On October 6, 2017, Liam reminded his dad that he didn’t have to work in the morning, so he didn’t need his usual 5 a.m. wake-up call. He said goodnight and told his father that he loved him before going to his room to sleep. That was the last conversation Kevin shared with his 18-year-old son Liam. Liam died that evening, in his home, from an accidental overdose from fentanyl poising.
Liam’s death caused Kevin a lot of anger. Anger that he died. Anger that he now must raise his sisters without him being there. Anger that this one choice cost Liam his life. Kevin was left with so much anger and grief and needed to try to find help to work through this tragedy. He found his way to Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region’s Living with Loss group for adults grieving a death by substance use.
No big surprises
When a loved one dies by substance use, no one truly gets it. Kevin says when he tells his story, people can be kind and sympathetic, but they don’t truly understand what it’s like. When you come to Living with Loss, they get it. “There are no big surprises with each member’s tragic story. Each story is similar with just a few different details. This familiarity brings feelings of comfort as you are all in the same boat.” Needing to be part of a group where they just know, with similar experiences connect them and Kevin feels comfort and support being a part of the group.
“What did surprise me is how much I like to talk and share my stories of Liam,” he says. In group, Kevin feels very comfortable sharing something that happened while Liam was alive, or after his death. He says “it is common for someone to jump at the end of your sharing and say ‘oh ya, that happened to me, but then this also happened me’ – it connects us.”
Kevin says there is so much respect for each other in the room and gratitude for the freedom to share without any judgement. “Hearing other people’s stories brings clarity to your own thoughts and feelings,” he says. When people are sharing, they are saying things about their own situations and emotions he is thinking and feeling himself.
Step out of the bubble
The one thing that Kevin knows with certainty today is that no matter what he does or what he wants, he can’t change the final outcome – Liam died. “I am living in this bubble. I am staying with group as long as it takes to help me step out of the bubble and begin life again.”
While he hasn’t quite found the “tools” that he often hears people talking about to navigate his journey and he isn’t quite sure how it will help him mold himself into who he is going to be without Liam. Kevin is sure he’s in the right place, “I just know that I need to be there.” Kevin works in many locations, so he has driven from cities as far as Oshawa to make the group meetings.
“If Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region did not have this specific group, people would have nowhere to go. Other support groups are not the same. You don’t get it unless you have experienced it. “