Alyssa was a beautiful successful young woman. She graduated cum laude from high school and magna cum laude from college. She grew up with two loving parents and a little sister who idolized her. She was a proud dog mom to a Pittie mix named Myah.
I never met Alyssa, because she was also a heroin addict.
I knew Shanea, Alyssa’s mom, only a short time when she lost her daughter. When I saw her about a month after Alyssa’s death, I was surprised at her composure. As we spoke that day, I knew Shanea would become my role model for strength and peace.
Of course, she cries. Sometimes for hours. But, she finds a way to say Enough! and takes another step forward.
One year after Alyssa’s overdose Shanea’s sister Holly, her only sibling, followed Alyssa’s path. Still carrying the grief of losing her daughter, she found herself trying to help her own mother get through the loss of hers.
Shanea has suffered from the effects of Lyme Disease for the past four years, trying everything she can to regain the health she once took for granted. Yet, she would gratefully endure physical pain and limitations in exchange for the chance to see her daughter smile or hear her sister’s voice.
In the midst of these trials, Shanea saw the breakup of a long term relationship. This was a man who had been with her, there for her, at her lowest, but somehow found he could walk away.
How many times can a heart be broken?
Still, Shanea chooses to live, not just go through the motions. She works. She is an attentive mother to her younger daughter, Jadynn. She cuddles Myah, feeling Alyssa’s presence because of her. She stays close to her extended family and friends. She helps others with their loss. She fights so that maybe one day no other mother or sister will know her pain.
Recently, I asked Shanea how she does it, how she finds the strength to keep going, to be positive about life.
She believes Alyssa and Holly are at peace. They are no longer slaves to something they had no power to control. Neither wanted to be a drug addict. That choice was made without their knowledge the first time they said yes to the temptation.
Jadynn is the reason she gets up in the morning. Shanea will always be Alyssa’s mother, but it’s now only Jadynn who needs mothering. She can see if she chose to live her life in mourning, Alyssa wouldn’t be helped, but Jadynn would be harmed.
When she can’t see her way ahead, Shanea seeks the balm of nature. A walk outside in a serene setting helps to calm her mind and fortify her heart and soul. She finds her way on her new life path by taking one step at a time.
Next week Shanea and Jadynn with some family members and a few close friends will journey to the beach, Alyssa’s favorite place. There, they will sprinkle some of her ashes.
Shanea says it’s time.