'Finally somebody's listening': Edmonton parents grieve overdose victims
Thursday's vigil at the Alberta legislature marked International Overdose Awareness Day
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Faye Gray said she feels a lot of guilt over her daughter’s drug overdose death in 2015.
She was one of many grieving parents who met on the steps of the Alberta legislature Thursday afternoon to hold a vigil honouring overdose victims and call for changes in the way society treats people who use drugs.
The annual vigil, marking International Overdose Awareness Day, had a higher profile this year with the country in the midst of an opioid crisis, drawing politicians and several advocacy organizations.
“That was huge for me. I think for all of us,” said Faye.
“Finally somebody’s listening. And we’ve never had that before.”
Faye’s husband passed away in Fall 2015, and it was around that time that Lindsey, known for her infectious laugh, started struggling with severe depression.
Lindsey saw a doctor and was taking prescription antidepressants, but got caught up with a new group of people who reeled her into other drugs, Faye said.
She began to distance herself from her mother and her friends, and after only a few weeks, she was found dead in a “horrible looking” drug house with lethal amounts of fentanyl and meth in her system. Her body had been left there for 12 hours.
Lindsey left behind a four-year-old son, who was under shared custody with her former partner at the time.
“I think she tried to fix herself by herself as she was going through that,” Faye said.
Faye was dealing with her own husband’s passing and struggled to give Lindsey the attention she wanted to give her at the time.
Today she looks after Lindsey’s son, who is now six years old, and advocates for harm reduction strategies with the group Moms Stop the Harm.
“We did everything together. I think about what I would have done after the fact – because I saw the signs, but not till after,” Faye said.
“I would have dragged her in to see somebody. I would have done something, but it was so fast.”
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman got emotional talking to reporters after the vigil, saying the government needs to be part of a multi-pronged approach including treatment, destigmatization, education and law enforcement to help people who use drugs while the country is in the midst of an opioid crisis.
“I think for a long time we lived with hearing a government tell us that people were making choices and they had to live with those actions,” Hoffman said.
“These are people who often are struggling with many difficult underlying challenges. And they’ve chosen to use one day, and that shouldn’t be a death sentence.”
Thursday's vigil was organized by Boyle Street Community Centre’s Streetworks needle exchange program.