Dear EricsHouse Community:
February is filled with a mix of emotions that are hard for me to express. My youngest son, Eric, died in February four years ago. Every year, it’s a new experience to face the month. Let me share some of our story.
Eric was an athlete and a daredevil. He injured his wrist badly as a high school wrestler. After multiple surgeries on his wrist, he had chronic pain and was given access to opioid painkillers. By the time he died, Eric had prescriptions for 500 oxycontin pills per month, from multiple doctors including a pill mill. He then transitioned from painkillers to heroin.
Eric hated being an addict. He fought valiantly to overcome his addiction. He achieved his goal of sobriety for a long time before he relapsed on New Year’s Eve of 2015. He was born on 8/8/88 and he died by suicide on February 27, 2016, at the age of 27.
I spoke with Eric the night before he left us. We made plans to have breakfast the next morning. He didn’t answer his phone that morning, so I went to him. I found him in his apartment. It was a devastating experience, but one that leaves me immensely grateful and has changed me forever.
Eric’s addiction and death do not define him. He was so much more – the youngest of 3 boys, smart, witty, and charming. He was a passionate defender of the underdog. Eric loved the outdoors, sitting around a campfire on family camping trips, hiking, and exploring. He was full of adventure. His greatest joy was spending time with his family, especially his brothers, Joey and Robby. He idolized his older brother Robby. He had a profound and abiding love and respect for people with special needs, like his brother Joey. He spoke out against stereotypes, prejudice, and negative attitudes towards people with special needs.
I often ask myself, “how is it that my son who was so gifted, relevant and smart, sensitive, and tender-hearted, had to leave us at such a young age?"
I finally accepted that the answers I sought are ultimately known only by Eric and by my Higher Power and that he lives on. For me, this is God and Heaven. I believe Eric is safe in God’s hands, and I am thankful for the wonderful and precious gift of Eric.
My initial healing journey was dark. I had walked every inch of every mile with my addicted child. I felt that I needed to find him, to be with him, to be sure he was ok. As I began to develop my understanding and my relationship with God, I recognized that I was powerless without my faith. Faith led me to hope – hope for Eric, hope that life in a new normal is possible for me. Hope that there is a greater purpose to my life and Eric’s. Hope that we will all be OK no matter how rocky the path becomes. I believe that our family was called to help others in dark places.
I believe that finding good support is essential. You ultimately need to share your grief in whatever ways work best for you. It may be counseling, it can also be companioning, peer support, or support groups with others with similar losses, and groups that are free of judgment. I encourage you to lean into your grief and be present with it as painful as it may be. We must process our grief. It is the hardest work we will ever do, but we must integrate our loss into a new normal.
Finding your spiritual footing, learning our purpose, embarking on the adventure of learning who we are now, embracing the loss and understanding our relationship with the Divine . . . that’s our journey. Look inside and discover your inner self, make a connection with your inner source. Meditate, pray, and connect with your inner ability, to let go of the all-consuming thoughts that hijack your mind. Allow healing into your heart and soul so that you can find forgiveness for yourself, your loved one, and for those around you. By going inside, you can let go of the anger, the shame, the guilt, and the stigma that comes with this journey.
Find your way for self-care. Caring for your physical body is as important as emotional and spiritual care. First, be careful not to isolate yourself. Surround yourself with people who can nurture you, while leaving time to yourself so that your body can rest. Eat regularly, especially fresh fruits and vegetables which are easy to prepare and keep handy. These will help you feel healthy, especially when eating is the last thing on your mind. Avoid numbing your pain with alcohol or drugs. Tears are part of healing, but they can dehydrate you -- drink plenty of water. Get out in nature, let the healing power of the sun on your face dry your tears.
It is ok to cry, let the grief burst out. Your tears are sacred -- they are a measure of the love you have for your precious loved one. It is OK to have shrines and monuments -- don’t care what anyone else thinks. This is your grief; you should honor it and respect it. Your loss is like a journey with no timetable or destination, be open to where it leads.
What has given me the most hope and has transformed my life, is learning how to be in a relationship with Eric with him in heaven and me here. I know he is with me and that I will be with him in Heaven. I know that our love is eternal.
I hope sharing parts of my journey can give you some hope that there is light at the end of this tunnel. I had to surrender Eric’s care to God, and once I did that, I found the path toward healing. I understand part of the purpose of Eric’s death. It led to the founding of EricsHouse, a community of healers that support the emotional, physical, and spiritual healing for those living in the aftermath of a suicide or substance loss. It is an amazing project that has helped and continues to help so many. I am grateful to you all for joining me on this journey.
With much love and great gratitude,