It has been a tough few weeks, sometimes the grief just gets worse. The holiday without out you, the birthday cake not purchased. Then again, this time of year has always been hard. Summertime and bipolar disorder are bad companions, the addiction fuels the mania and vice versa. All night campfires and waterfront gatherings….Everyone tells me this anniversary date is rough, the shock is gone and you really, truly feel the loss. Tim, Ned and I all feel like life is quieter now, less bright and colorful without our charismatic, witty, life of the party. Complicating everything is the poor health of Tim’s mom , Sean’s beloved Grandmother.
For 10 years we did all we could to get Sean the help he needed. Some things we did well, some not so much. We did the best we could. Like all Momma Bear’s with a struggling child, I became quite co-dependent. I became an expert in mental illness and addiction. Yet, nothing I did truly made a difference. So, losing Sean meant a losing a battle our entire family and many friends had been battling.
So, when I get in a negative state of mind I try to build a gratitude list.
I am grateful for all the support, people who immediately came to our aid when Sean was admitted. The hospital visits, texts, calls, all meant so very much. Sarah, Dawn, Kristin, Dale, Patricia, Pat and Greta helped immensely. Daniele insisted on bringing food when I couldn’t think of eating, that we totally ate, and gum-the best. Everyone who showed up at our doorstep, often with gifts of food. I would just say I have the best friends you ever could have. The continued calls, texts, messages, invites..it helps. If you have a friend grieving stay with them.
I am grateful to have a job I love and awesome coworkers, the joy of being mostly good at something is a constant reminder to take better care of myself and to keep moving forward. Grateful to have a little extra time off now.
I am grateful for the strong love of Sean’s friends, they sustain me. I admire any young person in recovery because, I know how hard it is. I spent many a late night talking to Sean and hearing how hard it was to maintain sobriety. The last day I saw him, he cried “It’s just so hard”, I wanted to take him to the hospital that day but, he refused. He wanted to go to work and not let his employer down. I believe it is possible and a fast track to an amazing life if you can stay sober. So many young people have told me they are staying clean because of Sean’s death.
I am grateful for the ER and ICU staff for keeping Sean alive long enough to determine the damage to his brain. Then the respectful discussion regarding organ transplant, which Sean would have wanted.
I am grateful for the website. Sean had a mix tape we often listened to. I couldn’t understand the lyrics. Sean said “Mom it’s me J**kie For Kindness “ So, I don’t use or say J**kie, so it became For-Kindness. I appreciate the opportunity to write and share Sean’s work. Now that I have some more time, I look forward to being able to go through the remainder of his work.
I am grateful for the passage of several legislative acts. One bill H 874, in particular, presented by a legislator who knew Sean from jail. He presented a bill to ensure that people are not uniformly taken off their psychiatric meds upon entering jail, I am guessing to save money?? Sean was released in a very manic state, he went back on his medication and was trying to get his mood stabilized before he died.
S166 was passed to allow a substance abuse assessment on admission to jail, and to provide MAT for opiate addiction if needed. I am not sure if Sean would have taken MAT but, he could have used the counselling.
Again, many were moved by our story presented at the Burlington Comm Stat meeting to press for passage of this bill.
We are very private and to share Sean’s story was very difficult, we were asked by a mental health counselor, Jackie Corbally, who knew Sean from one of his stays at Maple Leaf Farm and it seemed right. Many have an illusion that substance abuse doesn’t or can’t affect them. This disease does not discriminate; race, income, education level.. all can be affected.
We were also asked to share his story with a student, whose dad Dr. Gil Allen, kept Sean alive on admission to the ICU. The film won an award and Riley Allen donated the prize money to NAMI for the Family Support Group.
I am grateful that so many of these changes were begun or helped by people that knew Sean and wanted change because of him.
Money donated to New Found Life Treatment center funded scholarship for 3 students. Our family is forever in debt to the family programs at New Found Life and Hazelden/ Betty Ford, these programs saved us. These programs were offered at no cost to help families.
I am grateful for the new programs at Safe Recovery, particularly Fentanyl Test strips. I think many have noted that Fentanyl has become a pivotal point in this epidemic, the numbers are skyrocketing. To the general public, the numbers aren’t known. The press doesn’t report them. Many people aren’t able to afford an obituary, or aren’t able to note a cause of death, as it takes 10-16 weeks. We didn’t put much in the paper as we didn’t know. Sean’s test for opiates was negative, so we didn’t want to put into print our speculation. However, the death rates are 1-2 people a week, just in Burlington.
I remember in 1988, that as a new med student at the County, in the lock up ward, HIV was very new. I took care of a young African American with HIV. He needed dressing changes q 8. I tried to help him, he didn’t want me to get HIV so he insisted on doing most of the dressing change himself, I am still in awe of his courage. Anyhow, I hope we soon see overdose like HIV, a terrible disease that doesn’t improve by blaming the victim.
I am not so grateful that Sean didn’t get the care he deserved. I will fight for better substance abuse prevention and treatment, for mental health care parity, and for criminal justice reform. Many people tried to help Sean, very caring hard working people. It’s the systems that need change. Many people I know are still struggling for housing, health care and medication.
I read this t the sunset memorial on Aug 1st, written by Sean upon hearing of my Dad’s death. They were very close.
“Wish you were here” played on the radio.
Thank you for teaching me Life is a Show.
Act with love and creativity.
Play music, read often. Laugh. Cook good food, speak with integrity, tell stories.
All the things I learned from you!!
Your wisdom taught us all. Your love was felt from this whole family. Enjoy your next life and new
Adventure, Because OH! Because the thing you taught the most, Never stop seeking. Peace and Love, Sean Blake
I am grateful, that while the losses were very profound, my Dad and Sean are together.