My name is Stephanie, I am 44 years old and now an Angel Mom.  I married very young and had my only child, my son Zach when I was 25.  On 12/12/99 the best day of my life, my son was born. I had a very difficult pregnancy and delivery, and he was a miracle.  I was married to an abusive man that I finally had the courage to divorce when my son was 5.  I used to be a single mom that worked very hard to provide for my wonderful amazing son Zach, I strived to give him the best life he could have in a nice house and spoil him as much as I could. He was my drive to be successful, it was always just him and me, and I never remarried and didn’t date much for he was my main focus.  We knew that no matter what we always had each other and that was enough for me.  I have always loved the Beautiful Disaster brand and had to have all the shirts, I thought I was a hot mess of a struggling single mom, I thought I was a beautiful disaster for years but I was wrong my tragedy hadn’t even begun. 


On 9/9/16 my life as I knew it was over. I went to wake my son up for school - he was 16 now. When I went into his room I will never forget seeing his lifeless body half way on his bed.  My world has just ended, my baby boy I loved and protected as much as I could have passed away.  This is why I am now called an Angel Mom.  This is a pain that will never go away, I am no longer the same bubbly person I used to be and I never will be again. You can’t even explain the pain of losing a child; I never would have understood it before that day. 


My life has changed forever since losing my only child my son Zach.  He was only 16 years old when he died so young and full of life.  Zach wasn’t your typical druggie, he was battling severe depression that he was hiding from everyone and self-medicating with drugs. He also had ADD and an Auditory Processing Disorder, he didn’t like to take his Adderall because he didn’t like being different.  He didn’t want anyone to know he was sad, he was always trying to help others anyone he could and wanted everyone around him happy.  He had the biggest heart. If anyone ever needed anything he was always there for them in a second without hesitation. 

He had a deep love for animals, we always had so many and his dogs were his life especially his bulldog George, he took such great care of him.  Zach grew up a happy child with a great love of water with swimming that turned into his passion for the ocean and his love for surfing.  He also started sports at a very early age and loved football and really learned to love that sport more in High School as he understood the sport more.  He was very active with sports in High School, he played football he was a left tackle starter, never missed a practice or a game, he took great pride in his sport and being a team player. 

He also wrestled and learned much from that sport to help him in football as that was very grueling sport and took a lot of time and dedication, he also did not miss any of that.  If he wasn’t playing sports he was surfing, he loved the beach very much and being in the ocean that was his happy place brought him peace. 

Zach also did not like to miss school even when he was sick, he would say “Mom its ok it’s just not worth it, easier just for me to go.”  He liked structure and routines very much.  He had plans for his future, he wanted to join the Navy, he knew that would be so good for him and it would give him the structure and guidance he needed.  It was his idea to join after he graduated. One day he came home from school with a bunch of Navy stuff and said “Mom I am going to join the Navy when I graduate I talked to a recruiter at school today.”  He was so excited he got a Navy lanyard keychain and put his house key on it and carried it everywhere. 

He also dreamed of marrying his longtime girlfriend Baylee right after graduation so that she could live on base while he was in the Navy.  He wanted to have kids one day and another bulldog puppy.  This is a kid that had dreams and goals.  He was so good with kids too, very patient and would often babysit for family.  I wish I had known about his severe depression earlier, the first time he let me know was in April 2016 when he had a mental breakdown and he was sober, he said “I want to die, mom you just don’t understand what goes on inside my head, it hurts.”  It was then I could see how much pain he truly was in he was uncontrollably crying and shaking. 

He wanted us to call the crisis team and they came and evaluated him and had him taken by ambulance to the hospital then transferred to Vista Del Mar, psychiatric hospital where he was there for a week.  It was at Vista Del Mar where they put him on Prozac.  He said it seemed to help a little bit; we also started with a therapist and a psychiatrist for counseling for him.  He was doing well for a little bit, trying to adjust.  Then in June 2016 he went back to Vista Del Mar for another week and from discharge from there went straight to rehab at Action Family Counseling for 37 days.  He came home from rehab very happy and wanting to be sober to live life and embrace it.  It was summer so he went surfing every day and that really made him happy.  He also started running to get in shape too for football coming up. 

For the new school year Zach attended Thousand Oaks High School instead of Newbury just for a fresh start and he didn’t fight it he embraced it.  He made friends fast there and was accepted on the football team very quick even though he just came from their #1 rivalry school where he played.  He jumped right in and became a full team player and liked his teammates.  That was just who Zach was. 

It wasn’t until that fateful day of Sept 8, 2016 when he saw Ross at Carl’s Jr.  If I had known that I would have stayed up all night and watched Zach to make sure he didn’t go anywhere and that no one came over.  I never dreamed that I would wake up Sept 9, 2016 to my worst possible nightmare ever, my Zach laying there half on the bed, unconscious with his mouth partially open, his dog George not leaving is side, his bedroom window wide open which never is and it faces the front of our house.  I knew right then something was wrong someone left him and panicked.  Why couldn’t they knock on the bedroom window next or scream and run???  Instead of leaving my son just to die.  I yelled for my cousin Joe right away and called 911 and he did CPR on Zach until the paramedics came but it was too late, Zach had been gone already.  I have not been the same since that day nor will I ever be, most me died the day Zach did.  My life is now empty and lonely, he was my whole life.  I couldn’t go to work for 3 ½ months, I was afraid to even leave my house in fear of seeing Ross and having a mental breakdown myself.  I did intensive counseling with a grief therapist and psychiatrist and have to take medication to get thru the day.  I still have daily breakdowns, no matter how much times passes it still seems like yesterday, I miss my son so much it hurts.  I went from having this wonderful child that made me laugh every day and took such great care of me and to me running around to all his sporting events to now complete emptiness.  The house no longer has his big smile or laugh, no more Friday night football, no more dinner dates with him, no more movies with him.  I will never see him get married, have kids.  He was the best son; he would every year for Christmas go to Kay’s jeweler and buy me a really nice bracelet, necklace or ring, with his own money he would just get for his birthday on Dec 12th.  He would always be so excited to give it me on Christmas too and tell me that he hoped I liked it and it made me so proud he would do such nice things for me.  Now I dread the month of December first his birthday then Christmas, I used to love that month I would decorate the house all up and we would bake cookies, now I don’t decorate or bake.  The one joy in my life is now gone forever my son Zach, he was truly a remarkable lovable person. 

After he passed I heard from many people that Zach helped them, he didn’t even know some of them well or long but they would talk to him and he would listen and try and lift them up when they were down.  Others would say he would just smile at them at school in the halls passing and they didn’t know each other but his big smile always made people feel good, he was just that way and always liked people never judged others.  His life was taken too soon. I feel he could have helped more people. 

He just needed to get his depression taken care of and I think maybe he needed more medication or a different kind from April to Sept isn’t that long of a time to fix severe depression.  He just needed more time that was taken away.  I am grateful for the most amazing 16 years I had him as my son and would never change that for anything.  Each day is still a struggle for me, I am working like I always have and have that thankfully to occupy my time and my mind.  I also recently started speaking with “Not One More” to kids to help prevent this horrible epidemic that continues to harm people we love.  Speaking is still hard for me but I know Zach needs a voice and I need to be that voice for him. Thank you for reading my story and seeing how I now am truly a beautiful disaster, for the brand name means even more to me now.

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

May 01, 2020