We used to nickname her pumpkin when she was younger

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The cost of death

This will be a short post but it's something I wanted to share with people. Parents generally expect to outlive their children, I know I did.  When I started my job at St. Mary's University I was asked if I wanted to sign up for life insurance on Alysia.

When the funeral and burial was all said and done, it cost $15, 000 and I went to collect from my insurance and was told I didn't opt for dependent life insurance. I could picture myself in the HR office filling out forms, first day there, nervous and excited,  and I probably felt that getting life insurance on my daughter was somehow wrong, almost feeling like I would be putting some strange hex on her if I did. It wasn't much insurance I could have received, $2500, but it sure would have helped.

But the one thing we also didn't think of is what will happen to the plots around her?  We have to be buried next to her or close to her! So yet another expense incurs in purchasing in advance, our plots.  Between Tomi and I, the total bill for the plots were around $5000.  So in all reality the funeral cost $20, 000.

Luckily through the generosity of Tom Sr. and some money left over in Alysia's estate we were able to cover these expenses.  The money side of death is very disturbing to the soul.  I received bills and cheques and it tore at my heart to think my daughter's life  was summed up in account numbers, and cheques and funeral bills.  The stress it put on me was unreal. It took us a long time to be able to chose the headstone design because we hadn't paid the burial bill until five months later.  We were not allowed to get the headstone until the bill was paid.  Seems harsh but it is a business. A business dealing in death.

Those commercials you see on TV about life insurance and not burdening your loved ones left behind, maybe hokey, but they are true. Children don't get their own life insurance so it is up to the parents to think of the worst possible thing that could happen and buy an insurance policy on their children.  Please believe me, it doesn't put a hex on them. Alysia passed away despite my not purchasing life insurance.  Hopefully you will never need to use it but trust me when I say, it would have made my life a little easier in such a hard time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It takes a village to kill a child.

  The medical examiner talked to me the day I found out Alysia passed away to tell me they were going to do further tests. One being toxocology and the other taking her brain for a neuropathologist to look at as she was experiencing black outs weeks before she passed away.  The rest of the autopsy didn't show up much.  She had endometriosis and fluid on the lungs. Day 2: The medical examiner asked me what I wanted to do with her brain after they were finished with it.  Already I had to deal with the nitty gritty of her death. They also told me it could take up to 8-10 months to get the results back. They called me February 3rd at work,  just over 6 months later.

I fought long and hard with my conscience and ego whether or not I should write about this.  I wrote this post a few months ago but it sat in my drafts, it was too soon and it was based on speculation.  There is no more speculation. In order to truly understand the process of my journey, I must go where I don't really want to go, I must kick my ego to the curb. Not knowing the cause of her death brings on many many issues and questions that are so hard to answer, but not knowing allowed me to set those issues aside. There was no point of going to different scenarios if they didn't really apply anyway.  Although I suspected the cause, even knew (as a mother does) the cause, I could still put it off for a while.

I write what follows with great trepidation because I don't want to embarrass anyone, I don't want to blame anyone and I don't want to hurt anyone.  I write what follows to make a point of how we are all responsible for a person's suffering.  I write this for the young people of today who have so much stress and anxiety and who are being treated by doctors who push pills instead of talking to their patients,  who have been raised by parents who loved them so much...maybe too much.  I write this for the young people with body image issues, and issues of insecurity.  I hope that this post scares you young people who think drinking and doing prescription meds is is not! Take it from me an extremely distraught grieving mother of a deceased 20 year old daughter.  You think it won't happen to you?...maybe it won't but Alysia's death is testament that it can.

Alysia recently was suffering from anxiety, she was pretty much a stable kid up until she started university. She put a lot of pressure on herself for good grades and her first year of science in university was very good.  I would tell her that first year always sucks as far as marks goes but no, she had to prove the world that she could do it.  I noticed a change in her anxiety levels, but to compound this pressure, her nanny was dying of cancer, her dad and I after 20 years of rocky marriage finally decided to split up, she moved out to be with her boyfriend, and I tell her that I have fallen in love with a woman. All this within a year.

Her reaction to Tom and I breaking up was not one of surprise.  She just wanted us to be happy, she said to us.  She told me she didn't blame me for being with a woman after being with a man for 20 years (she said this with a sense of humor but meant it...I think.) Yet I blamed myself over and over again for increasing her anxiety. Tom and I both felt that maybe if we didn't break up she wouldn't have been so anxious.  I blamed myself for confusing her by now being with a woman.  I worried that she felt replaced. I spent many nights crying with guilt over rocking Alysia's world too much too fast.

Alysia would come over with Josh and I would notice things that made me worry.  I asked her many times how she was doing. After I had heard about an acquaintance's 18 year old daughter committing suicide I immediately called Alysia and asked her if she was ok.  A little voice inside of me felt Alysia was on a precarious road and I asked her over and over again if she was ok, offering her whatever I could to help her out should she need me and she would tell me she was getting better.  She was taking medications, she was beginning to feel better.  I wasn't told until after her death about the black outs.  She had kept that from me. 

She was also self medicating apparently with alcohol.  She was experiencing a lot of pain and the alcohol, so I'm told, was helping with the pain. Today it was confirmed.  She accidentally overdosed on alcohol.  Her blood/alcohol was at "lethal levels", the ME told me today. It wasn't a conscious suicide but it was a slow numbing of pain...physical and me they are very similar.

I feel anger...anger at the world, anger at myself and all of us who knew her.  This world has too many pressures and we've become complacent.  Afraid to rock the boat, afraid to get in other's business, afraid to get sued, afraid to get involved in case it requires us to put in more effort than we'd like, afraid to stand up for what is right.

I feel anger at Alysia for not reaching out to us. No matter how much the outside world has a role to play in her death, it was her actions that brought on this outcome and that is the hardest thing to accept.  As a parent I can not help but wonder where I went wrong in my parenting that she did not make the right choices or did not feel she could tell us.

Apparently anti-depressants can cause cravings for alcohol, evidently mixing anti-anxiety pills with alcohol can be lethal.  Doctors should be telling this to young people! I am angry at the medical world.  Young people on these meds should be closely monitered. If she would have been living at home, I would have researched every drug she was on and I would have parented her accordingly...but I let her fly away from the nest, and she decided she could handle this on her own...and she failed. 

I know that she would not have wanted to cause us such pain and sadness purposely and that is probably part of the reason why she wouldn't talk to me or her dad. I know Alysia thought she could do this and get away with it.  I know eventually she would have woken up from these stupid behaviors and changed.  She had done this before with other life challenges, she would have done it again.  She gambled with alcohol and she lost.

Please know women and especially young women, we can not tolerate alcohol and drugs and cigarettes like men.  It kills us quicker, it makes us sicker if it doesn't kill us eventually.  Please I beg the friends of Alysia and anyone else who reads this to seriously consider what you're doing when you're partying it up.  Consider the pain and grief that your parents and friends and partners would go through should you have pushed the envelope too far.  Remember my blog and how over 6 months later I still cry every night because of my pain and sadness.  Remember how much Josh is suffering from the loss of his partner.  Remember how much her dad is struggling to keep it together. Remember how much her grandparents have suffered from tragedy after tragedy in their longer life times.

That is all I have to say about her cause of death.