With Mother’s Day approaching, I want to share an important story with you about a close friend of mine and her daughter. I met Robin Kellner over 20 years ago; Robin and I were both single moms, our only children were the same age and we were both owners of Nanny Agencies – it was meant to be! Through the years we kept in touch sharing advice and stories about our business, our family and friends, our love lives and of course parenting. Our children went off to college and then one day her life turned upside down. Here is a letter from Robin to every parent.
Nine years ago tomorrow, my daughter Zoe died in her bedroom, alone, in our home – from an accidental overdose.
She was only 22 years old. Zoe was beautiful, intelligent, decent. She was really the kid who knew better.
Zoe was loved and loving — once you met her, you fell in love with her.
As a parent, I never imagined my child would die before me.
And I never ever considered she would die from taking drugs — a combination of drugs that slowed down her respiration so that her heart stopped.
I’m sorry to be so graphic, but I just never fully realized something like this could happen to us. I know now we need to talk about drugs, drug overdose, and in detail.
When I became a mother, it felt like such a miracle. I remember the day I took Zoe home from the hospital. I understood the responsibility I had for another person’s life. It felt overwhelming, scary, but at the same time, so incredible. I felt like the luckiest person on earth to have a child.
When we lost her, it was beyond any loss I have ever experienced. My hopes and dreams for Zoe are gone. The things we imagine for our children will not be for her.
I became the person you don’t want to ask the most normal question in the world –“do you have children”? That has become the most dreaded question; not just for me, but also for those who innocently ask me.
Trying to understand how this all happened, and how this happened to us, has not been easy. I needed to find some answers
In the last nine years here’s what I’ve learned, so far.
Anything can happen to any one of us.
I know that sounds pretty obvious, but I don’t know if I really understood that.
Drug misuse is, unfortunately, prevalent, and affects different people differently. Some misuse drugs and move on without serious consequences. But for 10% or so, it can become lethal – and fatal as the accident was for Zoe.
There are several mental health issues that can be indicators or predictors, possibly making some people more vulnerable than others to misusing drugs. Zoe had several of these markers. Unfortunately her pediatrician and her adolescent medicine physician never made the connection, so neither did I.
And because there can often be mental health issues, being punitive has no place when dealing with drug misuse and your kids. No one wants to be the person, losing control, missing out on life, living without options. If he or she could do better, they definitely would.
Finding good treatment in 2007, when we desperately needed it for Zoe, was horribly challenging. Times are changing, though not fast enough. You will need to do a lot of your own work and research, vetting professionals and treatment facilities. Getting the right help is crucial.
Initially, I couldn’t find the treatment that Zoe needed. Through trial and error, we a doctor who thought he could help Zoe. But we lost so much time, and time turned out to be crucial. Using drugs recreationally can be like a game of Russian roulette. It was for Zoe.
On the night of April 9, 2007, she did what she had done many times before, but this time it didn’t turn out the way she expected. She suffered an accidental fatal overdose. I pray that she had no idea what was happening and that she just went to sleep.
If your kids start struggling with drugs, mobilize whatever resources you can. Ask your primary care physician, your pediatrician, or your adolescent medicine doctor, whom they might recommend etc. If they don’t have a suggestion, get in touch with a local hospital or treatment center. Ask questions, look for humane and evidence-based treatment.
When your loved one is misusing drugs, the issue is health, not character, not moral failing.
All of our kids are incredibly good kids. They are special, sensitive and thoughtful – they are “your” kids.
When I talk to parents who have lost youngsters, I so often hear that there was pain for some of those kids and maybe they did what they needed to in order to find some relief.
And talk to your children. Start the conversation about drugs with your kids, earlier than you think you need to, and more often than you probably would like to. Give them facts, information, not scare tactics. Be a role model. You want to model the behavior you are asking of your kids.
We all want our youngsters to be okay. But don’t be afraid of things you may see, early on, those indicators I spoke of. Recognizing problems early on can sometimes mean fewer complications, easier treatment and a better resolution.
I can’t bring Zoe back. It’s what I want more than anything in the world.
To see her again, hear her voice, feel her skin which was velvet – – I want to have my daughter again.
The other thing that I want, is to help prevent this from happening to you.
To learn more about Zoe and Robin, please visit: www.zoey-story.com