A good friend of mine lost their son. Going through this type of thing myself short 18 months ago, this got me thinking about my experience. And I started writing. Two themes came out as I wrote: (1) Advice I could provide to their friends and family on how to interact with someone when the unthinkable happens and (2) Reflections on my experience.
I think I know how they are feeling, but I really don’t.
Death affects everyone differently. You put yourself in their shoes and offer advice you think they need. You may know how they are feeling, but you just don’t.
People don’t know what to do.
I got the news of Jeffrey’s death while with two of my cousins, their spouses and kids, and my uncle and his wife. I’m removing my two cousins from the category of ‘don’t know what to do’ because they were amazing and launched into action. But their kids - they didn’t know what to do. So, I told them - I just needed a hug. And it was a really-good-4-kid-all-at-once hug.
But you want to do something and help.
I had so many people offer help (along with their love and condolences). I don’t often ask for help. It’s just me. Know your friend - will they ask for help? If not, then just do something. Pop by the house and take the dogs for a walk. Grab the kids and take them out for a meal to get them out of the house and let them talk about whatever they want to talk about. Bring food - yes trite, but oh so appreciated. Send a card or drop off a gift. All those little gestures meant a lot to me. It was comforting to know how many people were thinking of me. Really - it is.
Just be there. At different points in my grieving, I reached out to different friends. Thinking back, I was quite conscious about it - I talked to a specific friend who I knew in my heart could help with what I needed at that time. My friend will talk with me if and when they want to.
People will stay away.
Some people, and in my situation people who have kids who are addicts, stayed away. And that is ok - I get it. Having an addict in your life is so tiring, trying, and something that never goes away. I get that some people didn’t want to be around me and my situation. It’s ok.
Jeffrey is with me.
Those of you that think this is crazy talk - just skip this paragraph. Jeffrey stayed with me. I, sadly, don’t feel him around as much anymore. But I don’t want to be selfish - so Jeff - it’s ok - move on to that happy place! Someone took a picture of my cousin, her husband, Mike and me. She printed it for me and there is a light beam coming through the trees to my heart. Yea - Jeff was with me.
This tragic death does hit me hard.
I had some (very smart) friends reach out to me with not only the news of this tragic death but to make sure I am ok. At first I didn’t see the big deal. As this death sinks in, it does affect me. It’s another senseless death of a young soul that had their entire life ahead of them. I am heartbroken.
Addiction makes me mad.
Addiction makes me mad. Not the addicts, but addiction the disease. The lack of understanding, funding, help for addicts - it all makes me mad. Addicts need to take some responsibility and have the unbelievable strength to fight their disease. But our government, society, and ‘the village’ needs to be ready with the tools to help them. Enough on this - saving this soapbox for another blog.
In the category of ‘death affects everyone differently’.
The advice I offered to my friend was to remember that THIS does not define you. You define you. You are still the same amazing person and parent that you’ve always been and THIS does not define you.
This does not define you.
This statement deserves it’s own place in this blog. I am not a mother of a dead addict. I am Kim, a mother, a wife, a friend, a dog lover, an athlete - I can go on with a lot of positive statements about myself. I think you get it.
The reason I spend so much time on this is because addiction is very scary. People who interacted with me ranged from being curious (how do I keep this from happening to me) to judging (maybe if you had only <insert action here>). (FYI - the judging people - they don’t get to be my friends anymore.) I believe curiosity comes from the fear that this could enter their life and they want to know my experience to learn from it. And I’m happy to talk about it. I don’t know the answers (do any of us?), but I’m happy to talk with anyone.=
This is really hard to write.
For me, my emotions range from disbelief, anger, sadness, and acceptance that Jeff is in a better place. I don’t know how long I’ll feel sadness (the hardest one for me), and I can’t decide if the sadness comforts me or something else. I think comfort because it means Jeff is still with me.
So my friends child is gone. Another senseless death.