How I Survived the Death of My Son

By Laura Stack

I survived it. The worst day of my life was November 21, 2019 at 1:03 AM, when the coroner told my husband and me our son had died by suicide a few hours ago, on November 20. In the immediate days following, I alternated between screaming, sobbing, and being unable to talk to anyone other than my immediate family. Food was meaningless and sleep impossible. Tremendous nightmares would come. Some days I felt like I was drowning. Feelings of guilt surfaced no matter how hard we had tried to help Johnny.

How did I survive it?

  1. My faith in Jesus Christ. My son died from a psychotic incident from delusion caused by high-potency marijuana dabs. God did not cause him to die, but He knew Johnny would die, because God is in control. I will never understand His ways until I join Johnny again in heaven, but my relationship with the Lord is the source of my strength. I don’t know why Johnny had to die, but it was part of His plan. It’s not my job to question it but to be obedient to the path He has laid before me. During times of sorrow, you need hope. I’m not preaching; I’m sharing my faith. Our faith is our solace. We are comforted by our faith that Johnny is in God’s presence, he is healed, and we will see him again.
  • Put your energy into a cause related to your loved one’s death. I wrote an email to a friend after Johnny died, “I must forge ahead despite my pain and try to give some sort of meaning to losing Johnny.” So, my mantra has become, “Forge ahead despite your pain and give meaning to your loss.” I’m angry at the marijuana industry that took my son and use my determination and passion as a source of energy. I started a 501c3 nonprofit, Johnny’s Ambassadors, to educate and others who are going through a similar situation. I will not stop, and I will not be silenced. Helping others has been a great source of comfort and healing for our family. Johnny’s death will not be in vain and sharing his story with others is saving lives.
  • Do something creative and new. I invested my time into creative outlets, such as writing a book, blogging, posting on Facebook, creating an online curriculum to teach teens about the harms of marijuana, giving presentations, and hosting webinars. I drew upon the skills I’d learned in business over the past 30 years. I forced myself out of my fetal position and interacted with others, even when I didn’t “feel” like it. Their love reflected back to me and bolstered my energy. Maybe you could write a song. Draw a picture. Take photos of the world around you. Make a scrapbook.
  • Beware of negative self-talk, blame, and guilt. This is easier said than done. I’ve been told that many parents experience moments of self-doubt, blame and guilt. When this negative self-talk started, I knew I needed to really consider what I was telling myself. I realized we did the best we could, and Johnny’s death was not our fault. We could only go so far in trying to keep Johnny safe from his choices. But at some point, his life was out of our hands, and we couldn’t control another human being. We reframed guilt as regret.
  • Find support groups and build relationships. John and I were intentional in facing our grief head on and actively sought help. We have met the most incredible people in this journey. We attended a Parents of Children of Suicide meeting just three weeks after Johnny died, followed by a Survivors of Suicide group that met at a hospital, a Griefshare program at a local church (first in person and then online), and weekly couple and individual grief therapy. We developed relationships with other people and organizations who are allies in our missions and purposes. I never would have met the wonderful people now in my life without going through this tragedy. Stay close to your life partner and friends; do not let the situation drive you apart. John and I could not get through this without each other. We made this child together and must keep this son—forever 19—with us.

Slowly, in the months that followed Johnny’s death, using the techniques above, I started to breathe again, and the nightmares stopped. I still cry every day; however, nearly a year and a half later, I have found joy again and look forward to the future. I have an amazing husband, two incredible surviving children, and wonderful friends. I grieve Johnny deeply, but I’M ALIVE. After surviving that, I know I can survive anything. Whatever you survived, I would like to hear your story and how you survived it.

10 Replies to “How I Survived the Death of My Son”

  1. Hi Laura,
    My little boys death was caused by drugs indirectly. We adopted Matthew who was born at 24 weeks. One pound 9 oz. His birth mom took cocaine which caused a premature birth. We had him with us loaned by God for almost 7 years. He was the delight of our lives. We too depend on our faith. Matthew knew he was going to Heaven and was actually very excited to see Jesus. It will be 30 years in Dec. The pain does get better but I still have some tears each Day. But you are right about finding things to do in your child’s memory. Matthew is still doing good on earth from Heaven.
    Praying for you and your family and thank you for sharing your story and educating all of us to the dangers of dabbing!! I had never heard of it.
    Blessings
    Mary Prevost

    1. Thank you, Mary, for sharing your story and the blessing Matthew was for you during his short time here. I’m so glad we could share about today’s potent THC marijuana products such as dabs. Please help us spread the word to others about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide. Much love!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Laura. I look forward to advocating with you, in loving memory of our children gone too soon. I realized last week that we are connected in time by when our sons died – Trevor died from one fentanyl pill on 11/17/19, in search of a higher high after his addiction to marijuana which started at age 14. I will share Trevor’s story widely – alongside yours of Johnny and too many others – in the weeks, months, and years to come.

  3. to all those who have lost loved ones to drugs and alcohol. there are way to many .SADLY AS OUR NATION REFUSES TO TEACH ABOUT AND HONOR GOD THINGS LIKE DRUG LEGALIZATIONS WILL CONTINUE. AS A LONG TIME SOBER MAN I HAVE HAD MUCH EXPERIENCE WITH DRUG ABUSE.IT STARTS AT HOME.UNFORTUNETLY FORCES IN OUR SOCIETY ARE DESTROYING BIBLICAL FAMILIES WITH THE FATHER AND MOTHER. SOCIETY PROMOTES SO MUCH EVIL TODAY.IN SO MANY WAYS AND SO MANY PLACES.IE INTERNET ETC. SATANS REIGHN IS ALMOST UP AND THE LORDS RETURN IS NEAR.THAT GREAT GOVERNMENT WILL PUT A STOP TO ALL OF THIS EVIL. LAURA AND OTHER MOMS AND DADS AND FRIENDS AND ANYONE WHO HAVE LOST SOMEONE THIS WAY -BE COMFORTED IN THE FACT YOUR LOVED ONE WILL LIVE AGAIN. YOU WILL SEE THEM AGAIN.JUST AS JESUS WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD SO SHALL YOUR LOVED ONES. THAT TIME IS ALMOST HERE. BY GODS GRACE I SURVIVED MY 26 YRS OF ALCOHOLISM DRUG ABUSE. THE TRUTH DID SET ME FREE.

  4. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your journey. It helps to hear concrete ideas for surviving grief. Thank you for boldly sharing your faith in Jesus. The promise of eternal life with our loved ones is fuel to survive each day on Earth without them.

  5. Laura thank you for sharing your story. My son died by suicide May 21, 2020. He started by smoking Marijuana then moved on to dabs. I sent him away to rehab when he was 15 yrs old in effort to help and cure his drug addiction. It is a long story, but basically, rehab discharged him after he was no longer in an emergent phase, and I could not pay the ridiculous amount of money they required to keep him in treatment. When he came home, he eventually started using again. Due to his major depression/anxiety disorder and drug addiction, he had limited coping skills. One sad night he tragically chose to end his life. It will be a year this Friday. God’s comfort and peace has brought me through this far and will continue.
    When I saw your post about Marijuana /dabs, I knew I could relate immediately. And I also share in believing that it is God who is our comforter and healer. He will walk with us through this difficult journey.

  6. Thank you for the Widespread impact you are making in the world Laura. Your influence and powerful insights span beyond suicide and drugs. I feel your love, compassion and passion.

    1. Thank you, Waldo, my friend. I appreciate your warm words. We are working hard to share what happened to Johnny, so no other parents lose their child in the same way. We were uneducated and unaware of the dangers of today’s THC products – at least parents won’t be caught flat-footed.

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