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My Beautiful Boys

Denise Roberts’ Story


Denise was sitting at her table, in the wedding ceremony of her friend’s son. As the DJ announced the mother-son dance, the woman sitting next to her, spoke, “Isn’t that so sweet? Do you have any children, any sons?” Denise’s heart sank.

Denise Carro-Roberts is a full-time litigation paralegal who raised her family in Las Vegas. She is also the mother of two beautiful boys, Dillan and Matthew, who both lost their lives from an overdose, at the ages of 19 and 28. In her memoir, she reveals the day-to-day struggles she has endured in her life, and the lessons learned from them.

These memories, written in nonsequential order, capture key moments in her life, as she meets Tom, a blond valet who was soon to become the man with whom she would build her “Brady Bunch” family. She writes about the love she shared with Tom, during their ten years of marriage, and the lovely family they built for her sons Dillan and Matthew. She talks about missing spoons around her house, and a dreaded phone call, which announced that her loving husband had died of a heart attack at only 41. The death of their stepfather left her sons in pain. Her youngest, Dillan, would be an in-patient at three different treatment centers. During the time there, he wrote in his journal about his physical struggles during withdrawal, and his conflicting thoughts between the desire to feel better, and the wish to end his struggles. “I wanna die cuz I think I’ll get to see Tom and tell him all the things I never did,” he writes in one of his entries. Dillan regretted how he parted with his stepfather, but he still longed to recover and had full belief and dedication in God. “Mom, I’m not a bad kid, just a sick kid,” he told his mom once. Denise received the phone call of Dillan’s death, on the day of her wedding to her partner, Deke. What was meant to be a beautiful day in a wedding dress, turned into planning a funeral and grieving her son, who she buried next to her beloved Tom.

Her other son, Matthew, began to have his own also struggle with addiction after his brother’s death. A father, a fiancé, and a son, he too was unable to live his life to the fullest, due to his illness and the lack of adequate treatment and medical coverage. Denise writes about trying “tough love” and watching her son reach rock bottom on more than one occasion, before getting the news of his death.

She writes about her life now, the peace that comes from living her everyday life with her husband Deke, and the memories of her family with Tom, Dillan, and Matthew.

There are days when she prays her sons are happy, and with Tom. There are others when she is paralyzed with anger for all that she has had to go through. She writes, “Why had God taken away my children? Why had he taken away my whole family? What did I do to deserve this?”

“A mother should never outlive her children,” she writes. And it truly is heartbreaking to read about her driving to the grocery store, repeating a list of headstone cleaning items for her sons’ graves. But while at times she appears to be overwhelmed by grief, guilt and many maddening thoughts, she is strong because she has not let them overcome her and she does not want people to see her differently. “Don’t feel sorry for me, don’t pity me – I’m strong and a survivor. I have lived a life of beauty and brutality... I am a brutiful warrior.”


Denise tells her story now because she knows that her experience will help others in similar situations, and her image as a strong woman will inspire many. “‘Get up, Denise, keep moving forward.’ This is my motto in life. It is not the one I had hoped and dreamed of, rather the one I was given. Get up, dress up and show up. No matter what you do, never GIVE UP!”

Matthew’s poem:

"There are good days and bad days and tough days

and sad days and fight-the-world days

and sing out-loud-days...

and that’s okay

because I signed on for forever,

which is a whole lot of days.

As long as they’re me and you days,

I’m happy. Really happy.”


To learn more about Dillan and Matthew, read their full story here.

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