Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: mothers grief (page 1 of 3)

Grief Lives In Paradise

Matt,   It’s February.  You remember that first year when you were living in Florida?   February was the month I planned to come for a visit.  I anticipated seeing you again after 6 long months of nothing but phone conversations.   I imagined how it would feel to see you in person.  To be able to touch you again.  To feel your hug and see your incredible smile.  I was excited to see you in a new life.  To see you living on your own in the place you loved the most.   I envisioned us walking together on your beach and making plans for a beautiful future.

As you know, my dream was shattered by your unexpected death in January.  So here we are.  The third February since your death. I’ve returned to Florida.  To the Keys.  My piece of heaven on earth.  You see that was the original plan before your death.  I was spending that first week with you in Boca then heading for the Keys.  You were planning to come for a long weekend.   Once again I anticipated showing you my paradise.   I planned on how amazing it would be to show you what draws me back year after year.   The turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds.  The vastness of the sea that surrounds the house.  This is my heaven on earth.

You never made it.  So now my paradise is bittersweet.  I remember boarding the plane.  It was an early flight.  I remember just closing my eyes and closing off the world as my earbuds blocked out the noise.   I started to pray the Serenity Prayer,  oh please God help me to accept the things I cannot change.   You see Matt, no matter how many times I say that prayer, I will never accept that you are gone.

I’m hanging in.  Until I feel the plane start to descend.  Looking out the window I see the blue water surrounded by a scattering of homes.   I hear the pilot welcoming us to Florida.  The state you took your last breath.   I feel the slap of grief.   That familiar throat tightening.   I’m choking.  The grief lives in Florida.  I stare out the window hiding my flow of tears.  Hugging myself to stop the sobs that are escaping from my broken soul.   My therapist said, “The body remembers”.   Matt, my body is remembering and physically reacting to your loss.

The airport is full of happy people.   Families reunited.   I see a young man walk into the arms of his mother.   I allow myself the fantasy that you are here.   Waiting for us.  I see your smiling face.  I hear your “Hey Mom”.   I look for you everywhere.  I hide my tears and tell myself to breathe.

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Grabbing my luggage I walk out into the welcome heat and sun.   Ray grabs my hand knowing I need to get my bearings.   That I need to allow the grief to envelope me until I can breathe again.   We reach the rental car.   The radio starts to play.   The sound of Guns and Roses, Paradise City fills the air.   Oh Matt, are you here?   Guns and Roses your favorite band singing about paradise.   My tears start to flow.   Ray grabs my hand.  Smiling he tells me it’s Matt.

The drive to the Keys is indescribable.  The salt air hitting my face.   The bridges surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds welcoming me back.   I’m surrounded by Paradise as my thoughts turn to you.

Once again I look for signs that you are here.   I wonder if you know I’m back.   I talk to you as if you are walking beside me.   Listening for your voice in the sound of the wind.  I remember all the plans we made.   Plans that have now become a grieving mothers fantasy.

Reminders of your loss are everywhere.  I see you in my mind as two little boys ride skateboards down the street.  I see you standing on yours next to your brother with that famous I can do it Mom smile on your little face.  I see you in the man carrying his child on his shoulders.   I see you in the stars shining in the night sky.

It is said that grief is a journey.   That in time the pain will lessen.   I’m finding that this journey is an endless path that neither time nor place can soften.   Even returning to Paradise has become bittersweet.   Tomorrow I head home.   Leaving both my paradise and a piece of my heart behind………

 

 

Baby Steps & Hiding Behind Masks

Matt,   We’ve hit the three year mark.   Actually, it’s 3 years and 24 days.   That’s how life is for me now.   It’s become a count down to how long it’s been since your death.   When my brain realizes how long it’s been I find myself  breathless.   Still shocky, still unsteady.   Unlike public perception, times does not heal this wound.

January’s slap was extra harsh this year.   Not only was I trying to survive the anniversary of your death, but Ray’s father was dying.   I sat at his bedside on your anniversary holding his hand.   I told him it was ok if he needed to go on your day.   I asked him to give you a hug and tell you how much you are loved and missed.   I sat watching the life leaving his body but my heart was thinking of you.   I was thinking of what it must have been like for you.   No family at your bedside.   No one holding your hand telling you how much you were loved.   How your life was well lived and there should be no regrets.  You see Matt, that’s the hardest part for me.   Knowing that as you were taking your last breaths I was a thousand miles away totally unaware that you were gone.

Grief enveloped our home.   Me continuing to grieve you.   Ray just beginning to grieve for his dad.   I recognized that wave hitting Ray.  Seeing his face change as reality hit his heart.   Seeing him in pain filled me with shame.   I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to be who I needed to be to support him through his loss.  I was barely surviving falling into the abyss that threatened my mind.  How could I not think of the three years since I heard your voice.

50 years separated your deaths.   Your life cut short at 37.   Rays dad living to be 87.   You see Matt, all I could think of was how many years we never had.   Your death was out of the natural order of how things are supposed to be.  Ray was experiencing death as it is supposed to be.   People grow old and then they die.   We bury our parents.   We don’t bury our children.

Planning a funeral sucks.   The ritual is too painful.   It becomes unbearable when wounds are reopened.   Watching Ray was like watching the rerun of a bad movie.   Memories of everything I crawled through being brought back to life.   Obituaries.   Pictures of happy times.   Torture.  Torture.  Torture.

I found myself reliving those first days.   The days when I survived one minute at a time.   Those first days where baby steps were the best I could do.   Dressing for this funeral brought back dressing for yours.   I dreaded the funeral scene.   I was shocked at how strong memories hit.   Closing my eyes I relived every moment.   Feelings I’d been able to suppress flooded my heart.   The profound loss.   The ugly reality of death.   I was helpless to help anyone but myself.   My mask broken beyond repair.

Rays father’s funeral remains a blur.   Memories of hugs, smells and whispers.    The cold January wind once again slapping my face with the ugly reality of loss.   Bone chilling cold reminding my heart that three years ago to the day I said goodbye to you my beautiful boy.

Watching Ray I must admit I’m jealous.   His life returning to normal.   Back to work.   Back to life.   Oh how I wish my grief would allow my life to stabilize.   To allow me to have a day when I don’t think of you.   When I don’t think of what life could have been had you survived your addiction.

I understand our losses are different.   My heart is still shattered by your death.   It will always hold evidence of a deep, painful, unimaginable loss.   It will always dream of the what if’s, the possibilities of having you here.    Child loss is the most devastating grief known to man.   It never leaves and strikes at the most unexpected times.   Losing a child is losing yourself.   The present and future are tainted with profound confusion and denial.

I’ve heard it said that grief is not a life sentence, it’s a life passage.   I thought long and hard about that statement.   I think about this every time my phone rings and I hear an unfamiliar voice asking for me.   I hear the choking tears as another mother calls my name.   Oh this grief of child loss is a life sentence.   One with no stages or reprieve.   One we must take in slowly.   One we crawl through every day for the rest of our lives….

 

 

 

 

 

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……..

 

 

 

 

Let The Battle Begin

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Matt,

The day has finally arrived.   The day I’ve been dreading and wanting to put behind me all mixed into a crazy bag of emotions.   My mind is spinning knowing that I will be facing the men who are defending those who feel dumping addicts while under the influence of drugs who have no sense of the imminent danger of losing their lives is an acceptable practice.   My emotions are on high alert.   Fight or flight, hot then shaking, anger then tears anticipating what is to come.   I feel like I’m being sent before the firing squad for a crime I did not commit while the criminal pulls the trigger.

I remember hearing the words he is here.   I felt the bile rise in my throat.   I had to stop the urge to run away and vomit.   How dare the man who dropped you off in a hotel when you needed help feel the need to sit in a room with your grieving mother.

Walking into the conference room, I felt as if I walked into a vacuum.    I could here those words over and over again,  “It’s Matt”.   “He’s dead”.    My mind started to scream as the pig smiled my way!   I kept telling myself to breathe,  just breathe.    I couldn’t let them know that what I really wanted to do was squeeze the life out of this smiling arrogant man.   I wanted to repeat the words he said to me when he finally found the time to call me days after he knew you were dead.    “People die here everyday”.    Yes, those were the words that came from the mouth of the man I trusted to keep you safe.   The man who cashed my checks and pretended to give a damn about your recovery.    I wanted to watch the color drain from his hideous face as I repeated those ugly words as I stared into his eyes knowing that my grieving face would be the last thing he would ever remember.

My fantasy of revenge was short lived as question after question came flying my way.   Some so absurd I wondered what these lawyers were trying to prove.   Ridiculous questions that had nothing to do with the fact that he woke you from a sound sleep and made the decision to dump you knowing you had used and were in a compromised state.   He told your roommate  to watch you.   Really, a man who professed to be an expert in the field of treating addicts dumped you off with a kid and told him to watch you!   Well, he did.   He watched as you died.

As I sat there answering those incredibly painful questions I thought of you.   The last conversation we had. The I love you Matt and I love you Mom spun around in my head.   I tried to remember what your voice sounded like.   I tried to find strength in knowing that you knew you were loved.   Then a flash back to the last time I saw you.   My heart broke silently as I remembered you lying so still on a gurney.   Your face blue.   Forever frozen in time.   Forever 37.   I remember holding onto to you, placing my head on your chest listening and praying that I would hear your beating heart.   I closed my eyes and prayed that this was a nightmare and I would soon wake up.

That familiar gut punch found it’s way to where I sat.   Once again I was being swallowed into my dark abyss.   I wanted to disappear.   My tears began to fall.   I looked across the table through blurry eyes and wondered how these men would feel if you were their son?   Would they be questioning why I am suing this man or would they be outraged that he neglected to get their son to a safe place?   It’s so easy to judge when your life has not been shattered into pieces that no longer fit together.   It’s easy to sit back and place blame on those who paid the ultimate price for a decision that was not their own.

Hours later we are done.   I gathered my strength and look directly into his eyes.   I tell him that I will forever blame him for your death.   I will forever live knowing that he is a fraud, a liar.   His decision that fateful night forever changed our lives.   I was never given the chance to hear your voice or tell you I will be there with the first available flight.   His decision tore the fabric of our family.  You are gone and I am broken.   Oh how I wanted to say so much more.   Words are useless to a man who has no conscious or ethics.   I decided not to waste my breath.

I found myself on the beach in Boca.   The beach you loved.  I walked to the spot you stood.   Your handsome, smiling face, your beautiful eyes captured in a picture days before you left.   Your image forever burned into my brain.   I closed my eyes and saw you running in the surf.   My tow headed beautiful boy jumping and laughing.   Reaching your hand toward mine.   The wind blew my hair like a gentle kiss from your lips.   For a brief second you were there and my heart felt complete.   I walked on the sand you walked.   I breathed the air you breathed.   I prayed for your peace and for strength to continue my fight for you.

As my plane climbed higher into the clouds taking me away from where you last walked the earth, I felt a piece of myself stay behind.   Almost as if I was standing by your side on your beach watching as the plane grew smaller and smaller until all that could be seen was a trace of smoke.   A piece of my soul sits and waits for you to come again.   To once again walk side by side hearing the crash of the waves whisper, I love you Matt.   I love you Mom.

My Life Before & After Losing You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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