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 Drugfree.org, 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 like...it 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.
Dedicated to Tyler Armstrong Keister
Shatterproof (formerly Brian's Wish)
Dedicated to Brian Mendell
Dedicated to Gregg Grossman
Dedicated to Henry Louis Granju
Dedicated to Kacie Erin Rumford
Dedicated to Tyler Campbell
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."