Trying To Find The Good…

“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy…”     Luke 10:19

Derek-Dignan-1461064777We lost my nephew to a heroine overdose on Saturday. He was incredibly loving, kind and gentle. This immense tragedy has rocked my family to the core. I struggled with whether to write about it here or not: whether it would be disrespectful to his memory, and just too much for a mommy blog. But I’ve decided to do so with the hope that good can come out of our great loss.

I’ve sheltered my kids greatly, trying to protect them from the evil in this world. I wanted their childhoods to be carefree and innocent. I wanted them wearing rose colored glasses for as long as possible.

Similarly, my whole approach to teaching them their faith has been focused on a loving God, Jesus as their friend. I wanted their motivation for making right choices to be based on their love for God, not on fear. I wanted them to do the right thing because it would please God and further His kingdom. Consequently, I’ve left fear and evil out of the curriculum for everything. What happened with my nephew Derek has me questioning my whole approach.

I now realize that I’m not adequately preparing my kids for real life. Although this Scripture passage is about Jesus giving the disciples the ability to overcome all the power of the enemy, I believe God gives us moms this power too. Our power is knowledge and wisdom. If we don’t wield our power, we can’t help our kids overcome the enemy.

I now see that not only are we supposed to teach our kids about God’s great love and compassion, but we’re supposed to teach them about the evils and dangers that exist in our world too. And we’re not supposed to wait until they’re teenagers to do so. If we do wait that long, they’re going to get their information from their peers first. Their friends aren’t necessarily going to have their facts straight; plus they will be adding peer pressure to the mix. If we don’t step up to the plate and be the first ones to convey the information, we are leaving our kids vulnerable. If we do step up to the plate, we can be the ones who teach our children the difficult lessons with love and compassion, and in the doses that are age-appropriate and tailored to who they are as individuals, and how they take in information.

Mason was with me when I got the call about Derek. We had literally just left the house, on our way to volunteer together for Mercy Works: our church’s day of service, an endeavor to actively pour out God’s mercy on those in need. I had to pull over on my street as I tried to absorb the news. Poor Mason didn’t have a clue as to why I was sobbing into my phone.

When I hung up, I got out of the front seat and climbed into the back with him. In that moment, I had a choice: I could either sugar coat things to preserve his innocence, or play it straight and tell him the truth. It was probably Derek himself who prompted me to choose the latter. I had the strong conviction that there could be some good that could come out of this horrific event. If telling my son the whole truth about the evil of heroine at the age of nine would prevent him from ever trying it, that far outweighed my desire to preserve his innocence.

Heroine addiction is an epidemic in this country, and, for some reason, more so in our State of New Hampshire. There are conflicting reports as to whether addiction begins the first time you try it or not. Either way, the general consensus is that the first experience is so intense, even if the addiction isn’t there right away, the desire is. Not too long after, the body will crave it mercilessly forever; and life without it will be a living hell.

I have made some right choices in life based on fear. Peer pressure can be intense. It takes a very strong person to stand firm in the face of it. Looking back over my life, it’s very clear to me that I wasn’t strong enough to overcome some peer pressure, but I sure was scared enough to. Some may say that’s not healthy. But I can tell you, I am grateful for that fear nonetheless.

Therefore, I have knowingly been planting the seeds of fear of heroine in my boys’ minds over the past couple of days (Jocelyn is still only five – her lessons will come later). I plan to take them to the wake and funeral too. Not only do I want them to pay their respects to their cousin, but I want them to witness the heartbreak and loss to water those seeds so they grow deep roots into their little psyches.

Zack views life in black and white. If I  continue to teach this lesson, he’ll buy in and never give in. Mason is a different story. He’s incredibly easy going and malleable. The danger in that is he can easily be manipulated by anyone out of his desire to please. In the face of someone trying to convince him that it’s okay to try heroine, he might give in.

Our God is a loving and compassionate God. I like to think that He allows us to do good once we cross over to the other side. In my mind, having Mason in the car with me when I got the news was God allowing Derek to do good in the midst of this horrific event. Mason witnessing my raw devastation in our car Saturday morning will forever be seared into his little heart. If that memory is what causes him to walk away when someone is trying to get him to try heroine in the future, that will be Derek’s gift to him, and to all of us.

Questions For Reflection:
     * Am I adequately preparing my kids for the difficult challenges that lay ahead of them?
     * Do I see any benefit from instilling a healthy dose of fear in my kids to protect them from certain things?

14 thoughts on “Trying To Find The Good…

  1. Oh Claire, my heart breaks for your entire family. Derek, your brother and his wife and the whole family have been in my prayers since I heard the news. My biggest prayer has been for support for all of you as you grieve and go through this terrible tragedy. Having lost a loved one to heroin….I think that being up front with your kids and throwing in a little of that fear is a good thing. I also think seeing first hand all of the pain and suffering that the family is going through, will also help them to make those difficult choices later in life. I pray that Derek will be with all of his cousins as they grow and face those difficult peer situations ahead. Big Hugs to all of you!


    • Thanks so much Jess. I do like to think of Derek watching over my kids, doing good on earth from Heaven. And thank you for ALL your support during this really tough time. Love you!


  2. I am so sorry for your loss, Claire.
    I haven’t talked to my teens about drugs for years, thinking that talk was over and behind me.
    You inspired me to ask them their thoughts now, and it was eye-opening and unexpected.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us.


    • Thank you for your condolences, Deborah. Please do have that conversation with your kids. My intention behind writing this post is that if talking with our kids about the evil of heroine saves even one of them, there will be good that comes from this tragedy.


  3. I am so sorry Claire. As you probably know, I lost my daughter Stephanie at the age of 23 to a heroin overdose 8 years ago. My heart breaks especially for Steven & Sherry. I know exactly what they are going through. When I got the news it felt like my heart was literally ripped out of my body. I was more upset for my Karen and Stephanie’s sisters having to go though that pain. Please pass my deepest sympathy to Steven & Sherry. Family will help them make it through. Your Mom and Auntie Kitty were there for us at the wake and funeral and I am forever grateful to the loving support from them. Love Karen & Paul.


    • This has been incredibly hard as the aunt; I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you, Paul, as the father. Know that I’ll be saying a special prayer for Stephanie today at Derek’s funeral. I’m sure God has a special place in Heaven for these young kids who suffered so much from this horrific addiction. My prayer is that Derek and Stephanie are together with God, and at peace. Love to you, Karen and the kids.


  4. I cannot imagine getting that call, Claire. I’m so sorry for your loss. It is unimaginable what your brother and sister-in-law are going through. My heart breaks for them and for your entire family – especially for Derek’s brothers and sister. It is obvious they were a close family and losing their brother has changed their world forever. I have been praying for all of you to find peace knowing that Derek is now at peace and isn’t struggling with this horrible disease any longer. . I think you were so wise to be honest with the kids. They do need to know the harsh realities of the world we live in so they can be prepared for whatever comes their way. I know God has a plan for Derek. Good will come out of all of this. Some will become so afraid to ever try drugs and others will be motivated to help others that have already succumbedYour family is so loving and giving and I know that God will guide you all in making Derek’s memory live on in a positive way.
    My deepest sympathies to you and your family!!


  5. Claire, I am so glad you decided to write about Derek. I think so many families, including our own, have considered addiction as a private matter, not to be discussed outside of our own families. And God bless Steven and Sherry for including it in Derek’s obituary. Their hope is that other young people will benefit from that knowledge, and not choose the same devastating path. The sad truth is we are losing an entire generation of good, kind and compassionate young sons and daughters. And it does seem that that conversation has to be addressed at a very young age.
    Paul it breaks my heart that you and Karen went through that pain and sorrow. Stephanie has been in my prayers each and every day since hearing that terrible news. And I do remember that you admonished her friends in the hope of Influencing them to take a different path. We were all so proud of you for that and prayed that your words had an impact.
    We will grieve for Derek and Stephanie forever and pray for comfort for all families who are living this senseless nightmare.
    Steve and Sherry believe that some good will come from their tragic loss. They are committed to helping the other members of the Sober House. And maybe that is God’s plan.


    • Claire, thank you for having the courage to share Derek’s story and your perspective. Your blog has challenged me to think differently about wanting to “protect” my own kids from the bad things in our world. Having conversations about difficult situations my kids will be exposed to as they grow through middle school, high school, college and beyond is a more effective way to protect them than the “bubble” I had preferred keeping them in.
      About a year ago, we lost a family member to heroine addiction. Derek is everyone’s child, brother, cousin or friend. By talking to our own kids about this epidemic, my prayer is that it will not only save their life but maybe a friend’s life too. And in that way, ultimately Derek will have done good in the lives of a few more people.
      My heart aches for your family. They are in my thoughts and prayers.


      • Thank you so much Jeanne. My condolences to you and your family for your loss as well. Despite how difficult this issue is, it is real and needs to be faced head on. Thanks for doing so with your own kids.


  6. Claire, I’m so sorry for your loss. My cousin intentionally ended his life with heroin nine years ago. He was having many problems, and he believed death was better than anything life had to offer him. It’s so sad that young people are able to get a hold of this drug so easily, and maybe they think they can stop at any time, but it’s just not possible. You are right to start educating your children about what is out there, as it seems to be affecting more people every day. We are so quick to think “oh, that could never happen in my house,” but it can happen to any family. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and grief with us, and I will be praying for you and your family.


    • Thank you Stephanie. SO sorry to hear about your cousin. You are absolutely right – no family is immune to this terrible issue. I think the only way to win this war is to be brutally honest with the younger generation, and our own children, so there are no myths to attract and trap them.


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