By Josh Abel
I met Holly riding the bus in our community. She is very attractive with a winsome smile and piercing eyes that I would trade anything for. She was also the bus driver. At that time Holly went to school to become a nurse. After becoming a nurse, Holly didn’t drive the bus that much, but one of her fellow bus drivers mentioned to me that one of Holly’s patients had died and it had a negative impact on her. It brought back ghosts from my past as I also had a job in which people died which had a negative impact on me.
I used to help people deal with their addictions. One former client relapsed and overdosed leaving a one year old child behind. I couldn’t begin to describe how sorry I felt for that one year old. Then there’s the second guessing (guilt). Could I have done more and why didn’t I see this coming? Another former client on one Mother’s day killed two of his next door neighbours. Since that time, Mother’s day has never been the same for me. I felt similar emotions for the family of the two victims. My heart went out to them and although I never met them, somehow this was one of those occasions where saying sorry just isn’t enough. The police did catch my client who wasn’t “at risk” (he came from a nice home, wasn’t involved in gangs) of committing such a crime but it still got to me anyway.
As a caring person, those incidents affected me just as Holly’s affected her. You just can’t take the human part of you out of the equation. I did tell Holly I was sorry for the loss of her patient. Holly is also a caring person and I don’t want her to experience the same negative impact as my situation did with me. They can teach you every aspect of how to perform your job except one: how to deal with second guessing. The guilt will get to you if you let it, especially if you are a perfectionist at your job. Your work ethic teaches you to be the best at your job, but there are things you are going to encounter that you just can’t control. When I started my job I wanted to help people I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives, an idealist. In my case that’s what made the guilt even more of a challenge to overcome. Although I can’t control someone else’s behaviour, Mother’s Day will never be the same for me especially since my own Mother passed away last year.
Holly if you’re reading this you are going to have a lot of success in your job and you probably won’t give it a second thought. Please give the successes more attention than the failures because that’s what makes the job enjoyable (helping people).
Holly’s true reflection is beauty and she made the bus fun to ride.
Kristal – Lack of Memorials During Pandemic
Kristal talks about how memorials can offer closure to people who are grieving, find a community, and share stories. With the absence of this during the pandemic, many people turned inward to grieve or isolated, which can create safety issues and have an impact on mental health. She speaks to how this leads to depression, physical pain, and it compounds upon itself.
Nicole – Stigma Surrounding Drug Use
Nicole discusses how the stigma around drug use has an impact on how people feel able to grieve when those in their community are lost.
Nicole – Power of Speaking About Lost Ones
Nicole discusses the importance of sharing memories of those lost to drug poisoning and speaking their names.
Nicole – Pandemic’s Effect on Safe Spaces and Mental Health Access
Nicole discusses how the pandemic affected access to safe spaces and shelters for those living rough and living with addiction.
Nicole – Pandemic Leads to Increase in Drug Poisoning
Nicole discusses the increase in drug poisonings during the pandemic due to a number of factors.
Nicole – Grieving as a community
Nicole discusses the power of grieving together as a community. Finding connection and trust.
Nicole – Working in Community Outreach
Nicole discusses her work in community outreach and how she has lived experience with addiction and living rough.
By Meghan Sheffield
In the first days of July, there aren’t many flowers blooming, I learned.
I’d sent a text saying “Hello friends, I’m putting out a call for flowers. I went to public school with Kory, the young man who died in downtown Cobourg this week, and though I hadn’t seen him in recent years, I feel the loss of him on a community level, as I imagine you do, too. Some of Kory’s people are gathering tonight in vigil at the bank where he died, and I’m gathering flowers from those of us who have gardens to share with this grieving community. Do you have some blooms in your garden that you’d be willing to share?”
Kory died as a result of a toxic drug poisoning that took his life in the bank vestibule where he was sheltering. His friends were grieving, angry, disbelieving. The wider community was in shock that this could happen here, in such an ordinary place, to a local boy, born and raised.
Those who knew him best, who had been with him in what became his last days and months, began to talk about holding a vigil, a time and place to be together in their grief.
As it turned out, the tulips and peonies had faded and finished, and the dahlias and zinnias hadn’t begun to flourish yet. I got some nervous replies about the current state of the garden. A mom from my daughter’s class texted to say that they were sorry, but just didn’t really have much to offer right now.
Then the first yes rolled in. “Yes, I will pull something together. We have one million daisies.”
A man’s whole life. One million daisies.
As it turned out, there was an abundance to be had, if you knew where to look, if we just widened the margins of “the garden” and looked to the edges of the wild places.
We know that trauma of all kinds is inequitably distributed in our society, and that access to healing resources is even more inequitable. For community members who rely on a prohibited, criminalized supply of certain substances, the experience is not just a risk of personal harm, but of compounding losses and grief. It means mourning in isolation because the cause of death is so stigmatized. It means administering life-saving medicine and performing chest compressions in the glow of flashing lights, while still in mourning for the most recent loss.
I spent an hour driving around, picking up mason jars filled with blooms from doorsteps all over town. There were daylilies and hydrangea, wild vetch and bladderwort, fragrant bee balm and holy basil, and yes, one million daisies.
At the vigil, the jars of flowers were joined by an eagle feather and abalone shell, offerings of cigarettes, and a can of Molson resting on the window sill outside the bank. Candles were lit, stories were told, tears were shed.
Those of us who didn’t know Kory well, who were present to show our support, to acknowledge the community and systemic level failures that had led us to this place, were invited to hold a perimeter of care for those in the centre, who were grieving, by standing at the edges of the gathering.
For days after the sunset vigil, at the doorstep of an ordinary bank, flowers bloomed on the grey cement sidewalk on main street. Wild, fleeting, beauty.
Laura- Loss from Addiction
Laura shares her experience losing a friend to overdose and navigating attending a memorial during the pandemic.
Krista – “Mental illness and self medicating”
Krista talks about mental health and self medicating. Krista continues to grieve the death of her son from opioid overdose.
Christian – “Jeff’s Story”
Christian tells Jeff”s story… the good and his struggles.