Losing a child to a prescription drug overdose…putting words to this horrific nightmare is today’s guest author, MaryBeth Cichocki. MaryBeth wrote this post in response to the outpouring of feelings shared by readers of her earlier post, “Coping With a Son’s Death by Drug Overdose.”
MaryBeth Cichocki is a registered nurse living in the state of Delaware. She lost her youngest son, Matt, to an overdose of prescription drugs on January 3rd 2015. After his death she was unable to return to her world of taking care of critically ill babies in the N.I.C.U. She now devotes her time to raising awareness and educating the community on the addictive nature of prescription drugs. She started writing a blog shortly after Matt died titled, Mothers Heart Break, which she shares on her Facebook page of the same name. MaryBeth has written many articles on the disease of addiction and its impact on families. She has been published in The Hill, The Huffington Post, The Fix, The Addict’s Mom, Addiction Unscripted and countless others. She has testified in her state’s Capitol during the Joint Finance Committee hearings, sharing her story of the difficulty she experienced while trying to find comprehensive treatment for her adult son during his addiction. She has spent time trying to secure additional funding for those suffering from Substance Use Disorder living in her state.
“Hate the disease, love the addict. Addiction is the only disease you get punished for having,” says MaryBeth.
Losing a Child to a Drug Overdose – The Grieving Hearts Club by MaryBeth Cichocki
Some things in life go against nature. Burying your child is the greatest of them. Losing your child goes against the cycle of life. Children should live on holding our hand as we say goodbye, not the other way around. Losing a child changes everything. Life is now unbalanced. Everything now spinning out of control. Hopes and dreams shattered at your feet. What you thought could never happen has happened sucking the joy out of your life and replacing it was a grief so profound it takes your breath away.
Everyday this club adds more members. Mothers like me, now stuck in the fog of disbelief. Mothers who did everything in their power to avoid membership to this group are now bonded by a grief like none other. A grief so powerful and unending it captures your soul and sends it spiraling to the ground. Life is now in pieces. You walk through days feeling lost. You have become the walking dead. Your grief wraps its arms around your heart and refuses to let it go.
In the beginning your mind fills with disbelief. Shielding you from the harsh reality that you now call life. Your brain stays shrouded in fog so thick seeing beyond its walls is impossible. Then it hits like a slap so hard you are left breathless and on your knees. Your child is dead. A victim of a horrible disease. This disease marked them as disposable, a burden to society. Your child died from the disease of addiction.
Your grief is palpable. It courses through your veins like blood. It is never ending. Brief sleep is your only respite. Your dreams of happier days may come and comfort your heart, but when you wake reality is waiting. Your child is dead, ripped from your life. You remain unable to find comfort.
Your days are spend praying for a re-do. You question every decision ever made. You battle the guilt that seeps into your brain as you rethink every word you spoke or action you took. Conversations with your child are now burned into your brain. Last hugs and I love you’s feed your soul. Little things that remind you of your child bring you to your knees. A bag of chips they loved, a smell, last pictures leave you struggling to breathe. Your brain refuses to let you believe your child is really gone. Noting that the reality of your loss will take you to a place of no return. Physical pain becomes a part of daily living. There are days you feel like you are slowly losing your mind.
If you believe, you pray. Every morning and every night. Praying for forgiveness, acceptance and guidance. You pray that their bodies are whole and healthy. Their brains no longer tortured by the demon cravings they were unable to escape while alive. You ask for signs. 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, no 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. You would give your life in exchange for theirs. You realize that 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’s gives you a temporary reprieve from your broken world.
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. Your family now broken. Old traditions are too painful to continue. 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 doesn’t know how.
Friends have returned to their lives. Back to their living children. Their calls and visits become less frequent leaving you alone with your grief. They say it’s been…..you should be doing. They break your already broken heart. Your pain is too much for them. They can only come around if you get happy. 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 know your grief. The 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. You can count them on one hand.
You are trying to find a new meaning to life. Your 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. No sympathy just accusatory looks as if you caused the disease. As if your child’s dream was to grow up to become an addict. You refuse to accept their ignorance.
Your anger fuels your strength. Your loss becomes a passion. You find a voice you never knew existed. Your soul comes alive using your grief as a tool. Your pain pushes you toward a path that becomes your new purpose. Your journey is to honor your child. To educate the public about this misunderstood disease. To make changes in the broken system that helped kill your child. To prevent another mother’s heartbreak. You received an education you didn’t sign up for. You are the mother of all mothers. You loved and lost your addicted child. You are their voice. You are their warrior. Their fight is over. Yours has begun. You are the mother of an addict. You will not be silenced. In you they will live on forever.