Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: mother and son (page 1 of 14)

New Year Same Grief

Matt,   Today is the second day of the New Year 2020.    My mind keeps drifting back to the second day of the New Year except the year was 2015.   That year I had such high hopes for you. I remember your Facebook post on New Year’s Eve stating you were doing it right.   Attending an all night NA meeting.   I can’t tell you how my heart soared with joy thinking this New Year would be the beginning of a new us.  That your addiction would finally take a back seat to your new life.

We spoke on January 2nd at 6;23pm.   I had no clue that would be the last time I would ever hear your voice.   The last time I would ever hear the words “Love you, Mom”.   There were no red flags.   My ears had been trained by the years of your struggle to listen for verbiage changes.  There were none.   No clue that in just a few hours my world would spin off it’s axis and come crashing down at my feet.

Tomorrow January 3rd, marks your 5 year anniversary.   2020 feels like 2015 all over again.   The fact that 5 years has passed means nothing.   5 years feels like yesterday.   The grief hits with a vengeance that still has the power to bring me to my knees.   My body remembers hearing those words.   It remembers hearing the guttural sounds of a wounded animal as she sees the dead body of her young.   It remembers the grip on my heart.   The breathlessness as if my lungs collapsed and would never know how to breathe again.

I am restless.   Edgy.   Unsettled.   My mind is spinning out of control.   Reality and fantasy vie for top spot in my head.   I want to scream YOU ARE NOT DEAD.   I want to dial your number and talk to you about your day.   I want to hear your children laughing in the background as they yell hi to their mom mom.   I want to turn back time and fix our lives.   I want you and Mike and your families here for Friday night pizza and Sunday barbecues.   I want life to be want I want not what we’ve been dealt.   I want you HERE…..

There is a foolish perception that time and grief are friends.   That in the beginning time holds griefs hand and leads it down the path of firsts.   That path is hazy, dark and uncomfortable.  But time is seen as a hero.   Time continues to pass and as it does grief is supposed to suddenly lighten.   To change.   To become acceptable.   Bearable.   Doable.   Society is afraid to acknowledge what so many like me know and live.    Time is no friend to grief.

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Time changes NOTHING.   Time continues to pass bringing painful memories to the surface.   Time doesn’t stop for your birthday.    It doesn’t care how many painful days it drags along your path.   The only thing true about time is it continues to march on no longer caring as those empty, painful years pass with no new pictures, cards or memories.

The problem with grief is you can never imagine its power until it finds your soul.   Grief knows no time frame.   Once it moves in it has no intention of leaving.   It wraps itself around your being with a grip that doesn’t know how to let up.   Grief makes you feel like you are slowly losing your mind.   It makes you question how you will make it through all those next painful days that time continues to drag into your life.

If I’ve learned anything during these last 5 years its that the passing of time means nothing to the power of my grief.   Making it through all those firsts means nothing.   Time seems to sharpen the edges of life.   Time takes me back to those moments and memories that are all I have left of you.

The passing of time and the power of grief have no relationship to each other.   There is no connection between the two.   Time is no friend to grief and grief knows nothing regarding time.    My heart and soul will grieve you forever.   The passing of time will continue as it has done these last five years.

Grief comes with no instruction manual.   It has a mind of its own.    Lying low then hitting hard as a memory, song or smell assaults my senses.   Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.   There are no stages.   No rhyme or reason.   Grief is a part of who I am and who I will continue to be.   I will embrace my grief allowing it to have its way on those dark days and allowing it to ebb and flow through my soul as time keeps marching on…….

 

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.

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…………

 

 

 

Life Is Just One Crazy Rollercoaster Ride

Matt,

I feel like I did during those days we battled your addiction.   One day when things were going as planned I felt like I could fly.   I was always so hopeful everytime you agreed to treatment.  Like life would return to normal and you would finally return to the life your addiction stole from you.

Well we all know how that worked out.  Your addiction was stronger than my love.  It was so conniving and clever it convinced you that you were in control.   You left this world on January 3, 2015.   You were gone forever and my world was changed in the blink of an eye.   For years I walked around in a fog.   Disbelief and denial became my constant companions.  Just when I was starting to feel like I had a handle on my grief after living the uncharted life of a grieving mother 4 years and 8 months after your death, life once again became a rollercoaster ride.

I was diagnosed with cancer.   Once again that rollercoaster plummeted to the earth.  Once again my world was thrust into the unknown.  Shock, disbelief and panic found me again.   Those feelings returned with a vengeance.  I walked around numb like I did during your active addiction.   All those feelings I had buried came rushing to the surface.

My cancer made your absence even more traumatic.   I wondered if you knew what was happening here on earth.  I prayed for so long that you would come to me just for a moment to  let me know you were ok.  Finally finding your peace that eluded you here on earth.. imagine my joy when I received a message from a friend that you came to her and asked her to get a message to me.

You told her you were Matt.  You asked her to let me know you still wore your ball cap backwards.  You told her it was not my time and I must fight.  You told her things only you could know..   Your message meant the world to me.  Knowing you were still here was the best gift I could have received.  Once again I felt like I could fly.   The roller coaster was going up, up, up.  Little did I know that once again it would crash to the ground.

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed Belle would have attacked Molly for no reason.   I immediately called our vet.  Belle had stated to show signs of aggression that was so not her.  Belle was the sweetest dog I’d ever rescued.  I thought she was reacting to my stress until the aggression continued to get worse.  It got to the point we had to slightly sedate her to make sure the aggression would stop.

I remember the day I felt her head and thought I was going to vomit.   We were sitting on the deck and she was rubbing her head against the furniture.  I called her over and started to rub her head hoping to find the spot that was bothering her.   What I felt was the size of a golf ball solid rock mass..  I immediately panicked.  Snapped a picture and sent to Stephanie our vet.

The news broke my heart.  Belle had a quick growing brain tumor.   Her aggression, like your addiction would take her life.  For one week Bella was spoiled.  Steak, hamburger, pizza anything she wanted she got.   The thing that was hardest for me was that emotionally and physically I could not go to vet with her.

Your brother was so full of compassion.  He told me Mom it’s not physically possible for you to be there.  I will be there for you.  You know Mike loved Bella as much as I did.  Mike like you took to her as soon as I brought her home.  We spent many days together with our dogs playing in the surf.

Stephanie was not just our vet.  She was my friend for years.   She loved Belle as much as we did..  I could not have asked for two better people to say goodbye to my dearest friend.  We put if off as long as possible.  I had to fight my selfish need to keep her here with me.  I spoke to so many of my dog mom friends who all relieved my guilt for doing the right thing for my beloved companion of 14 years.

Bella was the one who paced with me at night after your death.  Sleep was not something that came easy.  She was constantly by my side.  Bella was the one who found me in your closet surrounded by your clothing sobbing like a wounded animal.  I remember her walking into the closet, lifting her nose and taking in your scent.  I could  see in her eyes she knew it was you.  She kept nudging me with her nose, forcing her body into my lap.  She lay there with me for hours, once again licking my tears off my face and comforting me with her presence..

Bella left me the day after my birthday.  She could hold on no longer.  I could not watch her suffer any longer.  I prayed that you would be there with Kahlua when she crossed the rainbow bridge.  Mike said her last act of love was to kiss his face as if saying thank you.

Another tremendous loss.  Losing you, now losing another connection to you.   The roller coaster continues to keep my life on unstable ground.  Never knowing if I will be soaring toward the sky or crashing to the ground.  I do know I have no control over the ride.   I just have to hold on, pray and let Jesus lead the way……

 

 

The Blessings Of Incidental Findings

Matt,

I must admit when you died I was so pissed off at God.   I felt let down.  Abandoned.  Like my prayers to keep you safe fell on deaf ears.   That my prayers weren’t good enough to be answered.   God and I had many ugly conversations as I sat in the dark and said things that would have had my grade schools nuns running for the Holy Water to wash out my mouth.

I was shocked at the depth and power of my anger.   Growing up in the Catholic church attending Catholic School I knew I had better straighten out my thoughts and get control of my out of control mouth.   I dared God to appear to me and explain why he let you die when I prayed you would beat your addiction and recover to live a beautiful life.

I was a spitting mad grieving mom and nothing would ever convince me that Jesus knew what was really happening in your life when I just had my fantasies of how you were living.   All I wanted was you back.   Under any circumstances.  I really didn’t care if you were suffering from your disease, I just wanted you back.

I remember going to your garden at our church and sitting under the cross.   Seeing your name carved in stone was like another slap from God.   Seeing your name, birth date and death date was having my soul ripped from my body and shattered into a million pieces.   No mother should ever see her precious child’s name on a cold stone.

I took my anger and turned it into an advocacy against those who poisoned you with their pills.  I was relentless.   I held nothing back.   I named names and called people out for who they truly were.   I began helping those who reminded me of you.   Fighting for them as I fought for you.   Four years of advocacy work culminated in six bills that would change how Delaware treats those who suffer from your disease.  I surrounded myself with the best advocates Delaware had to offer and channeled my anger into leaving a legacy to honor your life.

Little did I know that once again my life would be turned upside down.   Looking back it’s really not surprising.   My friends kept telling me to take a much needed break.   To just enjoy the fact that summer was here and Legislative Hall was out of session.   But advocacy is in my blood.   Hard to turn it off when people are calling for help to find treatment.   No way was I not going to do everything in my power to get another mother’s son or daughter in a safe place.

Well, it seems that God had another plan for me.   Funny how God just decides to take the stubborn bull by the horns and say enough.

I know you know.   I have this crazy uncommon cancer.   Of course why not?   You and I were always the misfits.

Except this time I have no anger against God.  I have never felt closer to Jesus in my entire life.   It seems Jesus has been beside me all this time.   I just ignored him.   My grief blocked his peace.   My anger did not allow me to feel his presence.   He was knocking all along.

Jesus has taken over my care.   He has placed me in the hands of experts.   Jesus has saved me from the wrong diagnosis.   He has saved me from an extensive surgery that might not have been the best first step in my fight.

Matt, I know you are here.   I feel you and see your smiling face.   You gave me such a gift by getting your message to me to fight.   You told a friend you still wear your ball cap backwards.   You told her about my cancer and my advocacy.   You talked about your brother by name.   So many messages I know it’s you.

So just like Jesus you never really left me.   I just needed to let my grief open to see the most amazing light shining through.   I have a peace like never before.   I feel totally confident that Jesus has both of us in the palm of his hand.

Matt,  you were always my beautiful boy.   Now I know you are my guardian angel.   I know that you will be watching from heaven.   I know you are at peace and that is the most beautiful gift I could have ever received in the middle of my storm.

Blessings continue to find me.   Ray is amazing.  My friends, those precious few who stood by me after your death are carrying me through this new journey.

Blessings totally unexpected but so welcomed.   I continue to learn from you my beautiful boy.   I now sit and remember our conversations when your wisdom shined though.   Believe me Matt, I’m going to enjoy those little things I always overlooked.   I see you in the stars,  I see you in the sunsets.   I know Heaven is your beach and you my son are enjoying a peace by your precious sea.

I will fight for you and my family.   But when my time comes meet me by the sea.   We will run through the surf together.   You wearing your ball cap backwards and me with my crazy curls.  Together forever one day.   Godspeed my boy.   Tell Jesus your mom says thanks for not giving up on her.

 

Two Words Changing Life Forever

Matt,

I feel like I’ve stepped back in time.  I never thought that feeling of shocked numbness would ever hit me again like it did after hearing those two words, “Matt’s Dead”.   We’ve all heard that saying how one phone call can change the course of your life.  Once again knocking you off balance and forcing you to navigate your life on shaky, unrecognizable ground.

I remember those early days after your death.  Walking around numb.  Feeling like my insides were jelly.  Constantly shaking.  Walking through the days going through the motions of living, but really not living.  I remember the feeling of nothingness.  Of denying this was my new reality.  Of feeling foolish for sweating the meaningless small stuff that life constantly throws your way.  I now knew that life was too fragile to sweat over issues that in reality really didn’t matter.  Your death was a lesson in my life.

Foolishly, I believed that after 4 long years, I was back in control of my life.  My advocacy work allowed me to channel my grief into helping others.  I finally felt a purpose.   I still grieve you everyday, but felt like as long as I had my advocacy your death would always have meaning.

I’m still trying to understand where I am today.  Whether it was a God intervention or a Matt intervention.   I remember the day perfectly.  Reliving every step I took.  Every thought I had exactly the same as I experienced upon hearing you were gone.

A beautiful day, June 22nd.  The humidity finally broke and all I wanted was to fill the house with the cleansing breeze of fresh air.   You remember how I always hated having the house closed up.  We used to laugh as I would only put the air on when the dogs were getting too hot.  I needed to hear the songs of my garden birds.  Needed to hear the soothing sounds of the waterfall in the garden beneath the kitchen window.

I lifted the window.  It stuck.  Instead of giving up, I continued to push as hard as I could.  The pain was excruciating.  I felt like my back and leg had been stripped of muscle.  I remember my nursing instincts kicking in as I hobbled to the freezer.  Ice now.  I grabbed the bottle of Motrin swallowed quickly and hobbling to the couch.   I sat in shock.  Looking at the window with such contempt.  If I could have I would have grabbed a hammer and beat the crap out of that piece of glass.

Weeks passed.  The pain remained.  Fueling my hate for that window.  In my mind it had ruined my summer.  No more biking, hiking, dog walking, yoga, gardening.  Everything I loved gone in a split second.  All my self care practices that kept me sane on those dark days now out of my physical capacity.

After two months of continued pain an MRI was ordered.  I was expecting a herniated disc.  I was fully prepared to inform which ever neurosurgeon I would see that surgery would be my last resort.  After watching how your surgery did nothing for your back except lead you to the road that finally took your life I was perfecting my speech.

Never in a million years did I see what was coming.  You always laughed at me being the health nut.  Skipping cake,  not eating red meat.  I can hear your words so clearly now..”Mom, life”s too short, eat the cake.”

Although the two words were different, their impact on my life was the same.  Fracture.  Tumor. I remember that familiar feeling after hearing those other two words, “Matt’s Dead.”  The feeling of leaving my body as my brain went searching for that protective cocoon it once wrapped me in after I learned of your death.

Today, I am fighting another reality I never imagined.   The reality that I will now be fighting for my life as I fought for yours.  I lie awake in the dark praying for peace as I did many nights after your death.  I wake breathless and shaky.  This reality hits just as the reality of your death did.  New every morning.  Today I am once again going through the motions numb to where this journey will lead me.

Looking back, that sticking  window was a gift. A divine intervention.  My doctor calls this an incidental finding.  I have no symptoms of cancer.  I feel fine.  If not for the back injury I would be biking, gardening and living life unaware of whatever was happening inside of me.

Today, I see the light shining through that window.  I hear the birds singing and the sounds of soothing water.  I watch the dogs chase each other through the gardens.

I look at that window seeing your beautiful smile.  I know you and God worked together for whatever reason to bring this to my attention as early as possible.  Perhaps my advocacy work is not over.  I promised as long as I lived, you would continue to live.

Its almost ironic.  I’ve always told everyone that losing you was the worst, most devastating event in my life.  Surviving your death has taught me that I can survive whatever life chooses to throw my way.  Your death was my lesson in how to live.

Matt, Walk with me on this new journey.  Let me feel you by my side through the biopsies and treatments.  Give me signs that you are near.  Please thank God for me.

Believe me, I will be eating the cake.  I’ll take that burger.  I’ll remember how you lived and mimic your absolute love for life.  I remember you telling me, “Mom, I don’t have to worry, you worry enough for us both.”   Lesson learned my beautiful boy  Four years and Seven months later your death continues to teach me about life………

 

 

 

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