Finding Hope, Five Years Later
I felt hope a few weeks ago. I was with old friends, listening to live music for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The lights in the trees were twinkling, and it was a perfect Iowa summer night.
After Trevor passed away, it was important for us to get away. We travel several times a year, driving until we see something that catches our eye. Through this, we have found ourselves on many adventures. I have seen almost this entire country in my lifetime, and the memories I have made will last me my whole lifetime. My favorite spot to go is the highest mountain my husband Kevin can find. I can reach out and touch the clouds, and feel a little piece of heaven. Closer to my family.
The year 2016, and those following, were horrific for our family. Trevor passed away suddenly. A couple of weeks later my mother, who was my best friend, passed away after a hard battle with cancer. I had always wondered how I could ever make it through life without her. Losing Trevor weeks before I lost her never allowed me the time to grieve for her. A good therapist reminded me that my mom protected me in life, and she is doing the same from beyond.
My father had also become suddenly ill. He lived for a while with diminished capacities. When he passed away, his last words were a whisper to me, “I am going to see them.” I whispered back to him, "Go, you've waited long enough." Kevin’s mom passed away as well. I was thankful Alzheimers blocked her from knowing what happened to her Trevor. She was my second mom, and an amazing woman.
So we grieved. Hard. Our family left us when Trevor did. I searched for ways to bring the rest of us some peace and possibly hope.
I’ve worked in human services for 26 years. We went back to work after he left us, and helping people in my job gave me some hope. I found passion and purpose in talking about Trevor’s life. I vowed his death would not be in vain, and was very active in grief and addiction groups on social media. It was comforting to know others felt like I did. I wrote about him. People would see my writing and ask me to speak about him. I shouted and screamed about the overdose rate, and the doctors who over-prescribed pills. I lost friends and family along the way. Sometimes I was too loud. I apologize for the change in me, but it wasn’t possible for me to stay the same.
I was able to sit next to Bernie Sanders and tell him about our son. He cried with us. Trevor canvassed for Sanders while trying to stay sober. He would have enjoyed seeing his mom speak to him.
That brought my family hope. I’ve spoken to reporters from Time magazine and many others, and will continue banging the drum loudly for overdose awareness. I want to be SO annoying people will realize that progress is very slow in the fight against overdose. I have begged for free medicare for all, everyone deserves the right to treatment in this country.
The agency I work for realized the need for dual diagnosis programs in our state. They fought hard, jumped through hoops and cut through a lot of red tape. They opened one of the first ones. Our daughter is a program manager there as she works on her master’s degree through the University of Iowa.
Over time, we cried less and laughed more. I went to a lot of therapy, and figured out he didn't want us in mourning. Eventually, we were even able to look at the future in a positive way. Five years later, I still wake up with the first thought being "what a horrible nightmare" and bow my head for a moment as I gather the million thoughts.
Our days are mostly good. We still have rough days, we allow ourselves that. We have triggers, we know them and prepare for them. We learned to compartmentalize life. I do little things in his honor, paying it forward to someone. Donations in his name that nobody knows about. That brings me hope. I can help someone else. He loved to help others.
We decided to sell our family home after living there for 21 years. It gave me hope, but also scared me. Our entire life was in the house. Wonderful memories and some really bad ones. I have now found my peace living next to cornfields and a river bluff. It has been a journey, a hard path, but we are happy as we maneuver a much different life than five years ago.
Tonight my phone is on Do Not Disturb. I lay in my hammock and watch the hawks above me, soaring high over me.
I always smile, and believe it's Trevor soaring free in the wind.