It’s Not Easier, It’s Different

772 days

The first thing that other Mommas who have lost their child to addiction ask me is does it get easier?  I have to tell them no, it doesn’t get easier it just gets different.  How could it ever be easy to live without your child?  You learn how to get through life without them, you learn how to get up every day and go to work and go grocery shopping and all of the other mundane things that need to be done.  You do all of this with a broken heart because the alternative is not an option.

These Mommas are the strongest people I have ever known; they smile on the outside while inside they are screaming and broken.  That doesn’t go away it just gets less consuming as time goes on.

That’s where I am today, my grief isn’t as all consuming as it used to be; sometimes I wonder if that’s because I’m not grieving like I should be and I feel like, in a way, I’m betraying Derek and his memory.  Most days, though, I know that I’m grieving just the way that I’m supposed and I know that I am honoring Derek and his life & memory every single day with Derek’s Place.

Some people say that what I’m doing is honorable and inspirational and amazing, all I know is that Derek deserves to be loved and remembered for the wonderful man that he was and Derek’s Place is how I can honor my Son and help other people that are just like him.  The men and women that suffer from the disease of addiction and don’t feel worthy of love, kindness or even happiness.  They are not bad people, they are sick people that need to be given a chance to reach their full potential without drugs or alcohol.

I have met so many amazing people since Derek died, people that are committed to helping those that are like Derek and I wish that he could have met them when he was alive.  He probably did meet some of them he just wasn’t capable of seeing what they had to offer through his addiction.

I moved out of my daughter’s this last weekend and as much as I love my daughter and my grandkids, it’s so nice to have my own place again!  Using my own “stuff” is something that I think I have taken for granted in the past.  Derk is home and I am so happy to have him with me again.  We go for walks every day and I love it just as much as he does.  He’s so funny, yesterday while we were out walking there was a big dog across the street that started barking at him and he stood his ground and just started barking right back lol…I’m like yea Derk you are scaring him.

I’m slowly finding a place for my things while getting rid of things that I really don’t need; every time I move I think why does one person have so much “stuff”?  I’m at a point, in my life, where I don’t want or need a lot of things just sitting around my house so I’m getting rid of a lot.  I’m also at a point, in my life, where I’m sick of moving all of this stuff!  I know that I’ll probably move again because I’ve been thinking that I want to own my own home again but I’m undecided about that.  Still something that I’m thinking about and weighing the pros and cons of being a homeowner.

On January 8, 2018 I never thought I would get to where I am today; never.  I never thought I would laugh again, be happy again, be able to remember Derek and smile and I never thought that I would be able to find joy again.  But I have!  Today I am able to enjoy my grandkids, laugh without guilt and I get so much joy out of doing things for Derek’s Place.  Yes, I still have days where it takes everything in me to get out of bed, I still isolate sometimes and sometimes I burst in to tears for no apparent reason but those days don’t happen often and I am so thankful for that.  For a long time I felt like I was “stuck” and I would never be able to move forward but here I am!

My life, without Derek, isn’t easy but it is different and it will always be.


I love you Derek and I miss the hell outta you


Happy New Year?

721 days

A decade is ending tonight and a new year will start, another year that Derek doesn’t get to be in.

I wonder where this journey will take me in 2020; I feel like I’m ready to move forward.  Ready to open Derek’s Place and help all of those kids that are like Derek, someone else’s kids.  Kids that are lost and feel like they aren’t deserving of anyone’s love, kids that want so much to be free of their demons and to experience true happiness.

Ready to help the Mommas of those kids, the ones whose child is still alive and fighting this disease and the ones whose child has died to this tragic disease.  I want them to know that they aren’t alone and that it’s important to feel ALL of the feelings, that it’s important to take care of themselves no matter what.

I’m meeting with one of those Mommas today, one that lost her son, in November, to a heroin overdose.  She asked me last night, “does it get easier”?  I had to tell her no it doesn’t get easier it just gets different.  I didn’t tell her this but I was thinking how could it get easier to live without one of your children?  No it doesn’t get easier but we learn, we learn to survive and make our way through a world without our child.

I made it through Derek’s birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas and although I am not in the Holiday spirit I made the best of it.  I thought about Derek, a lot, and I laughed with my Girls and my grandkids.  It seems like every laugh is followed by sadness because I feel like, somehow, I’m not being true to Derek’s memory if I laugh or experience any kind of happiness.  I know that isn’t true, I know that Derek only wants me to be happy.

I think back over the last 721 days and I know that I am so much better than I was on day 90 or day 259.  I struggled and I cried and I was angry and I isolated it was awful and I know that I will still struggle and cry and isolate and be angry but those days will be less and I will know that it won’t last forever, that I will make it through.  I will make it through because there is no other option for me.

Am I done grieving?  Absolutely not, I will grieve for my Son until my last breath, but I am in a different phase of my grief right now and I’ll take it!  I’m still so sad that Derek doesn’t get to experience his life as a recovering addict, that he doesn’t get to see his Sons grow up, that he doesn’t get to get married and I’m sad that I’m going into another year that he doesn’t get to live in with me and it’s ok to be sad, I know that.

In 2020 I’m going to try so hard to find joy and happiness, I think I’ll find that at Derek’s Place.  I think that it’s going to make me very happy to see our members thriving and learning how to love themselves and to accept love from other people.  I’m also going to try really hard to be better at self care and self love, it’s easy to tell other people how important it is and I believe that it is but it’s hard to practice it on myself!  Always has been.  I want to change that in the new year.  I have all of this love, for Derek, inside of me that I want to share with our members and I need to learn how to give it to myself too!

So, I may not know what 2020 has in store for me but I’m not going to just sit back and let things happen; I’m going to MAKE things happen!



These Waves….

706 days

Almost 2 years but today I feel like I did in the weeks after Derek died.

These fucking waves just keep crashing down on me and it feels like they aren’t ever going to stop.

On days like today I just want to be home, by myself, and not have to deal with people but here I am, at work praying I don’t snap at anyone or break down in tears.

I’m trying, I really am.  I’m trying to be happy, to find joy in the things that I have in my life, to be positive, to be a good Mom and a good Grandma…but nothing works.  I don’t want this to be my life, to be my “normal” because, honestly, this really sucks.

I used to love baking for Christmas and this year it took everything I had to bake cookies and muffins for the people at Heartside Park.  I didn’t enjoy any of it, it was more like an obligation and not something that I wanted to do.

Next year I’m going to do something different for the Holidays, maybe I’ll go on vacation so that I’m not here for Christmas.  I wish I could be gone for the entire month of December.

Today is Derk’s 2nd birthday; I wish I could spend it with him.  People are judging me because he’s not with me right now and that pisses me off so much because, frankly, it’s none of their business why he isn’t with me right now.  I miss him every day and if I could have him with me, right now, I would.  I have friends that are fostering him for me and they are taking such good care of him!

I’ve had people tell me that the 2nd year was going to be worse than the 1st and I don’t think that I believed them because I felt like I was doing so good for awhile and then out of nowhere BAM.  I haven’t learned, yet, how to calm myself when I’m so anxious, I’ve tried all of the things that my therapist and other people have told me to do but nothing is working today.

Yesterday I spent 2 hours scrolling through Derek’s Facebook page; just reading his posts, looking at his pictures and watching his videos.  Derek never posted on FB when he was using, only when he was clean and doing well.  I think it’s because he never wanted people to know his struggles because he was so ashamed of his addiction.  I was never ashamed of him, ever; and I always loved him and wanted only the best for him.  In the last 2 years of his life he finally knew that!  He knew that I loved him and that I would be there for him while he was in recovery but that I would not help him die.  We had so many good talks about addiction, feelings, the future, what kind of man he wanted to be, what kind of Dad he wanted to be and anything else that was going on at the time.  I miss those talks so much.

Did we have the perfect relationship?  No far from it but I never gave up on him and I never stopped loving him.  In 17 years Derek said some very mean and hateful things to me and for years I took it personal and it wasn’t until I understood that addiction is a disease that I learned that that wasn’t Derek talking at all but the drugs.

I see the things that parents, of addicts, post about their kids and it breaks my heart.  They already feel bad enough about themselves and they don’t need the people that are supposed to love them calling them names and making them feel worse.  I’m not saying to enable them but always let them know how much you love them, always.  There is absolutely nothing that you can say or do to get them clean, nothing.  You have to get out of their way and let them figure it out for themselves, they are adults and if every time you talk to them you lecture them and tell them what they need to be doing they’re going to stop talking to you.

Addiction is a family disease, it causes chaos, dysfunction, anger, confusion and pain not only for the addict but for everyone that loves them.  My family lived with this for years and we made so many mistakes because we didn’t understand addiction as a disease; but as awful as it was I would go through it all over again if it meant that Derek got to live in the end.

I feel like I’m rambling now but guess what?  Since I’ve been writing this the waves have gotten a lot smaller and the anxiety has almost subsided.  Writing this blog really is healing for me.  Who knew…

I love you Derek and I miss the hell outta you


Getting By

694 days

I’ve gotten through Derek’s birthday and Thanksgiving and although it was so hard I made it!

I purchased a star in Derek’s name for his birthday and we had his favorite dinner of salisbury steaks (the tv dinner variety lol), mashed potatoes, corn and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  The kids shared what they remembered about Uncle Derek and it was nice to be sitting at the dinner table remembering the good times.

For Thanksgiving my youngest daughter, one of my grandsons and I went to my ex’s for dinner.  People think that I’m crazy for doing things with him and his new family but it was nice, his wife and I cooked together and talked and laughed.  My ex knew Derek and was there through a lot of the tough times with Derek.  He was also there, for me, after Derek died.  I remember when I got home from Philly he made a special trip to my house to give me a hug and tell me how sorry he was, he cried with me and he came to Derek’s funeral to show his support.  He may have been a shitty husband but he has become a good friend and so has his wife.  They don’t care how much I talk about Derek and they don’t judge me for my grief.

We’re only 3 weeks away from Christmas and as much as I try I just can’t get into the Christmas spirit.  I’m not finding any joy in picking out the perfect gifts for my grandkids or my daughters like I used to, all of my shopping has been done online when I used to love going to the stores and searching out the perfect things.  I look at all of the lights and the decorations and I feel nothing, my daughter has decorated her tree and her home beautifully, for Christmas, and I look at it and feel nothing.

Last week I was reminded that I have 2 living kids and that I should be focusing on them and was told that I focus on Derek too much when I should be focusing on them.  Oh how I wish that it were that easy, I really do.  I don’t feel like I “focus” on Derek all the time, I do think about him every single day but a lot of the time I can think about him and smile when I remember the things that he used to say and do.  But that empty chair for his birthday and Thanksgiving is not something that I can ignore.  Derek always needed me since he was a little boy he required so much attention whether it was good or bad.  My daughters don’t need me, they don’t come to me for advice or ask my opinion on things.  They are grown women that have their own children and their own lives and I am here if they do need me, as much as I can be.

I know that the Holidays are hard for everyone that’s grieving the loss of a child, I know that I am not alone and I know that this won’t get better it will just get “different”; I just hope that, some day, I can feel the joy and the magic of the Holidays again because God knows that how I feel now is awful.

I recently read an article about what losing a child does to a person’s brain and body and these things are out of our control, it’s just what happens when something happens that’s out of the “norm”.  Losing a child isn’t something that’s supposed to happen, a parent isn’t supposed to outlive a child and when you do it causes complete chaos.  Here’s the article

I’m doing so much better than I was just 3 months ago, since I moved in with my daughter I’m not isolating, I’m spending time with my daughters and grandkids and loving every minute of it.  I’m going out and doing things with friends and enjoying myself which is good.  I’m still trying to quit smoking and start going to the gym, all I can do is keep trying and have faith that some day it will happen.  I can’t do everything at once so not isolating and getting out of the house is a huge step in the right direction!  I’m still learning to not be so hard on myself and to stop the negative self talk, something that I’ve been working on since long before Derek died.

I’m loving the outreach that Derek’s Place has been doing at Heartside Park!  The people there touch my heart every single time we go there and I love talking to them and hearing the parts of their story that they want to share with me.  I’ve met some great people there that I can talk to and laugh with and that makes my heart smile.  I haven’t met another “Patrick” yet but I will and I will help them just like I did him.  I’m so excited for our Christmas party at Heartside Park on the 21st!  Shelly and I are going to buy the rest of the hats we need tonight and then we just have to bake the banana muffins and the Christmas cookies and we’ll be all set!  The generosity that we have received from people to fill their Christmas bags has been wonderful and makes me believe in the goodness in people!

So, basically, I am right where I’m supposed to be in my grief and I know that so many people can’t understand that and I thank God that they can’t but instead of judging something that you can’t understand why can’t you just admit that there’s no way that you can understand and support me?  Most people are very supportive of grieving parents but there will always be the “judgers” that think they’re helping but they’re really not.  People like that are so uncomfortable with your grief that instead of saying nothing they say the completely wrong thing to try and make themselves feel better.

All I know is that addiction is uncomfortable, grieving your child is uncomfortable and I’m not in this position to make other people feel “comfortable” with my grief.  I’m in this position to live my best life possible, for me, and to share my journey so that other parents know that they are not alone and that how they are feeling, at any given moment, is “normal” now.  Writing this blog helps me to heal so I write it; for me and for other grieving parents.  Derek’s Place is also helping me to heal so I will keep reaching out to the homeless and the addicts in an effort to help them to believe that they are loved and they are worthy of living their best life!  I’ve always believed that I was put here to help people, I always thought it was to help women and children that have been victimized by physical and sexual abuse but actually it was to help people like Derek.  My Son showed me that and I will not stop helping the people like him; the good people with great big hearts that are suffering.

I love you Derek and I miss the hell outta you



672 days…

One day fades into the next and I feel all alone.

Lately, I feel like everyone is living their lives and moving on and I’m just going through the motions.  I go to work and go home and count down the minutes until I can go to bed so I can just sleep.

I’m still smoking, I still haven’t gone to the gym and I’m still eating whatever I want…I want to quit smoking, I want to be in shape and be healthy I just am too overwhelmed with it all so I don’t do anything.

I KNOW that if I did all of those things I would feel better but there’s something holding me back and I don’t know what it is.  Is it depression?  Is it grief? I wish I knew so that I could fix it.

I’ve been thinking about Derek a lot lately because it’s his birthday month, because the Holidays are coming up and just because I miss him so much.  The other day a memory popped up in my fb memories and it was from 2 years ago when he came to Michigan last.  That was the last time that I ever saw him.  I was so mad at him that weekend because he relapsed, while he was here, and never came home and left me with Christian when I had to work the next day.  I heard from him 2 days later and I was so pissed but I still let him come and spend the night that night.  At the time I knew that I was enabling him but now I’m glad that I did because it was the last time I saw him.  I’m glad that I got to make dinner for him that night and have coffee with him in the morning.  He put my shelves up for me that next morning and we had a good time and then he gave me the best hug and told me that he loved me before he went back to Philly.

I feel like I’m always defending myself to people that don’t understand; and instead of trying to understand they tell me what I should be doing.  This has caused me to distance myself, emotionally, from close friends and family members.  I keep things inside and only talk about them with my therapist and people that do understand.

One of my coping mechanisms is shopping and this has gotten me into trouble for sure.  I buy whatever I want whenever I want and that’s not a good thing.  So, I have put all of my credit cards away so that I don’t have easy access to them.  I’m really going to have to get a handle on this before I start Christmas shopping I know that.  I don’t need more stuff!

I have friends fostering Derk for me right now but I miss him so much and I really just want him home with me.  I haven’t gone to see him because I know I will lose it if I do and then I feel bad about that because he probably thinks that I abandoned him.  I have to figure out a way to have him with me that’s all there is to it.

I just feel sad right now; really sad.  I always have some sadness, in me, but right now the sadness is in the forefront and the joy and happiness are buried.  I know that it won’t last but I need to feel it while it’s here.  That’s what grieving is all about, feeling your feelings when you have them and not trying to push them down and forget about them.  It’s taken me 672 days to be able to do this and it feels good to recognize a feeling and know that it’s not here to stay.

Now if I could just figure out why I’m not doing the hard stuff…

I love you Derek and I miss the hell outta you


Happy Birthday To Me

651 days

Today is my birthday, I’m 54.  My birthday hasn’t really meant much for a long time now, since before Derek died.  Nobody has ever really made a big deal out of my birthday so I’ve learned to make sure I have a great day.  My daughter will make me a delicious dinner tonight and then my birthday will be over.

Last year I was in Italy on my birthday and that’s the best birthday gift I’ve ever had and I gave it to myself!  I’ve bought myself cakes and balloons and gifts over the years but I don’t really do that anymore.  Maybe I’ll deliver myself flowers today for my birthday.

I’m doing ok right now, moving into my daughter’s has been really good for me.  Being around her and the kids is a good thing and I haven’t been isolating.  I feel happy and my therapist said that I look very happy.

However, I have to learn how to find a balance, a balance between work, Derek’s Place and ME.  It seems like I’m always running around doing things for Derek’s Place and I don’t take the time to take care of ME.  I need to do that more or I’m not going to be any good to anyone.  It’s so hard to do that though, I’ve always given all of myself to other people and not given a second thought to me and my needs.  That’s what needs to change, I’ve gotten it backwards I have to take care of me first and then I can give my time and self to other people.  I’m definitely a work in progress.

I miss Derek every second of every day but I am learning how to live without him here, I have laughed and not felt guilty and that was a good feeling.  I have gone to a dinner party and had wine with friends and family and I didn’t feel guilty and that was a good feeling.  I have cried for Derek too and know that that’s part of my grieving process and I don’t feel guilty for it.

I miss Derek’s boys like crazy; I’ve just been busy on the weekends and haven’t been able to see them.  Alexander is going to be a big brother and I think he’s going to make a great big brother!  I need to make time this weekend to see both of them.  It will be good for me to spend some time with them, maybe we can carve pumpkins.

Derek’s Place is moving right along; we have 3 new Board members that I think are going to do great things!  I’m going to look at a space, tomorrow, after work and I think it’s going to be perfect for starting out in!  I’m hoping to be open in the first quarter of next year and I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.  This Saturday is our monthly lunch at Heartside Park and we’re having a chili cook off and handing out winter items.  Who knows maybe I’ll find someone else to help.  Patrick has a place to live and a job and he’s so happy.  I hope I can help someone else get their life back.

I’m so excited for Derek’s Place to be open; I can’t wait to show our members that they are loved and that they deserve the life that they want so badly!  Killian told a story about the first location of Recovery Cafe, it was only 1700 sq ft and someone had donated carpet and pads for their space and she picked out a beautiful carpet.  She came by as the contractors were finishing up laying the carpet and it was a zebra print!  Not what she had picked out at all.  She told them that it was all wrong and that she was sorry but they were going to have to tear it out and put down the carpet that she picked out.  They were not happy about this and one of them said well isn’t this just a place for homeless people?  She said yes it is and that’s why it has to be perfect!  These people have been told for far too long that they don’t matter, that their lives don’t matter and that’s why this needs to be perfect and the carpet has to be perfect.  I love that story and this is the feeling that Derek’s Place will have, one that lets our member know that THEY matter and their lives matter.

The closer it gets to having Derek’s Place open, the closer I am to leaving my current job.  I’m sad about that because I like the people that I work with, my job isn’t nearly challenging enough and doesn’t keep me focused but it has been a great job for the last 3 1/2 years.  Although I’m sad to be leaving this job I am overjoyed that I will be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do!  They say if you’re doing what you love you will never work a day in your life, I’m about to find out if that’s true!

So 651 days into my life, after Derek, I’m doing well for the most part and I’m able to laugh and find joy in things and that makes me happy.  I will always grieve for my Son, I will always miss him and I will always love him…ALWAYS, however, I think I’m learning to adapt to this new life and what I need to do to find that balance that I need.  There will be days that those waves are going to be 100 ft high and I feel like I’m drowning but I know that it’s not going to last and that I can make it through them.  I have to for Derek, for my Girls, for my grandkids, for my friends, for Derek’s Place but most importantly…for myself.



When My Grief is Tiny Ripples…

638 days….21 months and 1 day

The 2 year mark is fast approaching and I am finding it so hard to believe that it’s been that long when most of the time it seems like just yesterday.

I still can’t believe that you are gone but I have accepted it and know that your soul is at piece.  That gives me comfort most of time but there are times, when I’m being selfish, that I want you back no matter what that looks like.  I would take all of the chaos and fighting if it meant you didn’t have to die.

I’m doing well these days, I think about Derek every single day but my grief isn’t huge crashing waves; more like tiny ripples.  I’m thankful for that.  I know that I’ll have bad days I just know that I have to go with it and that it won’t last forever.

I’ve had more than one person ask me if maybe I shouldn’t have started Derek’s Place so soon after his death.  That maybe working on that is taking me away from things that I need to do for myself.  I do that, I take on other people’s issues and find projects to do so that I don’t have to look at my own issues.  However true their statements may be Derek’s Place is a thing and I’m not walking away from it.  I just have to find some balance between DP and taking care of myself and allowing myself to grieve for my Son.

Derek’s Place gives me a purpose and it’s the best way that I know to honor Derek’s memory and his life, he would have loved Derek’s Place and what it’s going to mean to people like him.  Good people that dream of a better life, a family and success but think that they aren’t worthy of any of that because of SUD, homelessness or other mental health issues.  We are going to show them love, compassion and understanding so they start to believe that they ARE worthy of everything they dream of.

My new meds are working so good!  I seriously haven’t felt this good since Derek died, I can actually see myself being happy and finding joy in things.  I’m staying at my daughter’s now, temporarily, and I think that’s going to be good for me to be around her and my grandkids.  I can see myself getting out of the house and doing things other than DP events and fundraisers.  As a matter of fact I’m going to one of my daughter’s friend’s houses on Saturday and we’re all having dinner and a bonfire.  I’m actually excited about it!

I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish while I’m living at my daughter’s house; I want to quit smoking, start exercising, start eating healthier and be debt free, except for my car payment.  I haven’t started any of these things yet but I have only been there for a few days.  My problem is that I look at that list and think that I have to do everything at once and I get overwhelmed so I don’t do anything.  My therapist said that I need to pick one thing and focus on that and move on to the next thing once I have accomplished the first task.  This is a great plan!  I pick quitting smoking as my first task…I pick this because once I quit smoking I will be able to exercise better and smoking is the most detrimental to my physical health, in my opinion.  Plus I’m tired of smelling like smoke and I DON’T want to be out in the cold smoking this winter.

I’ve been trying to quit smoking for 2 years and I can’t figure out why it’s so damn hard this time.  In 2009 I got a prescription for Chantix, smoked while taking it the first week and took the Chantix for 60 days.  I didn’t smoke for 6 years!  It was easy, I didn’t have any of the horrible side effects and I didn’t crave cigarettes.  This time I stopped smoking on Christmas Day 2017 and then started again on January 10, 2018; 2 days after Derek died.  I was so mad at myself but when I went to my Dr she said there’s no way that you can quit smoking right now!  You need that to help you get through your day.  In July of 2018 I decided that I was ready to quit so she gave me more Chantix, I’m still smoking.  Every once in awhile I’ll quit taking the Chantix because it’s stupid to pay for both cigarettes and Chantix and then I’ll say ok I’m ready now and I’ll go get the Chantix but the most time I’ve had, not smoking, is 16 days.

Sometimes I get lonely and sometimes I’m sad that Derek’s not here but I allow myself to feel those feelings and don’t just bury them and try to forget about them.  I think that’s so important and most people don’t realize that.  In the past, when I have lost a loved one, my Mom, my Dad, my Ex, I cried and was sad for about a week and then I just went on with my life.  I thought that’s how it worked but I was wrong.  Of course I get sad when I think about them not being here but I don’t think that I went through all of the stages of grief.

All in all I’m grateful that my grief is just tiny ripples, right now, but when those waves come crashing down I will be ready!!

I love you Derek and I miss the hell outta you