Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: loss of son (page 1 of 2)

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….

 

 

 

 

 

My Life Before & After Losing You

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Matt.  I wish I could tell you that things are getting better.  That after 32 months my grief has become manageable.  That it no longer holds the power it once did over my heart and mind.  I wish I could say time is helping to lessen your loss.  I wish I could lie and say the days of gut punches, struggling to breathe and the uncontrollable flow of tears after a song, a smell or a memory hit my heart are gone.  I wish all those things people say to make things better were true.

The reality is my life doesn’t follow any path or pattern.  My reality continues to be one of unexplainable loss and unrelenting grief.

I remember me before the loss of you.  A smart girl who loved life.  Always finding joy in the little things.  Always able to turn lemons into lemonade.

I had a large circle of friends.  My home filled with laughter and love.  Holidays were full with friends who had no family.  The more the merrier.  We laughed until our faces hurt and then we laughed some more. Happy hours on the weekends with whoever was in town.  Crabs and beer.   People and pups.  Life always full of plans and adventures.  Exploring new places in a kayak or on a bike.  I was called the clown, the practical joker.  Always ready to put myself out there at the drop of a hat.  Old pictures show smiling eyes and happiness.

Today, I struggle to find peace.  To accept who I have become since you left.  Joy is something I briefly remember but no longer feel.

Our house is quiet.  Many Friends have moved on.  I’m no longer that smart girl.  Saving babies is a beautiful memory.  Holidays once so cherished and looked forward to are now something I fight to struggle through. Once celebrated now survived.

I never knew the incredible power of grief.  I would never believe how it changes who you are from the inside out.  I remember holding a screaming mother as she said goodbye to her precious infant. I never in a million years though I would be that mother screaming for my precious son.  Experiencing the heartbreaking loss I witnessed many times in my nursing career.

This grief so much like childbirth.  Until you live it you could never imagine the pain.  My life is in two parts now.  I call it the before and the after.  I no longer recognize the face that stares back at me from my mirror. Grief has taken its toll.  My light is gone.  My eyes show a soul that’s shattered.  I’ve forgotten how to smile. My laughter is a thing of the past.

I look at pictures taken before you left and it hits me that in reality we are both gone.  Pictures of happiness and joyful occasions.  You and me our faces covered in smiles.  Eyes filled with light and life.  From simple everyday stuff to you walking me down the aisle of the tiny church in the woods when you stood by my side as I said I do.  Those pictures encompass our before.  Bittersweet and what I have left of our life so precious, so cherished.

Time is now counted out in the months and days since you left.   I remember the last conversation.   The exact time we spoke.   Our last sharing of the words I love you.   Before I never counted time.  Days, weeks and months flew by unnoticed.   Today everyday that passes is a constant reminder of how long its been since I’ve heard your voice or seen your face.

I now wear a mask.   It protects me from the world.  I’m so tired of defending my grief.  Defending the person I am today.   Wearing my mask is easier.  I’m protected from a cruel world where grieving has an expiration date.  Where grief has overstayed its welcome but refuses to go.

Some days my longing to have you back walks hand in hand with my longing to have me back.   We left together on the very same day hours and miles apart.

No Candles, No Cake, Just Forever Heartbreak

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Matt.   Today, July 30th is your birthday.   It’s one of those milestones that we all get teased about.  The big 40.  Forty years ago you came crashing into my world.   Barely giving me time to breathe let alone make it to the hospital.   You had your own timetable and did it your way.   Fast and furious with barely a warning that you were making your grande entrance into  life.   I remember the first time I saw you.   Your tiny perfect face.  Those amazing green eyes.  Your birth came weeks before I was ready.   Your death came just as quickly leaving me as breathless as your birth.

There will be no family party celebrating your entering the fortieth decade of life.  There will be no teasing about gray hair or the beginnings of bald spots.  No worries about wrinkles or losing your physique.   Your brother won’t be able to dare you to bend low as you blow out your candles setting you up for a face full of cake.   There will be no laughter, burgers or beer.   The only sound will be in the depths of my soul silently screaming for a redo.

Memories flood my mind of past birthdays.   The house full of people and pups.   Celebrating your life.  I remember your smile, your contagious laugh.  I remember you and Mike sitting around the table thick as thieves sharing stories of your shared escapades,  belly laughing over things done  and hidden from mom.  You never acted your age when you were together.   Your personality  brought out the child in you both and I loved sitting back  watching  my men relive their boyish antics.   You and Mike one year and 20 days apart.   Both July babes.  People called you Irish twins.   I called you the loves of my life.

As clearly as I remember the first time I saw you I also remember the last.   Such a contrast in seasons.   Your birth a beautiful warm day in July.   Your death a bitter cold day in January.   I remember hearing your first cries.   Letting the world know you had arrived.   I remember the quietness that greeted me in your death.   The only sound in the room was the sobbing in my soul as I looked at my sleeping boy, so quiet, so cold.   The only similarity in your birth and death was once again it was just us.   You and me.   A mother and her beautiful boy.

I remember running my fingers through your hair.  Still soft even in death.   There will be no grays for you my boy, your hair forever light brown.   I remember touching your face.   Skin smooth and wrinkle free.   A hint of the growth you never shaved shadowed your perfect face.   Your amazing  eyes forever closed.   You could not see me standing next to you.   You could not hear my voice telling you how much I loved you as I did when we first met.    I held your hand and remembered the first time you wrapped your fingers around mine.   The times you reached out for me as we ran into the crashing surf.   Your hands always reaching for mine.  Your hands now so still.  You, my beautiful boy forever frozen in time.   Forever 37.

Today,  I will close my eyes and let the memories of you flood my heart.   I will remember the joy, the love, and the pain that bonds us forever.   I will remember your crazy smile.  Your goofy laugh.   Your big bear hug.  I will picture you and your brother from birthdays long ago.   I will remember you crashing into my life on that July night and I will remember you leaving on that cold January morning.    I will pray that you have found peace.   I will pray that you are whole in body and mind.   I pray that your heaven is a beach and when my time comes you will be there holding out your hand reaching for mine.

Happy 40th birthday my beautiful boy.  How I wish you were here.

 

 

 

 

My Encounter With An Angel

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Matt,   I was having one of those days.   The one where grief lay waiting for me to open my eyes before it slammed into my heart.  The hit so powerful that I found myself breathless even before my feet hit the floor.   Your loss has rocked my world like nothing I could ever have imagined.    These days I find myself unsteady.    Shaking from the inside of my soul.   The ground beneath me is hard to navigate.   My journey is one I never saw coming.   I have lost my compass, my anchor.

On these days I’ve learned I must stay active.  I must physically challenge my body.   I must train my mind to stay away from the reality of my life.   I must keep moving physically escaping the nagging thoughts that constantly take over my brain.   I must outrun grief like it’s a rabid dog biting at my heals.

This day I ignored the excessive heat warnings.   Loading my bike on it’s rack I could feel the weight of my grief getting ready to follow me on this journey of survival.   It was ready to tag along like an unwanted friend as I struggled to find a few moments of peace.

Biking is my therapy.   It has become a way to soothe my soul.  Feeling the breeze on my face as the scenery changes.   Pumping my legs, feeling that adrenaline rush helps push the grief out of my mind.

A bright blue sky with huge puffy clouds greeted me as I headed to my old college town.   This town has trails holding memories from a time long ago.   A time of innocence and expectation.   College life so full of possibilities, hopes and dreams.   Biking down these familiar paths brought memories of happy times before life took me to places I’d never thought I would travel.

I remember biking past Rita’s and thinking I should stop.   Ignoring my thoughts I continued on my journey but I was unable to out run that urge to stop.   Rita’s was considered a treat.   I’d always order a mango Gelati savoring every bite.   Being out of water and soaked with sweat made the decision to stop a no brainer.   My thoughts turned to how great that Gelati would feel sliding down my parched throat.

I found a cool spot in the shade and let my mind wander.   Remembering those happy times long ago when I was a carefree student.   Wanting a do over.  Dreaming of going back in time knowing what I know now.   Wanting your story to have a different ending.   Wanting not to be the grieving mother of a man who lost his battle with addiction.   Wanting to leave my grief behind and rekindle the joy that now eluded my life.

I remember the feeling of being watched.   I was so lost in my own thoughts I wasn’t aware of the couple who decided to join me in my shady paradise.   We exchanged smiles and I surprisingly felt a connection.   Trying to pretend we weren’t glancing in each others direction, the conversation began.

“Hey, I remember you” this man now moving closer tells me.  “You were our nurse in the NICU”.    His wife now standing by his side.   “Yes, you took care of our daughter”.    We shake hands like old friends meeting again.   I remember the mother lowering her head and whispering “She was born addicted”.   “We spent weeks in the NICU”.   With tear filled eyes she shared her story of struggling everyday to get and stay clean. Sharing her embarrassment that her baby was born addicted.   They told me how hard they have worked, both beaming with pride as they spoke of their beautiful, healthy daughter and their journey to recovery.

My eyes filled with tears.   I also remembered.   Seeing them again filled me with both joy and pain.   My grief poured out as I told your story.   Sharing your seven year struggle and your death.   Your struggles so similar to theirs yet your ending so different.   We hugged, both of them holding onto your broken mother.   Tears mingling for a lost life.   Sharing a bond beyond explanation.

We parted with a mixture of smiles and tears.   Connected by love and loss.   I began to walk toward my bike still wiping away my tears.   I felt a hand on my shoulder.  This father built so much like you wrapped me in his arms.   I closed my eyes and for a brief moment felt you.  I allowed myself to disappear into the comfort of his touch.   I drank in the warmth of his big bear hug.   So much like yours.   Memories of how it felt to be wrapped up in your arms flooded my broken heart.   I wanted to hold on forever.   To trick my mind.   Never letting you go.

Biking away I felt peaceful.   Like you reached down from heaven and touched my soul.   I began to think my stopping had nothing to do with enjoying a Gelati.   My chance encounter with a couple who’s life I touched.   Both struggling with addiction.   A son of another mother.   A mother who lost her son.   A man who brought you back to me for an incredible moment.   This man hiding behind your beautiful angel wings.

 

 

 

Navigating My Way Through The Turbulence Of Reality

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Matt.   The day is finally here.   The day I looked forward to for months.  The day I’d be able to hug you again.  To visit your new life.  To see your handsome face and see that famous grin.  I counted down the days for months.  The tickets were bought before you left me behind.  This trip we planned and I looked so forward to now filled with agony and despair.

Counting down the days until February 10th.  You remember.   Ray and I were flying down to Boca to spend the week with you before heading to The Keys.   You and I would walk on your beach.  I planned on stocking you up before we left.  Going to the grocery store and buying all your favorites.   Plans forming in my mind.  Lunches and dinners together.   Seeing where you called home.  Meeting your friends.  You were going to take us to meet your boss.   You were going to show us around Boca.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.   Anticipating how I would feel seeing you in person after six long months.

Now, I’m dreading this trip.   I will be going to Boca, but not to see you.   This trip has turned into a nightmare.  You are no longer there.  Your cold body flew home on a snowy January night.  Your urn sits on my mantel along with every picture I could copy off your Facebook page.  My joy shattered.   My original  plans blown away on that cold January day.

Ray and I head to the airport.   The silence is deafening.   There are no words.  Nothing can be said to erase this ache in my heart.   Tears flow as I try to tell myself to be strong.   I need to do this for you.   One final act of love.  I must retrace your steps.   I must hear your story.   I must bring home whatever you left behind.   It’s all I have left of you.   The remnants of your life cut short by the disease that killed us both.

The airport is crowded with smiling faces.   Families waiting to fly off to warmer climates.   I watch and have to fight the screams trying to escape my soul.   My brain replaying your flight home.   The cancelations, the delays, the endless wait to see if that body was really you.   Denial was my savior until I saw you with my own eyes.  Your still, cold body.   Until I touched your face and ran my fingers through your hair my fantasy of a mistake allowed me to function.

Our flight is called.   We stand in line waiting to board.   I feel like I’m being led to a slaughter.   People rush past.   I’m struggling through the quicksand that surrounds my body.   Fighting to put one foot in front of the other to board the flight into the nightmare that has become my life.

We are seated.   I’m struggling for air.   Ray senses my distress and grabs my hand.   In my mind I’m running up the aisle.   Screaming to be let off this flight.   This is not the way things were supposed to be.   Suddenly we are airborne.   My throat is closing.   My heart is racing.   Ray adjusts the air above my head.   Sobs are escaping.   Racking my body.   I dream of disappearing.

Landing in Ft. Lauderdale we are met by friends.   They supported you on your journey and were the first ones who came running when the news of your death spread.   A cloudless, blue sky greets us.  The day is sunny and warm.   My body is  freezing.   My swollen eyes are hidden behind dark glasses.   Even the warmth of the sun can not penetrate the ice that surrounds my soul.

Foolishly, I allow myself the fantasy.   You are waiting for us.   I imagine how you would look.   I scan the crowd for you.   I imagine your face, your smile, the sound of your voice.   I crave being wrapped in your hug.   Oh God,  please help me walk through this hell that has become my life.  Tears run down my face as the over whelming waves of reality hit me in my gut.   You are not here.

The Boca Raton Police Station is located in the heart of Boca.   We pull into the parking lot.   I feel the grief grabbing my throat.   I am silently being strangled.  I am telling myself to get out of the car.  My legs have turned to rubber as I struggle to move toward the door.   The door that will lead me to the truth.  The door that contains the information that will yield the final blow to my heart.

We are met by the detective assigned to your case.  I find it hard to make eye contact.   His eyes are full of pity.   His eyes were the last ones to see your lifeless body.  His eyes and hands touched you before I knew you were gone.  I want to reach out and touch his hand to my face.  I want to connect to this man who covered your handsome face in that hotel room.

He shares the facts of your last hours on earth.   He tells of your relapse.   Your distress.   Your being dumped at a hotel by the man who cashed my checks and lied to me about keeping you safe.   I sit there listening and feel a power come into my being.   The more I hear, the more I want to know.   Grief is replaced with anger.   I want to hear the ugly, dirty details of how you were tossed away like a piece of garbage.   How instead of getting you to safety,  this man disregarded your distress and left you to die.   I feel you there.   Giving me strength.   Pointing me to this new journey.   My wingman,  now my angel guiding me along this unfamiliar,  jagged, ugly path.

Your possessions are now brought into the room.   Paper bags marked evidence hold the last of you.   My hand shakes violently as I try to sign the release form.  My signature unrecognizable and damp with my tears.   There is nothing left to tell.

The sun blinds my swollen eyes.   I get into the backseat and hug your clothing to my heart.   Sobs come as my dam breaks.  My anger replaced with overwhelming pain.

Our next stop is Deerfield Beach.   Crossing the bridge from Boca to Deerfield,  I hear your voice.   You could not hide your excitement.  “Mom,  I found a job”.   “I’m going to be welding”.   “Got hired on the spot.”    I could see your smile over the phone.   The pride returning to your voice.   Your excitement found it’s way to my heart.   Oh God,  thank you.   My prayers answered.

The stopping car brings me back to reality.   I take a deep breath and walk into the door of Precision Aluminum.   We are greeted by your boss who’s face says it all.   Still shocked that you are gone.   He walks us through the shop and shows us where you spent your days.   He tells us what a great guy you were.   How you fit right in and felt like one of the family.   He tells us how your death has deeply affected your co-workers.   I am numb.   I picture you sitting on your bench.   You posted pics of you wearing your welding mask that proud smile spreading across your face.   Your head wrapped in your trademark bandana.   My fantasy interrupted by his voice.   He takes us outside and shows us your car.    He tells us he admired you riding your bike miles to get to work.   After riding through several soaking rainstorms he offered you a car.   I remember seeing your first post.   You standing in front of this beautiful Camaro.   You called her your baby.   A sob escapes as I open the door and see your shirt hanging over the back seat.   Your bandana tied around the mirror.   I am no longer in control.   The sobs of a wounded animal escape my soul.    My brain losing the fight to keep me sane.

Ray leads me to the car.   I am gone.    I hold your bandana to my face.   Steel and sweat fill my senses.   Your smell finds its way to my shattered soul.   Your scent so welcome,  I clutch all I have left to my heart and try to silence my screams.

We head to the beach you loved.   The one you told me so much about.   Spending weekends hanging out with friends.   Swimming in the warm surf.   I picture you walking toward me as I walk alone.   I need to be where you were.   I need to feel the sand that you felt and walk into the surf where you played.   I need to feel you.  My grief, now as powerful as the surf begins to pound my brain and is slowly transforming into anger.

I google the address where you lived.   I picture myself walking up to the man who tossed you away like a piece of trash.   I want him to see my face.   I want him to meet your mother in the flesh.   The women who believed his lies and signed the checks.  I want to dare him to say the ugly  words he spoke as I sobbed.   I want him to repeat what he told me when he finally had the balls to respond to my screaming messages.   I want him to look at your broken mom and tell me that “People die here everyday”.    Those words forever branded in my brain.   People like you.   Those he vowed to help.    His so called clients not worthy of saving.   I picture myself squeezing his throat.   I want him to know how I feel everyday.   I want him to experience the terror of not being able to catch your breath.   I want to watch the color drain from his face.   I want my face to be the last thing he sees as I say your name.

I am out of control.   Ray has called ahead knowing that I am breaking.   We are leaving Boca ahead of schedule.   I can take no more.

We hit the seven mile bridge.   I open my eyes.   I’m surrounded by a turquoise sea.   I hold tight to your shirt, roll down my window and drink in the sea air.   I am physically broken, mentally spent.    I look ahead at the vastness surrounding me and feel you with me.   “Hey Mom, are we there yet?”   You were always in such a hurry to reach our next destination.   “Mom,  how much longer?”   I see you as a little boy always curious.  Your little tow head in my rearview mirror.   Oh Matt,  I am so lost.   I have no idea where I am going.   Where my next journey will lead.    Right now I need to learn to breath.   To learn to accept the ending to your journey. I close my eyes and hear the gulls crying.    I listen and hear your name.

 

 

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