Since losing my son, Alex “Lali” Laliberte, over 11 years ago as a result of an accidental polysubstance overdose, I’ve pondered the thought, “Would I consider myself knowledgeable in grief and loss?”, probably. I’ve had more experience on this journey than a lot of people that I’ve come in contact with in the last 11 years. It’s taken me this many years to get to the mental state that I’m in now, which is pretty solid, considering.
I am truly able to feel joy again. Having a grandson has helped me in a major way. I know it may seem hard to comprehend for some but I honestly believe I’m a better person as a result of experiencing this life-altering tragedy. The empathy and compassion I’ve developed over the years have without a doubt humbled me and it carries over to people I come in contact with and the relationships I have. I would give it all up in a heartbeat to have Alex back, any time. But he’s not coming back and every day he gives me the strength to lead the life that I live.
I can only speak for myself, but the first few years after losing Alex I was in a fog – a total mess. It’s virtually impossible to process living life without your child or loved one who’s passed. Especially if it comes as a total shock, with no preparation. I separated myself from friends and family, drove to different towns so I could grocery shop and do errands in fear of running into someone I knew that would never understand, and having to answer questions I wasn’t prepared to answer.
Over time, grief does change little by little and for everyone, it’s so individualized. While many can relate to the devastation of losing someone very close to them, the ebbs and flows day in and day out have their own agenda, one with hardly any control and at a moment’s notice. There is no way to comprehend the magnitude of an experience like this. Alex was only 20 years old.
I would say that meeting the hundreds of people I have over the years since Alex’s passing has also helped me grow tremendously. It may sound strange but knowing that we have such great support and that the minute we meet someone that is on this journey with us there’s a connection like no other, is comforting. Those connections are key to healing.
If I could suggest one thing to those who have not experienced a tragic loss, please educate yourselves on how to speak to someone with empathy and compassion, then you don’t have to walk away and say to yourself “why did I say that?”
A few of the best things to say:
•I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
•I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
•You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
•My favorite memory of your loved one is….
•I am always just a phone call away
Even if it’s just: “I’m sorry, I’m here to listen and support you”.
It’s one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time – grief is just around the corner.
Jody Daitchman is the co-founder, Angel Moms Coordinator and Grief Group Facilitator of Live4Lali, established with her family in early 2009 after the accidental overdose death of her son, Alex Laliberte, in December of 2008.
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