On December 29, 2020 my life changed forever with the death of my son, Jamie, to an opioid overdose. Our friends were loving and supportive. My best friend had the horrendous task of calling our friends and sharing the news of Jamie's passing, as I was unable to do so. We had groceries and dinners dropped off, generous donations to Jamie's scholarship fund, cards, daily calls and texts, offers to go for walks, and genuine care and support. I am grateful to our close circle of friends and even the not so close friends who dropped off soup and offered kindness. Most people were compassionate and said how they could never imagine our pain and loss.
And then I met a group of moms who could imagine my pain — my Vilomah moms. I had joined some Facebook groups of parents, siblings and partners who also had lost their loved ones to substance use disorder and even though it was tough to read their posts, I could feel some connections. On March 12th, I received a Facebook message from Gerriann. She was in one of the groups and wrote, "If there is some way that's not too weird or awkward maybe we could provide each other some comfort." I messaged her right back and we have texted or talked every day for the past 6 months. Her son, Jimmy, passed away 2 weeks before Jamie.
On May 26th, I met Susan O. on a Facebook group. Susan was working on several projects, including her concept for the Vilomah Memorial Gardens. She asked me to join her on this project. Her son, Tyler passed away in October, 2020. Susan had talked to Kathleen over the last two years but they had never met in person. Tyler and Kathleen's son, Troy, had been roommates in a recovery house. Troy passed away two years ago. We met Susan M. only a few weeks ago as her son, Dylan, passed away in June, 2021. Susan M. and I have a friend in common and Susan was ready to share her story of Dylan with new friends in a safe, caring circle. We started to all text together and share our anxieties, concerns and heartbreak. We met in person at my house on August 8th and we talked non-stop for 5 hours. We traveled together to Harrisburg, PA for International Overdose Awareness Day. We continue to meet and talk regularly. We share photos of butterflies, our lost boys, our other children and grandchildren. Two of us have daughters getting married in 2022 and we need to be present for them. Three of us have grandchildren. Although we wish we had never met under these circumstances, we are grateful for each other. We share tough days and good days. We are connected. We are vilomahs.
I hope my story helps you to see the need for our Vilomah Memorial Gardens. If you would like to help in our mission please contact us.
To build a hub of resources for bereaved families, to create and maintain public gardens to honor of those lost to substance use and other deaths of despair, and to explore viable solutions for those suffering from substance use and mental health issues.
Please support the Vilomah Foundation by making a tax-deductible contribution today.
We aim to be a nurturing community of bereaved families to collaborate and support each other. We are redefining what joy, success, and normal look like and we welcome your input.