Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: struggling to accept loss (page 1 of 2)

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.

 

 

 

The Broken Road To Self Forgiveness

Matt,   I’ve spent the last 6 years grieving your death.   I’ve also spent the last 6 years beating myself up with guilt.   It seems my emotions swing between the two, but lately the guilt has been weighing heavily on my heart.

I continue to use my heart as a punching bag.   Blaming myself for your death.   I continue to see you as a helpless child instead of a grown man.

There are days I sit quietly and allow the film of our struggle to replay in my brain.   I feel like I’m split in two.   My brain tells me that I did everything humanly possible to save you.   My heart tells me I should have done more.

Lately I’ve been trying to forgive myself.   I had no idea how powerful the opioids really were.   Six years ago I did not have the information that is readily available today.   Had it been, you might have had a fighting chance.

I’m trying to place some responsibility on you as I have carried the full load of guilt for so long.   I’m trying to remember all the times I fought with you to get you into treatment.   I remember all the times my phone rang and you were on the other end telling me you were signing yourself out.    I remember the feeling of hopelessness and of being so angry that once again you decided what was best for you without any thought to how your decisions were impacting me.

Even though you are gone, my struggle continues.    I feel like I’m walking on a broken road.   Some days I’m able to avoid falling into those crevices where the guilt lies waiting to wrap itself around my heart.   Other days it seem like those crevices are unavoidable.    Days when a memory will surface.   Days when I hear of one of your friends having a baby.    Days when I am drowning in the what if’s or I should have.    Days I wonder how you would look 6 years older.   Days I wonder how  life would be had you lived.

So now I must find my way to forgive myself for something I could not control.    As parents we live under the illusion that we can control the behavior of our children.   I think the moment we become mothers that guilt gene takes over.

I go back to when I was your age.   I remember my mother trying to tell me how I should live.   I remember her attempts at controlling my comings and goings.   I also remember I did what I wanted to do despite her attempts to guide me.    As I look back, I now know how right she was.

Sadly for us, you will never have the opportunity to look back and understand my intentions were for your own safety.   So now I walk this new journey alone.   Learning to navigate this new road that hopefully will lead to forgiving myself.    I know this journey will somedays be nothing more than baby steps.   I know there will be days I slip into those waiting crevices.   I know this road will be long and treacherous.    I also know that I must find my way through……….

 

 

Time Does Not Ease The Power Of Grief

Matt,   tomorrow is Mother’s Day.   My 6th without you.   Even as I type these words my heart continues to disbelieve my reality.   I can feel those waves starting to change from swimmable to ones that will pull me under sucking the breath out of my lungs.   That familiar chest heaviness has been following me all day waiting behind every corner ready to pounce.

This year, my grief is multifaceted.   A blend of old and new.   Still having the power to bring me to my knees.   This is my first Mother’s Day without my mom, your grandmother.   Last year I struggled to find the appropriate card.   We weren’t best friends.   We were oil and water.  She was black and white and I am grey.   Mother’s Day changed after your death.

Before you died we went through the motions.  Both uncomfortable but playing the game by presenting a false front to friends and family.   After your death she abandoned me.   She wasn’t there to hold me as I screamed.   She disappeared from my life like that sailboat you see on the horizon floating further and further away until it’s no where to be found.

Most of our fights began when I questioned her behavior.   I just wanted to understand how she could walk away from her grieving daughter.   She died with her secrets untold.   I grieve the relationship we never had.   I grieve the life you should have had.   Her death, so unexpected just like yours.   I was foolish with both of you always thinking there would be another time to talk, to hash things out.   Your deaths hold  shocking similarities.   Sudden and so unexpected.

So now I once again fight to pick up my pieces.   To try to make it through a day to celebrate Mothers.   Realizing I no longer have to stress about finding that perfect card for her has churned up emotions I never thought I would feel.   Knowing there will be no card from you shatters my already scarred heart.

Time does nothing to lessen my grief.   Mother’s Day is bittersweet.   I will always be your mother.   I long to hear you voice.   To see you coming in the door with that smile lighting up my heart.   I long to step back in time and redo everything done when I foolishly thought there would always be more time to say what needed to be said.

I long to have a relationship with my mom.   One that was loving and natural.   I long to hear her say I love you.   I needed so badly for her to explain why she chose to ignore my grief and get on with her life.   I long to return to the past when you were both here and time was something we had plenty of.

Reality is harsh.   Tomorrow will be filled with loss.   I feel like I’m floating on a very small life raft in a very big churning ocean.   I know those waves are coming.   I remember their power to pull me under struggling to find dry land.   Tomorrow I will have no control over when or how they hit.   Memories will find me as tears will fall.   Life as I knew it is gone.   All I can do is hang on and wait for the seas to calm again.

 

 

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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