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New tool provides comfort, connection for families after opioid death

CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. - A new online tool is being offered to grieving families of opioid overdose victims to help them find comfort and connection.

The map allows users to share the stories of their loved ones and add pictures to honor their lives.

Dustin Noonkester found the map after he lost his 19-year-old son Brady to a methadone overdose. Brady was a senior at Carroll County High School, a football player, a good student, and a National Guard Member on his way to college, when his parents discovered he was using marijuana.

They said they tried everything from talking to disciplining him in order to get him back on the right track. However, two weeks after graduation, Dustin found his son dead at a friend's home.

"Our lives were completely just upside down, inside out. And one of the big shockers was, we had no clue was abusing medicines," explained Dustin Noonkester. "He was buying it from an individual. That individual was actually getting it from a doctor who was over-prescribing."

Noonkester was overwhelmed with grief. How could this happen? How many other lives had been taken?

He began searching for answers online and stumbled across the Celebrating Lost Loved Ones map.

This map doesn't plan your route or help you get anywhere. This map is for the loved ones left behind. The destination is hopefully connection and closure.

Click on any region on the map and you'll find the faces of America's opioid epidemic and the heart-wrenching stories of loss.

FOX59's sister station KDVR reports, the map was created by Jeremiah Lindemann whose brother died of an overdose.

"J.T. was 22 when he passed," said Lindemann. "When he passed away I really shut down. I didn't want to talk much about it."

For years, Lindemann grieved for his brother privately, until he couldn't anymore. That's when he finally shared his brother's story online. One by one, others followed.

Move your mouse and eventually you'll see Devon Miller's picture. Adventurous and bold, Devon became addicted to prescription pill after an accident left him with a torn meniscus. His mother, Jackie Freisen, is now left with a broken heart.

"I would give everything to have him back here and trying to help him figure it out," said Jackie Freisen.

It was too easy, she said, getting the Oxycontin; doctors gave her son 180 pills every month.

"How is it that anyone needs that? And that's a doctor's prescription. Every month."

Keep going and you'll see more faces and more stories on the Lindemann's map.

Annie Colloway in Virgina found the map, read the tributes ,and added her own for her daughter April.

"I share April's story in hopes that maybe it'll save one life. If it saves one, then April didn't die in vain," said Colloway.

She wanted to explain how easily April became a victim and how easily this could happen to anyone.

"She had a lot of female problems and minor surgeries and was given pain medicine and from there the addiction took hold."

Like so many families, Brady's parents never really had a chance to fight.

"To be real honest with you, I didn't even know what an opioid was when Brady passed away. I had no clue," Noonkester explained. "The more that I got educated, the more I realized this is a serious problem."

That's why Noonkester added his son's story on the map along with a special picture of Brady. He wants people to know his son was just like any other kid. And how opioid abuse can truly claw into anyone and rip their life away.

"It cost him. It cost him everything."

If you know someone who died from opioid addiction, you can add their story to the map by clicking here: Visit the Celebrating Lost Loved Ones Map. You can also connect via the Celebrating Lost Loved Ones Facebook page.