Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Some Days

Matt,  I really don’t know what brings on this deep feeling of loss.  Some days I feel like I’m doing ok, then boom a memory will hit and then I’m gone.  

Erin got married last weekend.  She had a memorial table set up with pictures of all our family members who are no longer here.  Seeing your smiling face staring back at me was like a cold slap of reality, acknowledging that I would never dance at your wedding.  
I tried to hide my tears, but I was powerless.  

I kept thinking what a blast you would have had with Tommy, Mel’s boyfriend.  He has your same sense of humor.  Your quick wit and mannerisms.  As I watched them interact I kept wondering what it would have been like to have you there dancing and laughing together. 

I remembered you being the best man at your brother’s wedding. You raising your glass in a toast that had everyone cracking up.  You on the dance floor with all the single girls.  

I felt like I was in two different worlds.  The one where you existed and this broken world where you do not.  
These family events are always bittersweet.  Reminding me of what could have been but no longer is.  Even though years have passed, your loss is as fresh as it was the moment I heard you left me behind.  

Joy is intermingled with the pain of your absence.  I’ve learned life goes on.  People live their lives.  But one thing I know for certain is I will carry you in my heart forever….

Thinking About Mary


Matt,  today is Holy Saturday.  I went to your garden at church to visit and to plant some flowers.  The cross is draped in a purple sash that was blowing in the wind.  

I filled both bird feeders then sat on the bench and watched as the garden sprang to life.  The sounds of birds chirping filled the air and made me think that even though this garden represents your death life continues around the cross. 

As I continued to sit there and talk to you and Jesus, I started to think about Mary.  The stone in the garden represents your death but the massive cross represents the death of Jesus.  I wondered how horrible it must have been for her to have no idea why the man she raised from an innocent infant was being beaten.  She had no clue what was happening or why the crowds were shouting for her son to be crucified.  

Mary was helpless in stopping his death as I was helpless in stopping yours.  I can’t imagine the horror she felt as she watched the story unfold from the distance.  Never once allowing Jesus to be out of her sight.  Oh how her heart must have broken with every strike to Jesus’s body.  How her eyes could not believe what she was seeing.  Her precious son was being hung from a cross.  

The baby she nursed as an infant.  The toddler whose hand she held.  Now a grown man being brutally abused right before her eyes.  
I didn’t know how she had the courage to watch as her son took his last breath.  The confusion that must have been running through her mind as her heart was ripped out of her chest.  

As I continued to sit in the peace of your garden I felt a deep connection to Mary.  She knows my grief. She felt that pain years before I had any clue that I too would lose a son.  Your death was slow as the drugs took you further and further away.  I shared her helplessness in having no power to stop it.  I share her pain and sadness as you left this earth leaving me behind to pick up the pieces of what I expected life to be.  

The story of Lent is all about Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection.  Today I thought about his mother, Mary.  How she grieved her son as I grieve you.  



Matt,  I spent two weeks in Florida, it was both beautiful and bittersweet.  Since your death I look at everything differently.  Walking on the beach one day watching the waves I realized how those waves mimic the waves of grief.  

I wrote this piece putting my thoughts into words………..

After losing Matt, I look at life differently. As if I see simple things that are very familiar but now my lense has shifted and I see them in a different light..
I never found a connection to ocean waves. They were something to run from, jump through or ride until they dissipated hitting the shore.

Today as I walked on the beach I found myself focusing on how they remind me so much of grief. Their sizes vary. Some are small, with little power to knock you to your knees. These waves hit daily and I can easily navigate my way through. They hit during a song or as a memory surfaces. They find me in the grocery store when I see a can of Beef A Roni knowing I have no need to buy again and send in a care package to Florida. These waves cause me to stop, telling myself to breathe that the tightness in my throat will pass.

The size of waves are constantly changing. We see them building on the horizon. As birthdays and anniversaries are approaching these waves are a churning power ready to drag us to our knees. These are the waves that hit without warning. When I think I can get through. That I’m walking on stable ground undermining how the waves suck the shore from beneath my feet reminding me that no ground is stable when those waves are hitting.

As I continued to watch the sea in its constant motion, my attention focused on those huge waves churning and crashing in the distance. Those waves are the killers. The ones that bring us to our knees, fighting for air, fighting to survive the sensation of being sucked under and powerless to surface in time. Those waves come when reality hits and we realize they are really not coming back. There are no more love you Mom, see you laters, texts or phone calls. When ordinary pictures become precious treasures that we guard with our lives. Those are the what if waves, the how did this happen waves, this is now life waves…..

Those are the waves I’ve learned I cannot fight. I need to survive however I can. I’ve learned the harder I fight the more powerful the waves become. I realize I’m drowning and I need to let it happen. I need to allow that hopeless
feeling to wash over me. I need to scream, to sob, to let my grief wash over me as the ocean pounds the shore until I am spent, allowing myself to surface,to float, to breathe.

Before loss, those waves were just how the ocean was churning that day. I found them calming and beautiful. Never in all my days of walking on the beach did I ever identify with how terrifying and relentless a simple wave could become as you walk the path of grief…….

You Are My Starfish


Matt, I wrote this for you.. 

In all my years of walking on the beach I’ve never found a starfish until yesterday. I felt like a child again as I picked up this fragile, precious creature and held it in my hand. I could feel the tickle as its tiny fingers tried to attach itself to my hand. It was such an incredible moment just standing there holding this incredible creature.

I began to think of the Starfish Story. The one where the little girl was on the beach throwing as many starfish back into the ocean when she is approached by a man. He asks why she is wasting her time as she can’t save them all. As there are thousands along the beach. He tells her she can’t possibly make a difference. The young girl listened as she bent down picking up another and throwing it into the sea. I made a difference for that one she replied to the man.

As I stood there recalling that story I began to cry. I started to think of Matt and all our children as starfish. How so many never made it back to the sea. How people ignored them. Walking right by without a helping hand or kind word. How so many Shunned them and stigmatized their disease.

I thought of the insurance company as that man who tried to discourage the girl from saving them. How those so called professionals told us to practice tough love letting our precious starfish suffer to survive.

I thought of us as the welcoming sea. Always there, always reaching, pushing harder and further until we could grab them and hold on to them placing them safely back to our sea.

I held that perfect, precious creature in my hand and told Matt I was so sorry for not knowing how to save him. For not being that perfect parent who had all the answers. I made a promise to him that this tiny creature would never struggle to live as I knew how to save him.

I walked out into the freezing sea, I stroked the starfish and said a prayer. I prayed that it would survive and would somehow understand that I would never walk by knowing that I could make a difference 

A Not So Happy New Year

Matt,  we’ve passed the 9 year mark of me surviving your death.  For some reason, this 9th year has hit me harder than I could have ever imagined. 

I continue to struggle with the fact that time has flown by.  My mind knows but my heart continues with disbelief.  It almost feels like that horrible second year, when the reality replaced the fog and the weight of grief settled into my heart. 

I was a guest on a podcast about grief yesterday.  So many of the topics we discussed hit home for me.  We talked about society and how it places a time limit on grief. Sadly, most people who feel that grief has its limitations have never suffered the devastating loss of a child. 

We also discussed many faucets of grief such as the fear of not remembering the sound of our loved one voice.  Matt, that is one of my biggest fears.  You never left me voice mails.  Texting was your form of communication.  Believe me, I have screenshotted all of your text messages and treasure each one.  But what I crave is to hear your voice once again. 

There are days when I sit quietly by myself, closing my eyes.  I try to conjure up your face, your smile, and your voice.  Some days it all comes rushing back.  Other times I feel like you are drifting farther and farther away.  Those days I feel a panic set in as I never want to ever forget anything about you.  Sadly, the brain can only hold so much memory.  Grief brain is capable of so much less.  

This year will be a bigger challenge than I could have ever imagined.  There is no truth in the statement that the passage of time heals.   For me the passage of time is a tragedy as I struggle to remember the essence of you.  ❤️

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