“I met my husband John in an addictions support group seven years ago. He was outdoorsy and with him, I spent lots of time at beaches and parks and camping and doing things I hadn’t done before. He was a teacher and we was always encouraging me to reach for my full potential. We challenged each other to learn new things and have fun.
We lived with my mom in a happy little family until we moved out in the summer of 2019. We had six months of life on our own before I lost my husband in January 2020 of heart failure.
Then my mom passed away in October after a severe stroke. I lost so many aspects of my identity. I lost my role as wife, best friend, daughter and caretaker to my mom and my professional role as a sign language interpreter, all in a matter of 10 months.
In May 2020, I was marking 10 years of being sober, but I was really struggling and I really wanted to drink. I went to my doctor to ask for help and I was referred to a relapse prevention hotline. It was there I learned about a grief support group.
I had no idea what to expect except that they offered one-on-one counselling and support groups. I was paired with someone about my age who had lost a partner. I am 38, so having a spouse die is not common in my age group. I really felt alone. The people around me wanted to help but they couldn’t relate. They had lost a parent or a grandparent, which is awful, but it’s not the same.
I just kept feeling that I wasn’t in the right place in my grief, that I wasn’t progressing. I kept thinking there was something wrong with me. I shared my thoughts and feelings with my partner in the program. She made me feel OK with where I was.
Our society is afraid of death. We don’t want to talk about it and there is this idea that you get through grief because we don’t want to deal with how hard it really is. And then people like me are quiet because we don’t think we are coping well. That creates this cycle of silence.
I’ve not been involved in United Way programs before. I can easily say that this program has saved my life on several occasions. It has made me feel validated in my grief and helped me at a time when I have felt completely alone. It’s shown me that I’m not and that it’s OK to be where I am and feel what I’m feeling. I would feel lost without it.”