What should Your Obituaries Say? That’s something most of us don’t think about much, particularly when we’re too busy living life to the fullest to notice when it’s coming to an end. When you’re dead, though, the words that sum up your life are worth pondering.
Drug abusers don’t think of anything other than their relentless need to use and the all-consuming pursuit of more narcotics, but anyone that doesn’t seek help at a drug and alcohol facility to address their addiction is likely to end up in one of three situations — “the bitter ends” as they’re known in the rehabilitation community: prisons, hospitals, or death.
Cindy Gauthier-Rivera wrote obituaries in light of the death of her brother, George P. Gauthier, in May after he overdosed on opiates. She writes about him from her home here in western Massachusetts regarding his destructive addictions to heroin, painkillers, and alcohol. Being an outgoing, well-dressed man, who appreciated poetry and music, he always hoped to become a drug counsellor — a person who could help others and prevent them from falling into drug addiction. It is not surprising that he ended up in a tragic ending; they found him dead at his mother’s house, not far from his sister.
The abuse of heroin is rising, owing to its low cost and how easy it is to get it. According to a study released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin use increased across a broad range of group with varying demographic between 2002 and 2013, including old and young, female and male, disadvantaged and wealthy. One of the more startling results was how the use of heroin has doubled in women during that decade and increased by 60% in household across America esp those who earn at least $50,000. Overdose deaths and obituaries caused by heroin nearly quadrupled during the same period, at least 8,200 recorded in 2013.
It has traditionally been done to leave out the negative aspects of someone’s life when writing their obituaries. Traditional wisdom dictates that their problems should also be put to rest when the deceased is buried. After a common consensus, Some families decided to speak up about addiction that devastated their children in their obituaries. The brief paragraph intended to remember, honour, and respect a person’s life.
People who have lost someone and feel helpless want to do anything they possibly can to prevent the cycle of shame and stigma that fuel and drive drug usage underground. They hope that life can be saved by speaking out and that other families will be spared heartache.
An Experiment in Looking for Significance
Some parents take the chance to make a difference in other parents’ lives when they write their son or daughter’s obituaries. Instead of attempting to conceal the cause of their child’s death, they confess that their loved one was suffering from chemical dependence. They hope that they can show that drug abuse does not discriminate.
Patrick Mullin’s parents, an all-star lacrosse player and Nazareth College graduate wrote the following obituary after his death: Patrick Joseph Mullin, Irondequoit: Patrick Joseph Mullin, 32, died on March 7, 2017, at 32, after a long struggle with addiction.
“We’re not going to fix this problem by keeping quiet about it,” Patrick’s father, Joe, explained. We needed people to know that it happens to everybody, so it was easy to include in the obituary.” “It was important to us because we didn’t want to sugarcoat it,” his mother, Mary, said.
Placing a Face Behind a Disorder’s Name
In May 2014, Emmett J. Scannell, a Graduate of Bridgewater Raynham that’s in Regional High School, a member of the National Honor Society, graduated from the school. His obituaries were updated online.
The obituaries read, “It is not the first time an individual in his class has suffered from substance abuse disorder.” “Emmett was an intelligent, funny, and loving student who could have brought joy to everyone around him; the sunshine and laughter of his smile light up any room once again. He suffered from and eventually died from drug abuse.”
Within the ten paragraphs of the obituaries, the term “substance abuse disorder” appears seven times in total. According to the document, Emmett took part in Alcoholics Anonymous for about two years previous to going to college. “A heroin overdose claimed his life in six weeks, left him in debilitating pain within not more than 18 months.”
Sending a Message in Obituaries
Others have published similar obituaries indicating the role of substance abuse in their child’s tragic death. Some choose to use phrasing that leaves the cause of death less clear. The obituaries may state their child died “unexpectedly” or “suddenly.” With overdose now a common killer, this terminology is often recognized as the code for cause of death.
For some, however, this isn’t enough. They want to send the message loud and clear. Joran Leavitt’s mother, Robyn, wrote: Webster, Leavitt: Leavitt lost his battle with addiction on the 13th in June 2017 at just 32. Robyn notes, ‘If I can prevent even one single-family from being devastated this way, then we have succeeded,’ he continued.
‘Kelsey doesn’t want to see us sad because of her. She wants us to stand by her side‘.
The family who chose to share their children’s death from a drug abuse overdose viewed this as a wonderful teaching moment, like so many others. As Emmett Scannell’s obituaries say, substance abuse disorder should not be something to hide. “Our loved ones are being taken away from us day after day. Please try and do anything you humanly can to put a stop to so that it won’t be something you have to suffer from a loss like we are experiencing right now ever again.”
Kelsey Grace Endicott, 23, of North Andover, Massachusetts, had a similar story a few weeks ago and was just about fifty miles away. Kelsey “on April 2, 2016, she passed away from an unfortunate overdose,” according to her family’s obituaries, which was written online at Legacy.com and Boston globe. (2) “She battled a courageous battle with alcohol for several years. She’d been clean for almost a year, but her illness had a tight grip all over her. We hope she had seen the determination and beauty in herself as everyone else did. Kelsey was adamant about not leaving this country. As a young woman, she longed to live a life free from scarcity and pain, one in which she was able to see the world as her oyster and realize that change was indeed possible.” In addition to her parents, Kelsey is survived by a son.
“Addiction is a cruel disease,” reads the obituaries. “It is our duty to open our minds and hearts to those who are already sick and in pain. Kelsey does not want us to be shaken by her plight. She desires that we fight for her.” Several people shared both obituaries all over social media.
In approximately one week, Legacy.com has published four heroin obituaries.
Last year a publish was made in The New York Times about obituaries named the heroin epidemic as the cause of death. Dr Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Surgeons and Physicians, said that the summit attempts to make sense of mental illnesses and addictions by making them less stigmatized.
More people are writing books, starting anti-drug trafficking groups, and uploading documentaries based on the obituaries of heroin addicts who passed away. Even presidential candidates agree that the opioid epidemic is an issue of national concern.
When you type in the keyword “heroin” on Legacy.com, which is among the biggest obituaries databases in the nation, you’ll find four obituaries during the final week of April in 2016 that discuss heroin as a cause of death. “Sam Stevens of Maine’s obituaries reads, “Sam was not only an addict; he was a guy with a drug addiction, an illness, a disease.” (4) “Perhaps things will once the world knows how such disease destroys people of all ages. In the meantime, they are leaving behind children and families who adore them and will fight for their best interest.”
Travis Colton’s family wrote that he “For seven years, he has been fighting a battle.” For a short moment, she inspired him and eventually vanished.” Travis “had stolen his heart, and she was chased by him,” according to the obituaries. He tried several times to depart from her and finally did, but she found herself back in his company, and the cycle repeated itself over and over again. Travis was eventually killed by her. Heroin is a medication that is used to get high.”
These obituaries serve as a sobering reminder of the fate that awaits all who are enslaved by addiction, but there is hope for those who seek it. Addiction treatment can be the start of a new path away from those “bitter ends,” and calling one now can mean the difference between genuinely enjoying life and preparing for a near-certain death, leaving family members and loved ones with a soul-crushing dilemma: With a life cut short by a plague that the light of recovery can prevent, how do you record such obituaries?
- 1. Emmett J. Scannell, 1995-2016. Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Homes and Cremation Services. Retrieved April 30, 2016, from http://www.ccgfuneralhome.com/obit/emmett-j.-scannell
- 2. Kelsey Grace Endicott. Conte Funeral Home. Retrieved April 30, 2016, from http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?pid=179523724
- 3. Obituaries shed Euphemism to Chronicle Toll of Heroin. (2015, July 11). The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/us/obituaries-shed-euphemisms-to-confront-heroins-toll.html?_r=0
- 4. Sam Stevens. Legacy.com. Retrieved April 30, 2016, from http://obituaries.bangordailynews.com/obituaries/bdnmaine/obituary.aspx?n=Sam-Stevens&pid=179810434
- 5. Travis Colton. Legacy.com. Retrieved April 30, 2016, from http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/triblive-valley-news-dispatch/obituary.aspx?n=Travis-A-Colton&pid=179835379
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.