Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: loss of child (page 1 of 2)

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 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.

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Grief

Matt,   I never wanted to have this personal relationship with grief that I do.   I never really thought I would know this heartbreaking,  life changing type of grief.   I never thought it would become my life partner.   I never thought it would become a part of my soul and stay forever in my heart.  This grief is like the blood that pumps through my body.  It has become part of who I am.

I’ve learned that grief doesn’t keep track of time.   Although four years have passed since your death, this grief is as powerful as it was in the very beginning.   I’ve learned that the first year is not the hardest.   Surviving all those firsts really means nothing.   That first year fog protects you like a warm cocoon.   It shields you from the reality that life will never be the same.   It enables you to continue to breathe, to survive.   But it in no way prepares you for what is to come.

I’ve learned that this grief does not soften with the passing of time.   I’ve learned there is no escape from those unexpected gut punches.   Those powerful, crushing waves continue to knock me off balance just as they did in the very beginning.   Time brings with it the harsh reality that this is it.   This grief is here to stay.   This grief remains as overpowering and relentless showing no signs of letting up.   Time continues to march on as years follow dragging me through the next birthday and holiday without you.   Dragging me kicking and screaming begging for a short break from the pain of your loss.

I’ve learned there are no stages of grief.   I bounce from one emotion to the next without warning.   There are no straight set of rules.   There is no passing one stage to get to another.   No passing go to find peace.  Grief is not linear.   Grief is a tangled mess.   The more you fight the emotions, the tighter it’s grip becomes on your heart.   Grief is anxious and dirty.   Grief is losing control in the blink of an eye.   Grief is a trigger that hits like an explosion in your head and heart.   Grief is the mess your life becomes after losing a child.

I’ve learned grief never sleeps.   She’s there lurking in every corner waiting to pounce as soon as she feels your vulnerability surface.   Grief grabs you as soon as you awaken and follows you through your day.   Like a lost pup she nips at your heels.   Tiny bites with a sharpness that can’t be ignored.   Grief follows as you close your eyes to rest.   She comes in those haunting memories, the what if’s, the I should have’s, the why’s.   Grief is a 24/7 animal.

I’ve learned that grief can partner with guilt.   Adding regret for things done, said, not done and not spoken.   She teams up with so many powerful emotions that leaves the heart and soul spinning out of control.   Grief is a constant reminder of reality.   Grief continues to beat you down until you are battered and bruised.   Grief however long she’s been in your life will continue to take your breath away.

I’ve learned that grief will shake your beliefs about God.   I questioned why he allowed you to die.   I questioned why my prayers of keeping you safe were ignored.   I questioned where God was when you were taking your last breaths.   I questioned where he is now.   I’ve learned that without God I would never have survived your death.   I’ve learned that God is quiet and I need to let him be in control.   I’ve learned that what happened in your life and at the time of your death was between you and God.   I’ve learned to talk to God like he is a friend not always in a prayer but like he is standing beside me.   I’ve learned that if I open myself up to signs they will be there.

I’ve learned that I will never be the same woman.   The eyes looking back at me show a profound sadness.   I’ve learned that I have an inner strength I never knew existed.   I fear nothing.   I’ve learned never to take life for granted.  I appreciate the sunrise, the birds singing, the warmth of a winter sun.   I look at life through a different lens.   I judge less.   I’ve learned everyone is living through something hidden behind the masks we wear.

I’ve learned that living with grief is not for the faint of heart.   I’ve learned my grief has a life of it’s own.   I know there is no escape.   I’ve learned my grief must be accepted and acknowledged. My grief is as powerful as my love was and remains for you.  I’ve learned not to fight when the waves hit.   I must allow the grief to wash over me knowing that my life will always be vulnerable to those little things that bring you back to me.

 

 

 

All I Want For Christmas Is A Re-Do

Matt,   It’s Christmas day.   My fourth Christmas without you.   I heard the song,  All I Want For Christmas Is You and thought what I really want is a re-do.   I want to re-do our entire lives.   I want father time to give me the power to turn back the clock to when you and Mike were young boys.   I want to take back this knowledge of how our lives would unravel and redirect our outcome.

I want to go back to the Christmases’ of complete chaos.   The ones when the GI bug hit all of us and we took turns running to the bathroom while we struggled to open presents from Santa.   I want to return to that time in life when Christmas brought great joy to my heart.   Watching both my boys laughing as wrapping paper piled up under the tree.

I want to go back to your teenage years knowing that your career choice would lead to your ultimate death.   I would give up everything to have known that one day your passion for cars would lead to injury that would then turn into a deadly disease.  If only I had the knowledge then that I have now perhaps you would be sharing Christmas with me.

I want to go back to your first surgery and rip that script from your hands.  I want to make the nightmare of your addiction magically disappear.   I want the ghost of Christmas past to come and sweep me away from the reality of Christmas present.   I want to hear the doorbell ring and see you walk in with a wife and kids in tow.   I want to once again watch you and Mike sitting side by side as your tear into festive wrapping paper laughing over the gifts from your crazy mom.   I want to hear your voices, your laughter.   I want pictures showing both my boys together as men.

I want to never take anything for granted.   I would treat every Christmas as if it could be our last together.   Enjoying every moment of chaos.   Every moment of laughter.   I would have hugged you longer.   I would have taken more pictures of us together.   I would have spend more time memorizing your face.

I remember watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with you and Mike.   Never thinking that one day those words so innocently spoken by Charlie Brown would shatter what’s left of my broken heart.   Material things, gifts, and decorations mean nothing when those you love are missing from around the Christmas tree.

Searching For A “New Normal”

Matt,   the definition of normal is something that conforms to a general pattern, ordinary or usual, typical, something that would be expected.   I can tell you, I’ve been searching for “normal” for 46 months.   Ever since you died nothing for me has felt “normal”.    It’s not normal for a mother to bury her child.   There is nothing normal about having to visit your child at a memorial garden.   Nothing ordinary about not being able to pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Nothing expected as I put my hands on your urn in my attempt to feel close to you.

It’s not normal to feel like your choking everyday.   Not normal to feel like your heart split in half but still remains beating in your chest.  My emotions are wild changing from moment to moment.   Memories still have the power to bring me to my knees.   Normal is not breaking down when hearing a song, seeing a young father holding hands with his child or having to choke back tears as two little brothers ring your doorbell yelling Trick or Treat.

It’s not normal to walk around on unstable ground.   Feeling anxious and foggy.  I’ve suffered through losses before.   This is worlds apart from anything I’ve ever lived through.   This normal was never expected.   What was expected was you to grow old.  To marry.   To be in my life until it was time for me to go, not you.   Normal is burying your parents, not your child.

So how do I find my “new normal?”    I’ve heard that term so much I want to scream.   How in the hell can anything be normal after your child has died.   I know people mean well.   People who have never lost a child are so quick to tell me how to adjust to this new phase in my life.   Really, people who can hug their kids, call their kids, share meals with their kids telling me that this is my “new normal.”

These well meaning strangers have never ridden my emotional rollercoaster.   They don’t experience my triggers.   They haven’t been hit by the grief bus.   The one that returns time and time again to slam me over and over.   They don’t get the fact that my future has changed.   Plans, goals and dreams are no more.   My brain gets it but my heart struggles to accept the collateral damage that I walk through everyday.

Believe me,  I have trouble believing that after all the time that has passed I’m still breathless when reality hits.   That 46 months feels like yesterday.   That there is no way that we are 2 months away from the 4 year mark.   My brain screams how, how, how have I survived this long?   How can it truly be that I have not heard your voice or seen your smile for almost 4 years?

There is nothing normal about not having your child in your life.   There is nothing normal about having to put on your mask to face a world that is terrified of the grieving.   I’ve learned that this so called “new normal” is just a polite way to tell grieving parents to get over it.   It’s just one of those new terms that’s supposed to fix our broken lives.

What I’ve learned is that life will never be normal.   Whether it be “new” or not there is nothing normal about life after losing a child.  I’ve also come to understand that grief has no timetable.   It follows no predictable course.   Nothing about grief is normal.   It is a personal journey that no one can walk for you.   Grief is heartbreaking, complicated, powerful and unbalancing.   It is anything but “Normal.”

 

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