A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: holidays and grief

It’s So Much More Than Just A Tree

For so many the holidays are a time of cheer.  Decorating homes and family gatherings are a huge part of everyone’s plans.  The expectation of a perfect holiday season is evident every where you look.  From the Hallmark Christmas movies that play 24/7 to the Christmas music that starts before Thanksgiving begins. 

Seven years ago my holiday celebration came to an abrupt halt.  My youngest son, Matt lost his battle with addiction.  I was so broken that hearing  “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” left me running out of the grocery store with tears running down my face.  

Prior to his death, Christmas was my favorite holiday.  I was that person who decorated every room in my house.  I was that person singing Christmas Carols and watching every episode of Home Alone over and over.  I would immerse myself in finding the perfect gift for everyone on my list.  My kids called me the crazy Christmas lady and I loved it. 

After Matt’s death, nothing mattered.  My only decoration on display was my nativity set. I gave away our tree to a needy family and never put up another. The holidays became a painful reminder of his absence.  We were no longer that happy family gathered around the tree in past holiday photos. 

The years went by.  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years became days I learned to survive.  I’d go to church. Have family and friends over.  Going through the expected traditions all with a broken heart. 

I don’t remember when my heart began to heal.  I don’t know how or why I began to feel joy.  Or when the memories of prior holidays began to become less painful.  I do know it snuck up on me.  Hearing Christmas music while grocery shopping no longer sent me running for cover.  Seeing trees brightly lit caught my attention as I stood before them remembering trees that once graced my hallway. 

My healing has been a slow process. I’ve read that losing a child demolishes you.  If you have ever witnessed a demolition you know that what was once whole has been completely destroyed.  The process of rebuilding especially when it’s a life can and does take years. 

I’ve learned grief has no time frame. Grief doesn’t up and leave after you survive all those firsts as society wants you to believe.  I’ve learned I had to acknowledge my loss, live my loss, feel every bit of my pain before I could once again begin to feel the joy the holiday season can bring.

This year a beautiful tree graces my hallway.  The white lights remind me of twinkling starts.  My Nativity set is at home on the mantel. Santa’s and snowmen have found their way out of boxes to fill once empty spaces.

I know Christmas Day will continue to hold a painful reminder that Matt won’t be home to celebrate.  I know there will be tears.  This year there will also be joy as I sit near my tree that symbolizes not only Christmas but my healing heart.  ♥️🎄

Some Days You Just Have To Cry

Matt,   Memorial Day weekend has come and gone.   The weather mimicking my soul.  The day was cold and dreary.   A typical Memorial Day weekend in Delaware. My mind kept going back to happier, sunny days when I would drive to the beach to spend the weekend with you.  

We always found a way to avoid the crowds as you hated when “those tourist” invaded your piece of paradise.   I can still hear your voice complaining about the people and the traffic.   I’d let you vent and then remind you I was one of “those tourists”.

Those bittersweet memories became a trigger.   The more I remembered, the closer the grief crept in.   Like one of those completely unexpected rouge waves that hits out of the blue and drops you to your knees.  

The wave of grief so powerful I felt like I was choking.  Like my breath had been sucked out of my lungs as I was being pulled under by its strength.   The reality that we would never share another Memorial Day together, that I would never make that trip again, that I would never walk into your house to see your smiling, tan face was too much for my heart to handle.

I was shocked at how my body responded as those waves continued to wash over my soul.  They call it muscle memory and my muscles were in full gear of remembrance.  That familiar choking sensation returned.   That feeling of hopelessness.  Of dread.  The pain radiating from my broken heart.  I was helpless to stop the physical response to the wave of absolute sadness that enveloped my soul.  

I used to try to fight my way through these tough days.   I’d tell myself that I was being crazy.   That my grief should have lost some of its power over the last 6 years.  I try to convince myself that I should be able to handle these memories without going to pieces.   That what society says about grieving is true.   We should be able to wrap it up in a pretty package and place it on a shelf.   That time should heal broken mothers.  

The reality is that grief knows no time frame.   Those waves are churning always ready to hit without warning.   Grief makes no sense.   It hides in our souls forever present waiting to pounce on our unsuspecting hearts.  

That day, I allowed the dam to break.   I let those waves wash over me as I cried my heart out.   I cried for you and all you were missing in this life.   I cried for me knowing that memories are all I have left of us.   I cried and cried and cried until I had no more tears left to shed.   

I could feel the waves subsiding.   Heading back out to sea.  I felt a calm returning.  My breath becoming regular.  

I’m learning that some days I must anchor myself letting those waves wash over my heart.   I’ve learned I need to feel the pain of what will never be.   After years of struggling to suppress  my grief I’ve come to realize that some days I just need to cry…………

 

All I Want For Christmas Is A Re-Do

Matt,   It’s Christmas day.   My fourth Christmas without you.   I heard the song,  All I Want For Christmas Is You and thought what I really want is a re-do.   I want to re-do our entire lives.   I want father time to give me the power to turn back the clock to when you and Mike were young boys.   I want to take back this knowledge of how our lives would unravel and redirect our outcome.

I want to go back to the Christmases’ of complete chaos.   The ones when the GI bug hit all of us and we took turns running to the bathroom while we struggled to open presents from Santa.   I want to return to that time in life when Christmas brought great joy to my heart.   Watching both my boys laughing as wrapping paper piled up under the tree.

I want to go back to your teenage years knowing that your career choice would lead to your ultimate death.   I would give up everything to have known that one day your passion for cars would lead to injury that would then turn into a deadly disease.  If only I had the knowledge then that I have now perhaps you would be sharing Christmas with me.

I want to go back to your first surgery and rip that script from your hands.  I want to make the nightmare of your addiction magically disappear.   I want the ghost of Christmas past to come and sweep me away from the reality of Christmas present.   I want to hear the doorbell ring and see you walk in with a wife and kids in tow.   I want to once again watch you and Mike sitting side by side as your tear into festive wrapping paper laughing over the gifts from your crazy mom.   I want to hear your voices, your laughter.   I want pictures showing both my boys together as men.

I want to never take anything for granted.   I would treat every Christmas as if it could be our last together.   Enjoying every moment of chaos.   Every moment of laughter.   I would have hugged you longer.   I would have taken more pictures of us together.   I would have spend more time memorizing your face.

I remember watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with you and Mike.   Never thinking that one day those words so innocently spoken by Charlie Brown would shatter what’s left of my broken heart.   Material things, gifts, and decorations mean nothing when those you love are missing from around the Christmas tree.

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