Fuck Heroin. FUCK. IT.
That’s what I want to say when I get a phone call from a crying son, daughter, husband, wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend telling me their loved one has died from an overdose. But I don’t say that. I don’t say it because it’s impolite and I’m supposed to be the even minded professional to your grief clouded bereavement.
But, “I’m sorry for your loss” and “my deepest condolences” just don’t work when a 19-year-old daughter was found in the basement of her friend’s house after two stints in rehab and five months clean. This was supposed to be the beginning of her life, not the horrible end.
Or, what do I say to the sixteen-year-old son who wants me to call him as soon as I get his mom to the funeral home because “that will be the first time in my life that I’ll know exactly where she’s at”.
Or, what do I say to the 30-year-old wife with three kids and no income, little support and now she has no husband.
Fuck it. FUCK HEROIN. That’s what I want to say.
How about the parents who tell me, “I’m glad it’s over. I haven’t slept in years, but last night I actually slept because I knew he wasn’t out hurting himself or someone else.”
Or the parents who tell me with blank expressions that they had absolutely no idea their daughter was using. That she was excelling in college, holding a steady relationship with her boyfriend, working part-time and now she’s on our morgue table.
What do I say to the young husband who tells me, “We don’t have any money for a funeral, she blew our savings and her life on this relapse.”
How do I respond when that very same young husband follows it up with, “how do I explain this to my kids?”
And then there are the times when the body has been left somewhere, abandoned by so called friends, and it’s starting to decompose. “Can I just see my dad one more time?” the young man asks. “Yes, you can,” I say, “but this doesn’t look like the man you expect to see.” The son replies, “That’s fine. I haven’t seen him in five years so I don’t have any expectations.”
FUCK HEROIN. I’m getting tired of these stories. I’m tired of unstitching and embalming autopsied bodies that are discolored and broken down by addiction. I’m tired of hearing the empty cries of “My, baby, my baby! How did this happen?” How did we get here?” when the mother sees her son in a casket. I’m tired of children asking, “what happened to mommy?” and “when will she wake up?” at funerals.
I’m getting tired of these stories. I know addiction is a disease. I understand that shame is never the path to healing. There’s no shame here towards the addict. The enemy is very clear. We can all agree that this particular disease, this particular addiction is worthy of our most harsh, most striking, most caustic curse words we can find.
For all the fatherless and motherless children I’ve served …
For all the widows and widowers I’ve walked with through the valley …
For all the bereaved parents now childless …
For all the individual lives you’ve stolen, all the futures you’ve killed, and all the love you’ve grieved …
I raise my middle finger to you, heroin.
If you like my writing, consider buying my 2017 Nautilus Book Award Gold Winner, Confession of a Funeral Director (click the image to go to the Amazon page):
Perhaps one of the best and healthiest coping mechanisms we can use in the face of intense tragedy is “benefit-finding”. When life is spiraling out of control and meaning is hard to find, we can find some substance by attempting to find good in tragedy … or by attempting to make good come from out of the tragedy.
The picture below is of 20 year old Jeramie who died from an overdose. The photo was taken by Jeramie’s father Mike. And Mike is using this photo to show how devastating drugs and drug addiction can be. He posted the photo and message on his facebook page and it has since gone viral.