Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: mother and son (page 2 of 10)

Grief, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Matt,  today, January 3rd, marks the third year since you left me behind.   Three years have passed since I’ve heard your voice or seen your handsome face.   Three years.   It just doesn’t seem real.   How did I survive three years of carrying the unbearable weight of my grief.   I sit alone and remember the moment I learned you were gone.   Three years ago, January 3rd was a Saturday.  It was snowing here and all I could think about was how lucky you were to be spending your day at the beach.  I was working in the NICU feeling jealous of your new life in sunny Florida.   Jealous that I was freezing and you were laying in the warm sun.  Little did I know you were already lying in a morgue your body lifeless, cold and blue.

For three years I’ve lived in a fog.   Disbelief allowed me to survive.   Days I pretended you really were lying on that beach being warmed by the Florida sun.  Then there were days when reality snuck in and I had to crawl through choking quicksand.  Days the weight of my grief literally had me fighting for my own life.

As a nurse, I read about how debilitating complicated grief could be.   I learned how destructive this type of grief could be to the body and soul.   Never quite understanding it’s incredible power until I was thrown into the fire after your untimely death.   You see Matt, my grief has been complicated by my guilt.   For three years I have blamed myself for your death.   I became my own personal punching bag.  Constantly allowing that rollercoaster of emotions to chip away at my very soul.

I blamed myself for not being the “best” mother.  For working while you were young.  Not having the luxury of being one of those incredible moms who had time to make meals from scratch.   You know those moms who never had to be responsible for anything else except their kids.   My beatings continued as I rehashed everything I should have done to save you from your addiction.   My guilt would never allow me to see everything that I did do.   Guilt is ugly.   Guilt only let me see all of the wrongs and none of the rights.

I remember watching you withdrawal from your opioids.   I watched your body shake, sweat and fall apart.  I watched in horror.  Never quite understanding how your body could withstand the assault.   Now it’s my body that’s being assaulted.   I’m the one withdrawing from you.   I was addicted to your addiction.   For seven years, I fought to save you.   Never once thinking that I had no control of our fate.   I was so foolish thinking I was in control of anything, especially your addiction.   Call it nurses mentality.   Nurses save and your mom was a nurse.   I spent my life saving people and  could not accept that this wonder woman of a nurse could not save her own son.

So now it’s me thats been shaking, sweating and falling apart.   For most of the past three years my soul has lived in a constant state of high anxiety.   Your death caused a permanent withdrawal that I now have to navigate my way through.  Panic attacks,  ER trips thinking I’m having a heart attack, and my new friend migraines.   Every crazy symptom all anxiety and guilt related.

I remember being told that one day I would get angry.   Angry at you for causing such profound grief.  For causing my world to spin off its axis.  For causing me to drown in this dark, ugly abyss.   This overwhelming ocean of heartbreak.  Constantly fighting the powerful undertow that drags me down on the bad days.

I never did get angry.   I forgave you the moment you left.   The person I need to forgive is me.   Three years is a long time to fight the most powerful of emotions.   Three years of blaming myself for something I could not control.   Three years of near drownings when the guilt pulled me far away from my safe shore.

I will grieve and miss you forever.   This isn’t how our story was supposed to end.   I now realize that when the guilt starts dragging me under I must reach for a life preserver.   I must focus on getting back to shore.   I must learn to swim again…………

So This Is Christmas

Matt,   You remember my favorite Christmas song,  John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas And What Have You Done”.    Those words always made me stop and think about what I had done with the gift of the year I’d been given.   I would examine my behavior and think about the things I did and all the other things I wanted to do but put on the back burner for another time.    Alway under the incredibly naive assumption that I was in control and there would always be more time.

I heard the song on Pandora today and I had to sit and catch my breath.   Thinking back to another year leading up to Christmas without you.   So this is Christmas and what have I done?   Another year older and a new one just begun.   This year those words hit me as I felt that now familiar wave of grief slap against my hurting heart.   This year I became older but you remained 37.   This year I lived with a grief so powerful that many times I had to force myself to breathe.   This year as I looked back my soul fills with regret.    Things I wanted to do with you and say to you left undone.  Thought that there would  always be a tomorrow dance through my brain.   There will be no new year for us.  No my sweet boy.   No happy Christmas.   No happy New Year.

So this is Christmas and what have I learned?

I’ve learned that the pain of losing a child crushes your soul.   Changing you from the very core of your being.  The loss is indescribable,  heart obliterating,  life altering.   The pain lives in every breath and step I take.   This pain is invisible to others, but excruciating to me.   This pain has become a part of who I am.  It will remain an ever present ache with every passing moment until my last breath.

I’ve learned that grief has no stages.   Grief has a mind of its own.  Hitting so powerfully at unexpected times.  There is no rhyme, reason or warning as to when and where it will strike.   I’ve learned not to fight when those waves hit.   I’ve learned to let grief wash over my soul until it recedes.   I’ve learned grief doesn’t keep track of how long it’s been…….

I’ve learned how brutal the second year truly is when the fog has lifted and reality comes home to stay.    Never believing that any pain could be worse than that heartbreak of all the firsts.   The second has been brutal.   Kicking me to the curb slicing open my broken heart with every memory of a life that used to be.  Leaving my heart battered and bloody.     I’ve learned that shock never subsides.   I’m shocked with every punch of reality.   You are really gone.   There is no pretending this year.    My heart knows you will never be home for Christmas.   As the holidays approach pieces of me shatter to the ground.

I’ve learned that normal died the day you did.   Leaving me alone to navigate life as a bereaved parent.   For the rest of my life, I have to learn how to survive the pain.   This excruciating torture cannot be described in human language.   My grief over shadows joyful moments as I realize our life is permanently divided into before and after your death.   How I think and feel have been severely altered.   I have been taught the ultimate lesson.   We are promised nothing.  Not tomorrow, not months, nothing.   I no longer sweat the small stuff.

I’ve learned to hide behind my mask and move on.   Accepting that people are uncomfortable with grief.   I carry my elephant and play the game of surviving around those who could never imagine life after child loss.   I’ve learned that expectations lead to further heartbreak.

So this is Christmas and what have I done?

Since your death,  I have lived the experience of Gods power in my life.   He closed the door of your addiction and opened a door of understanding and compassion for others.   Out of my brokenness,  A Hug From Matt was born.   Your life taught me to see past the shell of a person by being able to look into their soul.   I honor your life by ministering to those who are addicted and homeless.   I feel your presence in their smiles and hugs.   Bringing joy to those the world forgot brings peace and joy to my heart.

I have found the words to share our story with the world.   To shatter the ugly stigma that follows those who suffer from your disease.   Words that touch another parents heart.  Words that bring help and hope to those who share our story.   From my grief a new person has emerged.   I am fearless.   An advocate for change in the treatment of Addiction.

I have surrounded myself with parents who get it.   The broken ones.  Parents who were once strangers now hold a piece of my heart.   We encourage each other and cry together as we crawl through the days that many would never survive.   Knowing that until one experiences this loss it is almost impossible to express.  We have a permanent bond.   The bond that only a bereaved parent would understand.

Your death has impacted my life in ways I would have never imagined.   Time now allows me to stop and smell those roses I once ran by.   My faith is deeper.  Prayers are no longer recited from memory instead they come directly from my heart.    I appreciate every moment I spend with those I love.   I take nothing for granted  knowing that in one breath the world can be changed forever.

So this is Christmas.   Another without you.   This year I can reflect on the beauty that came out of the ugliness of your untimely death.   I can reflect on what I have done to honor your life.   This Christmas I will remember your smile.   I will feel you in the hug from your brother.   This Christmas you will live on through me forever……..

 

 

 

 

Hanging On By A Christmas Thread

Matt,   December 3rd marked the 35th month since your death.   35 months.   I still can’t believe you are really gone.   I heard the second year was tougher than the first.   Never in a million years could I ever allow my mind to believe it to be true.   It seems the protective fog has blown out to sea leaving me a clear view of the empty shoreline.

This second year has beat me to the ground.   My cocoon shredded and blown away with the wind.   My mind reminds me daily that you are dead.   I feel naked, stripped of the protection that the shock of grief provided during those first months when my mind was in complete denial.   Grief protects you from reality.   The brain builds that impenetrable wall able to withstand the assault of reality.   The second year, cracks begin to form and the wall slowly begins to crumble at your feet.   Leaving you with a clear view of life.

Last year I was numb.   Able to go through the motions of life.   My holiday mask was intact and firmly secured to my face as I navigated my way through the usual festivities.   My mind allowed me the fantasy that you were alive.   Living in Florida.  My mind allowed my heart to stay on track providing multiple distractions keeping the grief under wraps in public.  This year I’ve found the mask has dissolved from the flow of my tears.   This year my grief has gained power.   This year my grief doesn’t seem to care that this is the happiest time of the year.

Your loss continues to stun me.   I’m shocked when reality slaps me with the knowledge that you won’t be coming home for Christmas when I hear that holiday song.  Reality grabs my heart and causes me to forget to breathe.  I was told in time I would get angry.   I’M ANGRY.   I’m angry at our reality.   I’m angry at happy strangers shopping with a spring in their step and joy on their faces.   I’m angry that my grief continues to hurt so deeply.  I’m angry that I’ve just survived Thanksgiving and Christmas is being shoved down my throat.   Not everyone is merrily anticipating holiday traditions.   For some of us our holidays will never be the same.   I’m angry that the woman I see in the mirror is not who I used to be.

This second year has a power I could have never anticipated.    My mind now clear vividly remembers painful events.   My guilt has returned full force.    My double whammy.   Grief and guilt have renewed their friendship bullying me every chance they get.   My mind remembers things it buried to protect my shattered heart.   Things said and done during your addiction.   The I should haves or could haves haunt me like ghosts from Christmas past.   I look at family pictures.   You and Mike on Santa’s lap.   Childhood innocence.   A time of joy and anticipation of things to come.   Never did I see this coming.   Never did I ever think my youngest son would be gone in the blink of an eye.

I hear strangers stating what they want for Christmas.   Children rattle off a list of toys.   Adults want more money, a better job or world peace.   I cringe and feel the tears start to form.   The song,  “All I Want For Christmas Is You”,  starts playing in my head.   I close my eyes squeezing as hard as I can.   Trying desperately to balance myself on the edge of my abyss.

I want a visit from the ghost of Christmas past.   I want to see my boys squeal with delight as they rip into beautifully wrapped gifts.   I want to hear the laughter of two boys as they compare super hero capes.   I want to feel the joy and completeness of having my family intact.   I want to travel back in time.   Before you  became adults.   Before your injury led you down the path of no return.  I want to fix what is broken.   I want to close my eyes and see you walk in my door.  I want to hear “Hey Mom, Merry Christmas”.   As your wife and kids wrap me in a hug.  I want to see you and Mike standing side by side belly laughing as a childhood memory cracks you up.   I want every chair at the table full.  I want to raise a glass and toast to a future full of possibilities.

Unfortunately,  A Christmas Carol is just that.   A fantasy script written long ago addressing second chances.  Our reality is a painful reminder that death doesn’t give a redo.   There will be no second chances for us.   No more watching you and Mike standing together surrounded by your  family.   No more holiday pictures full of smiles and joy.   No more hearing a Christmas song without the punch of grief taking my breath away.

This year when everyone else is dreaming of a White Christmas, I’ll be dreaming of the family we used to be…….

 

 

 

Don’t Mind The Elephant, He’s With Me

 

Matt,   I remember during your active addiction you talked about your disease as if it were a  monkey on your back.   Since your death I seem to have inherited an elephant.   The only difference is my elephant found his spot on my chest and decided to settle in.

The funny thing is, as heavy as my elephant is to carry, he seems to be invisible to everyone but me.   I first realized how easy it was to ignore my elephant when most of my so called friends seemed to disappear.   It seemed it was easier to just vanish  from my life than to acknowledge the tragedy of your loss.

My elephant for many can be a scary beast.   Representing a difficult situation or an unpleasant experience that is best left unspoken.   The mentality seems to be that if something is not said then it never really happened.  Unfortunately for me, my elephant has become a constant companion.   A constant reminder that life has taken a tragic turn and will never be reset.

The elephant is my dirty little secret.   My elephant has a name.   I call him grief.   I’ve lived with him for 35 months and 26 days.   Some days he seems to weigh a little less.   On those days I seem to be able to carry him easily.    The difficult thing is I never know how heavy or how light he will become from day to day.   After living with grief I’ve learned that until people inherit my elephant they really don’t want to know how heavy he can be.   Some give me the impression that they really don’t care.

It seems that my elephant chases people away.   While shopping alone I run into old friends from my past.   They know my story yet rather than approach me and start a conversation they go out of their way to avoid me.   My elephant isn’t ugly.   He doesn’t bite.   He isn’t threatening.  He is happy when people acknowledge him.   Confused and hurt when they avoid him.

I have learned to live with my elephant.   It seems I had no choice.   Never in a million years did I ever think my constant companion would control so much of how I think and feel.   Even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t even come close to understanding the power of one of the gentlest  creatures on earth.

Somedays my elephant makes me feel like I’m crazy.   Like we are too attached.    Like I should be giving him walking papers and sending him on his way.    My mind thinks I’ve had him far too long.  But My heart just can’t let him go.    The elephant has become emotionally protective of me.   Shielding me from those who don’t know anything about elephants.   From those who feel that elephants have no place in the human heart.

It seems this time of the year my elephant has gained some weight.    As I see families huddling together near Christmas lights or hear the songs of peace and joy I can feel his weight shift.   I feel like the loner in the room.  Like my elephant has become unruly and people must run for their safety.  People see me but don’t see me.   My elephant and I are invisible.   As if someone had the nerve to ask how I was doing the elephant would shatter to the floor.

I wait for the day my elephant is accepted.   I wait for the day people reach out and touch him.   My elephant has become a part of who I’ve become since your death.   He needs to be acknowledged.   He needs to be understood.   The elephant has no plans to move on.   I’m still grieving and probably will be the rest of my days.   My elephant and I will leave this life as one.    Until then I carry him wherever I go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grief Doesn’t Keep Track Of Time

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Matt,  since your death, I’ve found that my grief doesn’t keep track of time, people do.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been made to feel like I am the crazy one.   Responses from people I hardly know continue to astound me.   I can feel my soul start to cringe as soon as I hear “Well it’s been, you should be”.   On bad days I just want to slap the shit right out of them.   I want them to feel my grief physically as I feel it everyday.

I just can’t understand how society thinks that grief has a time frame.   What is it about grieving people that scares people away?   Grief is not a disease.   Grief is not catchy.   Yet, people continue to think that as time goes on grief should let up and finally ride off into the sunset.   Like grief has a time table and an automatic shut off switch.  Like grief is some sort of mental disorder that should be over and done with in a specific time period.

The problem with grief is it’s tricky.    It finds you at unexpected moments.   On days I think I’m doing ok it finds me.   Days when I fool myself into thinking that society is right.   That it’s been and I should be.   During Yoga class or lunch with a friend it attacks unexpectedly.    The reality that I will never be the old me again, and no matter how hard I try to put up a fight grief always wins.   Grief is that monkey on my back.    It  hides and waits for the right time to show me who is in control.

People think that when you grieve there is something wrong with you.   Especially if your grief lasts longer than many think it should.   It’s like that acceptable timeframe for dating again after a divorce, grief is supposed to be short lived.   After all we all know life goes on.

I get so tired of feeling like there is something wrong with me.    Like I’m failing to follow those ridiculous stages of grief made famous by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.   I studied them in nursing school and bought into her thinking until grief slapped me to the ground with an unimaginable force I’d never known before your death.   Even Dr. Ross acknowledged before her own death that grief follows no path of rhyme or reason.   Grief ebbs, flows and shatters as it pleases.

I’ve learned that grief is selfish.   Not allowing me to think of anything other than my deep pain.   It’s like addiction.   It changed my brain.   I think differently.  I act differently.   Somedays I really don’t care what people think.   I’m struggling to survive this quicksand that surround every step I take.    I get tired of defending my grief.    For God’s sake, I lost my son.   How do I get over that.    How does a mother get over saying goodbye to her precious child.    Age doesn’t matter.   We are not supposed to bury our children.   Yet, society continues to think that child loss is something to put away.    That we can box up our grief and put it on a closet shelf like old family albums.   That grief is something to be controlled.

I am mentally exhausted  having to explain over and over again how losing you has shattered the fabric of my life.   I try to relate my grief to childbirth.   I can tell you how painful it is but until you experience it personally there is no way you could ever understand how intense the pain can become.   How this pain takes you away from reality and you scream thinking you will never survive.    This is my grief.   Silent screams everyday.    Screams as I wake and realize that another day is added to the tally of the days since you took your last breaths.    Screams as I look at your smiling face in pictures frozen in time.    Screams as I attend weddings and baby showers knowing they will never be for you.    Screams as I try to be normal as expected by society.   Screams as I tell your story to faces that have no clue.

I remember when people were afraid to mention the word cancer.   It became the big C.    It’s the same thing with grief.   Is it becoming the big G?   Our culture sees grief as a mess that needs to be cleaned up.   I see grief as something that now lives inside my soul.

Grief is not a problem to be solved.   Grieving people are not to be shamed, dismissed or judged.   Grieving is what mothers do when the natural order of their lives has been altered with the death of their child.   I never wanted to know grief as intimately as I do.   I never wanted to experience grief brain or constantly question my sanity.   I wanted you to live a beautiful life.   I wanted to meet your wife and rock your babies.   I wanted a reality that wasn’t to be.

I know I will never return to the person I once was.   Going back to that person is not an option.    She vanished when you did.   Gone with your last breath.   My grief path is my own.    It’s rocky and full of broken glass.   I tread lightly on days I can.   I crawl through the glass on days when the pain kills and I question my survival.    My grief has no finish line.   It’s one day, one breath, one scream at a time.    My grief is the best I can do.   Navigating this path is the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do.    One thing I know for sure is I’m not ok.   I will never be ok.   And for me that just has to be ok…….

 

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