Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: mother and son relationship (page 1 of 3)

Heaven’s A Little Closer In A House By The Sea

Matt,

It’s Memorial Day weekend.   The weather is cloudy and grey.   You have been gone 3 years 4 months and I still find myself shocked when reality hits.   I remember when you lived at the beach.  You hated summers.   All the traffic and crowds.   I can still hear your voice complaining about how long it took to get from one place to another.

What I wouldn’t give to have you here complaining about summer tourists invading your paradise.   I can still see you standing in your boat. “ The only way to get anywhere around here is by boat”.   You still had that large grin on your handsome face.   I knew this was just an excuse to get you out on the water, your favorite place to be.

I dreamed about the house the other night.   I drove by and realized it was for sale.   I sat in my car calling the realtor.   I had to get inside.   I had to be where you were.   She was kind and listened as I told her this house once belonged to you.   I told her I desperately needed to walk through those rooms once again.   I had to touch where you touched.   She told me she had adult sons and couldn’t imagine what I was feeling.   Handing me the keys without any questions.  My tears started to fall as the lock turned opening the door. My mind flooding with memories of walking through this door hundreds of times before.

The house was vacant.   Eerily quiet.  Looking exactly as it was the last time we walked through these rooms together.   Both of us with tears in our eyes knowing your disease robbed us of our happy place.

I sat on the living room floor, the carpet showing signs of wear.   Familiar spills and puppy accidents marking years of our life were still apparent.   Each mark told a story.   I could picture our house the way it used to be.   Full of love and laughter.   Sandy dogs running through the kitchen after romping in the surf.   Both of us trying to shoo them outside.   Laughing as we became as sandy as the dogs.

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I remembered every detail.   Every moment we shared together.   Ten years of wonderful memories flooded my brain.  My mind allowing me the gift of going back in time.   I could see you standing in the kitchen.   Khaki shorts, bare feet, sun kissed hair.   “Hey Mom, can I get you a drink?”   Your face handsome and tan. Your beautiful eyes always smiling.   You loved this house by the sea.   I loved your happiness.

I walked from room to room as precious memories washed over my shattered heart.   Memories of a time when life was perfect. Settlement day.   Moving in.   Hanging pictures.   Sandy floors.   The chaos of boxes everywhere.  The joy that living by the sea brought to both of us.   Oh how proud you were of the life you built.   I remember that beautiful smile.   “Mom, can you believe this is mine”.

How I wished I had the power to go back in time.   I wanted to open my eyes and see you standing there.   I wanted to undo the ugliness that took you away.   I wanted to wake up from the nightmare that is now my reality.

I felt a profound sadness wash over me.   Still in disbelief that you were gone.   Oh God, how did this happen?   How did life take this ugly turn?   I felt your loss like never before.   This once cozy, little home so full of life, love, and laughter now stood as empty as my soul.   Tears began again as I walked through that door for the last time.   This house now a symbol of profound loss.

Walking to my car, I allowed myself one last look.   My mind playing tricks on my heart as I see you coming through the door.   That smile on your face.   Your sun bleached hair hidden under your hat.   Kahlua bouncing at your heels.  For a brief moment you were there.  I wanted to yell out.  To reach toward you touching your face.  For a fleeting second everything returned to normal.   Life was as it used to be.    I felt joy.

I remember hearing of a saying,  “Heaven Is A Little Closer In A House By The Sea”.   Imagine my surprise finding that  print while visiting a seaside town.   I couldn’t wait to hang it in our little house that represented Heaven to both of us.   I remember standing on a chair trying to guide you.   A little to the right.  No just a smidge left.   Perfect.

That print became the centerpiece of the wall.   Surrounded by pictures we both loved.   The dogs running through the breaking waves.   You standing by your precious boat.   You and Mike swimming in the bay.   Both of you tanned and smiling.   Pictures of a life that now feels a lifetime ago.   Almost like a dream.

Those memories live protected and preserved forever in my heart.  That loved print now hangs in my home.    Seeing it tugs at my heart.    Its meaning now signifies unspeakable loss.  The casualties of addiction.   My beautiful boy and a little piece of Heaven by our beloved sea. 💜💜

A Broken Heart Doesn’t Show Up On EKG

Matt,  Since your Death I’ve had several episodes where it feels like my heart is actually breaking apart.  The medical community uses the term “Broken Heart Syndrome”.  Although the cause of broken heart syndrome is not completely known, it is thought to be triggered by extreme emotional stress.  Intense grief is listed as one of its causes. The heart is stunned by an unexpected, shocking event.  When stunned, the heart no longer works efficiently and causes severe pain and anxiety.

I can tell you I’ve become the poster child for Broken Heart Syndrome.  I’ve been in the ER more since your death than I have my entire life.

My first trip was the day before Christmas Eve.  It was the first Christmas after your death and I think reality gut punched me and started the shattering of my heart to begin.  I was a mess.  Breathless and in agony.  Trying to describe my pain to doctors was like trying to explain color to a blind man.  Nothing like your classic heart attack signs just an unending ache deep in my soul.

I remember the doctor coming in to tell me all the tests were normal.  Seriously, I thought.  I’m dying and you’re missing it.  Then he asked what’s been going on in my life.  That simple question opened my floodgates.  His face said it all.  Your death, then my career screeching to a halt was tough enough but when you threw in the death of a dear friend ten months later, I was drowning in grief.

Returning home I remember feeling so foolish.  I was an active, healthy person.  Why did I feel like I was dying.  Once again I put one foot in front of the other taking baby steps trying to navigate this new life.

Strike two was in April of the following year.  Year two was shaping up to be another brutal round of reality.  I made it through all those “firsts” and never expected the “seconds” to come with stronger gut punches.  I was in my garden.  Clearing out old leaves trying to remember the joy I once felt digging in the dirt.  My garden was my sanctuary.  The place I fled to trying to find peace during your addiction.

Seeing your cigarette butts was a sharp slap across my face.   Memories flooded my brain.   You sitting on the deck pitching your smoked butts into my precious gardens.   I remember yelling at your disrespect for all my hard work.   What should have been minor fix turned into a major fight as you continued to flick your butts into the garden with that look of defiance on your face.    Oh God,  that memory long since buried was dancing through my head.   I held them to my nose trying to pick up the scent of your mouth.  Oh God,  what I would give to have you sitting there again.   This time I would hold you and hug you knowing how our journey would end.

Once again that familiar pain shot across my chest.   Struggling to catch my breath.   That lump in my throat growing larger each second.   This time I’m sure something will show up.   My heart hurting so badly yet again everything was “normal”.    Sent home once again feeling foolish.   Even my nursing education wasn’t any help in controlling my thought that I must be dying.

Strike three arrived 5 days after returning home from Florida.   Even the beauty of the Keys couldn’t  lift my grief.    I felt it the second week there.   I could see you everywhere and no where.   Dear God, you died in Florida was all I could think of.   You should have been  enjoying the turquoise water.   We should be having lunch.   I should be seeing your place, meeting your friends.  You should be alive.

Returning home was another slap of reality.   My eyes finding your urn.   Seeing your smiling face staring back at me forever frozen in time.    I can’t breathe.   This time I heard my heart break.   Feeling the shards of glass tearing into my throat.  I can’t be alive and survive this pain.   I must be dying.   Once again the doctor wants to know what’s been happening in my life.   Once again I see the look of compassion for your broken mother on her face.

This time a stress test is ordered.   I’m injected with an isotope and told to start walking.   The treadmill belt is moving.   I think of you. I’m walking too fast.   Trying to run from reality.   I’m told to slow down.   The speed needs to build up.   All I want to do is run.   Pictures are taken and reviewed by the heart experts.   I’m told I have a beautiful, healthy heart.   I sit and listen as tears run down my face.   How can they not see the cracks, the shards that live where my heart used to.

The NP gives me a hug.   Tears mingling with mine.   She too knows living with a broken heart.   Losing her daughter years ago.   She tells me our mother’s hearts never forget.   Eventually the breaks won’t be as severe and gut wrenching.   Time will eventually put some pieces back where they belong.   One day my heart will remember only the love rather than the loss.

Until then I’ve learned that a heart breaking never makes noise.  It’s only felt by the soul of the one experiencing the pain.    Unseen to the human eye but  deeply felt by the griever.   And like grief, the break signifies unspeakable, unending  love…….

 

 

 

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……….

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

My Father’s Day Fantasy Of You

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Matt,  tomorrow is Father’s day.   Today my mind is full of what if’s.   What if you found recovery.   What if you found the one.   What if you married on the beach like we both dreamed you would.   I picture you standing by the crashing waves holding the hands of your bride.    Her gown is softly blowing lifted by the soft sea breeze.   You are dressed in khaki pants and a white shirt.  Both wearing flip flops.   Your sun kissed face so handsome.   You glance my way as our eyes meet sharing the joy of your recovery    The sun is shining down as you become man and wife.    I’m standing by your side.   Tears of joy falling from my smiling eyes.   The sound of the crashing waves take the place of a band.   We dance in the sand to the sound of the gulls laughing as if they know how amazing this day truly is.

I imagine getting that call.   I can hear your voice.   The joy and fear mingled together as you tell me you are going to be a father.   My heart so ready to welcome your child.   I close my eyes and remember my little tow headed boy.   Your crooked smile and silly laugh.   I remember your tenderness with animals.  Your love for the sea.  Your feistiness when trying to keep up with your big brother, Mike.   Most of all I remember your beautiful eyes.   Indescribable in color.   A beautiful contrast to your natural sandy hair.

Memories of your childhood rush through my mind.   Losing your first tooth.   Your first home run in Little League.   That proud smile as you yelled at me to let you go as I stood back and watched you take off on your first bike.   Your tan face shining in the sun as the biggest fish hung from your pole.

I allow myself to imagine you as a father.   Meeting you at the hospital as you welcome your first child.   I always imagined you with a girl.   A sweet tow head like you.  A tiny thing you would carry close to your heart.   I would watch as you wore your heart on your sleeve as she wrapped you around her finger.   I imagine you placing your precious child in my arms as we both cry tears of joy at this miracle of life.

I stare into those amazing eyes just as I did so many years before when you were placed into my arms for the first time.    Overwhelming love floods my being as I remember your softness.   Your smell.   I imagine her grabbing my finger like you did and holding on as we rock together.

I imagine you bringing her to the sea you love.   I see the two of you running through the surf with a black lab puppy biting at your feet.   Familiar squeals fill the air.   You glance back at me remembering when it was us.   A mother and her young son loving the innocence of running  through the crashing surf.   The dogs barking, the gulls yelling.   You are now a man, a father, and my heart is soaring like a kite caught in a beautiful breeze as I  watch you.

Reality hits and shatters the beauty of my fantasy..  You are gone.  You left no one behind.   No precious child to help your broken mother survive life without you.   During your active addiction I was relieved there was no child to witness your struggle.   Today my arms ache to hold a piece of you.   To be able to hear a voice and see a smile that brings you back to me.   To be able to look into those incredible eyes and know you are still with me.

In my Heart I pray that Heaven is a beach and you are holding a child on your shoulders looking out at the vastness of the sea remembering me.   My beautiful boy you are loved forever.

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