A Posthumous Road Trip

Maritza Hiciano

Mother's Day can evoke deep emotions for those who have experienced the loss of a child, serving as a painful reminder of their absence during what should be a celebrated occasion. 

Mother & Daughter on a Beach

Tragically, this is the reality for Kelli, who lost her son Steven to an overdose just last year. As I spoke with Kelli and her daughter Amelia, they openly shared their experience as family members affected by substance use disorder, a story that resonated with me.

After Steven's death, Kelli recalls feeling saddened, shocked, and angry due to the stigma she faced from people around her in the following months. Even now, the pain of losing her son is present every day. Despite the pain, Kelli and Amelia chose a path that would shape the remembrance of Steven's memory. To do this, Kelli, and Amelia, along with Steven’s puppy, set out to fulfill Steven's lifelong travel dreams across the United States. They created a website to share their experiences from Steven's perspective.

A journey beginning in Virginia taking them through the Carolinas and Georgia, then west to Texas and Arizona. From there, they’ll travel north to Vancouver in Canada, followed east to Maine and NYC. Their ultimate goal is to end their trip at the Faces of Fentanyl Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

As Kelli and Amelia explore new places, they keep Steven in their hearts, finding moments of gratitude in each adventure.

Throughout their interactions with others, they help spread the word about how overdose and addiction affect families, hoping to make a difference, one person at a time. From the serene beaches to the bustling cities they have visited, it is evident that Amelia and Kelli’s journey is also about healing. They encounter countless individuals whose lives have been touched by addiction, each one a reminder that they are not alone in their grief.

From nurses who have cared for those struggling with addiction to fellow travelers who share their own stories of loss, they find solace in the shared bond of grief and resilience.

Through these conversations, they find hope knowing that what they have experienced does not have to be a reality for other families. For Kelli and Amelia, the journey may be far from over, but as they continue to spread awareness and advocate for change, they do so with the knowledge that Steven's memory will live on in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.

They are keeping Steven's memory alive by carrying his ashes with them on their trip. They celebrate his life by sharing stories with strangers and giving away his sunglasses collection to friends and family so everyone can have a small memento of him. They are determined to keep his essence flourishing and to always keep him near and dear to their hearts, one mile at a time.

Even though Kelli won't hear “Happy Mother’s Day” from Steven again, she's comforted by the path she took to honor his memory.

For this reason, Kelli has a message for all parents - she suggests saving videos of their children wishing them, “Happy Mother’s Day, as well as other special occasions that they can refer to in the future. Life can be unpredictable, and it's always good to have cherished memories of loved ones. Kelli and Amelia are also spreading the message that Steven was more than his addiction, an important message to help eliminate the shame that comes with having an addiction, which prevents people from seeking the help they need to get better.

As my conversation with Kelli and Amelia draws to a close, I am amazed by the bravery and resilience that they possess. Despite experiencing an unfortunate loss, they have been able to find solace in one another and in their shared purpose of honoring Steven's memory while helping to bring about change. This Mother's Day, Amelia will try to plan activities catering to Kelli's well-being, ensuring that her mother feels supported and loved through the difficulties of the day.

As we celebrate the mothers in our lives, let's also take a moment to extend our thoughts and compassion to those who have faced the challenges of losing a child to addiction.

To learn more about Kelli and Amelia’s journey and what keeps them inspired each day, visit iwasmore.com.

Man in a support group

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