If she had to use one word to describe her son, Amy says that Matt was joy. He was a happy, content, energetic boy who loved watching sports with his dad and discussing all the highlights the next day. He loved fishing and took any opportunity to get new lures for his gear. He loved his job at the golf course. He was a daredevil and loved adventure.
Amy smiles as she reflects on the summer of 2017, when Matt had a huge growth spurt and topped 6’3” which set off his new blond curls. Amy describes Matt as a “typical teenager doing normal teenage stuff.”
On October 29, 2017, just two months shy of his 15th birthday, Matt died by suicide.
I was floundering
Amy was shocked and devastated. There were no warning signs. Was he struggling? Was it an accident? There were so many unanswered questions, and nothing could prepare her for this day and the days ahead.
Family and friends encouraged Amy to find support after Matt’s death. She had seen a therapist, but it didn’t seem to fill what she needed.
She can’t recall exactly how she found Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR). It could have been a resource given to her or maybe she came across it online searching for support. “I was floundering, and I knew I needed to find something to help me make some progress forward.”
Amy registered for BFO-MR’s program for parents grieving the death of a child. “This group for parents was specific enough yet still general enough for me to be comfortable. I knew I needed to connect with others.” Amy explains the word ‘general” is a good thing. The group welcomes all parent(s) where their child has died – it doesn’t focus on how or how old, but on the child and the grieving parents’ experience. It is a safe space to learn to process grief with other grieving parents.
There were benefits and surprises for Amy when she attended group. “The first realization I had was that this happens to other people, not just me.” She explains that she was so “narrow-minded” in her grief and focused only what she was going through. Coming to recognize that others were travelling the same journey was a huge eye opener. “I was so focused on me and my teenager.”
Amy explains that in group, she was able to take a breath, listen and understand. “Everyone has their own life stories they come to group with.” Although she says it may sound cliché but being in this group you know “you are not alone in this.”
They just get it
Group allows members to share and listen and learn. Often when sharing with her well-meaning friends, they would said they “get it”. But how could they, says Amy, when they hadn’t personally experienced it. In group it feels different. “It is a welcome environment where you can say anything and sometimes the things you say you feel like you are crazy, yet no one thinks that. They just get it.”
Beneficial for me to do for someone else
As time moved forward, people stopped asking Amy how she was. To her, it felt like everyone had forgotten about what happened. Everyone returned to their regular routines, yet Amy’s life was permanently changed.
“I wanted to continue telling his story. I wanted to keep talking about him.”
Amy decided to become a peer facilitator for the Child Loss Group. She wanted and needed to do this to share what she had been through. “It is beneficial for me to do for someone else. I can offer up what I have experienced and what it might look like for someone else.”
It also gave Amy the chance to be an “ear to somebody.”
Story-sharing is a big part of group. Amy explains that this is very therapeutic and important. In addition to holding space for members’ stories, as a facilitator Amy also gets to share hers and be an example of what life further down grief’s path can look like. It gives hope.
Knowing not to avoid but learn to navigate
Amy heard a quote about triggers, and it truly resonated with her. It was about learning not to avoid but how to navigate your way through triggers can help in preparing for them. “It is important to learn about our emotions and how to get comfortable with feeling them.”
Gave me a place to land
Amy continues to move forward with good days and bad. She reflects on what would have happened if she didn’t find Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region. She explained she really doesn’t know. But what she does know for sure is, “It gave me a new family. It gave me a place to land and it gives me purpose.”