MDMA and Grief: Launch Day

G. Scott Graham
Journal of Psychedelic Support
9 min readJan 22, 2024


0700 (T minus 2 hours and 30 minutes): I woke up early. I had trouble sleeping: part mix of anxiety and eagerness, not excitement, not like someone catching a flight to Disney World, more like an astronaut on a first flight to the moon. Actually, “astronaut” is exactly right. This MDMA Grief Experiment I am conducting in just a few short hours has never been done before. Or if it has been done before, it has not been documented.

I have never taken MDMA before, so I don’t even know what that will be like. I suppose if I had taken MDMA in the past, I might be standing on firmer ground at this moment as I prepared to mix the ecstasy emotional state with the grief emotional state.

Then again, maybe it is a good thing that I haven’t taken MDMA recreationally so that my experience today will be fresh and unpolluted.

Today, I will strive to be an objective reporter (well, as objective as you can be when taking 200mg of MDMA and simultaneously cracking open an emotionally charged part of your past).

I really don’t know what will happen. I have theories of what will happen, which I already explored in part one of this series, “MDMA and Grief.” But I am striving not to get all wrapped up (and potentially hooked by) expectations.

0830 (T minus 60 minutes): I texted my trip sitter to make sure he was on his way. I want to be mindful of his time and don’t want just to be sitting around waiting for the MDMA to kick in and then open up the time capsules.

0915 (T-minus 15 minutes): I asked the friend who had given me the MDMA to coach me how to consume it and provide some last-minute advice.

0930 (T minus zero): MDMA Launch. My trip sitter arrived exactly at 0930, and the moment I saw him drive in, I opened the small packet and put it in my mouth. Awful doesn’t even come close to describing the taste. Chemical. Metallic. Bitter. Gross. I drank half a glass of water.

I walked out to greet my trip sitter and let him know that I had just taken the MDMA.

0940 (MET 10 minutes): MET. Mission Elapsed Time. I had already retrieved the time capsules from their location in an upstairs storage space the night before. While waiting for the MDMA to take effect, I handed my trip sitter a gift of a fire blanket for his kitchen (he is a firefighter in addition to being an Advanced EMT so I knew he would appreciate the practicality of this gift).

0945 (MET 15 minutes): I asked him which time capsule I should crack open first. I had been playing this mental game in my head in an effort to stave off powerful feelings of grief. I knew that there were more “letters to the future” in the 1998 time capsule (our 25th anniversary celebration was sparsely attended at best). I kept thinking, is it better to go through the most prompted grief earlier in the MDMA process or go through the prompted grief later in the MDMA process? He chose the 1998 time capsule, and as I was trying to open it, I could feel the MDMA. I felt a little disoriented.

1000 (MET 30 minutes): I was sitting in a recliner reading the letters, and I continued to feel warm and disoriented. I asked my trip sitter if it was warm in my house (I had started a fire in the wood stove), and he said that it was, so I dismissed my perception of temperature. There was no dismissing the feeling of disorientation and slight nausea that I was having. I moved to the floor and sat on a floor pillow with my back against the couch. I remember feeling afraid that I was going to pass out. I continued to read the letters.

1015 (MET 45 minutes): 15 minutes ago, I was sitting straight up on the floor pillow with my back against the couch. Slowly, I inched my butt forward in an effort to manage the dizziness and disorientation I was experiencing. The back of my head was now resting against the seat of the coach where the middle of my back was. “I am so hot,” I said to my trip sitter. “Do I look flushed?” My trip sitter said I looked fine, but I felt so hot that I got up with the intention of taking off my mid-weight long underwear top and putting on a t-shirt. As I maneuvered toward the bedroom and passed the bathroom, I remember having this thought, “Oh my god, I am going to throw up.” I just made it to the toilet and vomited. After retching twice, the urge was gone. Still hot, I splashed water on my face and wet a towel. I went to my bedroom and put on a T-shirt. I remember feeling worried. I remember feeling grateful that an Advanced EMT was trip-sitting this grief deep dive.

I returned to the living room, where the time capsule contents sat exploded on the floor. After informing my trip sitter of the vomiting, I laid down on the couch. The friend who had gifted me the MDMA came into the room and assured me that a higher temp was typical and that some people do vomit. I asked him, “How do people take this [MDMA] and then dance? All I want to do is take a cold shower?” He laughed and asked if I was feeling euphoric. I told him that between the temperature I was feeling, the disorientation, and the [now gone] nausea, it was hard to tell. Plus, I was actively reading the “letters to the future” in the time capsules, which were prompting feelings of grief and not just sitting around feeling groovy. I asked him if blurred vision was common and told him that I was having trouble concentrating on the letters and reading the actual hand-written words. I don’t remember his response.

1100 (MET 1 hour, 30 minutes): All nausea and disorientation were now gone, and I could read the words more easily. Now, the challenge was to embrace the grief and not get absorbed in the pleasant feelings from the MDMA. My trip sitter was great in encouraging me to drink water. He was also great at asking me questions about the people who wrote the letters. I would read a letter out loud, and then he would ask me how I met them, if I was still in contact with them, and if I was where they were and what they were doing. It was very helpful.

1230 (MET 3 hours): I had finished going through the letters for the 1998 time capsule and could not find a letter from Brian. While looking for the letters, I pawed through many artifacts from our life in 1998, from pay stubs to grocery receipts to pictures (there was no such thing as digital pictures from your cell phone in 1998). There was a ledger secured closed with electrical tape. I took the electrical tape off and quickly surveyed the first few pages of the ledger. It was one of Brian’s notebooks (he used these notebooks as journals and containers for lists — Brian made lots of lists). I got up to go to the bathroom and drink some water, all the while pondering the missing letters from Brian. Then, it hit me: they are not sealed in the envelopes like everyone else’s. They are in his ledger. I quickly returned and grabbed his ledger. Sure enough, there was a letter from Brian to his future self, and a few pages later, there was a letter from Brian to me. As I read through these letters, I started to cry. I was not overcome with grief as I anticipated I would be. The MDMA was working, allowing me to explore the content in a different way. At that moment, I felt gratitude and joy as well as sadness and loss. I set Brian’s two letters and my two letters aside.

1430 (MET 5 hours): I finished going through the letters from the 2013 time capsule. I finished going through the artifacts from the 2013 time capsule. Just as with the first, my trip sitter asked me questions about the contents, and I told stories from my life with Brian. Overall, I remember feeling neutral as I shared these stories. Neutral is not a good word. Accepting might be a better word choice. I wasn’t trying to push some dark emotion away. At the same time, I wasn’t reveling in some pleasant emotion. These stories felt more like a part of me.

1500 (MET 5 hours, 30 minutes): Having finished my task of the MDMA grief deep dive, my trip sitter headed home, the contents of the time capsules still strewn about on the floor. I felt tired and laid down to take a brief nap.

1800 (MET 8 hours, 30 minutes): Two friends visited to check in on my status and the impact of my MDMA grief experience. As we sat in the living room around the time capsule contents, discussing the day’s events, I could sense eager curiosity about the contents. “Feel free to paw around the time capsule stuff. Just keep the contents separate so I can put it back.” for the next hour, lots of questions followed. These recent friends only knew me — they hadn’t known Brian. Their questions felt somehow different than the questions posed to me by my trip sitter. They were intrigued by what life was like in 1998. A time before cell phones. A time when access to the Internet was via dial-up and a modem. A time when gay relationships were not acknowledged. One friend found an article in a newspaper about Brian and my 10th anniversary. It was a big deal to be out like that. This was a time of great debate over the legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships. Vermont became the first state to recognize same-sex relationships on July 1, 2000, via civil unions. I felt a greater sense of peace as we talked about the time capsule contents than I did weeks and months ago.

Newspaper article from 1998

2030 (MET 11 hours): Sitting alone, I put the contents of the time capsules back in their respective containers. I reviewed each artifact as I gathered them up. I also reread each letter silently to myself. I found a “favorite things” questionnaire for Brian and for me from 1998 and 2013 and set them aside with the letters from Brian and the letters from me. I felt at peace while surveying the contents of our life well-lived and felt grounded.

2200 (MET 12 hours, 30 minutes): Another friend called to check in on me, vigilant about a potential MDMA comedown. We talked about the impact on my experience of feeling grief while taking MDMA, and I offered to read her the letters I wrote to myself in 1998 and 2013. Truth be told, these two letters had the biggest impact. And it was totally unexpected, although not surprising. I play hard in life and embrace things head-on. I always have. So, it is not surprising that I wrote direct, hard-hitting letters to my future self in both 1998 and 2013. I don’t pitch meatballs to other people in my life, and definitely not to myself. Reading those two letters was especially difficult, and I cried as they confronted me with areas of myself I am still working on and pushed me toward a life path without Brian’s physical presence.

0930 (MET 24 hours): As I drank the morning coffee, I read the eight letters from our past selves once again. Profound. Prophetic. Gratitude. Sad. Lucky. Loss. Privileged. Grief. Joy. These are qualities I am experiencing at this moment, reading those letters a fourth time, one day after taking MDMA and diving deep into grief and loss. This is different. There is grief. This is different. There is joy. This is different. There is equanimity.

This article is part of a series exploring the impact of MDMA on grief:
MDMA and Grief (Part 1)
MDMA and Grief: Debrief with the Trip Sitter (Part 3)
MDMA and Grief: Five Days Later (Part 4)
MDMA and Grief: Three Months Later (Part 5)
MDMA and Grief: Values (Part 6)



G. Scott Graham
Journal of Psychedelic Support

G. Scott Graham is an author, a career coach, a business coach, and a psychedelic support coach in Boston, Massachusetts. http://BostonBusiness.Coach