Mothers are not supposed to bury their children. It goes against nature. When a mother loses her young, the world slips off its axis and spins out of control. The universe mourns knowing it has gone against the circle of life, children should bury their mothers, not the other way around.
Yet every day, another mother joins my club. The club of the brokenhearted, the club every mother prays to avoid. The club where one day you were whole and the next broken beyond repair. Breath and joy have been sucked out of your body and replaced with a pain so powerful, your soul is lost in the grief. Your world shattered beyond repair. Your child is gone. A victim of a horrible disease. A misunderstood, mistreated disease. The disease that marked them as unworthy and disposable. The disease of addiction.
Your grief is never ending. It begins as you wake and follows you like a lost puppy throughout the day. It crawls into bed with you at night and wraps its arms around your heart. Brief sleep is your only respite. Dreams of your child may come and comfort your heart but when you wake the nightmare of your life begins anew. They are your last thought before closing your eyes and the first thought as you awaken. Your child is gone and you remain unable to be comforted.
Your days are now counted out in weeks and months. Last words, hugs and I love you’s are forever burned into your brain. Little things; reminders of your child can take your breath away without warning. A trip to the grocery store can throw you into a tailspin and leave you struggling to breathe. A bag of chips, a can of Beefaroni, a smell. You find even the smallest things difficult as your mind remains in shock. Your brain refuses to believe that your child is really gone, knowing that reality will take you to a place of no return. It tricks you into believing they are just away. Things will return to normal when they return home from the beach or treatment. Your body hurts. Physical pain becomes a part of daily living. There are days you feel like you are slowly losing your mind.
Your days are spent questioning every decision. You wonder what if. What if I forced him/her into rehab? What if I paid more attention? What if I brought him/her home? You battle guilt every day. It seeps quietly into your soul. You relive childhood moments and wonder if you were too harsh, if you loved enough. You sift through memories with a fine tooth comb, looking for answers to questions that will never be found. Arguments replay over and over in your mind. You remember and pick apart every word. Things said and those unsaid whirl through your mind. Your brain has become the enemy, refusing to quiet. Wishing with every fiber of your being for a do over. Hindsight, slaps your face daily. Knowing what you know now, knowing what you would have done differently. Mothers protect their children. You were unable to protect your child against the demons more powerful than a mothers love.
If you believe, you pray. Every morning and every night. Praying that you are forgiven. Praying for acceptance, peace, guidance and strength. You ask for signs that your child is finally at peace. Their bodies are whole and healthy. Their brains no longer tortured by the demon cravings they were unable to escape while alive. You look to the sky into the clouds yearning to see something that will give you a sense of peace. Cardinals in your yard have new meaning. A song, a sunset, clouds that resemble an angel flood your heart with waves of hope that your child is safe and in a better place.
Your bookshelves now hold books you never thought you would ever need or receive. Books on losing a child. Books on stages of grief and how to survive each one. Books no mother should ever need to touch or read. Books written by authors who have survived near death experiences and tell of bright light and vivid colors. Of peace, happiness and beautiful music. Stories of feeling great love and feelings of being with family. No pain, no fear, not wanting to return to their battered bodies. Just a peace they never experienced on earth. Books on the afterlife become your bible as you search for answers to the unknown.
Your truth is you want them back. Living the roller coaster, chaotic life of loving an addict is far better than your reality. The lies, stealing and everyday chaos seem like a walk in the park when compared to the endless grief that surrounds your world. You dream of a future that will never be. Meeting girlfriends who become wives. Weddings and birthdays and babies you will never hold in your arms. You close your eyes and go to a world where your heart doesn’t hurt. Even for a little while you allow yourself the luxury of a dream. Your world of what if – giving you a temporary reprieve from heart ache.
Holidays and birthdays now come with gut punches. You’ve learned how to avoid the parties. Other mother’s plans remind you of your loss now that your family is broken. Old traditions are too painful to continue and new traditions feel like a betrayal to your child. Family pictures are now missing the face you long to see. Your mind tells you to move on but your heart says no.
Friends have gone back to their lives – back to their living children. Their calls and visits become less frequent leaving you alone with your grief. You learn that being alone is better than feeling like a stranger in a room full of people who are afraid to look your way. Afraid to speak your child’s name. Afraid that someday they will be you. Their excuse of not knowing what to say gets old as you learn to accept your solitude. True friends shine like diamonds on your dark days and you can count them on one hand.
You are trying to find new meaning for your life now that loss has left a void as deep as the ocean. Your time was spent trying to save your child. You are angry and battle acceptance. The stages of grief warn you that these feelings will come. Your anger is directed not toward your child but toward the stigma that continues to follow your grief – the stigma that shows on the faces of people when they hear the word overdose. Not sympathy but accusatory looks as if you caused the disease. You refuse to accept their ignorance. They run away not wanting it to touch their lives. You are the black sheep in the flock. Your reality is their nightmare.
Your anger becomes your strength and your loss becomes your passion. You find a voice you never knew existed. Your soul comes alive fueling itself off your grief as pain pushes you toward a path that becomes your new purpose. Your journey is to honor your child. To fight against the system that broke, then killed you both. To prevent another mother’s heartbreak, your hands on education makes you an expert in this disease. You are the mother of all mothers yet you loved and still lost your child. You are their voice, their warrior. Their fight is over. Yours has begun. You are the mother of an addict. You will not be silenced.
A version of this appeared on http://www.magnolianewbeginnings.org/