Bereaved Parents, drug overdose

The (Formerly) Silent Men and (Formerly) Talkative Women of My Grief Group

by Fran Gerstein

I facilitate a group for parents who have lost children to drugs and alcohol. The stated purpose of this group is to offer support and insight regarding the grief process.

Fran Gerstein and her son, Daniel
Fran Gerstein and her son, Daniel

Initially, my group had only one member named Annie. It seemed it might just be the two of us indefinitely. Each week I would greet her by saying “Hello Group” and she would greet me in kind. She and I had a contract – I agreed to run the group if she showed up and she agreed to show up if I ran it. Because it was only the two of us, we got to know each other pretty quickly. Rather than my taking a classical group therapist role with her, I opted for a supportive role since we were in the same boat. She shared her grief experience and I shared mine. We talked our heads off like many women do. Continue reading “The (Formerly) Silent Men and (Formerly) Talkative Women of My Grief Group”

Bereaved Parents, drug overdose

Armen Bacon: My 10-year tour of ‘Griefland’

The Fresno Bee
July 19, 2014

Alex and Armen Bacon
Alex and Armen Bacon

On the street, there are only a few signs of life this morning. I am awake early, a night of tossing and turning. Insomnia, I guess. It’s “that” time of year. I walk outside to get the morning paper, greeted by a pair of doves collecting twigs to build a nest. This gives me reason to smile on an otherwise uncertain day.

Caught in my annual grief relapse, tethered to that moment in time when everything in our lives changed, I wonder how can it be 10 years, an entire decade since we lost our son, Alex. Friends have been especially kind lately, knowing the day was approaching, going out of their way to send cards filled with love messages, texts that read, “Thinking of you.” Many, I imagine, are silently quizzing themselves about how we will cope, manage, on such an unhappy anniversary. Continue reading “Armen Bacon: My 10-year tour of ‘Griefland’”

Bereaved Parents, drug overdose

Spring is in the Air…and It Feels like a Million Knives Hitting Me All At Once

by Nancy Miller

Nancy MillerSpring is already here again, the sixth one since my daughter Rachel died on Christmas night, 2008 of a drug overdose. It’s one of those seasons that smells of renewal, life moving forward, death falling away, and the whole world is reborn.  But those of us who are continually grieving don’t find solace in spring…it often accentuates our heartache, magnifying the feelings of loss and yearning. That wanting, wanting and never having again. The emptiness, the ever-present longing. 

This last weekend my husband took me to a nursery to buy annuals to plant in our garden. A simple and fun journey that we look forward to every spring. When we got there, I wandered in and out of the aisles of flowers, and into a gift shop that had angels and plaques for sale, saying, “Beloved Daughter.” People do this more frequently now, create shrines in their gardens commemorating the person who is lost to them, but it sent me spiraling like an out of control Frisbee. And not in a good direction.  I felt lost, panic stricken. My husband found me and tried to calm me down.  Continue reading “Spring is in the Air…and It Feels like a Million Knives Hitting Me All At Once”

Bereaved Parents, drug overdose

For the Love of Daniel

by Ann Goffe

Daniel rockMy son Daniel was a walking enigma, a charismatic bundle of contradictions. He lived his life with the sensitivity of an angel and the self-destructiveness of a demon. By his early teens he was diagnosed with bi-polar and anxiety disorders, ADD (attention deficit disorder), and alcohol dependency. By his late teens,  he was a high school dropout and an opiate addict. To the world he bore all the trappings of failure. But to his close-knit, far-flung friends he was a legend and a star, an irreplaceable, unforgettable friend.

Daniel died from a drug overdose on the night of June 21, 2011. If it was before midnight, he left on the last day of spring. If it was in the early hours, it was the first day of summer. Either one feels appropriate and poignant. He was 23 years old. Continue reading “For the Love of Daniel”

Bereaved Parents, drug overdose

What the Hell? Day One (heroin overdose)

by Denise Smyth

23-Smyth-done-vig. FB_WEB-1
Philip Smyth
1/20/1991 – 2/23/2012

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 – Sometime around 4:00 in the afternoon, while I was at work, Natalie called. “Mom,” she said, “Philip was supposed to meet me for lunch, but he didn’t show. What the hell??” “Oh,” I answered, “That’s weird. Well, you call him and I’ll call him and whoever hears from him first’ll tell him to call the other one.”

“What if he’s dead?”

I laughed. He’s not dead, I told her. She is a worrier; I am not. At least when it comes to my kids. I am the only parent I know who handed over the car keys and didn’t then picture my children splattered all over the road. Money, getting fat, dying without a significant other – these are the things I sometimes torture myself about. But my kids – I have faith in them, in their well-being. That might sound odd, worrying about the small stuff, but not my kids, who are the Big Stuff. Like, the REALLY Big Stuff. The Biggest Stuff  EVER. But it’s not odd, not at all. It is precisely because of their Big-ness that I do not worry. I wouldn’t know how to picture my life without them, any more than I could picture my life without air, without the sun or the moon or the stars. All of which are always there, whether I can see them or not.

Whether I can see them or not.

I see no irony in this, in spite of what happened. Worrying prevents nothing. It just makes you miserable before the inevitable. Continue reading “What the Hell? Day One (heroin overdose)”

Bereaved Parents, drug overdose

Authors Face Loss of Their Children

by Rick Bentley – The Fresno Bee
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 | 12:00

Book Cover 250XOn Oct. 2, local communications administrator Armen Bacon and former Fresno State English instructor Nancy Miller released “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss, and Unlikely Friendship” (Globe Pequot Press, $19.95), a series of 27 essays about how they dealt with the grief that followed the death of their children. Bacon’s son, Alex, died in 2004 from a drug overdose; Miller’s daughter, Rachel, died four years later, also from an overdose.

“After my son died in 2004, I was writing for my life. It was a catalyst for everything I was writing. I got a call from a friend at Fresno State who had a friend whose daughter died on Christmas Day. They knew I was navigating through the grief and asked if I would make contact with her,” Bacon says.

Bacon sent Miller an email message: “Even though I don’t know you, I feel an urge to wrap my arms around you … I promise we will just be two women coming together in this moment of darkness, a place I’ve come to call Griefland. I’ve been living here for four years, so I’ll show you around.” Continue reading “Authors Face Loss of Their Children”

Bereaved Parents, drug overdose

Griefland ~ Armen’s Story (drug overdose)

by Armen Bacon

Armen BaconWhen I close my eyes, I see Alex as a toddler in his Superman cape, twirling in the sunlight, giggling, laughing, befriending lizards, iguanas, spiders, stray dogs. I see him in his wetsuit, boogey boarding, jumping waves 10 times his size. He loved our family summers at the beach. He also knew the entire Michael Jackson Thriller choreography by heart – and delighted in being scared. He adored his sister, Danielle, his girlfriend, Jessica, video games, and our cats Cozette, Shanghai and Punjetta. He had a sweet tooth for miniature marshmallows, raw cookie dough, tapioca pudding – anything made from a batter. He was my sous-chef, my Cool Whip kid. Not too long ago, someone suggested perhaps sugar was his first addiction. You know, during those last few months before we lost him, I knew he was treading water in the deep end, drowning, and I felt as if I were watching him – only my feet were planted in cement and I couldn’t reach him. A mother knows. Continue reading “Griefland ~ Armen’s Story (drug overdose)”