They call themselves The Beading Hearts. Their mission is to heal broken hearts, one bead at a time. Together, the “angel moms” in this unique bereavement group, having lost a child to the disease of addiction, work through unspeakable grief and loss while learning to smile again — together.
The group uses the love for their lost children to help others who have suffered similarly, part of the collateral damage of the nation’s opioid epidemic. They gather weekly, make inspirational beads, and gift them to those who have also lost a loved one.
“We heal as we talk, laugh, cry, hug, and bead,” says Linda Nuszen, who began The Beading Hearts program.
The group grew out of a nonprofit foundation the Nuzsens created in their son’s honor shortly after he lost his battle with drug addiction in November 2015. It’s called Look Up for Adam. Nuszen said her son used to remind the family to always remember to Look Up — whether you might be feeling down, missing someone above, or wanting to feel like part of something bigger than yourself.
Nuszen soon began making beads the way her son did, giving them to close friends. And so began The Beading Hearts.
Meeting at different members’ houses each week, they share their stories and struggles — honoring angel birthdays and angel-versaries of their lost loved ones to bring healing to the group as a whole. There are laughs and plenty of tears.
They bring the beads to funerals and wakes, giving them to new angel moms so they know they’re not alone. At fairs and other events, they perform community outreach to share their message, “with no judgment and no shame.”
The Beading Hearts visit the Suffolk County jail and sober houses throughout the county to “let those suffering with addiction know it’s not a moral failure.”
“We let them know they matter, people do care about them, they’re not defined by their mistakes or what was done beforehand,” Nuszen says.
Their message to angel moms: There is reason to smile, find joy, and to give themselves permission to live anew.
Together with the Family Service League in Mastic, the group just started its first sibling group, which will be run by a social worker.
“The Beading Hearts have helped so many people,” says Janet D’Agostino, one of the founders of the group, during a gathering at Nuszen’s house in Patchogue last month. “When you’re helping others, it’s helping you. It’s a bigger mission than we even know. Out of the worst circumstances come some of the biggest gifts.”
D’Agostino’s son Vaughn lost his battle with addiction in July 2015 at the age of 24. For others at the gathering, the devastating loss was just days or weeks before. Name tags bore the names of the mom and the child she lost. Hugs and kisses were a normal part of greeting each other.
Several of the more than 30 members gathered in Patchogue last month said they were led to the group by their “angel” and they pay forward the love and acceptance they were given — in honor of their child.
Later this month, The Beading Hearts will once again bring a holiday celebration to a female sober house in Mastic. They’ll have gift bags for each of the clients, containing a pink blanket, gloves and a water bottle with the inscription: “Never Give Up, Always Look Up.” Each gift bag will have a personal card written by one of the angel moms.
“We are broken,” Nuzsen says. “That tragedy in our life has broken us into pieces. By being together, we’re able to break open — and in our openness, we are able to find healing and patch the cracks.”
“The heart will never go back to where it was but we’re able to heal, and seal the cracks with love,” she says.