Mystery O. Riley

Emmitt Owen Riley was last seen on May 29, 2007, by most accounts.  He went to see a movie that evening, but left early, “bored” was his reason.  The movie?  The 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean.  No wonder, huh?  He worked at the theater, and free movies for the employee plus a guest, along with popcorn and a soda, were the only benefits.  His guest stayed to see the last 20 minutes of the movie.  Owen did not.  Where did Owen go, and why?  We may never know these answers.

There are several reasons for this blog. The first is to honor Owen’s life.  He was a young man of 20 years and 50 weeks at the time of his death, or thereabouts.  We don’t have an actual date or cause of death these 11 weeks later (as of 8/18/07).  Our county coroner’s office takes anywhere from 12 – 16 weeks to produce a final report.  Owen’s body was found in the Petaluma River on Saturday, June 2, 2007.  We’re still waiting to find out how and why.

Owen was a musician, writer, and entertaining conversationalist, who chose to stay quiet much of the time.  He was an observer, and talking took away from that endeavor.  He worked mostly nights, which suited him, as he was a nightowl much of his life.  He loved wordplay and made up his own words regularly…I think often, just to see if we were listening.  He challenged us to keep up with him, and tested us often.  He loved to talk about philosophy, religion, life, death, and everything in between. 

Another reason for this blog is to hopefully be a resource for other families whose adult loved ones have gone missing.  The sluggish response from our local police department, and the ensuing madness from their lack of interest in a missing 20-year-old man, prompted our family and friends to do much of the work of searching for him, and figuring out what happened that night.  We’re still at it, and this nightmare continues.  We know things no one should know, and we’re glad to share with those in need.

The last reason for this blog, is to give you a glimpse of how we’re making it from day to day, to take you on this journey of unbelievable grief, loss, and mystery.  Not something everyone will care to do.  But, there are other families who have experienced similar losses, and few know how to respond.  Perhaps we can help in some way, just by sharing our thoughts and feelings.

Owen wanted his nom de plume to be Mystery O. Riley, because he thought it was a good play on words, his name being Mr. E. Owen Riley.  He loved a good mystery and was amazed at the absurdities of the world.  Maybe he would think it makes sense that his disappearance is a mystery.  What would he tell us about that night, Tuesday, May 29, 2007?

72 Responses to “Mystery O. Riley”

  1. I don’t really know what to say but I want you to know I feel so deeply for you and for your loss. I have two little boys and my heart pains just thinking about losing one of them. My thoughts are with you and I hope you get some answers and that they help you – even if it’s just a little bit. I love your blog name – very clever. Take care of yourself. xxx

  2. Thank you, Mending Mumma. All comments are welcome here. I know what it’s like to have two little boys. I remember. I only have one now (and, he’s 25) in this life. And, he is suffering in a way I can’t explain. He feels so responsible, when, in fact, there is nothing he could have done to prevent this unthinkable event…whatever that event was. Only those who were there know. And, they’re not telling.

    Hold tight to your boys. We did. Just keep talking, feeling, thinking, and hoping that your boys will do the same. Owen and Nat always did, and we can’t imagine what forces took over. Someday, we will know. We don’t know how, but we know.

    Love to you and yours…L.

  3. I’m so very deeply sorry for your inexplicable loss.

  4. why? someone tell me why?

  5. I feel so silly right now, for reading the post about Helen first, and commenting what I did there!

    I know how it hurts, not to just lose a loved one, but to never know how you lost them.

    I am so sorry for your loss. And sometimes words are not just enough!

  6. Hitesha, Please don’t feel silly. So much of life is unknowable. All of us are searching, and wandering/wondering in our own unknown futures…and presents/presence.

    I’m guessing you have an unknown loss, as well. If not, you are imagining what it might be like. Bless your sweet soul, for sharing.


  7. Dear Linda,

    isnt it surprising how kind words from a seeming stranger can sometimes warm your insides. 🙂

    Thanks for your kind words.


  8. Sorry for your family’s loss. And thank you for sharing him with us. I am a mother of five. I have one boy, he’s the oldest. I know how fragile they’re lives can be-I have had so many close-calls over the years that scares you strait. I have a wonderful, amazing friend who is the brightest light I know. Her boy was killed by a gardner’s truck riding his bike. It took her ten years to write this amazing book. Please take a look, it may heal in some way for grieving parents. We all love you.

  9. I was reading about Owen standing behind you listening to celtic music, and I was thinking of my own boy of 9 years old who likes to hang out with me. How sweet, I thought. As I poked around your site, I noticed your post’s tags, and then this terrible foreboding came over me. Something is wrong.

    Now I see how you must have found my site, tagged with “grief” too. I feel so awful at losing my grandmother, but to lose a child is unimaginable. A few days ago, I heard that my colleague had lost her 8-month old fetus. So much loss. So overwhelming. How does one go on about one’s life?

    My heart goes out to you and your family. I am so very sorry. And I am so proud of you for doing this blog. My Italian friend who lost her mom told me that she has found that it is absolutely necessary for the grieving to talk of the dead beloved.

    Is your avatar Owen? I can’t see the thumbnail very well. Mine is a picture of my grandma.

  10. I’m sorry that you are having to go through such a painful time. Missing Owen would be enough, but all the unknown added to it must be overwhelming. May you all find peace within this madness.

  11. As are all the others, I’m so so sorry. My sixteen year old best friend died 2 months and 8 days ago unexpectdily. Everyday is a battle and its frustrating when people say ” I know how you feel” because Joey, and Im sure Owen is unlike any other and no one, unless being you, can possibly understand. I pray everyday with Joey’s mother, and I see her pain and it’s unbearable. God Bless you.

  12. Not knowing is something that will haunt you for a very long time, even if you do find the answers, you’ll always wonder. My 18 year old son died by suicide and the questions will never leave me.

    I know your pain and I hope you find what you’re looking for, but I also hope you find peace in your heart.

  13. Thank you for your website and for your desire to share your grief and anger and your quest for the truth with us. I am inspired by your strength–though I do know that it is a strength you wish you never had to find out you had. Reading what I have so far helps me to realize what a blessing I have in my almost eight-year-old son and even more how lucky I am that the day I am focusing on for my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project came out so well, with only a near-death experience for my son. My experience that day gave me a chance in time to realize how blessed I was to be his mother and to change my life and thoughts after that day–you weren’t so lucky, and I am so sorry for your grief . . .

    Namaste (I honor the light within you . . . )

  14. Thanks for leaving me a note, Linda.

    As they say, time is a healer, time is also a teacher. I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve gone through. For being the person I am today. Without a doubt though, there’s a whole lot more for me to learn and experience. And sometimes a stranger is more of a friend, than the people around you.

    Take care and God bless.


  15. I came across this blog looking for comfort in my own grief. My 17 year old son was found dead in his best friends car on the morning of October 28,2007 the cause of death is still pending. I just want to say thank you for sharing. I feel the same pain.

  16. Hi Linda,
    I remember visiting this blog and leaving a comment somewhere about my niece who drowned. I might have mentioned also that I lost two brothers also around the same time. I was just wondering if you have found out any more information about what happened to your son.
    Again, sorry for the loss of your son, he sounds like a beautiful person, like his mother.

  17. Hi Kitty,

    No, you didn’t mention losing your two brothers. I’m so very sorry. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through in the last couple of years.

    Could never have imagined our losses, either. And, no, we know very little more than the last time you checked in. We’re waiting on the police department’s final investigation report. The City Attorney has notified us that they are examining all the documentation to see what they feel they can release to us. All very strange, to know they know more, than they will share with us.

    If it’s not too intrusive, how did you lose your brothers? My older son is having such a hard time with losing Owen. I haven’t lost a sibling, so am sometimes at a loss to help him through the fog and the silence.

    Love to you and your family,

  18. Linda, It’s been an unbelievable year. My brother Shane (44) died of an accidental overdose (muscle relaxants for his back) in October of ’06. Two months later, his daughter Candace (19) drowned in her car. She ran off the road at about 7 in the morning. She must have fallen asleep at the wheel, she didn’t have any alcohol or drugs in her system. She hit the end of a guardrail and that caused her car to go upside-down in a ditch. She couldn’t get out of the car, she tried, they found her legs all tangled in the steering wheel and the windshield was kicked in a little. In May of 07 I lost my other brother Lorne from an accidental overdose on the same drug (Soma) as Shane. It was like a repeat of the exact same thing. All three of them died in a span of 7 months.

    My family (husband and chldren) have been supportive and I see a shrink. Most days are not too horrible. I still have my children and think about that a lot. What I do have left. I don’t think i would do so well if I lost one of them. I know I wouldn’t.

    My two surviving brothers are not doing well. They are both in jail (one for dui and the other for drug use). If they weren’t in jail, I wonder if they too would be dead by now. Seriously, they tried to ease their suffering the only way they knew how. By substance abuse. It wasn’t that bad until Shane died. That is when the fit hit the shan.

    My mother has been staying at her sister’s home about three hours away from her hometown. She’s not doing well, as you can imagine. She went from having four sons in town to having none around. In less than a year. It’s strange, they were always there, and now, no one is there. Blows my mind to think of it.

    Obviously, substance abuse is what made the difference here as far as dealing with all of the grief. I have never abused drugs or alcohol. I guess what I am begging you to do is to tell your older son to stay clear of things like drugs or alocohol.

    I’m sure you’ve heard over and over about the healing that comes with time. It ticks slowly when you are hurting, but with every beat, it will get better. There is nothing else that can take away your grief, and it shouldn’t, you need that right now, you need to own it. It is all you have left of your loved one, that grief.

    Just yesterday I was moving over some addresses to my new phone and could not delete those for my brothers and niece. I don’t know if I will ever be able to do that.

  19. my stomach is clenched with sadness for your loss. I wish nothing but the best of luck to you on your investigation. Maybe solving this one day will give you the beginnings of closure. I have two babies and I would not be able handle a situation like this as bravely and with the emotional strength that you yourelf probably don’t even realize you’re showing. all my thoughts are with you.

  20. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but I never know what to say. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to lose your child. I sincerely wish you and your family all the best.


  21. I read what you wrote on “jumping into puddles” and came over here to see what you write about. I’m so sorry to hear your story about your wonderful son. I read a lot of true crime stories only because there’s a part of me that can’t believe these things happen. I know that you know more than anyone that they do. There’s no words to express how saddened I am for you but if it helps at all, I think you’re so brave and I love hearing the stories of what your life was like before you lost your son. I love that you taught him to express himself and love the differences in people.

  22. I am sorry for the way in which you lost your son. You are right we do share some grief together. It amazes me when people come into my life to share in this journey. Your hurt is more recent than mine though so if there is anything I can do to support you, just ask. Thanks for your comment on my blog.

    Oh and my fascination is with the specific number 23 because I was born on that day.

  23. I came acroos your site by looking for information about stress & the death of a loved one.. I lost my 29 year old son Nov 26, 2007 from an accidental overdose, and I thought I was strong… but life can never prepare you for this… At least I was with him in the hospital, but I had to take him off life support… that is such a bewildering feeling… I miss him so…As I know you do your son.
    I am so sorry for your loss… As I can truly say… I feel your pain & My prayers go out to you.

  24. I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. I am a Mother also and just can’t imagine your pain or how to deal with that. God bless you and I hope that your questions can be answered soon.

  25. Our son was killed almost 3 years ago and some days it seems like yesterday. I’ve lost a parent and a sister; nothing compares to the loss of a child (even though he was 26) our only son. I have recently been able to think how anyone else could love & miss someone so much. As one person wrote to you, I always thought that I was a pretty strong person but this has really almost stopped me from wanting to even exist. My heart goes out to you and your family. From one hurting Mom to another- God Bless! Everyday we are one day closer to seeing our sons again.

  26. to lose a son is very painful and what more to lose a him in a mysterious death.i think it triples the pain and the grieve,specially for a mother that will do anything for her children.It takes time to heal and to recover from the tragic experience,maybe it take a number of years or even a lifetime.But i admire you for creating this blog site, i hope in this way of sharing your thought somehow the pain you feel ease, if not not totally at least a bit.
    in the midst of uncertainty and darkness of our life only faith in God is the answer.I know you a lot of doubt and question about the things happened and why God let this to happened.Please don’t hesitate to ask God for i know He listen.God can be your companion, a friend and a loving father that stand by you.I hope in time you will the reason why this happened.Although it was a tragic and painful way, theres always a reason and only God knows.But in time for sure God will let you know His reason.Just have faith and hang on on Him.

  27. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my son this month. August 2. I feel your pain . There is so many unanswered questions for anyone losing a child or anyone they loved. You will never have them all, I had someone tell us that we were fortunate that we had his body as her son was blown up in the war and all they had was tissue. It made me grateful…. that was true. I miss him every minute and am walking through the path of grief , hard as it is every day. We have our first grand baby arriving any day..I have to. Let no one put a time limit on your grief nor tell you how to grieve. Allow yourself to grieve and stay connected to those who support and love you and help you . Sending you prayers and love. May GOD Bless you and Carry you and your family through

  28. Lost my niece two weeks ago. We loved and miss her. Sudden death of a beautiful 31 year old mother of a 5 year old. My sister is law is suffering terrible and I am going to send this blog to her.

  29. My brother died by arson fire 9/4/08, Ashland, under homicide investigation. I think it may have actually been 9/3,not sure why the date/time is so terribly important to me. No answers,yet. I don’t know how I found your blog, Google-eyed-grief for something else…it is consoling what you write and others write here. Thank-you. I hope your angel-son was there to greet my kid-brother.

  30. sorry for your loss. i lost my 26yr old daughter in a tragic car accident two days before thanksgiving 2003 and then 14months later i lost my 22yr old son i do know how you feel during this time of the year the pain becomes even harder they were my only two children i tryed threapy xanx sleeping pills nothing works god help us mothers and fathers we don,t know how to go on i would have glady given my life for both my children

  31. Wasn’t expecting to find a site like this when I was searching for medical questions, it was not hard to forget everything else I was doing and sit quietly and read your words. I am very sorry for your loss, words that just don’t cut it or do much, unless they came from a parent who has lost a child then those words seem to have a different meaning I too lost my oldest twin son Jesse at 21 yrs old. He was killed by a drunk driver 8 yrs, 3 months and 9 days ago. He was not drunk and was driving 2 girls home after a wake board festival in the Delta, the girl in front was killed instantly as was my son, the girl in the back seat will never walk again or have children. To add to tragedy the girl that hit them was his room mates 23 yrs old sister,a mistake she paid for with her life. its been over 8 years and when I read or meet or face another mother who has lost a child i am right back to the day it happened and feeling of not being able to breath. But I want to thank you for being so compassionate in starting this blog. I dont know if you feel the same but talking to other parents that have lost a child was the only thing I could see any hope from. I am at a loss for words though that provide any comfort to others parents, maybe in time manybe never, last year very long time friends lost their 16 yrs old daughter in car accident and I barely made it through the service and all I could do was sit silently and cry along with her. I feel I failed her as a friend, she doesnt think so but I feel like I failed. So I am very appreciative there is someone as compassionate as you must be. I wish I could do more to help others, To all parents with children, cherish every single moment and that way, God forbid you have to face this, you will have a lot of cherished memories and moments you will replay over and over in your mind. Your son sounds a bit like my Jesse, played the guitar loved his family was very entertaining and always acted like the “Big Brother” he was 4 1/2 minutes older lol. He left behind a a twin brother and sister, and the pain in their eyes I had no bandaid for, as a mom we are supposed to kiss the booboos and heal their hurt and when u cant that is a awful feeling. Both are doing well now and living good lives are strong and compationate people who amaze me still how wonderful they are. I stand in awe of my children and the people they have grown to be, I did learn that our children do not belong to us they are not our possessions or he’d be here with us. I do believe if we are fortunate enough God lets us raise them and love then and what a gift that is, I feel very special He chose me to be their mommy. I hope I did a decent job being their mom to thank him. Thank You Again what a wonderful site.

  32. Hello,

    I just wanted to say that I am so sorry for your loss. I came upon your site when it was automatically linked from another wordpress blog, and I’ve been reading.

    I lost a son as well, but in very very different circumstances, as a baby who was very very ill. I know that it is a very different kind of loss than yours, but we both know that awful emotion of grief, and I hope you don’t mind if I follow along with your story.

    Take care.

  33. I too lost my youngest son in July 2008. I feel your pain and I know it is impossibble to conceive. I wake every morning praying deligently for night fall so i can sleep only to wake to another of pain and heatache. I will draw my last breath loving and missing my baby boy. I have a daughter and another son that I love as much but the void left from the loss of Marcus will never be filled. May God bless and give you the strengh to endure your life without the near presence of your son you loved so much.

  34. In facing the very real possibility that I will lose someone very soon to a curable but if not treated then deadly disease – drug addiction – I find no answers, only more questions and begin to move from heartache to heartache searching in the end I suppose for God to swoop down from the heavens and change the nature and consequence of this enchanted prison. Peace.

    • Hey poetreearborist, I looked you up when I saw your comment. I love your poetry, your writing. Stay on the path. We’re all here together. You may lose your loved ones, we often do. The questions will continue, the heartaches are so much a part of this life. If we wait for God to swoop down, we may miss much of what this life has to offer, eh? Our enchanted prisons have every opportunity to become our enchanted lives – so, hey, which way do you want to go? Prison or life? I hear you. L.

  35. Hi Linda,
    My name is Paula I am the mother of Candace. Kitty told me about your blog and I should check it out. It has been 2 years since her death on Dec,31,2006. She was 19 and my hardest times are Dec.-Feb. Feb.3 is her birthday. I know how you feel nothing can replace them. My son and wife are having there second child, they just found out it is a girl. They will name her Candace Jane.

    • Dear Paula,

      Welcome to mysteryoriley. I’ve read about your precious daughter, Candace, and Kitty has told me more.

      I am so very sorry about your losing Candace. In the early days of this blog, I often thought of Candace and Owen tripping the light fantastic through fields of daisies, together. They passed from this life within a half year, and both were found in water. Somehow, that felt to me, like a match made in heaven.

      Kitty has been a regular glimpse of life going on, for me. She is such a warm and wonderful spirit in the face of so much angst. I hold her in the highest regard.

      I don’t write here as often as the first year after Owen died. The second year has been even more disjointed, in ways, more painful – the reality staring me in the face, the shock having worn off. Only a parent such as you, one who has lost her child in an untimely and largely unexplained death, can truly understand the continuing grief, the sleepless nights, the silent screams, and the audible ones, too.

      My older son, Nat, says he will name his first child (he has a stepdaughter, Ruby, who is 6), after Owen. I get it. I cherish the commitment of our living children, to their siblings’ and our childrens’ memories.

      I used to look at Candace’s photo often, wondering why. There is no why. There’s only what’s so – the anguish, but also…the love we shared with our kids, the love they shared with us. They live on, because we carry them with us every day. Telling their stories, talking about the good times, even the hard times, is an honor to the young people we raised. Nothing is harder than knowing we didn’t get the chance to say, “fare thee well, my darling, good journey”.

      I am so pleased you’ve written me. I wondered if I would ever get the chance to connect with you. I know now, we are connected forever in our mysteries, and in the phenomenal love we all shared in times much happier than these.


  36. I am so glad Paula made it here and you two have connected.
    Paula is like a dear sister to me (I have known her since second grade, way before my brother met her.)

  37. Linda,
    You have a beautiful site.
    I am truly sorry for the loss of your child. Words can not express nor comfort you. Writing is a good release. Hopefully someone will come forward with knowledge of what happened to Mystery O. Riley


  38. Even though our stories are different in some ways, the end result is the same. My 15 yo was killed in an accident 07-24-2006. The sadness and confusion that follows is unavoidable.He would have graduated from high school this year. Please know you are not alone. I care. Melody

  39. Linda, Paula, Melody and others,
    I am sad for those of us who share the loss of a child. It is our deepest fear. My beautiful 18 year old son was killed – crushed to death. It is so horrible to think about, his pain, how scared he must have been. Then there was an inquiry, and trial. How do you cope? It is such a lonely time as well. My son died 3 years ago, and people think I “should be over it”. I have good days and bad days, but you never get over it. I am a single parent of 4 sons, and as my younger sons reach the age that their brother was, and then pass, essentially becoming older than he ever got to be, it is so terribly painful. I also live far from family and lifelong friends, so I have no one to share memories with, and very little emotional support for myself, and I have to try to be all of that to my surviving sons. I even had one person tell me “well, it isn’t like he was little” like that makes it easier?? Oh, those comments…and so many more. I try to tell myself that they mean well, and can’t realize how thoughtless their comments must be. To all of you other bereaved moms, just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I think most Moms get it…it isn’t about trying to make us feel better, it is about being with us when we feel bad. Please take care of yourselves. Denice

    • Denice,

      I’m sorry I did not reply to you sooner. I’m still learning how to “blog” and came across your note yesterday. I am so sorry as well for your pain. Very sorry, from the bottom of all I have to offer you. I’ll listen to your memories and your needs. Please do not ever hesitate to come to me. I care for all of you and will always have you in my heart and prayers. Melody(
      P.S. Any hints on how to get the most out of blogging, I’ll take.

  40. I am not sure how I came upon your blog, but am so sorry for your loss and the mystery surrounding the death of your son. I find myself thoroughly engaged in your writing. I notice the gap from your last entry and do hope you are well (at least as much as you can be).

  41. Hello,
    I too feel your pain. I wish for your peace. We found our only 23yr old son dead, unexpectedly at our home 8/22/09. Andrew suffered from epilepsy since age 11, but had controlled seizures and was able to drive the last 3 yrs. He came home from Job Corps, finally able to graduate from the CNA program after 2 valiant tries (medications really hampered his learning). He came home on a Friday. I got two great hugs and kisses, got him comfortable in my office. We found him gone the following day. This is life changing. I have been a nurse for 27yr, mostly pediatrics and recent 3yrs of hospice nursing. NOTHING prepares one for the death of a child. I am only 2 months into this grieving/healing process. It is like a slinky. Some days ok, others several steps backwards. I fall to my knees in gratitude that he came home that day. Peace to all of you, this I know will be a lifetime of work.

  42. “In these silences something may rise” – S.K. I hope you find the truth your family deserves. My son died on September 26, 2007 in an alcohol related accident – so many questions unanswered, but I was able to read the autopsy – know why he died, how. It gave me something, I don’t want to say closure – but it was a reason for his physical death that I could get my mind around. I have finally accepted that I am no longer living my life, but trying to survive it. I am on year 2 and it is so much worse as the shock wears off and everyone forgets. The grief has been more like terror for me – the anxiety, fear and pain. I find myself trying not to think about Ryan just to survive the pain of losing him – yet it is always there waiting, just below the surface – ready to knock me to the ground. Your memories and love for Owen are so beautiful and brave. From one broken heart to another – much love and hope.

  43. Hi Mary,

    I tried your email address and it bounced, so I’m writing to you here in the hopes you’ll return soon.

    I am so sorry about your Ryan. Simply put, I know.

    I’m also sorry that here in year two, you’re becoming even more familiar with the post-shock grief that just as you described, knocks us to the ground. Shock is a wonderfully-human protective glove that once removed, leaves us reeling again in a new bare-skinned way. The friends and family who forget, too, an awful pain that is daunting on its own, but also, very lonely. I don’t think they actually forget. I think they, by virtue of their unique relationships to our kids and to us, are able to move forward with their lives in a less awful way.

    I know why parents who’ve lost a child put away their child’s belongings. Some even put away their photos. I can’t. I need to see his beautiful face every day. Lately, I find myself smiling more often when remembering Owen, and for that, I’m thankful. The pain does not go away, it changes, until on those certain nights, those particular drives to work or through the countryside or on a street where he rode his bike, I am crushed with the memories. But, I refuse to forget. I refuse to look away. I refuse to censor myself when telling a story about him, a story that might help someone else, or just blend me back in with my parenting friends. Mostly, they want to hear about Nat, my older son. I’m glad to share his stories, too. They are here and now, and he is precious.

    No one should think of our losses as something to be hidden. Death is as much a part of life as birth. I keep in mind that knowing Owen, loving him, was a wonderful part of my life. I know him now, in a different way. Different is something to be embraced. I miss hugging him, hearing him laugh, seeing his joy in the simple things. I miss him…all of him. I know you miss Ryan, too.

    I had a funny thought the other day: “Duct tape can fix anything, except a broken heart”. I think I should write a poem about it. Owen wrote poetry and music.

    How old was Ryan when he died? If you feel up to it, write again and leave me your email address so I can respond offline.

    Love and light on your journey,

    • Linda – Thank you, you are exactly right – for others it is really just a less awful way of going on. I hate going on, but I do. I know others care, but don’t know what to do…what to say. My Mom died a few days after the birth of my sister, she was 24. I was almost 5 and my middle sister almost 4. Today is my baby sister’s birthday – we were all born in March. My Gram always cried on my mother’s birthday – right until the last of her 80 years. She really couldn’t talk about my mother’s life, which is something I longed for – her pain was just too great. I am drifting off a little here, but my point is that I know what you mean and I don’t want my son to be locked away in my heart forever. I am trying to find my way. I am still afraid that I will forget his voice, his laugh…yet I know I never could. Ryan was 21, and I still can’t believe that our story belongs to us – that my son is gone. It is a complicated story, or at least I make it that way because I always feel that I have to explain – since so many things were going wrong at the time. Ryan had two children and another child due in January – that in itself could take forever to explain. There were a lot of problems between him and their mother – they were too young, not ready financially or in agreement about the rapid growth of their family. All of these things he owned as much as she did, but he felt so hopeless. He was tortured by his own frustrations and emotions – he had told my daughter that he wanted to end the relationship, but felt that if he did then he was afraid that his children would feel that he didn’t love them. It was a crazy, terrifying time. He ran into an old girlfriend and started drinking with her and another couple. Within a month of them meeting, three of them were dead in a DWI crash. There was one survivor, a 23-year old mother of three – they cut her hair to free her from the tire of the car that had rested on it. Her life is a miracle. Her boyfriend was just 17. My son’s girlfriend was just 18 and had an infant son. I struggled with a lot of unanswered questions – who was driving, where were they going – they were supposed to be going to the movies, why? why? why? The survivor told me they were drinking to escape their problems – a misery loves company sort of thing. She says she wishes she was dead too and now she drinks even more. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know they were drinking and driving and crashed. I have finally tried to accept that as enough. When I hear stories like your son’s, I realize how much I do know and I hope the same or better for you. Thank you for your kind words, which are so right and only seem to come from those who have suffered the same loss. It is comforting to know that we are not alone and sometimes the courage of others helps us to realize our own. Mary

  44. Dear Linda,
    My daughter Marie Sarah Dickinson age 17 died from complications from the flu Feb. 19 2009. This is how I found your blog while looking for support for my grief. But this is not why decided to write you. Let me first say please accept my sympathy for the the loss of your beloved son Owen. I feel your pain and I am very sorry.
    Something struck me about your mystery and more importantly something struck me about your son’s face. Such a kind face.
    My father is an appellate court judge here in Illinois so I am very familiar with police practice and investigation. I also am well versed at getting answers out of Medical examiners that do not want to give you the time of day, just ask Nancy Jones the head medical examiner here in cook county who did my daughters examination. I stalked that woman until she would talk to me. She finally caved and explained to me in detail the extras that were left out of her report. You see the coroners they are busy folks they don’t have time for grieving mothers unless you make yourself a royal pain in the ass. What I found out is there is always more to the story that is not put in the report. That said , about the police. You are not going to like this but if they knew facts about your sons death that you do not know they would find some covert way to let you know.If someone had some answers for you some mysterious letter would appear, or email giving you some answers. I know this because in any organization there is at least one person with a heart.I have experienced this myself in an unrelated matter.
    As for your sons friends, again I do not think you will like this, I do not think they really know what happened.I am sure you have received stories and I do not relish the time in hell the person who told you they weren’t going to say is going have put upon them. Did you ever consider that no one knows?
    Enough time has passed that if someone knew something you would of heard.Perhaps you are not satisfied with the information you are getting, you don’t want to believe it or its too painful to believe. Ive been there. Again that said, and not to sound trite or disrespectful, I think you are going to get the answer you seek. I do not know why I feel this and I cannot explain it but I think you will. Some thing about your Son and your situation struck me and I am not a goof, I am a tough Irish broad who raises my eyebrows at even the smell of bs.
    This is my wish for you that you will get some answers.
    Take care, sincerely
    Kathryn Dickinson

  45. Linda, I stumbled on your blog and am so glad I did. My son’s death is a mystery as well. At the very least, I can feel assured that others have suffered the same questions yet continued to put one foot in front of the other. Two months ago, my son was shot and killed in a supposed fight that he started with a stranger who was armed in his home at 4PM. You’d have to know Ben to know that’s a truly ridiculous scenario. This happened in another state, several hours away, while he was at his dad’s making ammends for his father’s lack of contact over the last five years. It’s all very strange. Anyhow, his father is paralyzed with depression, incapable of being polite enough to reach out to me and tell me what is happening. I sit here wondering. I haven’t seen any reports, a death certificate or talked to anyone but the detective in the small city where this happened. No phone calls from the DA, no calls from anyone. The thing is, I have fallen back on this mantra. No answer will satisfy me but Ben walking through that door and that is not going to happen. Somehow, it eases the quest for answers. I suppose I am resigned. He’s dead and there is nothing I can do but cry about this hole I feel. Ben is dead and he’s not coming back no matter what the explanation.

    Keep writing. Those of us who are still in shock, silenced with our sorrow need to hear how you keep your eyes up and joy flowing. Thanks.

  46. Please see my website and read about The Prayer Registry. This free website service is dedicated to all of the families who have lost children, whatever age that child was when they passed. This site registers the anniversary day of our children’s crossing. The members of this online community,the Prayer Team, have the opportunity to honor their child’s legacy, connect with other bereaved parents, and participate in world-wide group prayer for every registered loved one on the anniversary day of their passing.

    There is no charge for this service; it is my sincere hope that every bereaved parent who registers a child will join the Prayer Team and be a source of prayer for all of the children on the other side. Each time another child is registered, the Prayer Team grows larger and stronger.

    Please email Sheri at to register your loved one on The Prayer Registry. By registering, you will have a forum to connect to other
    bereaved parents and you will be able to upload comments, photographs, biographies, or any other information you want to share about your child with our community of bereaved parents. Once registered, you will be a member of the
    Prayer Team and will receive Prayer Registry reminders one day before the anniversary day of one of our kids.

    Please feel free to email any questions, concerns or feelings that you would like to share. My door is always open. I hope that this site provides some small
    measure of balm for the wounds of loss. From one bereaved parent to another, I welcome you to my site and offer my support.

    This is one club that none of us would join by choice, but since we find ourselves in this unthinkable place, we stand stronger when we stand side by side.

  47. I was sitting and missing my daughter something terrible, when I was reading on how to cope with the loss of a child. My daughter had not gone missing, but she died suddenly. She was 7 1/2 years old. She was not a sickly child, nor had she been in an accident. I waited for 6 months to get a death certificate that said she died from a heart condition that went undiagnosed. The answer just isn’t sufficient, but I have to suck it up and deal with it. She has been gone for just under 6years and the pain still hurts as it did the day that she died. As many people have tried to say that time heals all wounds. I don’t believe it to be true. As time goes on I’ve learned to manage my pain. I fake it most days to try and make it through them. That can be hard, but at times I even fool myself. I know that she is no longer here in the physical presence, but she lives within my heart. That is something no one can take away. There is nothing like not having a definitive answer. I hope that you one day get the answer(s) that you need for some sense of closure. You will not have complete closure because it was your child. And the question we all ask is, why my child?

  48. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. My Son Chad was killed last Saturday, 8/13 and there are so many unanswered questions. Still having a hard time believing he is really gone and that I will never see him again.

    • God Bless You Pamela, you just entered a journey no parent ever wants to be on, you are not alone in your pain my dear, hang in there, Love, Bonnie ( mother of Barry, lost Feb.2,2011)

  49. To All the parents here…Why My Child, a question we all ask. I lost my son Barry, Feb. 2, 2011 to a heroin overdose. He was 25. He was a mentally ill drug addict, its called Dual Diagnosis… Both diseases aggravate each other, he tried and tried and tried to stop using heroin ( he started out abusing pain pills and the addiction escalated), everytime he was clean, his mental health issues would present intensely. Mental health meds take time, dose changes, med changes, etc… He could never get stable before relapse would take over. The drug use made his mental health worse, the mental illness made his drug use worse… It was gut wrenching watching my child caught in this trap….trying to be his advocate and fight a failing system and ultimitely watching that system help kill my child… ( That is a long story). Many times I prayed for God to take him home… seeing your child cry over and over and ask the heavens ” Why was I cursed with these demons?” Over and over seeing him try to detox himself, the vomiting, the diarrhea, the chills….Repetedly taking him to detox units, Psych units…both always trying to shove him out the door to the other….. I thought ALL of that was Hell….But No, Losing him, this is truly hell…. Sometimes I think people think, or they say, He is no longer suffering, as if that makes my pain, his moms any easier…Sometimes I feel selfish, because yes, I am happy his suffering is over…But, But, it does not change….Why My Child… Why?? The pain of this loss is gut wrenching, I feel lost, broken and like I’m living in auto pilot….I have another son, Joey, 19. He is a healthy wonderful young man…He is what keeps me going. I also work for a funeral home, been thru a terrible divorce, and I am accustomed to grief. But wow, losing a child, its The Worst….When Barry was 19, a few years before he became an addict to vicaden and oxycotin, he found God and became completely immersed in learning the bible, and what a witness he was… At 20 he was baptized in a local river. The day he died, when I saw him at the coroners office, I was devastated…I went home and quickly got out his baptism picture…I couldnt believe my eyes… he died in the same shirt he was baptized in. And he had like a 100 tshirts….wow, that moved me. His bible was 4 ft. from his body when he was found, he continued to cling to The Lord and was an inspiration to all who knew him. He had a huge heart and was always there for everyone he loved or anyone who was in need. Even tho he was on disabilitly he would sometimes use his food stamps to buy food for others in need…. My heart is broken, my world will never be the same. I am glad I found this blog, thank you Linda. It is good to know we are not alone. Blessings and Love to all my fellow Mourners. Matters none wether they are 1 or 30…Our babies are always, our babies. With Love, Bonnie

  50. I have often heard the phrase that ‘God only gives you as much as you can handle’ but I lost my beautiful 19 year old son last month and it is unbearable.

  51. I lost my Son Steven on Sept. 9, 2011 in a tragic car wreck. He had just turned 37 a week before. The pain is still so great that I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every minute of the day I think of him. You always hear that the loss of a child is the worst but you do not truly understand that until it happens to you! You know my prayer has always been Please let me live to see my children grown and that he did. I guess I should have prayed to please take me first too! I have always believed their is a reason for all things but it sure makes me question why would any parent have to go through the loss of a child.

    I can not imagine the added horror of not knowing what happened. I still have so many questions. I know I that I will see him again and then I will get my answers.

    I have a beautiful Daughter and a Grandbaby that has been my link to sanity through this nightmare!

    In Loving Memory of our Children!

  52. Thank you for sharing, and I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our son Ricky in a car-wreck almost two years ago. The second anniversary of his death will be New Year’s Eve, and it will be hard to live through.

    However, Ricky has shown us signs from heaven that he is okay, things like pelicans appearing in our paths numerous times where they hadn’t before and a roaring puzzle piece that sounds off when it is moved going off frequently when Ricky would have been amused or loving us.

    I urge you to try to look toward the positives of your son’s life and hold on the knowledge that he is safe now. You will be in my prayers.

  53. I lost my 29 year old son in the AM of January 21st of this year 2012. We were told that his truck (a 2001 Ford Explorer) left the roadway on Hwy 60 east in McMinn county Tennessee and ended up in the Tennessee River. From what we have been told both Brian (my son) and his girlfriend managed to get out of the vehicle and his girlfriend made it to the river bank, however my son did not. I know for a fact my son was a great swimmer and yet she wont tell us why he didnt make it and she did. The water that night was 45 degrees and she weighs less than 100 pounds he weighed apprx 165 – 170. He had always been athletic while she in the other hand never was. The Meigs county sheriff told us that she had told them 4 different versions of her story in the 90 minutes he questioned her before her family took her to the hospital. The accident was supposed to have happened at apprx 2:30 AM but she wasnt able to get help until 9:45 the next morning. Apparently she walked up the paved road past three houses she could have stopped and asked for help at nut instead she walked further to a Cherokee Museum laid down on a bench in front of the museum and went to sleep. The museum, cureator called 911 when she found her there the next morning. She has been in nothing but trouble since this happened and is currently in jail because she broke probation for the second time. But we still cannot get answers. Although The rescue teams found his body wnile dragging for his vehicle…… to this date his vehicle has not been found. I’m truly at a loss….. never did I dream that I would have to plan a funeral for one of my children neverless having to bargain with a funeral home because my son had no insurance. I have bever been so humbled as I was when I spoke with the Vanderwall Funeral Home. They were awesome. I guess I just needed to vent. Thank you for your blog. I will come back again when we finally hear from the coroners report. Thank you again

  54. My 3 year old Son Atlie was killed by his father in a murder suicide. His death has left me with so many question, and such deep devastation. How could some shoot their own three year old child? I am hoping for some kind of support or guidance as I am in complete shock. Atlie Dean Haber was killed on March 11, 2012.

  55. I lost my son Feb. 8, 2000. He and my daughters friend had just left his dads home. The police report stated there may have been an animal in the road when my son put on the brakes. The left break locked up and pulled the truck in to a deep ditch. The truck hit the culvert and bounced back, and drove it self up on the pavement. Dodge truck with crushed front end caught fire and exploded. The pathologist report revealed they died from the fire. I have never been the same. It is eaiser than it was then, but just can not get going in the right direction. My son had learning disabilities and when he was 12 he was diagnosed with bone cancer. He survived the cancer, but did have to have an amputation. I often reflect on his life and the things he went through before his death, and just never understood why life can be so hard. God has kept me going. The grief is less, but I still think about him every day, it just is not 24/7, like the early days. Thanks to all of you for sharing your grief.

  56. As I read the entires my heart goes out to all the families. Did you ever get anymore information about what happened to Riley? Our daughter, Cecilia, 18- was murdered on August 8, 1999 by an Army soldier. Even though there was a trial I still do not know what truly happened that night because he plead not guilty and was so busy trying to get himself off that he never told the real truth about what happened. The attorneys were great and he was found guilty and received a sentence of life without parole. The justice system doesn’t help because after his fifth year of incarceration he became eligible for clemency- military. So now every year I have to sit down and relive everything as I plead that he does not get approved for clemency. As time goes on, it becomes bearable but she is never out of my thoughts. We move forward but there are times that I feel as if I have not moved forward. Even after all these years her birthday and Christmas may be fine one year but then the following year I feel as if I’m experiencing that awful morning again. Prayer, faith and family have helped make this easier to bear. I do agree that unless you have lost a child- you can only imagine the pain- but will never actually feel that pain.

  57. if you wisg to visit another site dedicated to bereaved parents with a forum to express feelings please visit …

  58. My 18 year old son died after a very long illness. 30 days ago today. I rarely left the house for five years and honored his request of no help except pain meds. I am dying. I’ve lost27 lbs. 5ft5 and I weigh 95 lbs. My heart aches so deep sometimes I cant breath. the last 19 hours of his life I laid next to him and held his hand and talked to him. He would occasionally squeeze my finger when I said I love you. I will never forget the horrible sounds, the drowning in his own fluid. I was there as he took his last breath and I don’t think I will ever get over this. I am and have been alone through all this. No one came, no one could take hearing that death ratttle. I’m alone now and I don’t want people around. They don’t understant and they didn’t know Jordan. Although I believe he’s in heaven and free, I am here and the pain is so consuming. I’m sorry for your loss. Right now I can’t find anything to make it better. I haven’t even left the house or my bed for that mattter. How can anyone ever let go of their child. I can’t find any peace.. I am so lost without him.

  59. Linda, I have just learned how to add blogs to my Blog List…. I just added yours to it on . I didn’t want to lose, forget your blog. It has touched my heart. Granny Gee/Gloria

  60. I forgot to add … that at this moment I am writing my post for today… I have your website link in it because it’s about the impression, feelings I had when I found your website this morning. :))) Granny Gee

  61. My 24 year old daughter and a friend were killed walking her dog as hurricane sandy hit on Oct 29. The pain as the weather turns nice and the shock wears off is unbearable. I don’t know how I will survive this. If not for having to be together and there for my grieving 21 year old I would lose my mind. (It kind of feels like I may anyway). ( my husband died. 5 weeks later if cancer that was just diagnosed in June as stage 4). My daughter had a beautiful heart and a beautiful soul she loved animals and was a wonderful friend and cousin always giving support. She had just started teaching fifteen year old special Ed students at her dream school after working so hard to get her masters. Her students said no one ever believed in them like she did or was so kind Her colleagues said the same. I feel like my heart is ripped out. I want to hug her and hold her and go clean her apartment and help get prepare lessons again. I want to help her plan her wedding life us so unfair. I can’t stand that i can’t turn back time and yell at her not to walk her dog. I can’t believe this is real and it happened.

    • Hi Francibe,

      Thank you for sharing your daughter’s and your family’s story at mysteryoriley. Losing your husband just 5 weeks later, I can’t even imagine. The things you’re feeling are so familiar to me and other parents of lost children and loved ones, a kind of familiarity that never fails at bringing up the idea that we may lose our minds. I think we do, in a way. Out there somewhere in time, and if we’re very fortunate, we find opportunities to recreate our minds and our hearts. They are never the same, but they can be beautiful again. I know it’s early for you to read these words, as your heart is ripped apart.

      It has been almost 6 years since we lost Owen. I can’t tell you how many times a day I think about him, the books I want to buy for him, the conversations I wish I could have with him, and, yes, even wishing I could clean up his room. I know this now, though, he survives through his brother, my husband, and me. He will always be in our hearts and in our heads, indeed, never lost, just surely in another dimension.

      Child loss is uniquely cruel and there is no such thing as “closure” or time limits on your grief. I do not know about spouse loss, but can only guess that it is cruel in its own ways. The complexities of losing both of them so close together are sure to complicate your journey. I hope you have a network of support. If not, and if you have the means to get help, I hope you find an experienced grief counselor who understands “complicated grief” – it is its own creature, unlike any other.

      At a certain point, we begin to incorporate our grief into our lives as a way to keep our feet on the ground. We begin to look for ways to contribute to others who are walking similar paths. And, strangely, we begin to heal. I wish you healing, Francibe.

      Take care of yourself and your 21-year-old.


  62. My 24 year old son Matthew died on May 12, 2013, Mother’s Day, just 6 days after realizing his life long dream to move to New York to attend NYU. He felt a little sick, went to urgent care, ended up in the hospital with pneumonia, and 4 days later he was gone. I have experienced crushing grief before–my husband died suddenly at the age of 37 many years ago, leaving me to raise Matthew and his sister Morgan alone. I alternate between a vast empty numbness and crushing grief and disbelief that leaves me unable to catch a breath. We are all just shattered.
    I am searching for a path through this grief. I went to an amazing grief support group when my husband died; I don’t know that I can do that again. I guess I am just reaching out for a relief for this pain, which I know does not exist.
    I am so sorry for the loss of your son. My prayers are with you, your loved ones, and everyone who has experienced what we know so well.


  63. I am alone in my grief. If I cry, my husband goes in to the bedroom, closes the door, and beforehand tells me to get a grip. My son died last November. He was shot to death while I was away. He was addicted to drugs and it was the reason. He was my soul mate. He has a 5 year old and it is bittersweet. My live seems meaningless and I cannot understand why he can’t come back to me and tell me he is ok. We were so so close. I miss him so much and have not purpose except grandchildren that I sometimes cannot endure without him. God-why? I need him and feel like a zombie.

  64. Linda, google Craig Hogan, afterlife connections. I am on my phone and can’t access the web link. He has techniques that teach you how to connect with your loved ones. I promise. I had connections with children of other Bereaved Parents. It works. The experience helps me deal with the utter loss. There is room for Peace. Love and Light

  65. Linda, thank you for having this blog. My son Ryan died in April 2010. Drowned after being pulled into an underwater lava cave in Hawaii. They could not find his body for a week so it was technically a missing person case, even though the locals knew he was dead. His birthday is this Thursday; he would be 28. He died having found love, but without having children. Now I am saddened more by the sight of little ones than young adults. My family, his family, will not talk about him. I have heard enough that there is no closure for this to believe it. I realized today “it” doesn’t get better, but I get better. Our children sound similar. Ryan was brilliant, artistic and fascinated by everyone he met and every experience he had. I just ache missing him, but feel others think I am wallowing. I would love to speak with you more about our sons. God bless you.

  66. Can any of you share with me-in simple terms-how I can start a blog? Like, do I need a website, and, if so, how do I get one? I broke my neck when I blacked out after the police told me my 24 yr, old’s body was found in a local motel. Never could find out more, (2013). I’m so sick of people saying, ‘aren’t you over “it” by now?’ What was he, a cold sore?? I’m suffering so.
    Thank you all for reading this and for all of us w heartache. It’s just so very, very deep, right? Patrice Hale

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: