Mary Warren helped run a school one of my sons attended. We had a warm rapport for years before we discovered we’d both had a son die young. She is a shining example of someone who’s taken her deepest pain and found a way to give back from that place.
What is the name of your child who died?
How did your child die and how old was he?
He was 24. He had an accidental heroin overdose.
How did you hear the news?
He was actually living with his drug/alcohol treatment therapist’s family in Utah. My daughter and I couldn’t get him on the phone, and the owners weren’t home, so we called the police to do a welfare check. They kicked down the door, along with a neighbor, and found him on the kitchen floor. My daughter, who was on the other line with the owners, said to me, “Mom, he’s gone.” I said, “No, he’s not.” I thought she meant he wasn’t home. But I knew his car was there, so I kept insisting he had to be there. When I finally understood, everything went to hell.
“Mom, he’s gone.” I said, “No, he’s not.” I thought she meant he wasn’t home. But I knew his car was there, so I kept insisting he had to be there. When I finally understood, everything went to hell.
What has helped you in your grieving process?
Not denying any of my feelings. Sad, angry, mad, whatever. If I need to cry, I do it no matter what. I don’t deny being happy, either. I am thankful that I had 24 years with him! Some of us feel guilty for being happy after we lose a child. I make no apologies for being sad or happy.
What has not helped?
When people say….it will get better….NO IT DOESN’T! You just learn how to cope. Time does not heal all wounds. Not this one.
What do you wish people knew about grieving a child?
That you won’t just get over it. You learn to manage, you learn to live with it, but you don’t get over it.
How have you changed?
I’m much more in the moment. I don’t make apologies for where I am. I’m more intentional. When I feel like saying something, I say it. When I feel like doing something, I do it. If I feel like texting someone at four in the morning that I love them, I do it. You can’t wait for things to be perfect. You just don’t know if there’s going to be a tomorrow. I now compare any problem that I am having to the death of Bryan and quickly realize that it isn’t that bad. There is nothing that compares to losing a child. And yet I am much happier and less stressed than I have ever been!
When I feel like doing something, I do it. If I feel like texting someone at four in the morning that I love them, I do it. You can’t wait for things to be perfect.
What do you want people to remember about your child?
He is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. He had a heart of gold. He always knew how to light everyone else’s sparklers, but he often forgot to light his own. He was a connector! He loved helping families and kids in trouble. He helped kids go through a thousand self-help seminars. I’m so proud of him!
Do you still feel connected to your child and if so, how?
Very much so! Sometimes I can hear his voice and sometimes I smell his cologne. The wind will blow a certain way and I swear I can smell him. I feel his presence with me always!
The wind will blow a certain way and I swear I can smell him. I feel his presence with me always!
What do you answer when people ask you how many children you have?
I have three! At first, after Bryan died, that was the scariest question. Right before his service, I thought, how am I going to answer that when people ask me? Now, I always say three, which includes him. Most people leave it at that, so I don’t have to explain.
A single mom of three, Mary left a successful career as a senior manager with a financial services company in order to fulfill her mission of serving families and children. Now an independent educational consultant, she founded Empower My Teen, which specializes in at-risk teens. She can be reached at 877.859.8336, or http://www.empowermyteen.com