Friday, April 12, 2013

Survivor's guilt...and heroic parents

(Note: A version of this blog post appears on The Huffington Post's blog site as "Addiction: Survivor's Guilt and Heroic Parents.")

Can you suffer from "survivor's guilt" even if you are not the actual survivor? That's the question I've been asking myself lately.

Over the past few months, through my blog, Facebook, and my work with The Partnership at, I've come into contact with many parents of addicts who have lost their children to drug addiction. Their kids were good kids--just like mine--who weren't as lucky as mine. And their parents are good parents--just like my wife and me--who weren't as lucky us.

When I look back over the last 7+ years, there's no question that what my wife and I went through with our son was a horrific nightmare. But it's nothing like the nightmare of losing a child. Not even close. Let's face it: my son and my family have suffered greatly; emotionally, physically, and financially. Our lives were turned upside down by addiction. That being said, though, our son is going on 10 months clean and sober. And he's alive. He has survived.

I have to say, when I think about that I am overjoyed. But at the same time, I feel some guilt. I wonder why it is that our son is finally--at least for now--on the right path. And I wonder why other parents have to suffer the horrible experience of having to bury their child because of this devastating disease called addiction.

I cannot even imagine what losing a child to drugs would be like. I have thought about it often. For a while, I was terrified that it might happen to me. And I'll admit that it's still something I think about when I allow my mind to wander out of the moment. I try to put myself in those parents' shoes and wonder what they feel. I wonder what I would feel. But the truth is, no matter what I think it would feel must be a hundred times worse. Maybe a thousand times worse. Maybe a million.

There but for the grace of God, go I.

I must say, many of the parents who I've encountered recently--the ones who have lost a child to addiction--are some of the most incredible parents and human beings I have ever come across. Despite experiencing the worst thing a parent could possibly experience, they are fighting to help prevent other families from having to experience what they have.

They are putting themselves "out there," raising awareness and taking action against drugs and addiction. They are working hard to turn their tragedy into a positive thing for others. I can't even begin to describe what tremendous courage that takes. These people who have lost a child to drugs are making a difference. They are real life heroes and they are to be commended.

Here are a just a few links to websites created by some of these parents. I urge you to visit these sites, read their stories, and support their causes. If you have or know of a similar website, let me know. Leave me a comment with the URL and I will add it to the list.

atTAcK addiction
Dedicated to Tyler Armstrong Keister

Shatterproof (formerly Brian's Wish)
Dedicated to Brian Mendell

Gregg's Gift
Dedicated to Gregg Grossman

Henry's Fund
Dedicated to Henry Louis Granju

Kacie's Cause
Dedicated to Kacie Erin Rumford

Tyler's Light
Dedicated to Tyler Campbell

Zoe's Story
Dedicated to Zoe Kellner

In Loving Memory of Jon Morelli

Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation

the harris project
Dedicated to Harris Marquesano

I will leave you with two videos. The first, "She'll Never Come Home," was posted by Kacie Rumford's father. It's silent. But it's powerful. Please take a couple minutes out of your day to watch it.

The second is "Henry's Story," about Henry Granju. It's a longer video, but well worth the 28 or so minutes required to watch it. It shows what can happen to a teenager who starts experimenting with drugs.

"It can happen to any kid."


  1. I hope you'll look at Zoe's story:
    My daughter Zoe lost her life when she was 22 years old to an accidental drug overdose. Zoe's Story works with students to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Our mission is to eliminate stigma, by focusing on people beyond their illness.

  2. My son died September 8, 2007 of a heroin overdose. Here's his story.

  3. Please check out my Facebook page "In Loving Memory of Jon Morelli." My son passed away 2/6/13 of a heroin overdose, he was only 18. This page was created in memory of him, and to also help other addicts struggling and their families! We are in this fight together! God bless!

    I am Jake's mom, Kathy. He died in July 2013 from heroin, he was 21. We are assisting others suffering from addiction. We help addicts and their families review their options and help finance entry into a long term treatment facilities to work towards recovery if they cannot get there on their own.

  5. Kathy... I have added the Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation page to the list in my blog post. My thoughts and prayers are with you. God bless you for continuing to help others.

  6. Lost my beloved 22 year old son (and only child), Andy, on 2/11/11. You can find his story on my blog Also, I have become very involved in a wonderful movement called Heroes in Recovery. We strive to eliminate the stigma of drug addiction. Please visit the site and share your story.

  7. Remembering Andy... I am very sorry for your loss. I will definitely check out your blog. And I've been involved with Heroes in Recovery, too. My story can be found here:

  8. Awesome! I thought I recognized that t-shirt :)