When Tina Dailey passed away the Saturday before Thanksgiving in 2014, we – her family and closest friends – had a choice to make: how to answer when people asked us how Tina died. When someone dies of old age or heart disease or cancer, it’s tough to discuss but the answer is considered acceptable. We talk about timelines and treatments, good days and bad times. We talk about preventive measures and health histories during the immediate condolences as well as later when reminiscing. When someone dies at their own hand – including death by overdose – the answer becomes uncomfortable, something to address in low whispers and in vague references. And once it’s been addressed, the subject often is not brought up again.
But what is the price of subtlety? What does silence and privacy accomplish when it comes to an overdose? How does anything change when those of us who experience this level of devastation hide it and pretend?
Let us be very clear… there are no words to adequately describe the loss we felt and still feel. Nothing on this planet comes close to the sharp, sword-in-the-gut pain that Tina’s death dealt us all. The manner of her death only added to our anguish and guilt and confusion, not to mention our feelings of guilt and sense of failure. We understand why many people whose loved ones die due to overdose make the choice that they do and avoid sharing their loved ones’ cause of death. It’s easier on everyone to steer the conversation in a different direction, to talk about other things… to forget.
We look at it differently. That confusion and agony and helplessness we felt? We will do just about anything to keep even one family from having to go through that. If that means keeping it very real, being honest and sharing our story and our love and our pain time and again, over and over, with the hope that we reach the right eyes or ears at just the right moment and by doing so we save a life, we will do it. If it means not only sharing Tina’s story when asked but actively reaching out and putting her story in front of as many people as possible, at every opportunity, we will. If it means opening up our hearts and sharing our innermost thoughts and experiences and feelings about Tina and addiction and love and loss and hope time and again, we will.
Not a day goes by that we don’t feel the loss of our Tina. The first year was the hardest – the first of every holiday, of her birthday, of our birthdays, the first milestones she couldn’t celebrate, the first world events she couldn’t comment on. They hit us hard. And they continue to do so. Her absence is always there.
Until there are no more families who have to worry about this situation, until addiction is no longer a worry and death by overdose no longer a threat, expect us to keep it very real and to keep sharing Tina’s story. Our story. All the time. Never doubt that we feel it’s the right thing to do.
And for Tina.