If you have found this page, first let us say we are so sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one to fentanyl poisoning can be an especially traumatic experience that leaves a trail of devastation for the family and community impacted. We are sorry you have to experience that pain.
Song for Charlie was created by families who know the pain of losing children to fentanyl poisoning, and we would like to help you if we can. The days, weeks, or even months after the loss of a loved one can be a blur. It will take time before you start to come out of that haze. While we cannot eliminate the pain of losing a child or loved one, we would like to share a few things that have helped us as we grieved the loss of our children.
Take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating, staying hydrated, and sleeping as best you can. Get outside if you can, exercise if you can. Be gentle with yourself. Do your best, and accept that you may not be able to do your regular day to day activities for a while.
Allow others to help as much as possible. If offered, let others deliver food, walk the dog, run errands for you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help- ask a neighbor to pick up groceries for you or mow your lawn. Ask a friend to help to do the laundry or clean the dishes. Your family and friends are feeling your pain, too, and want to be able to help.
Develop a relationship with your law enforcement contact. Some agencies are experienced at fentanyl death cases, some are not. Don’t be afraid to ask your detective questions, share any information you have learned, and ask for regular updates. You deserve to know what happened to your loved one. Depending on where you live, sometimes law enforcement needs to be pushed into action a bit– don’t be afraid to do this if you need to. You are not ‘bugging’ them.
Report dealer to social media companies if appropriate. This may be surprising and maddening to learn, but if no one has flagged your loved one’s dealer they may still be lurking on social media. If you have evidence your loved one got their drug on social media, take steps to report the dealer’s handle to the appropriate social media company; don’t assume someone else will do this. Ask your detective if they have reported the dealer’s user name to the social media company, and whether or not it would hurt the investigation if the account was shut down. If they have not shut down the account and it won’t hurt the investigation, have someone help you to report the dealer’s user name to the social media company or do it yourself. You could save lives by taking this simple step.
Seek counseling and/or a grief group. The grief from losing a loved one can be overwhelming and hard to process, and it can stop you in your tracks. We have found it beneficial to get professional help. Find a good counselor/therapist for yourself and family members if possible. Since people process grief differently, we also recommend engaging with a couples counselor if you have a significant other. Help any surviving kids to find a counselor as well if they are willing. Your insurance company and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us are both good places to start when looking for grief counseling.
Don’t feel pressured to share more information than you are willing to share. This is your family’s story— share just as much as you are comfortable with. You can choose to publicly share everything, just bits and pieces, or nothing at all, and both ends of the spectrum are okay. Over time you may choose to share more, or not. We have found that sharing our stories has helped immensely, and we have been broadly supported by our communities, but each family is different and the sharing has to be on your own terms.
Educate yourself on what is going on with fentanyl in the illicit drug supply today. People who die from illicit fentanyl have been poisoned and did not deserve to die. Song for Charlie tries to be an honest, reliable source of information, and we encourage you to spend time on our website to learn what is going on. If you are ready, sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly updates on what we are working on.
Connect with others who have experienced the same loss. Unfortunately, there are many other families who have experienced the loss of a child due to illicit fentanyl. We have found that connecting with other parents who have lost a child to fentanyl poisoning has been helpful to us. That is why we try to support newly bereaved families whenever we can. Song for Charlie periodically hosts family zoom meetings to help bereaved parents/guardians to connect with other families who have experienced the same loss. We are not professional counselors. The purpose of these meetings is to simply connect in small groups with others who are going through what you are going through. If you are interested in attending a family zoom meeting, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider finding virtual groups. Some people find it helpful to virtually connect with others who have lost a loved one to fentanyl poisoning. There are many fentanyl-related Facebook groups with different areas of focus… raising awareness, influencing legislation, processing grief, harm reduction, and more. If this interests you, we recommend you do your research and find the groups that are a good fit for you.
You have a long road ahead of you. Be kind to yourself.
We want you to know that you are not alone. If you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are not counselors or medical experts; we are parents who have experienced the loss of a child from fentanyl poisoning who are willing to share the knowledge we’ve gained since then to help others.
Holding you in our hearts,
Ed & Mary Ternan, parents of Charlie
Jen & Jon Epstein, parents of Cal
Laura Didier, mom of Zach