Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: losing your son to addiction (page 1 of 3)

Wrapping Us Up With You.

Matt.   I had myself fooled.   Thinking that after 43 months I would be able to walk into your closet and not lose what was left of my mind.   A friend had offered to make a quilt out of your shirts and I so wanted this to happen.   I remember my self pep talk all morning.   I kept telling myself to be strong.   I kept saying over and over again, “You can do this.”    I kept telling myself it was time to go through your clothing and donate some to a homeless shelter, knowing you would approve.   I kept telling myself that your sweaters and coats would be useful in keeping a stranger warm this winter.   I kept thinking how wasteful it was to keep everything just as it was when you were alive.   Like you would come walking through the door looking for your favorite sweater.   Like I was expecting you to come up to the kitchen freshly showered smelling of Phoenix telling me about your work day.

Your closet was the biggest in the house.   A huge walk in fully carpeted and lined with shelves.   Before you moved home, I used it for storing winter coats and odds and ends that I couldn’t decide what to do with.    I remember putting my hand on the door.   Giving myself that last push.   Once again telling myself I could do this.

Pushing through the doors allowed light to flood the room.    I stood surrounded by you.   Your tee shirts and sweaters neatly folded on the shelves.   Jackets hanging in the order last worn.    I closed my eyes taking a deep breath as I sat on the floor and started to unfold your clothing.   I didn’t realize the power of my grief.   I started burying my face in your clothing.   Pulling things off hangers and wrapping myself up in sweaters, coats and anything I could get my hands on.    I didn’t understand the sounds coming from the depths of my soul had broken through the silence of the house.    I didn’t realize that I was no longer alone lying sobbing on your closet floor until I felt her wet nose.

Belle lay down next to me.   Trying to comfort me with her body.   She like me would bury her nose in your clothing.   Occasionally lifting her head and smelling the air.   I could see it in her eyes that her heart recognized your smell just like mine did.    Belle tilted her head when I mentioned your name.   She like me was looking for you.

We sat together for most of the afternoon.   Belle laying in the pile.   Me wrapped up in the mess I’d created.   Both of us smelling each piece trying to recover your scent.  Every shirt held a bittersweet memory.    Each one telling a story.    Some came from travels to the Caribbean.   Some bought just because you couldn’t  stop laughing after reading their message.    In my mind I could picture you wearing each one.    Some were captured in the photos lining our bookshelves.

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I lost track of time as I allowed myself the gift of grieving you with no one to witness my brokenness.   Just the dog we both loved.   I sat talking to Belle as if she understood.    I talked about you and I walking together on the beach as Belle and Kahlua played in the surf.   I talked about all the times we shared with the dogs in our happy place.   I told her how she lived with you while I found a new home.   I told her you constantly told me she was your dog now and you weren’t giving her back with that big grin on your face.   I swear she understood as her snout continued to smell the air surrounding us.   I let myself relax into her as memories of happy times at the beach flooded my brain.   It was as if my dam broke and all the tears and memories were released together.

I don’t remember putting your things in a bin.   I think that fog settled into my brain.   The fog that protected my psyche as I was driving to my dear friends home allowing her to transform the most precious pieces left of your life.   I do remember sobbing as I placed the bin in her arms.   Almost as if I was a new mom turning over my precious child to the care of another.   She asked if I wanted to assist her in how the quilt would be put together.   Wanting me to give her guidance in how to create a piece to honor your life.

I just couldn’t do it.   As ashamed as I was of my inability to help, I was emotionally spent.   I would never survive holding those precious pieces so soon before I could begin to repair my shattered soul.

The call came days later.   Your quilt was complete.   Emotions swam through my brain.   I wasn’t ready to face the reality that your quilt would represent.   These shirts would never be worn by you again.   This reality hit over and over as I drove through blinding tears to pick you up bringing  you home again.

Walking through her door I saw her masterpiece.   The quilt was displayed on her couch.   I put my hand over my mouth to cover my sobs as she wrapped me in her hug.   She laid the quilt in my arms like a precious newborn.   I drink you in.    Holding you and burying my face into you.   Heading home I placed you on the passenger seat.  Talking to you as I did when you were alive.

I carried you upstairs and laid you across my bed.    Belle now by my side.   Her nose seeking your scent.    We sat next to each other, a grieving mother and her loyal dog sharing a loss felt deeply by both.    Wrapped up together with the memories of the boy we both loved and lost……………..

 

Life Will Never Be The Same.

Matt,   today would have been your 41st birthday.   I should be on my way to the beach to spend time with you on your special day.  We would have headed for the beach, walking the dogs letting them run through the surf while we caught up on life. We would have planned our dinner feast of crabs, shrimp and beer. But today our reality is much different from my dreams for this day.   For you are forever 37 and this is your fourth birthday in heaven.

Today I spent the morning letting my grief pour out from my soul.  Looking through every album I own with pictures of our life.  Beautiful memories flooded my broken heart as I asked myself how this nightmare became our reality.

Pictures of you with that smile and those beautiful eyes staring back at me through all the phases of your life.  From infancy through adulthood.  Looking so happy and healthy.  It is so hard for me to understand this reality.  My brain knows you are gone.  My heart struggles with this  truth.

Today there will be no family party.  No cake, no funny card.  I will never see you with your brother standing side by side laughing about how your both over the big 4 0.
Comparing how childhood dreams became a reality or remained still a dream.

Losing you is losing a future of love, laughter and future memories.  Losing you is never seeing my sons together again.  Never hearing your laughter as you tell of childhood antics that were kept secret from mom.   Losing you is never meeting the girl who stole your heart.  Losing you is never dancing at your wedding.  Losing you is never sharing your joy of holding your newborn child for the first time.  Losing you has taken its toll on me.   Losing you is losing me

Reality is that I will never see you coming through my door with your children in tow. That smile and those eyes forever gone.  No mini Matt’s for me to spoil and hug.   No babes to be rocked to sleep.  No babes to soothe my aching heart.   No future generation to share stories of your childhood antics.  No more of you.

Your brother will never know the joy of being an uncle.   He will never take your son fishing or show your daughter treasures saved from your childhood.  He will never know the joy of holding his brothers children in his arms or teaching them to run through the surf with you by his side.   He will never watch his younger brother discover the joys and heartbreaks of being a parent.   He will never be able to offer advice or share his list of do’s and don’ts of fatherhood.   There will be no more children squealing with joy as that new puppy comes running into their arms.   No more brothers sharing the secret of what makes a house a home.

How i wish Heaven had visiting hours. I would throw myself into your arms and never let you go. I would tell you how much your loss has changed my life. I would tell you over and over again how much I love you. I would beg you to stay with me forever.

Today I will honor your life. I will let my grief have its way. Today I will let my tears flow no longer fighting or pretending that I am ok. Today I will remember the joy you brought to my life.   I will allow myself to  feel the profound loss of your death.
Today I will close my eyes and remember your hugs, your voice, your smile.  Today I will wrap myself up in you. ❤️

A Can Of Beefaroni and So Much More

Never in a million years did I ever think I would find myself falling apart in the pasta aisle of my local grocery store after seeing a can of Beefaroni. The gut wrenching, hit my heart hard, kind of pain left me holding onto my cart telling myself to breathe. Tears running down my face like a hose stuck in the on position with no hope of being turned off. Oh God, I think, how am I ever going to survive the rest of my life if can’t even make it through the grocery store without a major meltdown. Seeing that can and feeling those feelings has become a part of my new life. The life I never saw coming or signed up for.

Beefaroni was my youngest son, Matt’s favorite food. I would stock up at the ten for $10 sale and hurry home to stuff his weekly care package with all his favorite foods. Sending them off with a piece of my heart to the half way house he lived in a thousand miles away from home. A can of Beefaroni, a connection to my son who is no more.

Then there is the scent of Phoenix. This was his smell. I can still hear his voice, “Hey Mom, can you pick me up my deodorant, I’m running low”. I’ve found myself in this same store walking to the deodorant aisle and finding that familiar blue can. I remove the lid and spray a tiny bit. Closing my eyes taking a deep breath I let my mind drift back to happier times. This is what my life has become. Finding pieces of my son in everyday places trying to keep our connection alive.

I once felt that being the mother of a son suffering from addiction was the worst thing that ever happened to my life. That constant feeling of helplessness and anxiety ruled my mind. I compared his addiction to being trapped on a very fast, very high roller coaster with many twists and turns. Never knowing what each day would bring, what was coming or how some days would end.

Mothers of addicts learn to live with the crazy unpredictability that goes hand in hand with the disease of addiction. We learn to expect the unexpected and we relish the thought of a possible period of recovery. Matts addiction became mine as I held onto the roller coaster for dear life. Praying for things to somehow calm down and allow us both a little piece of normal. I’ve since learned that being the mother of an addict who suffered an accidental overdose is waking up and finding the nightmare you feared the most has now become your reality.

Be careful what you pray for they say. I prayed for peace, I prayed for quiet, I prayed for his addiction to go away. My prayers have been answered but never in the way I imagined. I now struggle to survive in this all too quiet, empty new world. I long for the days of chaos. Riding the uncertainty on the roller coaster known as addiction now feels like a walk in the park compared to being the one left behind.

Learning to navigate through my grief is a daily process. I’m now the lone rider on a different coaster. This one mimics the other but now the ups and downs belong solely to me. There are days I wake up, shed my tears, pray for strength and somehow get through. There are days the darkness overrides my heart and I crawl through my brokenness as if it is surrounded by shards of glass. Each piercing my heart with knifelike accuracy.

For now I take it one day at a time. I pray that someday that can of Beefaroni or the scent of Phoenix will warm my heart not break it. Reminding me of the connection between a mother and her son that neither time nor space can break. For now I pray for understanding and strength as I continue to put one foot in front of the other attempting to navigate my new unchartered life without my son.

I know I will never return to the person I once was.   Going back to that person is not an option.    She vanished when my son died. Gone with his last breath.   My grief path is my own.    It’s rocky and full of broken pieces of a life that used to be.   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…….

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……….

 

 

 

 

Grief Lives In Paradise

Matt,   It’s February.  You remember that first year when you were living in Florida?   February was the month I planned to come for a visit.  I anticipated seeing you again after 6 long months of nothing but phone conversations.   I imagined how it would feel to see you in person.  To be able to touch you again.  To feel your hug and see your incredible smile.  I was excited to see you in a new life.  To see you living on your own in the place you loved the most.   I envisioned us walking together on your beach and making plans for a beautiful future.

As you know, my dream was shattered by your unexpected death in January.  So here we are.  The third February since your death. I’ve returned to Florida.  To the Keys.  My piece of heaven on earth.  You see that was the original plan before your death.  I was spending that first week with you in Boca then heading for the Keys.  You were planning to come for a long weekend.   Once again I anticipated showing you my paradise.   I planned on how amazing it would be to show you what draws me back year after year.   The turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds.  The vastness of the sea that surrounds the house.  This is my heaven on earth.

You never made it.  So now my paradise is bittersweet.  I remember boarding the plane.  It was an early flight.  I remember just closing my eyes and closing off the world as my earbuds blocked out the noise.   I started to pray the Serenity Prayer,  oh please God help me to accept the things I cannot change.   You see Matt, no matter how many times I say that prayer, I will never accept that you are gone.

I’m hanging in.  Until I feel the plane start to descend.  Looking out the window I see the blue water surrounded by a scattering of homes.   I hear the pilot welcoming us to Florida.  The state you took your last breath.   I feel the slap of grief.   That familiar throat tightening.   I’m choking.  The grief lives in Florida.  I stare out the window hiding my flow of tears.  Hugging myself to stop the sobs that are escaping from my broken soul.   My therapist said, “The body remembers”.   Matt, my body is remembering and physically reacting to your loss.

The airport is full of happy people.   Families reunited.   I see a young man walk into the arms of his mother.   I allow myself the fantasy that you are here.   Waiting for us.  I see your smiling face.  I hear your “Hey Mom”.   I look for you everywhere.  I hide my tears and tell myself to breathe.

Grabbing my luggage I walk out into the welcome heat and sun.   Ray grabs my hand knowing I need to get my bearings.   That I need to allow the grief to envelope me until I can breathe again.   We reach the rental car.   The radio starts to play.   The sound of Guns and Roses, Paradise City fills the air.   Oh Matt, are you here?   Guns and Roses your favorite band singing about paradise.   My tears start to flow.   Ray grabs my hand.  Smiling he tells me it’s Matt.

The drive to the Keys is indescribable.  The salt air hitting my face.   The bridges surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds welcoming me back.   I’m surrounded by Paradise as my thoughts turn to you.

Once again I look for signs that you are here.   I wonder if you know I’m back.   I talk to you as if you are walking beside me.   Listening for your voice in the sound of the wind.  I remember all the plans we made.   Plans that have now become a grieving mothers fantasy.

Reminders of your loss are everywhere.  I see you in my mind as two little boys ride skateboards down the street.  I see you standing on yours next to your brother with that famous I can do it Mom smile on your little face.  I see you in the man carrying his child on his shoulders.   I see you in the stars shining in the night sky.

It is said that grief is a journey.   That in time the pain will lessen.   I’m finding that this journey is an endless path that neither time nor place can soften.   Even returning to Paradise has become bittersweet.   Tomorrow I head home.   Leaving both my paradise and a piece of my heart behind………

 

 

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