Welcome …

Our adult therapeutic grief support group for parents, guardians and grandparents is starting tonight ! We will be accepting registrations until next Wednesday, December 11th. Please use the private and confidential contact form on this webpage to get in touch, or find our group page on Facebook. We are also meeting families, and taking registrations for our youth and teen program, starting April 9th, 2020 !! This is a completely free, 8 week intensive program, specifically designed for ANY youth and teen ( ages 11-17 ) whom have been bereaved by a loss by suicide.

Birthday’s and Anniversaries – where do we begin .. ???

Yesterday, was the the fifth birthday my late-son Max had since he died by suicide. He was just 16 years old, and yesterday, he would have turned 21. Like any survivor parent, I couldn’t imagine spending one single moment separated from my beloved child, how I was meant to go forward, knowing *THESE* types of days were invariably coming. His birthday, and the anniversary of the day he died; they would come, and I was running below empty. How would I find the strength to navigate these unforgiving days… ?? Would our family ever be able to feel peace and joy again … ??

I don’t need to describe the state of complete and utter devastation our family was in when Max died. You know the cruel, and unrelenting pain that permeates every fibre of your body and soul. The gapping chasm of a hole where your heart used to be; though it doesn’t feel empty as one would assume a chasm does. Your chest feels like an unmovable, cold stone is inside, and life blood has been replaced with razor-sharp despair, longing, loneliness, and confusion. You’ve died along with your beloved one, but yet you physically remain, frozen in the horror of your new life; and……….birthdays and anniversaries are coming.

Right, so, I am alive, and have two surviving ( and now also grieving ) children. In a couple of months, it was coming. Max’s first birthday away from his beloved family. Everything is raw, painful, and I barely have enough energy to lift food to my lips. Where am I going to start with the tough days ?? I reconciled a few things mentally:

  1. Max’s birthday and anniversary of his death would come without fail each year, so I was going to honour whichever way emotionally that was going to go as a mother. I allowed myself to express my feelings. Along the road, I connected with other survivors of suicide, and I had a couple of friends whom let me pour out my aching heart. Allowing others to help was pivotal !!
    2. I wasn’t going to make HIS important days of the year, about myself. Many people love Max, and miss him. These are days of suffering for many. I also reconciled to find a way to include ALL of my sons’ loved ones on these days.
    3. There is nothing I can do about the pain I feel on these occasions. It’s implacable, inevitable, and will come whether I want it to, or not. I wasn’t able to change my pain ( how could any parent … ??? ) so what could I change ? I couldn’t help myself on these days, *BUT* I could still help others !
    4. My surviving children ( God willing ) will have to live with the loss of their beloved brother, friend, and champion longer than myself. I needed to lead the way, and teach them what we are capable of doing as people whom live with grief. I would find local organizations that would accept larger groups of volunteers, with a variety of ages, for Max’s birthday and the anniversary of his passing.

Early on in your own journeys of survivorship, everything is daunting, and extremely overwhelming. I have found the path back to peace and joy, in many ways. One way, has been through the beautiful experience of sharing these difficult days with everyone in my support network, and my greater community. For the remainder of my life, I will grieve for my son. For the remainder of my life, I am committed to my healing journey. I will not shut myself away from the world, as the forever broken part of me begs to do…. I am still a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a daughter, and a teammate for the people I work with. This post is just a general outline of my tough days of the year philosophy, and approach. I will write future posts about the many tools I use to mentally, physically and emotionally carry the weight of this grief. I know the insurmountable task that is in front of you….

I hope this post has been a tiny spark of hope to help you along your own grief journeys ! Our therapeutic support group is thoughtfully designed to help you build connections, and learn valuable tools to help you find peace and joy in the days that are to come !

Five years down the broken road of losing my precious son to suicide, I can reflect back, and say that his birthdays and anniversaries haven’t been the dreaded days I expected them to be. In fact, they have been some of the most beautiful days of healing ! Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with others, and allow yourself to be enveloped in human empathy and compassion !! If you can put your pain ( anger and every other negative emotion that comes with this cruel type of loss ) on pause, long enough to plan a day or giving to others in need….then I’m sure you will experience the transforming qualities that comes with helping others !!

Sending you much love, and strength today:

Jill Cowan – Max’s Mom

Post Script:

Two local charities I love to spend Max’s special days of the year are:

The Friendship Inn

The Ronald McDonald House ( check out their, “Home for Dinner” program online ) !!

“Home for Dinner” for our late-son Max’s fifth birthday since his passing. We love to create a menu of his favourite foods, and serve it to the families staying at The Ronald McDonald House each year !

Did you know we have a …

Youth and Teen group

Something that was very important to ourselves, was to be able to provide support for the entire family. We are currently accepting registrations for our Youth and Teen group. There is no cost for this program, and our first meeting has been scheduled ! April 9th, 2020, running once per week for eight weeks. Please send us a confidential message on this website, or go to our Facebook page to get in touch, and learn more ! We can also give referrals for private counselling, or will connect you with fellow survivors to have a private, and confidential meeting. We are here to help – let us know how we can best help YOU and your loved ones begin your own journey of HEALING. 💖

Why did I create “Healing to The Max”??

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” – Dr. Seuss

This is a quote that is written at the top of a page in my daughter’s journal. She wrote an entry when she was just 11 years old. She is describing the day “that changed her life forever”. She begins her post telling of a peaceful dream she was having. She was dancing on a stage, with mist all around her. She was in a flowing grey dress, on pointe shoes. The theatre was empty, but somehow felt full. She was dancing to the music in her head. She awakes to sunshine, and is eager to wake her brother to show him the snowman she made the day before. He may have already seen it, having gone on a date the evening before with his girlfriend; still, she is eager to show him her lovely achievement. It is early March, but there was still enough snow to make things out of. She goes down to his room, but this morning, he does not answer. This is the moment that defines the ending of her childhood, the beginning of a nightmare she can’t wake up from. Her hero, her brother, her best friend had died by suicide. She knew he was struggling with a depression, but had promised her that he’d never hurt himself. He’d broken his promise. She feels as though she has died, too……

My son Max was just 16 years old when he died in the early hours of that fateful Sunday morning. If you are reading this, I don’t need to explain the chaos our lives were thrown into. You well understand the complex grieving process when your child dies by suicide. How do we find balance in the middle of our devastating shock, and sadness ? How do we parent our surviving grieving children, help our spouse carry their pain, and care for ourselves when we can’t even get a proper breath of air to fill our own lungs ? There is no other type of loss that is as complicated as one by suicide. It shakes the very foundation of everything you believed to be true, and it is replaces it with unrelenting pain, and confusion.

Where does a family go for support ? I knew I was going to have to tackle this from every angle possible. I had very little energy for anything, and I knew that if I didn’t find a way to help make peace with the loss of my beloved son, I was going to loose everything I had left. I couldn’t let my little family fall apart, even through I was, I just had to find a way….

I read everything I could get my hands on. I sought out private counsellors, I connected with other survivor parents. I joined a support group, I wrote, and wrote some more. I called on every single friend I had, at some point or another to help me with basic things, like cutting my hair for me, or helping me pick up a prescription. I went regularly to my family doctor to help with my physical symptoms. I connected with an amazing reiki healer, I spoke to spiritual leaders in my community. I attended a 12 week intensive program for survivors of suicide. I expanded my support network, and asked for help on hard days. I joined volunteer organizations in my community. I gathered all Max’s loved ones on his birthday and anniversary of his passing to spend a day volunteering to honour him. We send up fire lanterns, and eat his favourite foods on those days.

In our community, we found that there was nothing specifically designed for parents. Even more unfortunate, there was nothing in the form of a support group for our surviving children, or the teenaged friends that were left behind by Max’s death by suicide.

Max’s best friends’ mother, Anjenette Corbiel is the co-founder of “Healing to The Max”. She is a counsellor, and after we lost Max, she took every training course available on suicide bereavement. Together, when the time was right, we knew we would design a therapeutic grief support group for those left behind by suicide. It has taken years, but we are so proud of this thoughtfully designed 12 week intensive program ! As a mother of two surviving grieving children of her own, I know how valuable this would have been for my own children, Max’s pre-teen cousin, and all of his close teen aged friends !

This coming fall, we will be running our very first adult group for parents, guardians and grandparents that have suffered a tragic loss by suicide.

This spring, we are immensely proud to be offering a group especially dedicated to youth and teens ( ages 11-17 years ).

Let us help you expand your support network, and help you on your own journey of HEALING !!!

Please send a message through this website for more information on our program.

Sending you all healing vibrations, and much love:

Jill Cowan

Co-founder of “Healing to The Max”