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.
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.