“Big brothers are supposed to be invincible, aren’t they? They shouldn’t be hurt, they shouldn’t die. “
Brooklynn Irvine said she is not looking forward to Christmas this year because it will be the first time without her brother Jesse.
He died of an overdose in July.
He was 25 years old and started taking drugs when he was 14. He started with cannabis and eventually switched to fentanyl.
He’d been in and out of jail, in and out of addiction programs, for the past few years, and he and Brooklynn had become somewhat estranged.
Now she wishes they reconnected before he died. Christmas was his favorite time of year and the pain of losing her older brother seems fresh.
“I had a different attitude than now. And for now, I understand that he wasn’t just addicted. He was a person, ”she told Global News over Zoom.
“His addiction wasn’t part of his main personality, his loving, caring, and protective side.”
His mother Laurie said that even things like decorating can be emotional.
“I put up Jessie’s baby’s first Christmas ornament. Things like that really … hit me,” she said.
Jesse’s family isn’t the only person to mourn someone who died of an overdose this holiday season.
According to the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service, 323 people have died or are suspected to have died from overdoses since Dec. 1.
That is almost double the previous record of 171 from 2018.
And as of December 23rd, it’s more than the number of people who have died from COVID-19.
Since Jesse’s death, Laurie Mothers has joined Stop The Harm, a group calling on the government to take control of the Saskatchewan overdose crisis
She says she found a point of sale and support.
“It made a real difference,” she said.
“It made me realize that I was not crazy. It made me realize that I can grieve at my own pace.”
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Brooklynn is different. She is 21 and not many people her age know what it’s like to lose a loved one – especially a sibling.
She said they were familiar with Jesse’s previous sobriety struggles but had no personal experience.
Therapist Erin Menz said this was an important part of dealing with grief.
“We are social beings who need that connection in order to heal and thrive,” she said, speaking of Zoom.
Menz said that holidays can be especially difficult for people who are grieving because they have a tendency to rush through them when grief is something that takes time.
“Holidays, anniversaries and special occasions and even ordinary days will bring sadness and memories, stories and feelings about the loss,” she told Global News.
“We often see Christmas as one of the most difficult times for people to be based solely on the social norms associated with the traditions associated with our culture of spending time with family.
“Grief is not a linear process, nor does it really work in five specific stages,” she said.
She warned that unresolved grief affects a person later in life.
“[Unresolved grief] it can show up through depression, it can show up through addiction, it can show up through stress, it can show up through chronic stress [and] chronic pain, ”she said.
She added that it is important to honor the loss, acknowledge it and pay attention to these feelings and seek help when needed.
Brooklynn said every day is different, some are good and some are bad.
One of Jesse’s hats is on her Christmas tree this year to keep in mind as she celebrates his favorite season.
Brooklynn hopes the New Year brings new awareness and new help to people with addiction problems – like cheaper treatment and more accessible treatment, especially during the pandemic – so that other families can celebrate together.
“It was really hard. It was scary. And it was difficult, ”she explained what it was like to find out that her brother was overdosed and was dying.
“I hope nobody ever has to go through something like this.”
Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction? Here is a list of resources you can use to get help.