived every moment.   Feelings I’d been able to suppress flooded my heart.   The profound loss.   The ugly reality of death.   I was helpless to help anyone but myself.   My mask broken beyond repair.

Rays father’s funeral remains a blur.   Memories of hugs, smells and whispers.    The cold January wind once again slapping my face with the ugly reality of loss.   Bone chilling cold reminding my heart that three years ago to the day I said goodbye to you my beautiful boy.

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Watching Ray I must admit I’m jealous.   His life returning to normal.   Back to work.   Back to life.   Oh how I wish my grief would allow my life to stabilize.   To allow me to have a day when I don’t think of you.   When I don’t think of what life could have been had you survived your addiction.

I understand our losses are different.   My heart is still shattered by your death.   It will always hold evidence of a deep, painful, unimaginable loss.   It will always dream of the what if’s, the possibilities of having you here.    Child loss is the most devastating grief known to man.   It never leaves and strikes at the most unexpected times.   Losing a child is losing yourself.   The present and future are tainted with profound confusion and denial.

I’ve heard it said that grief is not a life sentence, it’s a life passage.   I thought long and hard about that statement.   I think about this every time my phone rings and I hear an unfamiliar voice asking for me.   I hear the choking tears as another mother calls my name.   Oh this grief of child loss is a life sentence.   One with no stages or reprieve.   One we must take in slowly.   One we crawl through every day for the rest of our lives….

 

 

 

 

 

Grief, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Matt,  today, January 3rd, marks the third year since you left me behind.   Three years have passed since I’ve heard your voice or seen your handsome face.   Three years.   It just doesn’t seem real.   How did I survive three years of carrying the unbearable weight of my grief.   I sit alone and remember the moment I learned you were gone.   Three years ago, January 3rd was a Saturday.  It was snowing here and all I could think about was how lucky you were to be spending your day at the beach.  I was working in the NICU feeling jealous of your new life in sunny Florida.   Jealous that I was freezing and you were laying in the warm sun.  Little did I know you were already lying in a morgue your body lifeless, cold and blue.

For three years I’ve lived in a fog.   Disbelief allowed me to survive.   Days I pretended you really were lying on that beach being warmed by the Florida sun.  Then there were days when reality snuck in and I had to crawl through choking quicksand.  Days the weight of my grief literally had me fighting for my own life.

As a nurse, I read about how debilitating complicated grief could be.   I learned how destructive this type of grief could be to the body and soul.   Never quite understanding it’s incredible power until I was thrown into the fire after your untimely death.   You see Matt, my grief has been complicated by my guilt.   For three years I have blamed myself for your death.   I became my own personal punching bag.  Constantly allowing that rollercoaster of emotions to chip away at my very soul.

I blamed myself for not being the “best” mother.  For working while you were young.  Not having the luxury of being one of those incredible moms who had time to make meals from scratch.   You know those moms who never had to be responsible for anything else except their kids.   My beatings continued as I rehashed everything I should have done to save you from your addiction.   My guilt would never allow me to see everything that I did do.   Guilt is ugly.   Guilt only let me see all of the wrongs and none of the rights.

I remember watching you withdrawal from your opioids.   I watched your body shake, sweat and fall apart.  I watched in horror.  Never quite understanding how your body could withstand the assault.   Now it’s my body that’s being assaulted.   I’m the one withdrawing from you.   I was addicted to your addiction.   For seven years, I fought to save you.   Never once thinking that I had no control of our fate.   I was so foolish thinking I was in control of anything, especially your addiction.   Call it nurses mentality.   Nurses save and your mom was a nurse.   I spent my life saving people and  could not accept that this wonder woman of a nurse could not save her own son.

So now it’s me thats been shaking, sweating and falling apart.   For most of the past three years my soul has lived in a constant state of high anxiety.   Your death caused a permanent withdrawal that I now have to navigate my way through.  Panic attacks,  ER trips thinking I’m having a heart attack, and my new friend migraines.   Every crazy symptom all anxiety and guilt related.

I remember being told that one day I would get angry.   Angry at you for causing such profound grief.  For causing my world to spin off its axis.  For causing me to drown in this dark, ugly abyss.   This overwhelming ocean of heartbreak.  Constantly fighting the powerful undertow that drags me down on the bad days.

I never did get angry.   I forgave you the moment you left.   The person I need to forgive is me.   Three years is a long time to fight the most powerful of emotions.   Three years of blaming myself for something I could not control.   Three years of near drownings when the guilt pulled me far away from my safe shore.

I will grieve and miss you forever.   This isn’t how our story was supposed to end.   I now realize that when the guilt starts dragging me under I must reach for a life preserver.   I must focus on getting back to shore.   I must learn to swim again…………

Hanging On By A Christmas Thread

Matt,   December 3rd marked the 35th month since your death.   35 months.   I still can’t believe you are really gone.   I heard the second year was tougher than the first.   Never in a million years could I ever allow my mind to believe it to be true.   It seems the protective fog has blown out to sea leaving me a clear view of the empty shoreline.

This second year has beat me to the ground.   My cocoon shredded and blown away with the wind.   My mind reminds me daily that you are dead.   I feel naked, stripped of the protection that the shock of grief provided during those first months when my mind was in complete denial.   Grief protects you from reality.   The brain builds that impenetrable wall able to withstand the assault of reality.   The second year, cracks begin to form and the wall slowly begins to crumble at your feet.   Leaving you with a clear view of life.

Last year I was numb.   Able to go through the motions of life.   My holiday mask was intact and firmly secured to my face as I navigated my way through the usual festivities.   My mind allowed me the fantasy that you were alive.   Living in Florida.  My mind allowed my heart to stay on track providing multiple distractions keeping the grief under wraps in public.  This year I’ve found the mask has dissolved from the flow of my tears.   This year my grief has gained power.   This year my grief doesn’t seem to care that this is the happiest time of the year.

Your loss continues to stun me.   I’m shocked when reality slaps me with the knowledge that you won’t be coming home for Christmas when I hear that holiday song.  Reality grabs my heart and causes me to forget to breathe.  I was told in time I would get angry.   I’M ANGRY.   I’m angry at our reality.   I’m angry at happy strangers shopping with a spring in their step and joy on their faces.   I’m angry that my grief continues to hurt so deeply.  I’m angry that I’ve just survived Thanksgiving and Christmas is being shoved down my throat.   Not everyone is merrily anticipating holiday traditions.   For some of us our holidays will never be the same.   I’m angry that the woman I see in the mirror is not who I used to be.

This second year has a power I could have never anticipated.    My mind now clear vividly remembers painful events.   My guilt has returned full force.    My double whammy.   Grief and guilt have renewed their friendship bullying me every chance they get.   My mind remembers things it buried to protect my shattered heart.   Things said and done during your addiction.   The I should haves or could haves haunt me like ghosts from Christmas past.   I look at family pictures.   You and Mike on Santa’s lap.   Childhood innocence.   A time of joy and anticipation of things to come.   Never did I see this coming.   Never did I ever think my youngest son would be gone in the blink of an eye.

I hear strangers stating what they want for Christmas.   Children rattle off a list of toys.   Adults want more money, a better job or world peace.   I cringe and feel the tears start to form.   The song,  “All I Want For Christmas Is You”,  starts playing in my head.   I close my eyes squeezing as hard as I can.   Trying desperately to balance myself on the edge of my abyss.

I want a visit from the ghost of Christmas past.   I want to see my boys squeal with delight as they rip into beautifully wrapped gifts.   I want to hear the laughter of two boys as they compare super hero capes.   I want to feel the joy and completeness of having my family intact.   I want to travel back in time.   Before you  became adults.   Before your injury led you down the path of no return.  I want to fix what is broken.   I want to close my eyes and see you walk in my door.  I want to hear “Hey Mom, Merry Christmas”.   As your wife and kids wrap me in a hug.  I want to see you and Mike standing side by side belly laughing as a childhood memory cracks you up.   I want every chair at the table full.  I want to raise a glass and toast to a future full of possibilities.

Unfortunately,  A Christmas Carol is just that.   A fantasy script written long ago addressing second chances.  Our reality is a painful reminder that death doesn’t give a redo.   There will be no second chances for us.   No more watching you and Mike standing together surrounded by your  family.   No more holiday pictures full of smiles and joy.   No more hearing a Christmas song without the punch of grief taking my breath away.

This year when everyone else is dreaming of a White Christmas, I’ll be dreaming of the family we used to be…….

 

 

 

Grief Doesn’t Keep Track Of Time

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Matt,  since your death, I’ve found that my grief doesn’t keep track of time, people do.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been made to feel like I am the crazy one.   Responses from people I hardly know continue to astound me.   I can feel my soul start to cringe as soon as I hear “Well it’s been, you should be”.   On bad days I just want to slap the shit right out of them.   I want them to feel my grief physically as I feel it everyday.

I just can’t understand how society thinks that grief has a time frame.   What is it about grieving people that scares people away?   Grief is not a disease.   Grief is not catchy.   Yet, people continue to think that as time goes on grief should let up and finally ride off into the sunset.   Like grief has a time table and an automatic shut off switch.  Like grief is some sort of mental disorder that should be over and done with in a specific time period.

The problem with grief is it’s tricky.    It finds you at unexpected moments.   On days I think I’m doing ok it finds me.   Days when I fool myself into thinking that society is right.   That it’s been and I should be.   During Yoga class or lunch with a friend it attacks unexpectedly.    The reality that I will never be the old me again, and no matter how hard I try to put up a fight grief always wins.   Grief is that monkey on my back.    It  hides and waits for the right time to show me who is in control.

People think that when you grieve there is something wrong with you.   Especially if your grief lasts longer than many think it should.   It’s like that acceptable timeframe for dating again after a divorce, grief is supposed to be short lived.   After all we all know life goes on.

I get so tired of feeling like there is something wrong with me.    Like I’m failing to follow those ridiculous stages of grief made famous by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.   I studied them in nursing school and bought into her thinking until grief slapped me to the ground with an unimaginable force I’d never known before your death.   Even Dr. Ross acknowledged before her own death that grief follows no path of rhyme or reason.   Grief ebbs, flows and shatters as it pleases.

I’ve learned that grief is selfish.   Not allowing me to think of anything other than my deep pain.   It’s like addiction.   It changed my brain.   I think differently.  I act differently.   Somedays I really don’t care what people think.   I’m struggling to survive this quicksand that surround every step I take.    I get tired of defending my grief.    For God’s sake, I lost my son.   How do I get over that.    How does a mother get over saying goodbye to her precious child.    Age doesn’t matter.   We are not supposed to bury our children.   Yet, society continues to think that child loss is something to put away.    That we can box up our grief and put it on a closet shelf like old family albums.   That grief is something to be controlled.

I am mentally exhausted  having to explain over and over again how losing you has shattered the fabric of my life.   I try to relate my grief to childbirth.   I can tell you how painful it is but until you experience it personally there is no way you could ever understand how intense the pain can become.   How this pain takes you away from reality and you scream thinking you will never survive.    This is my grief.   Silent screams everyday.    Screams as I wake and realize that another day is added to the tally of the days since you took your last breaths.    Screams as I look at your smiling face in pictures frozen in time.    Screams as I attend weddings and baby showers knowing they will never be for you.    Screams as I try to be normal as expected by society.   Screams as I tell your story to faces that have no clue.

I remember when people were afraid to mention the word cancer.   It became the big C.    It’s the same thing with grief.   Is it becoming the big G?   Our culture sees grief as a mess that needs to be cleaned up.   I see grief as something that now lives inside my soul.

Grief is not a problem to be solved.   Grieving people are not to be shamed, dismissed or judged.   Grieving is what mothers do when the natural order of their lives has been altered with the death of their child.   I never wanted to know grief as intimately as I do.   I never wanted to experience grief brain or constantly question my sanity.   I wanted you to live a beautiful life.   I wanted to meet your wife and rock your babies.   I wanted a reality that wasn’t to be.

I know I will never return to the person I once was.   Going back to that person is not an option.    She vanished when you did.   Gone with your last breath.   My grief path is my own.    It’s rocky and full of broken glass.   I tread lightly on days I can.   I crawl through the glass on days when the pain kills and I question my survival.    My grief has no finish line.   It’s one day, one breath, one scream at a time.    My grief is the best I can do.   Navigating this path is the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do.    One thing I know for sure is I’m not ok.   I will never be ok.   And for me that just has to be ok…….

 

There Is No Black and White In Addiction

 

 

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Matt,   Today is my birthday.   My third without you.   I still have such a hard time believing that there will be no phone call or card signed Love Matt.  You won’t be hiding in the house to surprise me.   Once again I try to get though another milestone without you.   I’m in New York.   Funny you know I would have rather spent my day at the beach walking on the sand listening to the sea birds and the crashing of the ocean.   But my article about your addiction was featured in a magazine and I was invited to attend the reveal here in NY.  This humbling experience was something I could not miss.

Since your death, I have become an advocate for the treatment of addiction.   I write and speak about how horribly you were treated by the Insurance Industry and treatment facilities.  I speak out about the ugly stigma that follows addiction.   I work to make changes in our state laws.   It’s the only way I survive.  Your death rocked me to my core.   Everyday I struggle to find my new normal.   Everyday I pray that you are finally at peace.   Everyday I wake to this empty house.    My regrets about letting you go to Florida smack me swiftly in the face.  I feel so guilty about your death.   I still can’t believe I didn’t see how wrong it was for you to leave home and go so far away.   The thought of you being dumped in a motel to die kills me more and more each day.   My guilt beats at my soul.   My brain questions what kind of mother lets her son go so far away?

I wanted you to have a fresh start at a new life.   I was tricked into believing that new people, places and things would cure you.   All those books written about addiction by people who think they are experts in the field led us down the path of no return.   Parents who talk about tough love and disowning their kids because of addiction.   So much misinformation published by people who think they have the answers to addiction.   Don’t they know that every family is different?

There is no black and white once size fits all in this ugly disease.   Misleading parents like me that if we follow what they did our story would have the same happy ending.   Looking back I should have followed my gut.   I should have known you would never survive without your family close by to support you when you fell.   I knew you better than anyone and still I let you go.   Those books have been trashed as they should have been so long ago.

It’s ironic.   I wrote the truth about us.   The ugly, horrible, brutally honest truth about how your addiction stomped our family to death.   How your addiction shattered us to the core.   How I became addicted to your addiction and turned into a person I no longer recognized.   Funny, the editor I sent it to told me it was too ugly to publish.   That both you and I were horrible people.   That no one would want to read my work.

At first her words crushed me.   Then reality hit.  The reason this epidemic continues to have such power  killing far more than any disaster or war is because many people don’t want ugly.   People want pretty.  People want fairy tale endings.   People want to think that if we continue to ignore addiction it will go away. That it won’t affect our families.  That addiction is something that happens to others.  That addiction is something we can walk away from and never look back.   We only want to hear about beautiful children from perfect families who go on to lead successful lives.

I blame myself.   I should have never let you go.   I lived the ugliness with you.   Yes, there were a few glimpses of pretty.   The few times you came back as the Matt I knew before.   Times when the possibility of our fairy tale ending played tricks with my mind.   Your addiction was more powerful than even I could have ever imagined.   Your addiction won.

Now I live with regret.   I live with guilt.    The joke was on me.  I live knowing that birthdays, holidays and life in general will never hold the same meaning.   Oh how I wish I read how brutally ugly the true reality of addiction could be.

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