Author: Cheryl Juaire
I lost my son Corey to a drug overdose ten years ago. Lacking support, I grieved alone for the first three years until I met some other parents with the same shared experience. It’s almost impossible to put into words the loneliness, the sadness, and the heartbreak of not knowing anyone who understands your pain. It was through meeting others, who were hurting like myself, that I realized healing could begin.
When a friend of mine who had attended The Onsite Foundation’s Life After Loss program shared her experience with me, I quickly applied. I am so glad I did, because in the short time there I learned so much about myself. As the founder of an organization of child loss, I attended because I wanted to see what the Life After Loss Program had to offer, never expecting to come out as a new person. I did not realize that after ten years, I still had work that needed to be done. I learned where I was in my grief process and I now understand that everything I had already experienced along the way was absolutely normal, something I never knew! I learned about trauma and PTSD. I learned both were part of what I experienced those first years, again something I never knew. One of the most enlightening experiences while at Life After Loss, was the love and understanding that was poured out every single day by the therapists, staff, and hospitality at Onsite. All the while being with people the entire time who understand child loss completely is almost as if an instant family was born. We all feel the exact same way. That feeling when we learned our child had passed. The being at the funeral and not at the same time. The ups and downs of grief. Being with people who share these experiences and get it. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off of our hearts. I finally feel heard, seen, and understood.
One of the requirements when you arrive is to turn in your phone and all electronic devices and participate in a digital detox. I run a huge organization. I never thought I would be able to do something like that. I was surprised that even the first evening that I did not miss my phone at all! In fact, for the first time in a long time, I could focus on me and what I needed to do for me for the week. That alone was life changing. I learned that I really didn’t need that phone as much as I thought. I learned to start taking care of me first. I like to use the analogy of an airplane mask. I can’t help others if I don’t put my own mask on first. Life After Loss gave me the tools, the mask I needed to be able to help others.
The most memorable moment for me was watching the closing ceremony. The therapists handed out a small gift one by one to their attendees in their group and every single person hugged their therapist for what seemed like hours. It was breathtaking to watch. My therapist was amazing. There was such a connection with him and our group together. I feel blessed that not only did I have a breakthrough, which I never expected I even needed, but that I was able to watch others as they did too which made our connections even stronger.
I’m so glad I went to the Life After Loss program. Not only did I learn so much, but I realized there are so many hurting parents out there, just like me, that have never gotten any kind of affirmation that what they feel is okay. Even normal. It has taken me ten years to learn that all I experienced in my grief was normal, and I can thank the Life After Loss program for that.
I can’t say enough great things about the Life After Loss Program and I hope anyone who has lost a child has the opportunity to attend and take the time they need and deserve for themselves and to be with others who understand their grief. You will be so glad you did!
Child loss is child loss. It doesn’t matter how a child died. Our feelings of grief and loss are all similar. Although my son died from addiction, it will never denounce anyone’s experience of child loss.
I run an organization for parents who have lost a child specific to addiction called Team Sharing. We have our national chapter as well as 22 state chapters and encourage those who are alone in their grief to join us. Below is our mission statement.
TEAM SHARING Inc. is a national organization of parents who have lost a child to Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Through social networking, community activism, grief services and advocacy, TEAM SHARING provides support and friendship to grieving families while working to raise awareness of Substance Use Disorder and its impact on our communities. For more info about TEAM SHARING visit: https://www.teamsharinginc.org