The Missing Details

Here’s the part of Ethan’s death that I often leave out.  But if I am going to be open and vulnerable I’m going to lay it all out there.


The night Ethan died, he was drinking and he was underage.  Yup, there I said it but there’s more to this.  After both the local and college services were done, and the people gone from our home; we began to search for the reason Ethan died.  We wanted answers to why he died.  Here’s what we found out.

Before Ethan attended the sorority event held at a function hall off campus, he participated in pre-gaming.  For those of you who don’t know what pre-gaming is; it’s when you drink before the event.   Thankfully everyone had to take a bus to the function hall. However, it does allude to them knowing there would be drinking involved.  To be fair some of the guests would be of drinking age. Because Ethan looked older than his age, he was somehow able to acquire a bracelet that allowed him to purchase alcohol and drink more.  The anger is bubbling in my belly when I think of this situation.

We continued to track his whereabouts for the days prior to his death.  Finding out that two nights prior to the event, Ethan barely slept.  He was pledging for a fraternity and from what I can tell it wasn’t hazing, it was circumstances that led to two nights of no sleep and then a third night with a few hours of sleep Ethan went to the sorority event. 


Here’s the thing, when our kids die, parents end up with guilt and shame around there children’s death.  And that goes for me too.  My guilt is surrounding the lack of conversation specifically about drinking with very little sleep.  And about the fact that the hundred times we did talk about drinking, I neglected to tell him he was a lightweight at around 140 pounds and he shouldn’t drink the same amount as some of his friends who weighed more.  Look, I know I was a good mom.  A damn good mom but you cannot talk me out of my guilt.  I’m the only one who can do that and I have with lots of self-compassion.


On top of feeling guilty, I have shame that Ethan died from being intoxicated.  I do believe if Ethan weren’t drinking, he would have seen the vehicle or would not have crossed the busy highway.  But I’ll never know for sure.   The shame stems around when other kids died because of drinking; I thought I would be safe because MY SON wouldn’t do that.  Tragically I was wrong and I apologize to every parent that I judged whose child died in that manner.  Because now I know that anyone can die from just about anything at anytime.  That’s the reality.

If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you: if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.

by Gnostic Gospel of Thomas

I have sat and worked on my shame and guilt. Those feelings still occasionally appear but I’ll continue having self-compassion around them.  Here’s what I do know.  Ethan was good, he was loved and he mattered to many others and most importantly to us. This is true for every person who dies in this manner whether it is alcohol or drugs. They all have someone who loved them and they are all inherently good.  Ethan should be here living his life and helping others as he desired. There were others that were intoxicated that night, he just happened to be the unlucky one. 

Are you looking to learn more about self-compassion around guilt and shame? Attend one of my workshops or contact me.

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