Hello, I am a Maine-based author, mom, and writer who lost a child through substance use disorder.
I strive to write from the heart, to be open to all possibilities, and to be curious about everything! I have always had a strong, intrinsic urge to put pen to paper. Crafting poetry and prose allows me to channel my creative energy while also providing a framework for processing my innermost thoughts and emotions.
I began publishing my writing online with the hope that it would help families affected by addiction develop and share their unique voices and stories because silence is not an option. In addition to being an outlet for my own work, I am inspired by the strength and resilience that individuals continue to express as they face seemingly insurmountable challenges surrounding grief, loss, and recovery. The resilient spirit realizes that where there is darkness, there is also light, that love nurtures our soul, and hope gives us the strength to accept and continue our life journey.
Meet my daughter!
Sarah fatally overdosed on 12/16/2016. She was a complicated young woman with lifelong struggles, including anxiety and depression. But she was much more than that! Sarah started keeping journals when she was 12 years old. Some entries were funny, some incredibly sad.
Sarah’s last birthday was April 18, 2016. My heart shattered all over again as I read her entry in the months following her death.
“So I made it to thirty. Woohoo! For a couple of years, I didn’t know if I would. What was the point? Struggling hard. I feel like I’ve forgotten all that made me happy-lost my reason to wake up in the morning to have a voice-to care about anything!” Sarah
Raising children is hard! Recognizing the signs that your child is using substances, let alone what to do about it is decidedly challenging. As a parent, I realized too late that I was in denial of my daughter’s substance use. I was not educated about the signs of substance use disorder and serious mental health issues. Truthfully, I was in denial for a long time. Why it takes a tragedy to stir someone into action, I honestly don’t know. But I do know now, that as parents, we must not live in denial and we need to become educated about all of these issues and become proactive to avoid tragic consequences. So, I’m sharing with you resources that will allow you to develop a better understanding and the skills to help a loved one who is struggling with mental health challenges and/or substance use.
There is no shame in seeking help when struggling.
How I dealt with my grief…
Losing a daughter to overdose is tragic. Finding her was traumatic. How does one heal from this? After my daughter, Sarah’s death by overdose I began writing feverishly. I published our story about a year later with the intent to promote awareness, address the stigma attached to addiction, and give Sarah a voice as I merged my words with her own. My journey toward healing is detailed in the podcast below, Catching Health with Diane Atwood. The impact on families who face members with addiction and substance use is catastrophic. The effects on my family were life-changing and continue to impact our lives in so many ways. Listen to the podcast below where I talk about the day my reality altered and shifted. Forever changed.
Catching Health With Diane Atwood
Podcast: Secrets: A Story of Addiction, Grief, and Healing
“Imagine that your adult child has died from a drug overdose, and you are the one who finds her. That is what happened to Ann Cookson. The grief never goes away, but Ann has been able to turn her pain into something positive. She wrote a book called Secrets: A Story of Addiction, Grief, and Healing. Listen to her story and how writing the book has transformed her thinking about drug addiction, as well as her entire life.”
A powerful 13-minute video for families, The Island of Insanity...
For Families – The Island of Insanity: Navigating Through Loved Ones’ Addictions | Karen Perlmutter (2022)
The Process of Healing
I continue to mourn, but I am determined to not allow grief to define me. My memoir, Secrets: A Story of Addiction, Grief & Healing was written as I waded through the morass of sorrow. Writing became my solace. As I waded through the darkness healing slowly began. The book, Secrets was released a little more than a year after my daughter’s death. Over the next year, I began structuring my next project, A Magical Adventure Into the Forest, featuring Emma, who felt disconnected from her family. Interweaving prose with poetry, Emma’s adventure leads her full circle reinforcing the need for family love and connection. This book is for children as well as adults because we all need to feel loved and needed!
Healing is a journey made possible through love and hope. Writing a children’s fantasy book played an important role in my path forward. My daughter’s spirit walks beside me. I feel her urging me forward. She motivates me to accept the past, and be mindfully aware of the present while embracing the future.
Breaking the silence! Using Sarah’s journals, our words mingled as one. Her voice would be heard! When a child dies, no matter what the cause, grief can be paralyzing, and overwhelming. However, with an overdose death, the stigma attached to addiction often induces emotions that a grieving parent should not have to experience. Slowly, I came to realize it is possible to survive a heartrending loss such as this.
A Magical Adventure Into the Forest
Emma’s adventure into the unknown would guide her to a place of personal discovery. Everyone needs someone to talk to, to share their heart, their fears, and their dreams with. Especially when life does not go as smoothly as you would like it to go. We all have good days and bad days. Do you ever have one of those days when everything seems to go wrong? Well, for Emma, this was one of those days, leading Emma towards making a momentous decision.
“What a beautiful book and so sad, but so well-written and full of wisdom. It is a gift to everyone. People who are helping people with addiction, people struggling with addiction, and people who have lost someone to addiction. It should be read by everyone.” Dr. Linda Hermans
“This book touched home for me since I recently lost my son to an accidental drug overdose. It is beautifully written and highlighted the complexity of addiction. It shows how this epidemic can impact anyone. The negative stigma needs to be removed from this disease. Thank you for this beautiful book. Hopefully, it will help start the conversations and help end this epidemic!” Kathy M
“After losing my son Doug to an Opiate Overdose, I found this book to be inspiring and true to the throws of addiction and the families who go through this. Sarah’s Mom’s gives her a voice as she becomes gone inside herself. I loved the beautiful additions of Sarah’s journals and that it shows she was just a normal daughter trying to find her way. Also, being a mom who lost her son, I realize I am never alone and our lives are forever changed. Thank you for this beautiful book of love and loss and families in turmoil. Healing comes as we forgive and learn to remember the beautiful memories we had before the disease of addiction takes over. Remembering my son in love and light!” Doug’s Mom
“A must-read! A mother’s love brings an addict to life. Sarah is no longer another sad statistic. She is a loving human being caught in the throes of a terrible disease. Anyone dealing with any form of addiction should read this book. This book may help others to recognize the signs and symptoms to be aware of. It may also help others to heal and forgive themselves and others.” Joy A.
Now, it’s time for some fun and whimsy! Join Emma For a Magical Adventure Into the Forest!
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Website updated 1/4/2023
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