Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, December 10, 2016

When a Mother Dies...


My nieces and nephew are hurting now. Their mother, my x-sister-in-law, just died after a long struggle in Hospice that has been hard on everyone who loved her. And I’ve been debating whether or not to write about her years of on again, off again addiction to prescription pain medications. On one hand, it’s not my story to tell but on the other hand it’s not a secret. People who matter to my nieces and nephews already know and others who might not know will never in a hundred years find my blog. The tipping point was I decided that if everyone who knows someone who is a part of this national epidemic would put a face on the statistics maybe it will help the push to get the laws passed to do something about it. My x-sister-in-law was not one of 18,000 who die every year from prescription opioid pain medication overdoses but she came close a few times.

I’ve known ML since I was thirteen or fourteen when she started dating my older brother. Her home life was tumultuous but she sure knew how to have fun. She was cute, bubbly, and full of energy, a cheerleader and loved being the center of attention. My first real memory of ML dates back to a walk we took to a store two miles from our cottage when she explained in vivid detail what happens when the birds and bees get together and make a baby. She thought it was hilarious that: 1) I didn’t already know the facts of life and, 2) I didn’t believe her.

The year my brother graduated from high school he and ML were married in a lovely but quickly put together church wedding then they moved into our cottage. It didn’t have central heat or indoor plumbing and it was the middle of the winter. They planned wisely and worked hard in their early years together. They bought a piece of wooded property, built a small house inside of what would later become a two stall garage. Stage two was they added a breezeway/temporary master bedroom. With their own hands and a lot of help from my dad they went on to build stage three: a beautiful, two story house that was finished several years after their third and last child came alone. ML was a hard worker, a good cook and my best holiday memories stem from the parties at that house on the curve. Half through their nearly twenty years of marriage ML went to cosmetology school and opened up a hair salon in their former breezeway and she had quite a following. From the outside looking in anyone would think they were happy, but there was trouble brewing underneath---much of which, in my opinion, stemmed from my x-sister-in-law’s dark childhood experiences that got in the way of her placing full value on herself and her accomplishments and left a hole in her core that could never be filled.

Long story short, somewhere along the line after the divorce ML got injured. Maybe it happened when she was working as an aid in a nursing home---I don’t remember---but after a surgery or two she got hooked on prescription pain medications and she got caught doctor shopping in four counties who’d all write prescriptions for what she craved. She tried it all to get clean---drug rehab, support meetings, counseling but it never lasted for very many years before she’d find herself back in same cycle of addiction. My firsthand knowledge during those years is limited because the only time I’d see my x-sister-in-law was at weddings, graduations, funerals and baby showers, but ML once told one of her daughters that she could convince any doctor she had a condition that required a strong pain medication and I don’t doubt that. Who would guess that an average, middle class working woman would lie about something like that? But at least one doctor in very recent years plainly didn’t care if she was. The number of overlapping prescriptions he wrote for her was certainly unethical if not outright criminal.

ML’s yo-yo of addiction and getting clean took its toll on her over-all health and her family. Still, there was so much in her life that was good and worthy of pride besides the fact that she and my brother produced three amazing kids who she loved. ML could be funny, fun, compassionate and resourceful. She was smart and gave her full measure at any work or play situation she tackled. She also loved deer hunting, fishing, her dogs and chickens, her little house on a lake and her second husband. My x-sister-in-law was a complex person full of dichotomies and it’s a darn shame her life story needs to include a chapter on prescription drug addiction. It was a part of her, but not the whole of her…and here's what society needs to understand about people who abuse pain medications: It can happen to anyone and you could know someone right now who is hiding a secret life of addiction.

For me, I’ll remember ML warmly for those years when the house was going up, when the kids were growing up and for holiday times when she filled their house with traditions and laughter. She was loved and my heart aches for everyone whose life she touched...including my own.  ©

24 comments:

  1. Jean R. - my condolences for your loss.

    You've written a wonderful eulogy for ML. I found it very moving, The change from a young lively girl, to an older lady with problems. There but for the grace of God can be any one of us.

    Please take care of yourself. I hope you have warm, friendly company in the coming days. It seems to hit harder when the weather is cold and bleak. ~ Libby

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    1. Thank you. Her kids won't likely see it but I hope they would think the same. It's hard to sum up a person's life in under 1,000 words but this is the forth time I've done it. It helps me process, I think.

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  2. So sorry for your family's loss. Such a tragedy. :(

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  3. Thanks for sharing. Addiction hits every age, every background ... rich or poor. People with horrible childhoods and people with perfect childhoods. It's much harder on the family and friends, in my opinion. And it is easy to get addicted. I have family and friends who are addicts or recovering addicts. It is not easy to stop ...

    Your sharing WILL help bring attention to this horrible epidemic. Thanks again

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    1. Coming from you, that means a lot! Hugs back at you.

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  4. I had a friend, a nurse, who fought addiction and eventually died of an overdose, leaving a husband and two young children. It was a sad story. People are complex and their lives and stories are never about just one thing. They often put a lot of good into the world before and in between their bouts with addiction. I'm sorry for your loss and for your nieces and nephew.

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    1. Addicted nurses are the scariest. I hear tales of them stealing drugs from their patients. But you said what I was trying to convey only you said it better with far fewer words.

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  5. I noticed your reference to the doctor who wrote overlapping prescriptions. While not addicted, my own mother suffered at the hands of a doctor who kept writing prescriptions without any consideration for interactions, and without ever taking her off any of them. A new doctor cleaned things up -- happily, before addiction took hold.

    Addiction is such a complicated thing, and can consume even the best people. You've told ML's story beautifully. It's entirely possible that every one of us is acquainted with someone enduring the same struggle -- and we don't even know it.

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    1. Unfortunately what happened to you mother is all too common, judging by the stories I hear at the senior hall. I'm glad you found her a new doctor.

      I can't even leave coffee and chocolate alone, I can't imagine how hard it is to shake something truly addictive.

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  6. What a really real and stirring tribute to ML's multidimensionality. I am so sorry for your loss. It really does help to emphasize that addicts can be amazing, loving people, just crippled, in a lot of private pain. As for whether to reveal something; the truth really helps people. The timing is something you will sense. One reason I haven't shared with anybody but a select few that my husband was an addict (who got into an on again off again on again recovery after I staged an intervention), is that people could see the label and not the loving person he was. So I honor my late husband by keeping his private pain private, and thanking God that he knows peace now in the hereafter, where he is free from his pain. Sharing this hope for him brings tears to my eyes. So many of us are afflicted, or know people who are. I'm sure whatever you decide will be a help to your nieces and nephew.

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    1. I've been reading your blog---what, a couple of years now and I didn't picked up on what you've shared here. Thank you for doing that. The multi-dimensionality of of ML is what I hoped would come through, I'm glad you noticed that and can relate.

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  7. Sorry for the loss, ML sounds more like a friend than an ex SIL. We all travel different roads, who is to say what other demons she met along the way. I'm sure her children are devastated.
    Hugs.

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    1. Her youngest daughter lost her father-in-law the day before and all three kids lost an uncle 2-3 days before their mother died. That's a lot of grief to deal with.

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  8. I'm sorry for your loss, as well as your nices and nephews. I hope her children are older, not that losing a parent at any time is easy. I just know losing mine at 13 wasn't easy. I wish you all the best.

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    1. Thank you, the kids are all adults who within the last two years became grandparents for the first time. I lost my mother at 41 and it took my three years to make peace with it.

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  9. The best tribute you can give your sister-in-law is to tell her story. Only when these kind of stories are out of the shadows can we hope to find solutions. Wasn't Betty Ford also addicted to prescription pain medications?

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    1. I think, hope you are right which is why I wrote this.

      I don't remember what all Betty Ford was addicted to, you very well might be right. She sure opened up a dialogue.

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  10. What an honest, respectful, and loving tribute to ML. We too easily write people off when the "addiction" label gets hung on them. Everyone is a full person and who is not defined only by that which challenges us, but also by every every other aspect of who we are.

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    1. I hope I did, I don't want people to think that she was ever like the stereotyped, non-productive kind of addict so often shown on TV. She wasn't.

      I've been reading all the Facebook comments about ML and what stands out the most is how may people remember her for her smile and the fun that would take place when she was in the room.

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  11. My condolences for your loss Jean. Unfortunately those pills can create a mess in peoples lives. It's her children who are hurting today.
    My mom died three years ago. Good God it's been that long and I still feel it;s just like yesterday especially since my aunt died a week ago. I realize that we can't live forever but as I have a birthday each year, I think about my past. I think I told you before my friend, that I live only for each day. Yes, I can plan for the future but each day is what's important to me. Getting up seeing the bright sun ( unfortunately not today because of the snow )and saying my prayers at night thanking God for him allowing my day. I don't feel any excitement any more only thankfulness for enjoying each day and all the great friends like you that I have in my life.
    Well Jean it's time to go to bed. I'm very tired especially since I was outside shoveling ( not a lot, thank God my neighbor came over a did most of it ).
    Have a wonderful Monday my friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Thank you Paul. It's a real blessing that you can say you still enjoy each day. You and your wife as lucky.

      I shoveled a lot of snow today, too. I can't believe it's just the beginning of winter and a lot of shoveling.

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  12. She sounds like a lovely woman. Sometimes, pain meds make the hurting world easier to live in.

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    1. Nothing can make some people's pain go away.

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