When my youngest daughter was actively using heroin, the holidays were difficult. Mother’s Day was, by far, the prize winner. I spent the day dwelling on the possibility that I might never have a Mother’s Day with all of my children by my side; the reward for having dried oceans of tears, wiped noses and butts, and attended every type of game or performance imaginable. Having raised four children I found it impossible to enjoy the other three knowing that one of them may not be alive at that time next year.
I was not over reacting. I had watched the previous year as mother after mother lost her child. I went to funerals and hugged broken families and whispered the same meaningless expressions of sympathy, where no words suffice. Helpless to offer comfort for which there is no comfort. My own fears of possible loss reinforced.
A very wise woman who I look to like a mother now that my own is gone told me once, “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.” It was painfully true.
So many years later I am blessed that I will spend time with my beautiful daughter and enjoy my other children. That fear of her not being here next year is all but gone, replaced by the normal fears of an ordinary mother who worries too much, making her text me when she goes home from my house, as well as the occasional fear of avalanches, alien abductions and myriad of other things that defy reality. I look back and wish I had spent more time enjoying my other children over the years on this day because the truth of the matter is that, although when we exist in the hell of active addiction, our chances of loss are exponentially increased, we are not promised any more than the minute we exist in with anyone.
So, if you are lucky enough to have your children healthy, try not to spend too much time worrying about what might happen tomorrow. Live in this moment, even if just for today.
If your child is struggling or you are missing a child today for any reason and you have other children, remember that they didn’t ask for this any more than you did. Try to count your blessings rather than your heartaches. They need you and you need them.
If your only child is out there somewhere and you are living in the terror, a feeling I will never forget, try to take a few minutes and do something nice for yourself. For me that always meant a pint of Ben and Jerrys, but do what makes you happy. You deserve it. Try to be hopeful too, because this time next year you might be, like me, celebrating with your child who looks a lot better than you ever dared to dream.
And for all of us, pick up the phone, text, email or send some flowers to the mother that has lost her child due to addiction or any other reason. Ask her if she wants to get out for a while. Don’t assume you know she wants to be alone. We never know what someone else needs. Ask! Then be there. Listen to her stories if she wants to talk. Call her child by their name. The women that have paid the ultimate price, many of them mother to their own grandchildren, deserve a day to celebrate themselves and all that they have been through.
I carry you all in my heart. God bless and Happy Mother’s Day to us all.
– Maureen Cavanagh
I wrote for myself and a small group that read my blog. There was always hope that I’d eventually write and be read by more than just a few friends.
Tomorrow in the Sunday New York Times my book “If you love me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Opioid Addiction” will be reviewed.
Never give up hope. 💕🐞
the opioid crisis rages on, grim stories of death and tragedy have become commonplace. (During the same four-year span between the development of Kaitlin’s addiction and her arrest, opioid-related deaths tripled in the the U.S. They now rank higher than gunshot and automobile-related deaths. The problem is particularly grave in Massachusetts; in 2016, opioid deaths in the state rose by a steep 16 percent from 2015.) But the ripple effect on addicts’ families gets lost in the headlines. For tens of thousands of parents, the opioid epidemic has impacted their lives in ways they could never imagine. As their children battle substance abuse disorders, many parents hand their own lives over to the rollercoaster of addiction. They throw their energy into finding treatment centers, attending court dates, agonizing over whether to support or cut off their children, and helping their children reintegrate into their normal lives during recovery. They take in and raise their grandchildren. And like Cavanagh, they’re looking for a place to empathize with others who’ve been through similar experiences.
“The revolution began by breaking the silence. Silence equals death. My silence is over. I choose life.” Elias Altman
The correlation between sexual abuse and alcohol won’t surprise anyone, both as an escape from the trauma, and too often, a precursor to the abuse. I am so very proud to know this brave man who felt the need to break the silence, both to free himself, and to open the door for others to realize that we live in the prison of our own misplaced shame, As he says, “silence equals death.”
By Deb Whittam
It was a well-worn path; she had walked it a thousand times. When the sun shone she had meandered down its length, enjoying the warmth as she admired the flowers blooms. She had cursed when the rain came teeming down, hurrying down this treacherous path clutching her precious load to her chest as she slipped on the uneven cobblestones.
Sometimes in her more philosophical moments she believed that this daily walk encompassed her whole existence. It was the measure of her joy, heartache, despair, even resignation but then reality forced her to concede she was only hanging out the washing.
I resolve to take back the remnants of my life, and then it happens- in the shifting swiftness of everything, cyclone-like, pulling me into the center of the chaos without a chance to grasp on to myself- I plummet, head-first, all too often, into the lives of everyone, patching their open wounds with fragments of myself, oblivious that this is in fact my choice to wear their scars inside. I look for pieces of me, familiar things that I’d recognize to grab onto, like an amnesiac trying to recall who they are, but I remember only me in relation to them; so little of me anymore and so much of them. I promise that this is the last time and I brace myself against the next storm. Temporarily the whirling stops and for a moment, I forget that this is my life.
There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go.
A child has died. Not my child, but the child of a friend. Technically, he was no longer a child. But still, he was her child. She was supposed to have her child forever. Except forever didn’t last.
I didn’t know this young man. My friend’s son. I don’t know if he liked basketball or if he wore his hair parted on the side or how he preferred his steak cooked or on what day he was born. My arms don’t cuddle the memory of his tiny heft and softness as though years haven’t flown by since his birth. I don’t know the feel of his hand — if it was calloused or smooth — or the sound of his voice curled around the name Mom. Like silk. Or wind. Or leather.
No, I don’t know the things, the essence, the him that filled the space in his mother’s universe…
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