Alison Hartman

Slow Demise

On Christmas Eve of 2016, I received a phone call from Baltimore’s Shock Trauma Center.

“Hello, this is Dr. T,” the caller said. “I’m the physician for your son, Adam. He was rushed to Shock Trauma last night. He jumped off a three-story building and landed on a car. Fortunately, he was under the influence, so he fell like a rag doll and only fractured three vertebrae.”

“My son . . . what?” I gasped.

An Abiding Presence

On a cold, February morning in 2017, I received a phone call from the resident psychiatrist on the psych unit at University of Maryland Medical Center. He introduced himself as Dr. Shapir Rosenberg, the doctor taking care of my twenty-five-year-old son, Adam.

With his warm and patient voice, he said, “Your son entered the psych ER with a drug induced psychosis. He was admitted to the psych unit and stabilized with Haldol. He’s doing much better. I wanted to reach out and ask about his history. Is this a good time to speak?”

The Anguish of Ambiguity

Adam, my twenty-five-year old son, died of a heroin overdose two years ago. Several days after his death, and before the funeral, I sat up late one night talking with his ex-girlfriend. She revealed that he had been sexually abused for several years by a close, male family member starting when he was eleven. The perpetrator threatened to harm our family if Adam ever told anyone. Adam told a few people but the secret was kept from me.

motherson loveloss

Mother and Son, Love and Loss

“I lost my twenty-five-year-old son to a heroin overdose in March 2017. This collage expresses the struggle my son had with addiction, the pain I suffered as his mother and the journey of losing my child. Underneath his disease of addiction, my son was a beautiful person. Through art and writing, I have found meaning and hope in my process of grief.”

About the artwork:

This photograph was taken by Alison Hartman, Adam’s mother, at the graveside unveiling ceremony one year after her son’s death. At the request of the family, the unveiling was conducted by Adam’s physician, Dr. Shapir Rosenberg.


“A child’s death is an unimaginable loss. My son Adam died of a heroin overdose. He struggled with addiction for over a decade. It was heart-wrenching to watch my beautiful son’s self-destruction. During the last two weeks of his life, he was hospitalized and under the care of a doctor of rare compassion. After my son’s death, this doctor mentored me in both grieving and surviving this profound loss.”


“I met Adam in late February 2017. About two weeks later, the day after he was discharged from the hospital, he was found dead of an unintentional …

Mother and Son, Love and Loss Read More »

A Son’s Death, A Mother’s Love

On March 11, 2017 I lost my beloved twenty-five-year-old son to the disease of addiction. He was a beautiful, creative and compassionate person with enormous potential. Receiving the call from the police that he was dead from an overdose was a nightmare no parent should have to experience. Driving to his drug dealer’s apartment to identify his body was not close to any situation I had read about in parenting books as he was growing up.

Keep Going

Since my son died last year of a heroin overdose, the most common response from others has been “I can’t imagine!” Losing your child is unimaginable. A parent is not supposed to outlive their child. It’s contrary to the natural order. He was only twenty-five and never became the beautiful person he was meant to be.
When the call came that he had died (“This is Officer A from Precinct B. Sorry to tell you that your son is dead. If you want to see him before the medical examiners take his body, he’s at this address…”), I faced the choice to either allow it to do me in or pick myself up and move forward.

Honoring Addiction

My son struggled with addiction for over eight years. He died last March of a heroin overdose at the age of 25. To lose a child is completely devastating. I’ve been working through the many layers of grief and am slowly healing.

The Gifts of Grief

In March 2017, my son died of a heroin overdose. He was twenty-five years old.
It began with his use of recreational drugs in his early teens. Before long, he was addicted to prescription opioids. And, finally, heroin.
Watching my beloved child slowly destroy himself was a heart-wrenching experience, almost as devastating as facing the finality of his death.
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