A decade ago, at the beginning of the opioid epidemic, my son, Corey, died of a heroin overdose at age 23. I knew so little about opioid addiction when Corey struggled. I didn’t know anyone with a child who had died, let alone from an overdose.
For the next two and a half years, my family and I grieved alone. In 2015, I received an invitation to meet other mothers who had lost a child to overdose. They helped me get a new perspective on life with grief. It was then that I came to understand how much grieving parents, those whose children had died from substance use disorder, needed one another.
Soon after, I founded Team Sharing – MA, a support group where parents meet and support one another. We now have chapters in 25 states. Team Sharing, Inc. became a 501(c)3 in 2017, six years after Corey’s death.
My work since has taken me to youth summits on opioid awareness, in front of cameras for media interviews, to stages where I’ve been honored by wonderful nonprofits, and to the halls of Congress. My grief is still there, but it now manifests itself in hope and advocacy. That hope still exists despite the death of my second son, Sean Merrill. He was prescribed painkillers, went into treatment and was in recovery for several years. Then, he relapsed, and we lost him in 2021.
People like Corey and Sean are dying every day. We don’t see all their deaths at once, but it’s happening all across the country. I wanted to find a way to support families and also recognize their loss in a public and cathartic way.
My Congresswoman graciously invited me to the 2020 State of the Union Address, and I later approached to ask her help with a resolution to fly flags at half-staff in honor of Overdose Awareness Day. She sponsored a letter to the President and submitted a resolution. A few moms and I reached out to our Governors and started a group on Facebook called Fly Our Flags at Half-Staff on Overdose Awareness Day. We requested resolutions and laws through our state legislatures, and this year, flags will be flown at half-staff in 12 states. We’re committed to this effort until flags are lowered in all 50 states to honor our loved ones lost to overdose.
Tell your members of Congress to recognize the overdose crisis as a national tragedy by lowering flags to half-staff on Overdose Awareness Day
Ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the Resolution in Support of Overdose Awareness Day (H. Res. 349).