Updated: Sep 10, 2019
My husband, Bill, and I are driving home from northern Illinois as I write this. Our son and daughter in law just had a baby girl and we had the privilege of meeting her minutes after she made her entrance into this world. She is so precious, the best blessing in life.
On Sunday we honored seven families that lost their blessing, their precious child. Diana Cuddeback, Director of Heartlinks Grief Center, hosted a Book Dedication for the families who told me their story for the book we just released, Heartbroken – Grief and Hope Inside the Opioid Crisis.
Parents that remember with a smile the day their child arrived. Seven families that never imagined the nightmare of drug addiction would impact their lives. Families that look just like you and me, dear reader.
Parents that were so brave to relive those years of struggle as they shared their story. For most, years of fighting to wrestle their child from drug’s grip and ultimately losing that child to addiction.
And, they recounted in sharing for the book the stigma they encountered – both during the years of addiction and as they grieved after their child died. Diana, a co-author of Heartbroken, describes stigma and Heartlink’s Addiction Loss Support Group on page 22 of the book:
“The Addiction Loss Support Group at Heartlinks Grief Center, which I direct, came into existence because parents attending the Child Loss Support Group after an addiction-related loss were not comfortable sharing fully. These parents were worried about the stigma surrounding addiction. Stigma is typically described as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”
All of the families experienced hurtful words and actions during their journey with addiction. The fear of stigma kept some in the stories from seeking treatment quickly. The seven families were willing to share their heartbreak in the hopes of helping other families avoid the journey of addiction loss and the stigma they experienced.
Before writing Heartbroken, and learning about addiction, I, like perhaps some of you, viewed drug addiction as a choice, not a disease. I believed that people choose to use drugs or choose to stop. Now that I understand what happens to the brain when drugs are used, sometimes with just one use, my view is changed.
Addiction is a lot like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Both disrupt the normal, healthy functioning of an organ in the body. If left untreated, both can last a lifetime and may lead to death. Addiction is a brain disease. Brain imaging studies of people who are addicted show that changes have occurred in their brain, in areas that include those critical to judgment, decision-making, learning and memory, and behavior control. These changes help explain the compulsive nature of addiction, and why “just stopping” is so difficult.
I hope the book can inform and change the view of addiction, removing the stigma from addiction. Only then can we truly engage in stemming the opioid crisis in our nation.
I ask you to join in the battle against the stigma so often associated with addiction and addiction loss, helping to not lose one more precious child to this epidemic.
In the posts ahead, I’ll share other learnings and specific actions we can take to help stem the opioid crisis.
Heartbroken is available at the following link on Amazon.com and at the Family Hospice of Belleville website and offices at 5110 W. Main St in Belleville, Illinois. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Heartlinks Grief Center.
Heartlinks Grief Center provides grief support to all ages. If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Lost Her, available at this link on Amazon.com
Heartlinks Grief Center volunteer and Family Hospice board member
“We Grow Stronger Together”