Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: mothers grief (page 1 of 2)

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Screaming Through The Stages Of Grief

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Matt.   I remember being a nursing student and studying the 5 stages of grief.   The book On Death & Dying written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross became every nurses’ bible.   I studied each stage trying to understand the power of grief over our hearts and souls.   During my nursing career,  I became a witness to the grief experience as I helped many families say good bye to their loved ones.   The echo of screams and uncontrollable sobbing etched themselves forever into my brain.   I carried these experiences with me throughout my career.   Never once did I ever think I would be the one screaming.

My education consisted of the theory  that grief followed a straight path.   That we put one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steps from one stage to the next.   I always pictured grief as a linear process.   We had to pass one stage before we could emotionally handle the next.  Textbook grief was so well defined.   Like a Lego project, one step built upon the other until you reached the top and returned to the old you.   People were thought to be “returning to normal” or “getting on with life” after “surviving” all the firsts.   Grief was supposed to be a temporary place where hearts and souls healed.   Grief was like a passing ship.   The impact was felt as the wake hit the pier but soon the waters became calm again and supposedly life returned to “normal”.    I always felt grief was like an exam.   You had to start with the first question before you could get to the last question.

My grief theory was crushed on a snowy January day.   Grief found me.   You died and my world came crumbling down.   That supposedly predictable and orderly pattern that I studied made no sense now that I was the one living it.    To be honest nothing made sense.   30 months later nothing makes sense.

Your death has been such a devastating, disorienting time.   There are days I don’t know how I will ever reach that final step of Acceptance.   Really, am I supposed to just accept that your addiction killed you?   I’m just supposed to chalk it up to life.   I’m just supposed to accept that I can’t pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Accept that you left without warning.   Without a chance to hold you as you took your last breath as I did after you took your first?

I am stuck.   Denial and Anger hold my hands.   They are my constant companions.   Denial keeps me somewhat sane.   Anger fuels my desire to fight the broken system.   The system that let us down and let you die.   I was not prepared for the power of my grief.   I was not prepared to become a stranger to who I once was.   I was not prepared for the reflection staring back at me when I glance in a mirror.   Grief has washed my face and lives in my eyes.   Grief doesn’t know its stages.   It doesn’t know that after all “the firsts” I’m supposed to keep climbing that grief staircase until I get to the top and shout Hoorah I’m done.  I survived.   I made it through and to the top!

My grief is clever.   It’s tricky.   Letting me think that today will be ok.   Today I will be “normal”.   Today I will feel joy.   Today I will not be carrying its weight on my chest.  Today will be better.   Today my grief will be predictable.

The reality of my grief is floating on a tiny raft in a big unpredictable ocean.   Waves hit hard tossing me in the frigid water.   They pull away allowing me to catch my breath before hitting again.    My grief has me floating in a fog never knowing when it will sneak up.  Grief creeps up and squeezes me from behind as a memory hits or a song plays.   I’m dry eyed one minute, a sobbing mess the next.

I have learned in my reality there are no stages of grief.   Grief is a crapshoot.   It shifts and changes.   It’s never the same minute to minute, hour to hour.    Grief ebbs and flows.   Grief has it’s own mind.   It makes you feel like you’re losing what’s left of your mind.  Grief cannot be contained or controlled.     Grief has moved into my soul and I have no idea how to evict it.

 Grief is as unique as a fingerprint.   Grief has no set pattern.  However we survive is how we survive.   The only thing I’ve learned for sure is that until you meet grief you have no imaginable idea of it’s power over your life.   The other think I know for sure is that Grief Sucks!!!!!!!

Denial Is My New Best Friend

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Matt.   Denial is defined as a refusal to accept a past or present reality.   It’s a self defense mechanism  that comes from the subconscious mind in an attempt to protect both the psychological and emotional wellbeing of the person struggling to accept the harshness of the thing we call reality.

Denial is used to protect our minds from a painful reality repressing the truth to guard our mental health.   In other words, denial keeps me from losing my mind.

I think my denial started very early in your addiction.   Like most parents I just never thought that dirty word would ever come crashing into our perfect family.   How could it?   I was a nurse.   We lived in great neighborhoods and you went to a private school.   You went on to trade school.   You started a business, lived at the beach.   You were living my dream life.    How in the hell did addiction creep into our fairy tale and shatter it to pieces?

I remember the call.   You hurt your back.   You needed help.   The injury required surgery.   You stayed with me for weeks to recover.   I drove to the pharmacy and got your script filled.   Those poison Percocet would one day lead us down the road through hell.   As a nurse, I knew post-op pain was tough.   As a nurse I should have known the dangers of giving you those pills.   As a mom, I wanted you to feel better and go back to living your life.   Little did I know how much your brain was changing right before my denying eyes.

Denial kept me in my safe place for years.   Visiting you at the beach, my denial kept me from clearly seeing the subtle changes in you.   The unkept house, the unpaid bills.   My denial allowed me to believe everything that came out of your mouth.   You worked late.   You forgot about deadlines.  Of course Mom I’m fine.

Denial is how I survived those horrific seven years as we rode the rollercoaster of your addiction.   Never once did my denial let me believe you would not survive.    I denied the ugliness as it swirled around our beings.    The words spoken, the lies told, the yelling and screaming weren’t real.   We were both just stressed and so damn tired of how your disease wrapped it’s chains around us and refused to let go.

I denied that I was an enabler.   No way, not me.   I’m a mother trying to help her son.   I denied that those pills would kill you.   After all they were just pills and they were prescribed over and over again by a doctor! A doctor would never overprescribe and watch his patient self destruct.   No way…..

My denial kept me so protected from our reality.   I was wrapped so tightly in my shell nothing could penetrate unless it hit me like a rock splitting a can wide open.   You calling the police after I hid your pills was that first split.

Denial fit perfectly.   I could poke my head out for a bit.   Deal with what I could and slip easily back into my cocoon.   The reality of our lives was harsh.   Denial was easy, denial was soft.

Denial was my first reaction upon hearing those words I denied would ever come.   “It’s Matt”.  “He’s dead”.   No way.   The first reaction was NO.   Matt promised me he was ok.   He promised me he would never hurt me like this.   He Promised.  I refused to believe you were gone.   Those bastard pills, those f…….. doctors.   No it had to be a mistake.   Someone stole your wallet.   It’s another mother who should be called, not me.

I denied it was you until my cocoon shattered as I saw you laying so still.   You, my Matt were gone.   My denial slowly slipped away as I ran my fingers through your hair still soft in death and laid my head on your chest to hear nothing but the echoes of my sobs.

There are days I allow myself to slip back into my safe world.   Days I walk by your urn and tell myself to breathe.  Days I deny reality and allow myself the luxury of denial.    You are living in Florida.   Spending your days by the sea we both love.   You are in recovery and very much alive.

Denial is how I get through those days when I feel my mind starting to break.   It’s how I keep myself from falling into a million pieces and blowing away in the harsh winds of my reality.   Denial is a friend I call upon to survive when survival is nothing I want.    Denial is that warm blanket holding my broken pieces together as I learn to live life without you.

 

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.

United By Addiction. Bonded By Grief

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Matt,

I had the amazing experience of attending The Fed Up Rally and the Unite to Face Addiction concert in Washington DC this weekend.   When I was in the midst of the battle to find you help I felt so alone.   I felt isolated.   I felt that no one cared.   I had no idea how many other mother’s knew my heartbreak.

I was having second thoughts about attending.   Every weather report dampened my spirits and made me think of staying home and staying dry.   Then I looked at your picture and felt that gut punch of knowing you were really gone.    The broken system  failed us both and you paid with your life.   As I continued to stare into your  beautiful eyes, I felt a power in my soul like I’d never experienced  before.   I’d walked through hell during your active addiction, why would I let the threat of heavy rain and wind keep me away.

I read about the Rally in the paper.   They were asking for stories of recovery and hope.   I had written a piece telling our story and included your picture.   To my surprise, It was published and I was humbled.   I also sent your picture to be included in The Addicts Mom’s quilt.   There was no way I was going to miss seeing your face being remembered at this amazing event.

I took a bus early Saturday morning with a small group from Delaware.   We knew each other’s grief, each of us losing a child.   Saturday was an emotional day for me.   It was the nine month anniversary of your death and here I was riding a bus in the rain to attend a rally for drug addiction.   My tears fell along  with the rain drops as I remembered the struggle to find you help.    Unfortunately, Delaware had no rehabs.   We have one detox unit that never had any beds when you finally agreed to get clean.    I remembered conversations begging your insurance company to approve treatment only to be told that you had no days left.   How could they treat your disease like you were not worth the time or money spent to save your life?   Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think you would die and I would be on a bus heading to Washington participating in a march to The White House.

The bus dropped our group off at the hotel.   We grabbed our rain gear and headed to the memorial.  The sky was grey with a light rain falling mimicking my mood.   The closer I got the more I could feel the atmosphere changing.   When we reached the mall, I was shocked at the size of the crowd.   People just like me.   Strangers who knew my grief and walked in my shoes.   Strangers whose faces looked just like mine.   Shock and disbelief marked us as those left behind.  Eyes swollen and empty as we wiped tears away with the sleeve of our shirt.

The stage held a memorial filled with names of those who lost their battle.  I was brought to my knees when I saw your name.  My precious son surrounded by hundreds of those who like you are gone forever.  I felt that too familiar gut punch as my tears started to fall.  I wore your picture on a lanyard around my neck.   I grabbed it and started to sob.     A complete stranger came and wrapped me in her arms.   Whispering that she understood my pain.   Here we were two mothers, strangers, holding each other up as the rain mixed with our tears.    Sharing stories of children lost.   I witnessed the kindness of strangers forever bonded by a common grief.

I was waiting outside The Addicts Mom’s tent.   They were preparing to unveil the quilt.   I remember the wind blowing  and the rain hitting my face.   My eyes searching the many squares until I saw your face.   Your beautiful smile right in the center of this beautiful handmade creation.   The sound of a wounded animal came from my lips as I stood letting the rain mix with my tears hugging myself against the heartbreaking pain.   Arms reached for me.   Another mother who got it.   We rocked each other in the rain and wind as we shared our heart breaking grief.   Another mother living my life, knowing my pain.   Angels walking among the crowd comforting strangers.

We formed groups as we prepared to walk to the White House.   I looked around in awe.   Thousands of people all here for the same reason.   The broken system failed their loved ones.   I was no longer alone.   We marched together.   We hugged each other.   We shed tears together as we shouted out against a system that must be changed.   We were empowered by the numbers.   We were heard.   I walked back to the hotel with a couple who lost their son.   We now call each other friend.   This event formed a bond never to be broken.

Sunday morning came with my familiar face in the mirror.   Puffy eyes staring back at me.   My face changed by grief.   The price of addiction is what I now call my new look.   I have forgotten how to smile.   I attended a breakfast in Arlington hosted by The Addicts Mom group.   A group no mother wants to belong to but the circumstances of life have left us no choice.   It was emotional to meet all the mothers I’ve supported and who have supported me on Facebook.   These women have walked through the same hell and get it.   Again I came face to face with the quilt.   Your smiling face staring back at me and again another mother held me as I shattered into pieces.

There really are no words to describe Sunday’s event.   The crowd tripled from Saturday.  The weather cold, and dreary.   I stood on the hill by The Monument.   In awe at the number of people from all parts of the country coming together to demand better care for the disease of addiction.   Many holding pictures and banners with names and dates.   All here to honor the ones they loved and lost.  Those in recovery were celebrating  a new sober life.   Everyone had a story to tell.   Strangers sharing their souls with strangers.  Sharing the bonds of love, loss and hope.

Sunday evening Joe Walsh and his fellow musicians held a concert to honor those lost and those struggling to survive.   A tribute to this deadly disease.   The crowd came alive.  When the music started the atmosphere became one of happiness and hope.   Rich and famous artists coming out and admitting they were once addicts.  Speeches by people who care and will fight to make changes.  Hope.   I could feel it in the air, at last there was hope.   Our new Surgeon General gets it.   Lawmakers now ready to join our fight  providing equal treatment for the disease of addiction.  Hope.   I stood with a crowd of strangers and danced to the music.  Joy I hadn’t felt for so long coursed through my soul.  We held onto each other when a  song hit a nerve and tears returned.   We sang out loud.  We were empowered.   Too many people fighting for the same cause.   Everyone remembering loved ones.   Honoring them by speaking out against the stigma.

I still get chills when I look at my pictures of all the faces lost.   Pictures of people coming together and lifting each other up in spirit.   Strangers becoming friends.   Promises of keeping in touch.  Of working together for the greater good.   I’m humbled by this experience and I know I will never be the same.   I no longer feel alone as I remember the beauty of seeing thousands of people coming together demanding change.

There is a saying, If God closes one door he opens another.   My new door has opened and I know I have thousands of people fighting the same fight.   I will be your voice.   I will remember your smiling face on that quilt surrounded by a hundred others.    No longer alone but humbled by the compassion of strangers.

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