Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: PTSD

Go Ahead and Call Me Crazy

Matt,   I know it’s been a while since I’ve written.   I feel like I’ve been hit by a tsunami and I’m still struggling to come up for air.   For some reason, the holidays smacked me in the face as reality that another Christmas was here and you weren’t coming home.   I could feel the darkness beginning  to close in and surround me with dread.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the New Year brought your 6th year angelversary.   January 3rd the day you left my life continued to batter me like an unexpected wind knocking me off balance.   January 4th added to my unsteadiness as I had to be at Penn for my total body Cat Scan to evaluate my cancer.   I felt like I just couldn’t carry the weight of all that was happening piled on top of each other day after day.

Just when I started to regain some balance, Aunt Mary ended up needed more care than we could handle and it was up to me to find her a safe place to spend the rest of her life.   I remember spending hours on the phone begging for some help from the medical professionals who really seemed not to give a damn.

In the midst of all this I was still dealing with my unresolved grief over the sudden death of your grandmother.   Still reeling from all the things left unsaid and undone.   I was also waiting for a biopsy result from a mole removed from my eye lid.   I felt like I was surrounded by doom and I started thinking a lot about death.   Both yours and mine.

I became obsessed.   I could think of nothing else.   I began to find myself in a constant state of panic.   I wondered what it was like for you as you were taking your last breaths.   I wondered if you were afraid or in pain.   I wondered if you were really in Heaven and if I would ever see you again.   I then relived the moment I was told you were gone.   It was like my life was a replay of everything I feared the most.   I wondered how I would die.   How much longer it would be before my cancer returned.   I focused on the treatments I endured to get where I am today.    Chemo, two major surgeries and 54 rounds of radiation.

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I felt like I was losing my mind.   Like after 6 years I was no longer able to cope with what life threw my way.

I finally went to seek professional help.   As I sat before a new doctor and spilled out my journey since your death I felt as if the horrible weight was being lifted.    Telling my story out loud and seeing the doctors face I felt validated.   I felt like I had every right to feel like I was losing what was left of my mind.

She confirmed that I had PTSD.   Her validating what I felt started the road to my self healing.   Rather than fearing what I can not control, I’ve started to count my blessings.   I’ve started praying more and worrying less.   I talk to you and your grandmother asking for signs that you are together and healed in heaven.   I’ve started saying the rosary everyday.   It gives me a peace I haven’t felt in such a long time.   I’ve started to attend support groups where I can be the grieving parent rather than the facilitator of the meeting.   I’ve come to realize that I like every other grieving mother needs to find support on this journey of unrelenting loss.

Little by little I’m learning that life even though  it can be filled with pain and anxiety, it can also be filled with beauty.   It’s up to me to learn not to run and fear what might be but to open my mind to the possibilities of joy.

 

 

 

Grief Is Like A Jar Of Pickles

Matt,

Since your death, I’ve been living not just with complicated grief, but also with PTSD.   There are days when the slightest noise has me hanging from the ceiling.   I struggle with feelings of not knowing where I fit in anymore.   There are days I question my role here on earth.   Your addiction kept me crazy but your death left me broken and questioning life.

The old me left the day you did and the new me struggles with who I’m supposed to be now.   It feels like being transported to another place where you don’t understand the language.   You constantly get lost and find yourself looking for something familiar.

I’ve learned that very few people understand when I try to explain what it’s like to be me.   They think I should be back to my pre-grief state.   That life should just return to normal and drag me with it.   What they don’t and never will understand is that profound loss slices you in half.   You become the “before” and the “after” pieces of your tragedy.   As time passes the “before” you drifts further and further away.   Leaving you with an identity that even you can’t identify with.   You long for the old you but know the road back to finding her again has imploded.

I find it harder and harder to remember the woman I was before your death.   The girl who laughed at the stupidest of things.   Who would even laugh at herself.   I remember looking forward to little things.   I remember having happy hours and bon fires.   I remember having lots of fun.   I remember a reflection with bright eyes and a natural smile.   Now I see a silhouette in a fog slowly drifting away.

Trauma changes you.   It unravels you.  It takes you to the darkest of places.   Things you once thought would never happen have happened leaving you hanging from that mental cliff clinging to the last piece of your soul.   The “before” you has been sucked away and the “after” you lay in pieces at your feet.   You try to make sense of this “after” you, but the pieces are hard to fit together.   Like a puzzle that just doesn’t make sense when a large part of it is missing.

I was with a friend one day.   This friend totally gets where I’m coming from.   She understands when I say the “before” me has vanished and this new “after” me is still struggling to fit.   Like a pair of old jeans that once felt like home now rewoven and uncomfortable.   She has survived her own trauma.   The assault of breast cancer on her body and mind.   Like me the “before” her was totally destroyed and replaced with an “after” person she continues to try to identify with.   We both grieve the women we once were.   We often compare notes on how things continue to have a trickle down effect on both our lives.

During one of these conversations she said something that gave me an Ah ha moment putting a true perspective on what I’ve been living with since your death.   Without even knowing how profound this statement was and how it would impact me for the rest of my life she calmly looked me in the eye and said, “Once you become a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber”.    Yes, I know it sounds like a crazy thing to say in the midst of an emotional conversation, but when you really think about it, it’s the most insightful statement I’ve ever heard about who you become after you live with grief or survive a trauma.

The transformation from cucumber to pickle can never be reversed.   Everything used in the process leaves a permanent mark.   The same with grief, whether it’s over the loss of a child or the loss of a healthy you, it leads you through a process that can never be undone.

There are days when the world can be sweet, then without warning an unexpected trigger can turn everything dark.   Just like a jar of pickles we never know how the day will taste.   Will it leave us with an unpleasant bitterness or a fleeting moment of unexpected pleasure.  We never know how the “after” effects of grief  will play out as we navigate unfamiliar territory.

It continues to amaze and comfort me that a simple statement had the power to  validate what I feel on a daily basis.  It also brings me extreme comfort knowing that I’m not the only pickle trying to find my place in the glass jar called life…..

 

 

 

 

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