Two Years Greiving an Overdose Death

“THEY” say… that the second year is the hardest.

So I braced myself.

Stealing the words of my husband, he says, the second year is more reflective.

Does that make it the hardest?

Sometimes I look in the mirror and see my reflection and I am pleased with what I see; and other times, well – you know… I do not like what I see.

So perhaps it is so.

The second year may be deemed the hardest because it is reflective; reflective of both the good and the bad.

We, who grieve an overdose death, know that there are both kinds of memories. The before-drugs-and-addiction-memories and the after-drugs-and-addiction-memories. Built up hopes and dashed hopes follow too. PTSD is residually strong, even with a firm foundation in Jesus Christ.

Two years in, things are changed and being remade. Holes in the walls are patched up, his room is repurposed, his clothes and car have a new owners, and his garden space is reclaimed by nature. One small shelf in the kitchen holds a tiny basket of Caleb’s trinkets, his photo, his Bible, and exudes his constant presence.

Occasionally I flip through his childhood album. I can hear the chuckles and the family babble as I turn each page that reflect the early years of my son’s life. I can feel the energy and surge of pride, passion, and compassion as I turn each page during his athletic accomplishments. I see his heart as I pause at his baptismal page and strain to recall the words he spoke as he commited his life to Jesus. Graduation pictures fill the last pages. Yes, all good memories and tears flow as I wish for a 3-D hug with my son. The before-drugs-and-addiction-memories are so sweet.

Hardest?

Yes, missing the good memories is hardest.

Yet, often, my mind rolls the not-so-good times over and over: the angry, scary, anxious moments, the hurtful, deceived, numbing moments. The things I did, that I thought I would never do moments. These are PTSD fuel. The “what-ifs” and “whys” flood like the 40 days of rain and my raven never seems to come back. Dents in appliances remain as constant reminders of hard times, for him, and for me. Regrets fall like dominoes across my heart: more PTSD fuel. The after-drugs-and-addiction memories are painful.

Hardest?

Yes, reliving the moments that have left scars is the hardest.

All the grace and heartfelt help, spun with urgency and love so deep, built up hope – hope for a redeemed future! The “Mentor” sweatshirt he earned in detox, friends made at the soberhouse, a job with a second chance, and a wedding to attend… hope on the horizon. Faith, that things would work out and that everything-would-be-okay, buoyed me along.

Then all hope was dashed.

Caleb’s own pain, his own suffering weakened him towards relapse; he knew it, he was scared, and the Beast overcame him that one night of mistakes…. despite our prayers and the prayers of many. My son died of an accidental overdose May 27, 2018.

Hardest?

Yes, dashed hopes are hardest.

What now?

A blue heart marks my calendar; one week til I meet the two year mark without my son.

What now?

Will the third year be any different?

I think not. I think every year will be the hardest. What do you think?

Time from here on in will be reflective over both the sweetness and the pain. This is life for me now.

Enduring the hardest times, God is still good and He sustains me and blesses me, even still. All jargon aside, the joy of the Lord is my strength. And so, I live on, taking the love I hold in my heart for Caleb and doing good with it, I hope, to honor his life.

…still loving you deeply, Caleb, til we meet in heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holidays: Not a Time of Cheer for Everyone

Expecting one, who has lost their legs in an accident, to get up and walk like they use to, is ridiculous. They cannot do it – even with all the best wishing in the world – because life for them has been altered forever.

The same is true for every.single.person. who has suffered a tragedy, no matter what it was, or when it was; time makes no difference. Loss from disease or accident, expected or sudden – it does not matter – it’s all the same terrible.

For me, my tragedy is the sudden, unexpected death of my son to an overdose, eighteen months ago. I am altered for life – not just for a time, or a season; Life for me will never be the same. I walk around with a weight that bears down and a hole that has blown through my heart.

The trouble with holidays is that the expectation for everyone to be of good cheer, be happy, and enjoy the season is rampant.

And for some, it is very hard to embrace the holidays where “family all together” carving turkey at the proverbial Norman Rockwell table is thrown in our faces by ads, movies, and the general chatter of the holiday season.

While I am blessed to have a large, living family still gathered around, my momma’s heart weighs heavy… there is still one empty chair, one forever missing in the “family” photo, and one less child eating the traditional Christmas cookies – specifically, the butterscotch ones.

WHAT. TO. DO……?

That’s a question with a two-fold answer.

What to do if you are the friend, or family member, of someone who is not full of cheer and suffers with a broken heart this holiday season: 

  1. Be patient and do not judge when they do not want to attend a christmas tea, or the cookie swap, or even put up a tree.
  2. Extend the offer of conversation, a listening ear, and willingness to just be there alongside; try to understand; allow their feelings to just be.
  3. Do a practical help if possible – doing life is hard under normal day-to-day circumstances when a heart is broken – even more difficult during the holiday season, getting out of bed, some days, might be the total accomplishment for the day.

What to do if you are the one suffering from a tragedy, the same or different, as me:

  1. Have faith, God knows your pain and heartbreak; Trust He will provide all you need.
  2. There’s no way around the holidays – we just have to go through them;  even if you have nothing but tears – let yourself feel what you feel – be true to yourself, but be kind to those around you – it’s no ones fault.
  3. Don’t turn away from well intentioned acts of love; allow God to work in you, as well as in the well intentioned.

 God has not forgotten me, nor has he forgotten you;

“God is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18a

So yeh – Holidays: not a time of cheer for everyone – but I tell you the truth, there is something even better than good cheer, it is knowing that you are loved by God with an everlasting love, no matter what…and in that, there is  HOPE – there for the taking, for everyone.

Be authentic in this season of holidays, Jesus loves, you just as you are.

Are you suffering with grief of one sort or another?

Are you local to the Pioneer Valley?

If so, I invite you to “SONGS for the NIGHT”

(click above, on Songs for the Night, for details)

 

My calendar is marked, is yours?

Why Be Aware of Drug Overdose?

“Someone dies every 14 minutes from drug overdose in this country.”

My son, Caleb, was one of them; He died of an overdose in May of 2018.

So….Why be aware of drug overdose?

I tell you the truth – no one is immune from this epidemic;

don’t be lulled into false security thinking: “this will never happen to my family…”

Because that’s what I thought… that’s what many other mothers who grieve their son’s and daughter’s thought… none of us ever wanted to be in this grieving-an-overdose-death-club.  I know my son did not want to overdose… he had plans for his life – but they were altered by one mistake, one night.

I want you to know that overdoses happen to good, kind, lovable people, like my son; too often, overdose is fatal.

I want you to know that some people are lucky to survive overdose and have a second chance at life; Evan, one of my son’s sober house buddy’s, is one of these survivors.

He says, “waking up from an overdose is probably one of the worst things you can experience…It’s so scary… it takes me a little while to cool down and come to reality and appreciate that I’m alive and apologize to whoever cared about me… All I can say is be grateful for the life that you have.”

So… you may ask…why does someone overdose?

Evan shares, “I would have to say depression and or heartbreak, stress (is what) pushed me to my limits… I (knew I ) had a way out of all this by using drugs as an escape.” I can concur, because I know my son suffered from these ailments as well and am certain that his feelings of despair drove him to relapse after 5 months of clean time.

So… what’s one thing you can do to fight this epidemic of overdose death?

Know what Narcan is and get trained in how to use it and have it on hand at all times.

Caleb’s good friend, Allison, came to a Narcan training during a local Vigil event put on by the local Sober house, Honest Beginnings and SOAAR group a few months after my son’s death. After making a luminary to honor my son, Allison was trained and equipped with Narcan – did she think she’d have to actually ever use it?  Hear her story from this past school year:

It was a weeknight at 9pm on my college campus here in Western Mass. Not the time that anyone would expect to need Narcan. I definitely didn’t….I was walking home (after doing homework with a friend). I heard someone yelling for help down the road. I went to check it out and it was two college aged guys. One was on the ground. He was really cold and clammy. His breaths were really short. I recognized these as symptoms of a possible overdose….I told him to call 911 while I went to my car to get Narcan. I gave it to the guy on the ground and the ambulance showed up not too long after. I honestly do not know what happened after that, but I do know that I am incredibly happy that I had the Narcan and that I had been trained to use it.”

Allison’s personal message to everyone:

I hope that someday there will be no need for Narcan, but until that day, everyone should have it and know how to use it. I also hope that some day the stigma will be gone so people can ask for help without worrying about the backlash.”

Get trained in Narcan and know how to use it… you could save a life!

Mostly, I want you to know that so many people suffer from all kinds of things and feel hopeless and helpless. Not everyone has the support systems they need, nor does everyone have the inner strength to choose the better ways of dealing with struggles and hurts and scars and they do make the mistake of using a substance to soothe their pains – this does not make them bad people or ones to be afraid of or shunned.

So, I urge everyone to value all life and show love to everyone… it is the second greatest command after loving God;

He says: love others.

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

Not some others, not the others that are likeable and most like yourself…  no…  love others – all the others.

What’s this got to do with overdose?

Maybe, just maybe if we as a people can master just these two commands of God, then maybe Allison could see her hopes come true – a time when there would be no need for Narcan – a time when all stigma is gone and people can feel free to ask for help.

Just maybe…

Do your part to soberly respect Overdose Awareness Month (August):

Be educated, get trained in Narcan & have it on hand, and LOVE OTHERS… really.