One woman from Akron, Ohio, went through something no mother should ever have to: she lost her son at the tender age of 25 to a drug overdose. But she wasn’t ashamed to tell her son’s story and chose to channel her heartbreak into helping others. And it all started with the young man’s obituary.
Michelle Benson is the Ohio woman with a poignant story, having lost her 25-year-old son in the most tragic way. His name was Adam Bear, and he had been struggling with addiction. Sadly, though, that addiction would eventually take his life in April 2017.
According to Benson, her son was an active person. In particular, Bear was keen on snowboarding, jet skiing and hitting the gym, among other hobbies. And he was also an avid reader, with a particular penchant for the Harry Potter series. Not only that, but the good-looking and amiable Bear potentially had a bright future ahead of him.
But Bear’s life was cut short because of his addition to drugs. Originally, he had only been taking prescription medication; later, however, he moved onto heroin. This illicit drug is an opioid that affects the body’s nervous system and brain, giving the user temporary pleasurable feelings.
Unfortunately, Bear was one of the unlucky ones who overdosed on the illegal substance. According to his mom, the 25-year-old “never stopped fighting [his addiction],” but in the end it got the better of him. “He certainly didn’t win that battle,” his mom told News 5 Cleveland in May 2017. As a result, Bear died on April 27, 2017.
In fact, drug overdoses are behind more accidental deaths than anything else in the United States, according to the American Society of Addiction and Medicine (ASAM). And, on paper, Bear was just another citizen to succumb to his addiction. But Bear’s mom was determined that her son wouldn’t become just another statistic.
That’s why she took it upon herself to use the story of her son’s tragic death for positive action. In particular, she wanted to share her and her family’s experience with Bear’s drug addiction in order to show others that it’s okay to speak out.
So she wrote an obituary for her son that didn’t shy away from the facts surrounding his death. It started with a paragraph describing Bear and all the things that he liked to do, much like most obituaries. But then Benson directly addressed the reason why her son died.
“Along Adam’s journey, he made a bad decision to experiment with prescription opioids. This eventually led him to the world of heroin,” his mom wrote candidly. “Once heroin got ahold of Adam, it never let him go,” she continued, before describing how much his family treasured him.
“Adam’s family truly loved him and tried to be supportive as he struggled with addiction. He fiercely fought for years,” she added. Next, the grieving mom explained exactly why she intended on using her son’s obituary for the benefit of others battling addiction.
To that end, Benson wrote that her son’s goal was always to “give back and help others,” a legacy that she wished to continue despite his untimely death. “Even though his story came to a sad end much too soon, if a life can be saved because his was lost, his goal of helping others will carry on,” she wrote.
The message behind the obituary was primarily aimed at the families of those with problems with drugs, and so Benson urged the relatives of addicts to reach out for help if they needed it. “If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, be assured that there are resources that can help,” she wrote.
And aware that some people might be reluctant to intervene in someone else’s life, even if they suspect that they are struggling with addiction, Benson encouraged them to do it nonetheless. “Please don’t be afraid of risking a friendship by keeping silent – you may end up losing a friend,” she wrote.
Benson’s unguarded obituary for her son touched the hearts of many, prompting some to comment on the funeral home website where it was published. “I don’t know your family, but I know your struggle. My brother overdosed last year. It’s not easy to lose a loved one to the terrible disease of addiction. I hope that you find some peace someday,” one person wrote.
And although Benson’s story resonated with those who had lost loved ones to drug overdoses, her main aim was to get through to people who still had a chance to act. It may have been too late for Bear, but by telling others about local resources available to drug addicts, she could save lives.
Speaking to News 5 Cleveland, Benson further explained that it was important to her to try and “erase the stigma” attached to the word “addiction.” She said, “What we learned through this is that there are so many families struggling, and they just keep it quiet because it’s shameful and they’re ashamed.”
But by writing the candid obituary, Benson’s intention was to “break that cycle,” so that those who needed support with their addiction had access to it. By starting a more open conversation about addiction, it might become easier for people to talk about going forward.
And judging by the comments written below Bear’s online obituary, it was clear that people were grateful for Benson’s honest account of her son’s life. “God bless you for bravery, honesty compassion and care in writing such a beautiful tribute to your handsome son,” one person wrote.
Even strangers to the family were moved by it. “This is a truly beautiful obituary and testament to this young man’s legacy. Although I do not know your family, I greatly appreciate your willingness to share your story that it may help save others,” someone else commented.
So, while the U.S. is struggling with a widespread opioid problem, Benson is doing her bit to help others tangled up in the dangerous web of drug addiction. And her obituary for her beloved son is the perfect example of someone trying to turn their pain into something that could benefit other people while they still have time — a commodity which her son unfortunately ran out of.