This first appeared on Open To Hope March 20, 2009.
“My son died of a drug overdose.” This is one of the most difficult sentences I have ever spoken in my life. Every time I opened my mouth to speak these words, my throat felt as though it was closing. I wanted to be truthful about his death in the hope that someone else could benefit from this tragedy. I also felt I owed it to family members to be honest with myself and with others. Oh, but the pain was so deep and heavy.
There were times I privately wished the cause of death had been different. I imagined another cause would not have had the same level of shame and guilt attached. I wondered if perhaps I would not have felt the same level of isolation if the cause had been different.
I now believe that no matter the cause of death, the pain of losing a child is basically the same for all parents. With this in mind, I believe we each must learn to process the factors that make our loss unique.
Five years before Clint’s death, we battled the challenges and struggles that come along with a mental illness and drug addiction. Our lives were turned upside down with chaos and confusion. Soon after my son’s death, it seemed I could only recall every argument we had ever experienced. The tapes continued to play in my head, each time finding a decision I now questioned.
These thoughts added to my pain. Weeks grew into months and I continued to view myself as the worst mother on earth. I couldn’t remember anything positive I had ever done. I heard that talking and sharing were an important part of the healing process. Yet, I held all these thoughts inside. I was so ashamed; how could I share these feelings with anyone?
I remember rejecting my first positive memory. Then I realized how unfair I was being with myself. From that moment forward, when a negative memory came to mind, I forced myself to recall a positive memory from our history as mother and child.
Soon I began to accept the truth; we had shared far more wonderful memories than negative ones. And most of all that even during the difficult times, we were being a typical family responding typically to a stressful situation. Slowly, I began to understand that each of us had done the best we could with what we knew and understood at the time. It was unfair to judge myself with any new information I had gathered after his death.
Eventually, I found my voice along with a level of peace. I no longer feel the same anger and guilt. I know that had Clint lived and matured, we would have worked past our struggles. Now, it was up to me to work past these for both of us. I am learning that with time and healing, I can honor all my feelings. Drugs are no longer in the forefront of the memories of my precious son. My son’s life was more than the way he died.
Written in loving memory of our son, Clint.