for moms only

I am a mother to two children, one who is earth side and one who is not. My son, Douglas, died from the tragic and insidious disease of addiction in July of 2008, and my world as I had known was shattered into unrecognizable razor like shards that even I could not pick up. I had landed in a foreign land with no compass, no North Star, nothing was remotely familiar. My family and friends were waving to me from a shoreline, as I floated aimlessly away from where they stood, watching me fade into this land of nothingness for as long as I needed to BE there.

How could anyone “help” during such a helpless time when I did not even know what I needed? Those who gathered became a silent witness to hold the space with me as I wept, rambled, shared a memory of Douglas, and they became my tribe of healers. Words felt hollow, yet a human touch, a presence were the heart tethers, is what I sorely needed to keep me anchored and grounded into the reality of learning how to live a life without my son in his physical body.

The year of “firsts” passed and I felt as if there was an expectation that now I was “better” and moving along so I was viewed as, “she’s okay.”

I remember gazing out my living room window and everyone looked as if they were engaging in life and my representative was out there doing the same, as I could tell her to suit up and show up, yet my inner and true self was still struggling as to “how” to live with my new reality?

I stumbled upon ForMomsOnly, an on-line support community in September of 2009, after reading an article written in AARP about our founder, Barbara Smith. She was searching for other mothers who could BE with her in only the way that another who walks this path possibly can. She founded our group called ForMomsOnly on Daily Strength and there is a Facebook group as well. We are a non-profit organization that supports each woman where they are, understanding that we are each unique and there are no finish lines and/or time lines on this path back to ourselves. We hold yearly retreats around the country, where we gather and nurture one another and ourselves, while remembering our children.

ForMomsOnly continues to be one of my most powerful healing tools and I am grateful for it.

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Joanie Evans Madsen is a former elementary school teacher, hospital chaplain and mother to Douglas and Sarah. She is a very proud Mimi to three wonderful Littles who live on Maui. Joanie thrives on meaningful and soulful connections with others and offers Spiritual Direction and Bereavement Care. She is often found with her sisters of the heart on ForMomsOnly: and you may also connect with her by email:


  1. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey with us. It takes courage and empathy to reach out after such a devastating loss with hopes of helping others. You are a beautiful soul.

  2. Hello, my name is Marcia. I am originally from NY but I have been in Va for 10 months, I lost my son Ryan 6 yrs ago .He aspirated in his sleep after drinking and taking pills. It has still been very difficult for me and the holidays were terrible. He would have been 29 this coming January


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