Losing a child to addiction: The Dreaded Question

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Tags: , , , ,

As I sat on a Sunday night at about 10:21pm catching up on news before hitting the hay for a 4:00am alarm when I came across this article which caused me to put pen to paper.

The article addressed “THE QUESTION,” that so many of us that have lost a child struggle with and in a strange paradoxical way, both hope gets asked and does not get asked. The question; “How many kids do you have?”

I personally struggled with this question when Robby passed. It was hard to answer. Do I say two and completely avoid the discussion? Do I say three and act as if he was still alive?

I most often answered three as I refused to add anymore guilt to my plate. I found it to be both honest and accurate until the next question came. “How old are they?” In my mind, the flares went off and that odd confusion set in as I thought to myself “damn, you had to ask that!” I may have used a bit more colorful language mentally, but you get the gist. My mental verbiage got really colorful as I knew the next question would be “how did he pass…”

 How I feel

The article made two really good points:

  1.  It is as uncomfortable to get the answer as it is to give the answer. This is especially true early in the process as trying to gauge just how deep we get and with whom tends to cause the head to spin. While we don’t mean to cause them to be uncomfortable, the mere nature of the answer, “my (pick a child) passed away,” is just uncomfortable.
  2.  The second point is one that I found profound and insightful. By answering honestly, it gives others an opportunity to share if they, or someone close to them, had the same experience.

Like it or not, there is still a stigma surrounding addiction. Many people keep walls built around their families where addiction is concerned, carrying the burden alone, not realizing they don’t have to.

 What I have learned

Here is what I have to pass along to anyone it might help.

  1.  It gets easier to answer as time goes by. Figure out how you want to answer the question(s) and stay with what is comfortable. Over time, your answer becomes “normal” and you will feel better as you give it.
  2. You are not alone. If we tell 10 people that Robby passed of a drug overdose, only one looks at us like we are the worst people in the world. The other nine almost immediately launch into conversation about how addiction has hit their family. It is as if we opened the door for them to discuss because we get it. We understand. Often, they are looking for help for themselves or friends and we are able to engage with them and offer some help. The other “one” that passes judgement probably doesn’t even know addiction has hit someone in their family or is just not ready to face it, but when they are, they now know where to find us.

Easy isn’t in our vocabulary

Truth is, it is still not “easy” when I know that question is coming. There are times when I still fumble and feel like I have betrayed Robby’s memory. But this is what I do know. I know who my son was, and I am proud of whom he was as a person. Yes, he was an addict and as a result, did some things that may have violated a few laws, but that was the drug talking, not Robby. If you choose to pass judgement on him or us as parents, that is on you, I won’t carry that burden.

So, if you ask me how many kids I have, the answer is three. If you want more detail, you will learn that my eldest would have been 25 this year, but he passed almost four years ago. If that makes you uncomfortable, I am not sorry. I am and will always be the father of three amazing young people, and that is how it will always be.


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Venturing into the light of life

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Tags: , , , ,

vacation brandtsVacation. We all need one, even us.

Last week, the Brandt family took some time away and went on vacation; the first vacation we have taken without Robby. I started to write this post last week from the third floor of the home we rented in the Outer Banks and realized we live in a world where I have to wait until we return before I can let people know we are gone – now that is crazy!

I did want to take some time and share our thoughts on this trip as it is another “first” that we are encountering, and firsts are part of what we all (that have lost) live with regularly.  As I talk with families, we spend a lot of time talking about firsts.

So here we go.

The vacation house

I have to acknowledge that there was some awkward trepidation in the house as this week approached.  It is just different to be doing a family vacation without Robby as he was part of every family vacation we took, and all the places we went to for the “first” time.  Yet, I think in a way we all needed a get-away, and at some point, we are all confronted with these firsts.
The questions are really simple; will you take that step and do it and if so, how will you handle it?  I can’t answer that one for you; that is all up to each of us.

You may not be moving…but the world is

What I do know is that the world moves on, whether we want it to or not, it continues to spin and the sun comes up every day.  We choose to take the next step or not and if I knew the how’s or why’s around that, I would bottle it and sell it.  What I do know is that the choice is each of ours and nobody has the right to tell us to make it or when to make it.  Grief walks its own path on its own time, and it impacts each of us in its own way.  It is ours and it is personal.

I do believe that sometimes we need a nudge or just have to have faith and force ourselves to take that step back out into the light.  When we get there, the world is undoubtedly different, painfully incomplete and foggy, but it is there.  And so for us, the world last week was the Outer Banks and we will build new memories and lament the fact that Robby is not with us the way we would like (wait for the Barney blog).  It is all part of our new reality.

Comfort in others

We are not alone, and we don’t walk this path alone and neither are any of you reading this.  Together, we are strong for each other as we continue to venture out into the light –


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Memories: Unexpected, Unexplainable, Treasured

Posted by Anne Browning, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Tags: , , , ,

This was Robby’s car, and with everything Robby, there was a story. robby car

On his way to a rehab session, Robby had a fender bender.  Unfortunately, the damage to the car was far greater than the value of the car so we decided not to have it fixed.  We gave it to my sister and her husband as he tinkered with cars as a hobby.  Four years later, I received this picture from him, as he finally finished repairing Robby’s car (it will always be his).  The picture came over as a text message, and the wave of emotion that hit me was staggering.  I feel the need to share these as I know many of you struggle with seeing these things as well.  There is also a great story to tell and I have to share it!

The moment I saw this picture, my mind hit hyper-drive, and a flood of memories cascaded, one at a time, vivid as the day they happened.  I remembered the day I saw this car on the lot and knew that the red convertible Saab was all Robby.  I remember bringing it home and seeing the look on his face (he paid for a large part of it; it was his car!).  I remember how he washed it every day and how he lived to ride with the top down.  This car was freedom, pride and personal for Robby.

I remember receiving a call while I was in Boston as he told me about the accident; it was OK because he was OK.  I remember the sadness when he knew that fixing the car was not an option.  I remember seeing the car at my sisters, a few weeks after the funeral, as all of these memories hit me for the first time.

I know that this was not an easy job for my brother-in-law.  But I also know that I don’t know how I feel about it.  I don’t know that I want anyone driving it.   Don’t know that I want to see it on the road or in a driveway.  I don’t know that I want anything but for it to be destroyed.  I don’t know how I feel about it at all, but I do know that when I see this car, it is my trigger and the memories all come alive.  What I do know is that all these feelings and the lack of “knowing” are OK; they are normal and they are my feelings.

This is part of what we live with – think about everything in your home or life that reminds you of your kids.  For those that have lost a child, every one of those things resurrects memories and far too often we just don’t know how we feel about them.


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