Fitness 2J2: In Memory of Max
- Joel Pedersen | March 25, 2015
This month has been one of the most challenging months for me. Not only because of what seems like a ‘marathon-style’ of scheduling business event - lots on the go with the weekly drop-in sessions at St.Mary’s in Saskatoon. As well, I had the privilege of speaking at the “Think Indigenous Conference” offered by the UofS this past week. In addition, we saw CTV launch the Office of Treaty Commissions “Reconciliation” campaign. Fitness 2J2 unfortunately are postponed from being in Montreal Lake Cree Nation this month, and are looking into next month.
It is with great sadness with the sudden passing of my 16 year old son Max that has made this the most arduous challenge I, along with my family, have ever faced. I am grateful to the many family; friends; colleagues; and strangers, who have provided support and thoughtful words and gestures.
Max was a big part of what Fitness 2J2 stands for; bringing healthy & positive lifestyle programming to our communities. Strong, Healthy, Proud.
Max was proud of his Aboriginal heritage and was learning more about his culture and the importance of the physical; mental; spiritual; and emotional balance one must have and seek. Max wanted to pass this on and share the benefits of what we can do when we strive for that balance.
Last month Sandra Ahenakew wrote a great article in the EFN with regards to mental health. To add further to this very important issue, I would like to mention some other facts:
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal people between the ages of 10 to 45. Death related to alcohol use is almost twenty times higher in Aboriginal populations than in non-Aboriginal populations. Our youth are smoking almost double the amount than non-Aboriginal youth. Some start using drugs and alcohol as young as nine years of age. Diabetes, Obesity and Suicide rates are three to eight times higher with Aboriginal people compared to non-Aboriginal people in Canada. These are all staggering facts that some of us already know, and unfortunately, some continue to ignore.
In all that has occurred this month I have experienced a shift in my life. One that other parent’s may know all to well. It is the task of trying to carry on with what was normal after losing a child.
Some of us are brothers, sisters, friends; family, we are those who are left behind and trying to make sense of the impossible in the wake of such a terrible loss of a young life.
Here are a few suggestions passed on to me to help manage as healthily as possible while experiencing the death of a child. We need to grieve, embrace ALL of your feelings and emotions. Intense anger, denial, guilt, fears, sorrow are all normal. There is no timetable for this process; we all have different coping mechanisms. Many people will experience a state of numbness. It may seem like a dream, and can hit hard. Some find the thought of returning to work unbearable, while others throw themselves back into the daily challenges and activities. If you can find some comfort in the traditional beliefs, teachings, and rituals of your faith then turn to them to assist in your recovery. Wait until the fog has lifted before making any important decisions; try not be impulsive or reactive. The cliché saying “time heals all wounds” may be true but will take time to believe and appreciate. Memories can hurt to the core, but also bring you much joy. You will cherish those memories no matter what as they are yours. It’s ok to smile and laugh, it does not mean your forgetting your child, that will never happen. Resist the urge to blame yourself; life and nature cannot be controlled. Set boundaries with friends and family if they are trying to hurry you through the grieving process. A good therapist or grief counseling, along with bereavement groups, and online forums can also provide some external support.
My boy Max was loved and cared for by more people than he will ever know. Survived by his loving family, and remembered and missed by many. Healthy positive lifestyle through fitness was one of his of many true gifts to me. I will continue in his honour, to share it with as many of you as I can.
Editor's Note: Our thoughts and prayers are with Joel and his family. We acknowledge the courageousness it takes to speak during the pain of such a tragedy.We wish you healing in whatever form and time frame it takes.