Does the hurting ever stop? I don’t know because I’m not even close to being there yet. A big part of me wants the pain to go away but not at the cost of the memories. The memories are what I cherish, what I hold onto when I want to feel close to Madeline.
This is what I felt 2 months after Maddie’s death, and this is still how I feel today, over six years after her death.
We tragically lost our daughter Madeline on April 11th, 2015. What I have experienced since that day has been unimaginable. My youngest son said to me, “Dad, I’ve seen you cry about 50 times in my life, two years ago and about 49 times in the months immediately following Maddie’s death.” It’s true. Six years after the fact, I still well up several times a week.
In the first two months following our loss of Maddie, I was more emotional than I was in the first weeks after her death. My feeling of loss was more apparent than ever. In the first weeks following Madeline’s service, I had had such clarity and focus. I had never been more productive and efficient at work. I almost felt guilty. Slowly over the next few weeks, the dark clouds started to set in, and my once crystal clear vision had become muddied. Each day was a new experience, and unsure what the next day would bring.
Friends, family and strangers felt this need to ask me about it, for not acknowledging Madeline would almost be disrespectful. People wanted to help me somehow, but they weren’t sure how, and honestly, I’m not sure how they could’ve either.
We saw incredible acts of kindness. People had dropped off prepared dinners and just helped to make life more manageable. People dropped off gifts, food, pictures and notes of kindness. People offered to carpool the kids to sports and school events. It had made my life much easier. At times I wondered, “how did I cope with all this stuff previously?” I guess we just did.
In that first month, I’d seen what the power of social media was capable of doing. I had my first post go viral. I don’t think it was because it was Pulitzer-worthy, but that our family tragedy had become an important topic in conversations between parents and kids, teachers and students, and friends to friends. This helped to destroy the stigma about mental illness. It also gave me a greater awareness of a community of suicide survivors. This was a membership that I’d rather not belong to. Unfortunately, I did.
Because of what we’d been through with Maddie’s death, people wanted to share their darkest and most personal secrets with me. On some level, I’d felt like a priest taking confession. I don’t say this to be facetious, but I find that many people are dealing with some pretty serious issues.
The other thing that startled me was how many people faced mental illness issues and continue to today. They may be dealing with depression personally or have a loved one that has been deeply affected by depression or anxiety. The positive takeaway is that people were seeking or have sought help for their illness. The bigger problem remains on how to get access to follow-up programs that exist. Navigating through the system is proving to be challenging for many of these people. This was the challenge that we faced with Madeline and her illness.
We’d seen some wonderful fundraising initiatives spearheaded by Madeline’s friends, parents, and people who want to contribute time, money, or resources. Many amazing people had made an incredible difference in bringing access and awareness to the entire mental illness issue. For the past 6 years, teams have been organized to participate in the Scotiabank Half Marathon. Many fitness challenges had been participated in by hundreds if not thousands of participants. We have seen kids raising money by many creative means. Many companies have sponsored events with proceeds being donated. Many school charities had dedicated their annual charity to The Maddie Project. Many did so because they believed in the cause and because youth mental health was becoming epidemic in their own schools. Madeline’s name is an endowment fund that can be reached through The Maddie Project for those who want to contribute to the cause.
NYGH Foundation renovated a 12,000 sq ft century home called Phillips House, which will house programs for families dealing with mental illness. The Foundation hopes that Phillips House will become a template for similar facilities that will emerge across Ontario and Canada. The Maddie Project, to date, has raised over $3 million. $1 million was earmarked for Maddie’s Healing Garden, a wonderful garden setting on the grounds of the Phillips House. Maddie was passionate about having access to nature when she stayed at North York General Hospital. Studies have proven that access to nature helps in the treatment of mental illness. I only wish Madeline was here to see what she’s helped to inspire.
I don’t think the hurting will ever stop, and a part of me doesn’t want it to. So much passion and purpose have come from this tragedy. The pain keeps you focused. The pain gives you resolve. The pain allows some stars to shine brighter for the benefit of others.
Through the bankruptcy of his first business, a strong balance sheet means nothing unless you can get the money out of your business and into your hands personally, tax efficiently, and creditor protected. Chris helps and coaches business owners to avoid a similar fate as he suffered in his first business.
Through several clever strategies, he illustrates how these little-known vehicles can get money out of your business efficiently, build your corporate brand and create a legacy through charitable means to help make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Also, he has seen the impact that mental health can have upon success within your business and your life and how the two are on a constant collision course. When Chris became aware that Entrepreneurs struggled with their mental health at more than twice the rate of average adults, he realized he wasn’t alone and made it his ambition to understand why and do something to help. His business, The Finish Line Group, aims to help support the entrepreneur’s financial, philanthropic, and emotional needs.
Chris’ Why Statement remains, “To openly communicate the lessons learned from my past so that others will thrive in their lives, minimize their setbacks and leave a positive and lasting legacy.”