Nona Perdue

Nona’s son, Drew, died of an overdose on Christmas Eve 2017; her mother died exactly eight months later. Nona describes the challenges of grieving a stigmatized loss and how her grief for her mother differs from that of her son. She says even the smallest gestures can bring a huge amount of comfort to someone who’s grieving.

My son.

I really had no idea how heavy grief is. It’s heavy.

In the beginning, it was so brutal. It was hard just to function.

Losing someone to an overdose, colors your grief in the way of you have this extra baggage that you carry. The three words that come to my mind or judgment, stigma, and guilt.

When someone dies of cancer, which is also a disease, we don’t have those same associations. The stigma that’s associated with addiction and the guilt that I felt as a parent, not being able to help him, right? Feeling that I could have done more. So there’s that added baggage that you carry around.

When good things happen in your life, they don’t necessarily cancel out something else that has happened. We’ve had a really joyful event in our lives because my daughter has a new baby and she carries Drew’s name as her middle name. The baby, and that joy, is healing in some way, however, joy like that really cracks your heart open and you feel the grief even more. It’s like the more joy you can hold, you know, the more grief you can hold, too.

Although I still grieve my losses, I will say that the weight has lightened. For me, what has made it easier is getting to a place where I know that I still have a relationship with my son. I believe that nothing can separate us. Death can’t separate us. Drew - is in God. God is in Drew. I am in God, God is in me. Drew and I are together. And I think that we are eternally connected. I just wish he was here.

Play Video placeholderNona Perdue: Acknowledging How Drew Died

My pastor did not overlook that fact. However, he, he did not let that define Drew, which it did not define him. Um, and so he included it, uh, in the service and actually in the program on the back, uh, was a way for people to reach out if they needed help. Um, so it was important to us that it be acknowledged and recognized.

Play Video placeholderNona Perdue: Each Loss is Unique

We lost Drew on Christmas Eve, 2017. And then, exactly eight months later, on August 24th, I lost my mother.

My grief experience with my mother was totally different than that with my son. Um. Your, your child is a part of you and it just, it’s, it’s just, it felt like a part of me died. He died when he was only 23. my mother had a long, wonderful life. She was 96 years old. Uh. And, and I was able to be with her when she passed. So, while I mourned her passing and, and I’m, I miss her everyday. Um. It just wasn’t, um, it wasn’t the knife to gut like Drew’s death was.

Um. What I found is that, when I, when I, when I tried to grieve for my mother, uh, I would be overcome with grief for Drew. So, it may sound weird, but it made it hard to grieve for my mother, because I was, and I am still grieving for Drew. And, you know, people say, “Oh. Well they’re together now. Isn’t that great?” And, well, yeah, but. (laughs) Doesn’t change the fact that he’s gone.

Play Video placeholderNona Perdue: Making Arrangements

One of the things that was very surprising to me was how quickly you’re supposed to make decisions. So right after it happened, someone from the funeral, a funeral home or the coroner, is asking me, “what do you want to do? Where, where do you want the body to go and, and what do you want to do and, and, and what plant, what arrangements have you made?” And I remember looking at this man, and I was like, “He was 23. What arrangements do you think I made?”

Play Video placeholderNona Perdue: “Moving On”

As life becomes a little bit easier and as you start getting back into the swing of things and going out, people see laughing, having a good time, and they’re like, “Oh, she’s good. She’s over this,” or “Oh, she’s moving on,” and, and that’s, you don’t, you don’t get over it and you don’t move on. You bring them along with you.

Drew as always with me. And so I can be having a good time, actually, this happened to me just a few weeks ago. We went to the Baltimore house one morning and in the greenhouse they had a room that had all white flowers and there was a woman in there playing the flute, and it was the most beautiful music. And I was with my girlfriends, we were laughing, we were having fun. And then all of a sudden in an instant with the music and the flowers and, and I just felt Drew, I felt him. He was there with me and I was overcome. I mean, I teared up and one of my friends looked at me and she said, “I know.” And so you can have those moments even when you’re having a good time. The two don’t cancel each other out.

Nona Perdue stands in front of a large collection of artistic glass pieces in an art gallery
Close up photo of a woman cradling a baby
Nona Perdue signs the back of a framed art print

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