It was barely one year after the tragic loss of my sweet 16-year-old son, Sam, when I started grad studies, Fall 2015, at Christian Theological Seminary. I was immediately embraced by the community of my CTS cohorts. I felt loved. I was so thankful. Many of them still remain to provide love and support but they are in other programs now. What I’m left with in my third year of grad school, I felt intensely Monday night. A cohort’s comments provided a trigger for me that reeked with lack of information. As I provided vehemently some of that information, although hidden until I said it out loud in the room, was my cohort’s agenda of a race issue around the opioid drug epidemic.
He laughed when I voiced, “So is this a race issue?” His laugh continued as he smiled and said, “Yes.” His affect seemed so odd to me. I would never smile about the death of my son from experimenting and unknowingly taking a synthetic hallucinogen drug that killed him overnight, or the sadness and life changing pain I experienced in the devastating aftermath. My cohort’s pain was with race, yet it seemingly allowed him to smile. I was envious. Still I was the one that brought the idea of race into the room and out from the shadows; a single, 50-plus, suburban, white woman.
What he had been commenting on, was that now the “media” as another student cohort chimed in, was talking of treatment for the opioid drug epidemic. I asked where this treatment was in our community. Neither cohort responded. The smiling cohort grinned again and said, “You act like you expect me to know what the treatment is.” Yes, actually, I did. When I go out and speak about my pain, treatment updates are something that I unfortunately consider for passing on to my audience.
The thoughts voiced thereafter by the same and other students, included the preface, “Not to take away from Jeanine’s loss but…” As if my loss could be taken away? No, changing the past was not an option when I was suffering my pain. Death is not temporary. Instead, with no other option, I worked to change the future.
Now, if I am to listen to my cohort, that work that was my pain is not to be recognized either because it came after the past crack and heroin epidemic and injustices. In fact, my work and that of the army of families effected by the opioid crisis, shows what wasn’t done in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s drug epidemics. But that is precisely why I used my pain for betterment… to right injustice; life is not fair. In grief, I empowered myself. I created a nonprofit. I work painfully as an advocate. I just want to change the world. #muchlovetosam