Patience was one of Daniel’s great qualities. He was compassionate and caring – a man whose inner struggles never steered him away from working hard to care for his family. He was an amazing father who referred to his son Dominic as his “everything”. He was always supportive of his pride and joy, hugging and kissing him, and encouraging “him to be himself”. On July 18, 2018, Daniel died by accidental overdose from a substance laced with fentanyl. And Mary and Dominic’s lives were changed forever.
Only one without a daddy
After Daniel’s death, Mary wanted to make sure their son Dominic was supported. She contacted his school before he returned for the new school year, and they arranged for Dominic to meet with the school social worker. The worker suggested Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region’s Healing Little Hearts program. Although Dominic was hesitant to go at first, he quickly met friends and bonded with other kids “like him”. He learned he was not the “only one without a daddy.”
In the concurrent parent/caregiver program for Mary, she too learned quickly that it wasn’t only she and Dominic and who have experienced the death of someone special. The opportunity to be among other parents and caregivers brought comfort and connection – they knew they were not alone. She was also able to learn how to support Dominic in his grief and hear from others how they were coping and supporting their children.
“It was nice to share what I could at the time, and to learn from the others”.
“If they could make it through the day, then so can I”
With Dominic receiving support, Mary knew she needed to get help as well. She struggled with what had happened. She knew that sometimes Daniel took pills, but he didn’t take them every day. He worked a job, he loved his family, and he was always making people feel welcomed wherever he was. But on that tragic day, Daniel’s trust in others and that what he was taking was safe had fatal consequences. Not just for her but their son as well.
Mary sought support from BFO-MR’s Living with Loss program for adults grieving a death by substance use. Just like Dominic, she was hesitant and scared at first because she didn’t know what to expect. What she did know is that she wanted, and needed to do this.
“I felt connected to everyone pretty much right away.” Mary received comfort from all the stories shared, and she learned from others. They helped her keep going.
At group, Mary empathized with others as they shared. “Although no one’s grief and situation are worse than your own, and you don’t compare, you could feel and truly empathize with others and their pain and what they were going through.”
She found hope hearing they were moving forward and Mary knew she could do it too. The group helped her become stronger.
People minimize your loss
Mary was always open about how her husband died when people asked. She quickly learned that when someone dies by substance, people can be quick to judge you and the person who died. In her experience, the people placing the most blame were family and friends.
“People made me feel like it wasn’t a big deal to lose Daniel because it was by substance. People minimize your loss because it isn’t socially acceptable. People put a lot of blame and guilt on me.”
Mary quickly learned to only share with those who she felt were safe and accepting. The support group provided that safe space for Mary to share and talk not just about his death but about Daniel’s life, and their life together.
When Daniel died, group helped Mary tell her story. She connected with so many people and has made friends. She says that group makes her feel safe.
“I have always judged myself and allowed others to judge me – what I said, what I did, and I took it all to heart. After Daniel’s death, and going to group, I have learned it doesn’t matter what others say. I know I am not perfect, but I am doing the best I can. Group makes me feel comfortable to share and not feel judged. The facilitators and members always accept me.”
“BFO-MR is a safe space to share without judgement, connect with others and get help with your grief.”
Alone and isolated in my grief
If Mary had not come to BFO-MR, she knows she would have been “alone and isolated in [her] grief.” She wouldn’t have connected with others and learned from their life experiences. Both Mary and Dominic were able to make friends and connect with others like them. It gave them hope.
Mary has learned to “take one step at a time, to ride the wave of emotions, knowing that not every day will be the same.” Mary also has learned to reach out to people, ask for help, and accept help when others offer.
“I have learned to appreciate people in my life. I have learned that with each person you meet, to be patient with them, as you never know what they are going through. I have learned, and it has surprised me the most, that this could happen to anyone at any age.”