Season 1, Episode 8

Allie Svoboda / Oliver

Navigating the Challenges of Surviving Sibling Loss: Allie’s Journey with Grief and Meaning-Making

Sibling loss survivor, Allie’s brother, Oliver, died suddenly, which led to a reassessment of her family dynamics and the start of a non-profit organization to help families in need of headstones.

        • Oliver and Allie had a strong and supportive relationship, which was evident in their mutual care and kindness.
        • Allie learned that the loss of a sibling affects everyone in the family, and it’s crucial , yet sometimes difficult, for family members to support each other and grieve in their own ways.
        • Allie shared that finding counselors who understood sibling loss was challenging due to limited training in this area. She found emotional support from unexpected places, such as friends who have also lost siblings.

    Additional key points:

        • Grieve the loss of your sibling in your own way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is important to allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with grief and to grieve in a way that feels authentic to you.
        • Allie and her mother founded a non-profit organization, Oliver’s Stones, after Oliver’s death. It provides headstones for young people who have passed away, and it has helped Allie find meaning in Oliver’s death and keep his memory alive.

    Content Warning: The episode discusses sensitive topics related to substance use and addiction, including the death of a loved one due to a drug overdose. These topics can be triggering for individuals who have experienced similar losses or who are struggling with addiction themselves.

    • If you believe you are witnessing an overdose, call 911 or your country’s emergency number immediately even if you are administering Narcan. If you are in the US and would like support for yourself or someone else with substance use, suicidal thoughts, or other topics discussed in this episode, please call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or Text your 5-digit ZIP Code to 435748 (HELP4U) or call a warmline. For more immediate crisis call 911, 988, or go to the nearest emergency room.
    • In the USA an updated directory of warmlines by state can be found at https://warmline.org/warmdir.html
    • A warmline directory for trained peer supports in over 20 countries can be found at https://www.supportiv.com/tools/international-resources-crisis-and-warmlines (some of these may be hotlines)
    sibling loss survivor, Allie, with her brother, Oliver and Oliver
    Transcript

    Dr. Dean: 

    Hello and welcome to the Broken Pack, a podcast focused on giving adult survivors of sibling loss, a platform to share their stories and to be heard. Something that many sibling loss survivors state that they never have had. Sibling loss is misunderstood. The broken Pack exists to change that and to support survivors. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Dean. In today’s episode, I spoke with Allie about losing her brother Oliver and what it was like to lose him. How family dynamics changed and how they changed once again, once her mother’s brother passed, as well as her and her family’s meaning making project to supply headstones to families in need who have also lost young. All of the information for their organization and for the broken pack are all located in the show notes. I hope that you enjoy the episode as much as I enjoyed talking to Allie. thank you, and welcome. Today we are joined by Allie. Allie, did you wanna tell myself and our listeners a little bit about yourself before we dive into the conversation?

    Allie: 

    Yeah. So, I’m Allie and I am a high school teacher. I have one daughter, olive, she turns three in a week. I am married. I am from a small town in Michigan. have a fairly normal, had a fairly normal, un remarkable life, I guess., I mean, I very low-key.

    Dr. Dean: 

    thanks for sharing that. of course, today we’re here to talk about you and your loss of, your brother Oliver. But before we get into that, I was wondering what you want me to know, what you want our listeners to know about Oliver himself?

    Allie: 

    in comparison, we were very different people., he was more of a wild child and I’m pretty reserved. The typical, firstborn versus second born kind of ideas usually. he did what he wanted when he wanted to, and I always play by the book. but he was giving and caring and he always wanted to make sure that nobody was left out and that the. underdog was taken care of. And, he, was never really scared of anything. He lived in some really sketchy neighborhoods and instead of being like fearful for his life, he always made friends with his neighbors and watched out for them. And they watched out for him. And, he was a lovable person.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm. sounds like very kind and compassionate For sure. What was your relationship like with.

    Allie: 

    So Oliver and I were four years apart, and he was the only sibling that I had. so our parents were and are still married. so we always lived in the same household. Growing up, we always had a really close relationship. I, he, I always thought he was really cool and like almost looked up to him and wanted to be like him.

    Dr. Dean: 

    mm.

    Allie: 

    because, he just didn’t care what people thought of him. so we had a really, really good relationship growing up. There was always some turbulence because Oliver required a little bit more of my parents’ attention in their needs than I did. So I always felt like I was on the back burner and in his mind I was always the favorite child. So there was some sort of like sibling. rivalry I guess. But overall we had a really good relationship. when we got older, we still had a really good relationship. He, moved in with my husband and I when we were engaged for a little bit and lived with us, in, the years. We had some ups and downs, due to, mental health issues of his. Addiction and things like that. But overall, like there, the love was and is always there. the support was always there. So we had a pretty good and close relationship. my daughter is actually named after him and I guess not even after him cuz she was born when he was still alive. his name was Oliver Henry and her name is Olive Henrietta. And

    Dr. Dean: 

    Oh, that’s

    Allie: 

    and my husband, Made the decision that, if she had a little bit of his quirkiness and a little bit of his pizzazz, that she would be fine in life. So that’s where we went with it.

    Dr. Dean: 

    what a great way to honor him, even like while he’s living. To name him,

    Allie: 

    Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    name her after him. to clarify, are you older or were you older than him? Okay. Okay. I know there’s that birth order thing that you referenced, and for me it’s, I have to remind myself cause I was younger, but we had the opposite kind of interaction.

    Allie: 

    Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    So

    Allie: 

    don’t even know if it’s so much birth order as it is. there’s always one who’s really like by the book, and then there’s one who’s a free spirit.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. So what was that like when you were growing up with him?

    Allie: 

    So it was always like a challenge, because, my parents both worked. My mom is a teacher also and she worked in a different district than my brother and I, so she had to leave a little bit earlier than us. I always felt like really responsible for Oliver, It wasn’t like I was raising my brother or anything. It wasn’t like that. I was four years older and a lot of times I drove him to school when we got a little bit older. And so getting him up in the morning was always a challenge. So there was a lot of, I felt like responsibility put on me. to make sure that Oliver was more in the lines, of like normalcy when he just wasn’t meant to be in the lines. He wasn’t that personality. He didn’t wanna go to school, he wanted to, he wanted to do what he eventually did. So he eventually homeschooled and graduated like a year and a half earlier than his class. because he didn’t wanna go there and deal with being told what to do, essentially. So it was difficult growing up with him because I always felt like I was having to be almost perfect

    Dr. Dean: 

    mm.

    Allie: 

    parents weren’t extra stressed out, cuz they were already pretty stressed out about.

    Dr. Dean: 

    So you were taking care of your parents even then?

    Allie: 

    Yeah,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Somewhat. Yeah.

    Allie: 

    and my parents, and even though it’s like not, wasn’t like forced on me, it was like a subconscious thing. Like I have to take care of these people because essentially they’re all at odds with each other.

    Dr. Dean: 

    So before we, jump into the story of your loss, is there anything else that you want us to know before we talk about that difficult story?

    Allie: 

    I don’t think so, other than the fact of I would like to, before I get into it all, that I would like people to know that, substance use and, things like that can happen to any type of family. my family is pretty well put together. there was no extreme. Anything that happened to Oliver and I, to my knowledge, he never came forward with anything that may have happened to him, but my mom was like a hawk and watched us, never let us really leave her sight, so I just, it can happen to anybody and it’s nothing to be ashamed of it. Sometimes part of life.

    Dr. Dean: 

    It’s a disease, unfortunately. Yeah. I think the stigma that comes with it is so hard, especially when you’re dealing with a loss from that, I would imagine.

    Allie: 

    right and there’s people who don’t think it’s a disease and it very clearly is and it’s, so that’s just one thing I wanted to say is that, , just like anything else, it’s a disease and can happen to any family.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. Thank you for that. So what did you wanna share about the loss of Oliver?

    Allie: 

    So Oliver, struggled throughout his adulthood with, substance use. he. He was in recovery for a bit and then would, go back and then he would get into recovery again. And then, I guess relapse. which is something we all expected. we know that it’s part of substance use and the disease is, , the relapse is absolutely possible. so we took everything with in stride. but right before he passed away, he was doing really good. so my daughter was about to turn one when he passed away, he was, loving being an uncle. He was really like, I felt found it stride in life. he was living with my parents, which was a really good thing for. and, it was Covid era, like more the precautions were going on. So he was almost stuck at home with my parents, which was a really good thing for him. and he was like doing well. He’d, come over, they’d have dinner with us. we were all just enjoying that family life and, A few months before he passed away, he made a friend, in the small town that my parents live in. nobody really knew how he found this friend because he really didn’t have, other than his like five high school or middle school, high school friends, he really didn’t have any friends. by choice. He was just an introvert. He just didn’t feel like having friends. and all of a sudden he starts hanging out with this kid and we’re like, who is this guy? How did you meet him? Like, where did he come from? so he starts hanging out with this guy and we find out they met on the internet and somehow lived in the same small town. So we started to get a little bit cautious, almost this seems weird, you’re acting off. Not off enough for us to think that anything was going on. so a few months go by and he’s continuously hanging out with this guy and we’re like, okay, whatever he seems. Okay. one night my parents, I was putting my daughter to sleep and it was her first night and her crib, like out of our bedroom. So I was. It was like one of those nights where you’re like, oh my God. nobody better make a pee because she is gonna wake up and it’s gonna be drama. so I’m putting her down and my phone keeps going off and I’m like, me and my mom are like tight, like thick as Steve, so I’m thinking she’s like calling me to tell me something that somebody did or just check up on us, whatever. So my mom’s calling me, then my husband comes up and. Hey, you’re like, something bad’s going on. Like your brother’s on his way to Sparrow the hospital in the big city. And I was like, oh my God, what? So I called my mom and she’s like, Oliver was unresponsive. We had the ambulance come and get him, and he’s going to Sparrow, so meet us there. And I’m like, what’s happening? a few. A few months before that, he had some like seizures that were, we didn’t really know where they came from and he went to, the neurologist and they were kind of like, uh, we don’t really see anything. So we kind of thought it was related to that. So it, oh my gosh, I need to get there. And in my brain I’m like, . He fell and hit his head. He is gonna come out of this, everything’s gonna be fine. I wasn’t even that upset driving there. I was just like, okay, like medical will take care of him, right? Like we’ll get there and he’ll be okay. I go in there and apparent it was not what I thought it was gonna be like the, they put me and my parents in this small room. and they keep coming in and they’re like asking us questions. Did he take anything? And we’re like, we don’t think so. Like my mom’s I don’t think so. he’s been at home. And so then they come in and they’re like, yeah, Oliver, went into cardiac arrest like two times. Like they’d get him back and then he’d go back into it and they’re like, we. we’re gonna do surgery cuz we think he had a brain aneurysm. and then they couldn’t do surgery cuz he just kept going into cardiac arrest. Like they couldn’t stabilize him enough to do anything on him. so they call us in and they’re like, I almost felt like it was so pressured at the hospital. They were like, okay, he’s never gonna be the same. So what do you guys wanna do?

    Dr. Dean: 

    Oh wow.

    Allie: 

    and

    Dr. Dean: 

    That

    Allie: 

    it like, it felt so insincere. there’s a 28 year old who’s right here, who’s my parents’ world and my only sibling, and he’s about to die and all we have to make the life altering decision on whether or not he lives as a vegetable, as they kept saying, which was completely insensitive or. Die and nobody was taking into consideration how we were feeling. So my mom’s like, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. And she’s a mess. Obviously it’s her baby. And my dad is very like unemotional and he’s freaking out. And I’m like, we need to think about this in a way that Oliver would think about it.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm.

    Allie: 

    And so again, here I am feeling like I have to make a really heavy decision for the family, right? Because my mom doesn’t wanna do it because that guilt will live with her forever. And my dad, he doesn’t wanna do it cuz he wants to do whatever my mom wants to do. so I am like, he’s not, he would never wanna live in a nursing home. Unresponsive for the rest of his life. And so we made that really hard decision to take him off life support. And it was a traumatic experience. And if anybody’s ever seen somebody pass away, it’s not the, sweet, sleepy, whatever. It’s very traumatic.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    Um, and I didn’t feel like we got the support from the hospital afterwards. Like I, the only thing I remember is one of the nurses making a heart hand and like a sad face at us, and I’m like, this place is a disaster. So I’m mad. And obviously, yeah, just my brother just died in front of me. So we leave and the, the next day I have, 10 month old who wakes up and needs me. so my life has to go back to being a mom while I’m, essentially pumping and driving to make arrangements for my brother’s funeral with my family. so the next few weeks were I don’t even really remember them. I only took, three days off of work because that’s what the bereavement leave called for, or allowed and which is absolutely ridiculous. and I don’t blame essentially my employer. It’s just how things are in America,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. Culturally, that’s. There are so many people I talk to that have that same, we get what, three days? And then you’re supposed to be fine. You’re supposed to go

    Allie: 

    And I didn’t have any like extra p t o time because I had a small kid who was always sick and,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    staying home with her was, took precedents over having p t o days. So I didn’t have very many p t o days. so they gave me, or I. three days off. and that kind of, it, I think he died on a Tuesday, so it lined up with a Friday some, somehow it worked out to where it was almost the whole week. President’s Day maybe. I don’t know. so I go back to work and I am a mess obviously, and I am. Not to be like, I’m the best teacher, but I’m like a very beloved teacher in the school. Like kids look to me for a lot of support and love, and they needed me because I’d been gone for a week and I did not have anything to give ’em. So I am shutting down at work, I’m shutting down at home, I’m shutting down everywhere and. people are bringing lasagnas and being nice, but it’s like nobody’s offering to take my daughter for a day or two, or even a few hours, and nobody’s offering to, write my lesson plans for me, or, help me find some movies to get me through the next few weeks. nobody’s offering to help my husband with the workload. And it’s I don’t now looking at it like, why would I expect that stuff from people?

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    But that’s what I felt like would’ve been so helpful. like that. that’s way too much to ask of people around me. But at the same time, I didn’t need another meal. I didn’t want to eat.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm.

    Allie: 

    I needed. Some just, I needed something to help me get through the way that our culture essentially makes us go back to life right after your person dies. And I didn’t feel like I got that from anywhere cuz my husband was struggling too. Like he, we’ve been together almost 10 years. Oliver was like his little brother too. we’re both falling apart. It’s both, it’s an awful situation. So months go by and we think this whole time he had a brain aneurysm. That’s what they said. so we’re thinking Oliver had a brain aneurysm and we’re like, oh, this is terrible. But, he was strong and got through a lot of stuff and. blah, blah, blah. So then the medical report comes back and it said that he had passed away from like a medical emergency caused by, a mix of fentanyl and something else. I don’t remember like it, it was some weird thing I’d never heard. So I immediately, like my mom is like crying, I don’t know how to go about this. This is so devastating and I am over here being like, we have to be open and honest with this because it is a disease and it, there’s a lot of people close to us who are struggling, whether it be a loved one or themselves. we can’t be angry with him. He had a disease. We have to be like, we have to talk about it openly so we can heal and so we can help others. that was a struggle for my parents, because their generation essentially stype to. Not talk about things that are hard. My mom’s a little bit better at it than my dad, but it was still like, they live in small town Michigan. It was, they didn’t want to be quote unquote embarrassed by it. but it’s who cares? And then my mom came to and was like, this, you’re right. we have to work through this and be honest with ourselves and people around. So then we get his phone back from the small town police station, which that’s a whole, that’s a whole nother story for a different time. but so my mom gives me his phone cuz she’s like, I don’t wanna go through this. I don’t want to even be tempted to go through it. So I’m like, okay. Apparently I just really enjoy. Pain or something because I was like, I’m gonna go through this because I needed to know more. I needed to know what happened that night. Like I needed CL closure, which that’s not really closure. So I’m going through it and I find texts from this kid. And what essentially happened is Oliver had gotten a. This person and was like, Hey, I’m having bad anxiety. Or cuz he did struggle with anxiety. and the kid was like, I got you. and so it turned out that Oliver went over there, and picked up some, what he thought was Xanax or whatever. and it was laced with Fentanyl, and because he hadn’t been using drugs, that bit of fentanyl killed him. So I am breathing through this and I’m like, what the heck?. So the kid writes right before Oliver, went into cardiac arrest or whatever at my parents’ house. He was like, did you take that yet? And obviously there’s no response from Oliver. so then I’m like, I’m gonna call this kid out essentially. And I was like, do you know that like you essentially gave my brother drugs that killed him? and he never responded. never responded. so I got in touch with like higher up police force and that’s like in their hands now. But, yeah, it was like such a roller coaster of emotion cuz we’re thinking one thing and then it’s like all over the place.

    Dr. Dean: 

    It, it almost feels like a second grief process for you to

    Allie: 

    it was.

    Dr. Dean: 

    grieving his death, thinking it was one thing, and then having to grieve his choices, or, it’s a substance use and addiction is a disease and also like it felt, it feels like you had a grave that differently again.

    Allie: 

    yeah, because in your, of course, in my. Calm mine. I’m like, this is a disease. This was not him. This. And then in my like irrational upset. I’m like, how dare he do this to me and my daughter and my mom and my husband and my dad and everybody around us and his friends that had been his friends since he was six years old. Like, how dare you. what were you think? and then I’m like, this is not a blame game. This is not his fault. And right as we’re getting all this information back, my uncle who was, I was very close with, he was pretty, he was 40 something. He passed away from a struggle with alcohol. Not even a hundred days after my brother died, my mom’s sibling who I was close with passed away. And so it’s like all this like stuff coming at us constantly and we still have to work, I still have to be a parent. So I almost felt like everything was just piling up on me and nobody around me Car. What I was going through, and I’m sure they did , but in my head I was like, nobody cares about me. Nobody wants to be here for me. Everybody’s just worried about my mom, which is such a selfish look on it, like for me. But I needed some support too, and everybody was expecting me to support everybody around me, but it’s like I didn’t feel like I got that much support and my friends tried. I have two best friends who are amazing and they really tried, but they just didn’t know what I was going through, And then, about six months after Oliver passed away, my, one of my best friend’s brothers passed away of the same disease, Oliver. So it was almost. I knew how to support her better because I knew what I was feeling like I missed a little bit. so we were almost bonded by the fact that our brothers were like how they were, and then it’s our bond kind of strengthened because of that. As bad and weird as it sounds. So that’s been the few years since Oliver passed away. now everybody’s doing better. we’ve learned to channel our grief in different ways. my mom and I started a nonprofit for Oliver, where we purchased headstones for young people who passed away. and it’s. Less than a year, and we’ve gotten like 13 headstones for people aged, I believe it’s 16 to 36. And we don’t ask questions. Nobody has to tell us anything about the death. All we ask is for a little bit of information about who they were and what made them smile about them. And that’s pretty much.

    Dr. Dean: 

    That sounds like a great way to make some meaning out of this. I do wanna hear more about that, so we’ll come back to that if that’s

    Allie: 

    Yeah, totally.

    Dr. Dean: 

    I wanted to ask you, so it sounds like You know now what you needed then, but you then you didn’t know what you needed in the aftermath

    Allie: 

    Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    and it wasn’t, it wasn’t lasagna or the casserole or whatever. People seem to bring, you needed people to do things to help you get through the day to day.

    Allie: 

    Mm-hmm. pretty much I felt me and my husband were fine ordering out, we are like, we have resources. we’re okay with. Eating out or my husband cooking or whatever. But it felt like I was putting so much on him with the day-to-day household work. And I, when I came home from school, I was so exhausted from having to pretend I was okay in front of 120 16 to 18 year olds who also need me. Come to me with their problems and it’s you guys, your problems, and I’m never like this at all. And Oliver’s death kind of made me a little bit meaner for that year, I guess, because I’m like, your problems are not that big. But I’m not, I don’t minimize other people’s hurt. So that was, unlike me. And I think it was just from being so worn out from everything.

    Dr. Dean: 

    So getting through the rest of the school year with teenagers who may or may not also be dealing with substance use and all of the teenage issues that they had was hard. Did you feel supported emotionally at all? In that time period before your uncle died,

    Allie: 

    I think people tried, but I think that my best friends and my husband and, some of my aunts were really, the most emotionally supportive of me. and I really appreciate them a lot for that. But outside of those few people like. Not especially, I don’t really think that you, my, I had a few coworkers who still to this day are so supportive and sweet and they’re for me, but overall I feel like they just, they’re not like my close friends. They don’t have to be there for me, but I felt like they almost just. Went about their day, they signed a card and it was done. And until this year when we had a, we had a p a professional development where we essentially had to be really vulnerable in front of each other. I don’t think they thought that I was still super duper affected by it. And I don’t know why they would think that, but, I didn’t feel very emotionally supported by the people I was around day to day,

    Dr. Dean: 

    and it sounds like on some levels, because of what you’re doing with Oliver Stones, you do feel some support, but not in the way that you even need now.

    Allie: 

    Mm-hmm. I think since my mom lost her brother, she more so realizes what I. I went through and I’m going through, and I think that my mom has really, because she’s channeled her grief in a different way, I feel like she has been really emotionally supportive, which I didn’t expect a whole lot of emotional support from my mom when she was grieving the loss of her child. but now that we’re in a different place, like she is my emotional support person, she is the person that. go to with anything. the other day we were, my school, they do this play thing and there was a really extremely triggering scene in it and it sent me into a really big panic attack. So the first thing I did was call my mom. And she like talked me through it. And, would that have ever happened two years ago? Probably., but now it’s like where so she is a really good emotional support person. my best friend who lost her brother and my other best friend, they are so emotionally supportive. My husband is amazing. he is very emotionally supportive now that he’s in a different place too.

    Dr. Dean: 

    mm.

    Allie: 

    With Oliver’s loss, so I feel like now I get more emotional support than I did when I needed it most.

    Dr. Dean: 

    For sure. we talked a couple months ago, and the one thing that you said that has stuck with me was that you. And I actually put the, this quote on social media, a while ago, but you had said something along the lines of, people can ask you about Oliver, don’t be afraid to ask. Do you wanna say more about that?

    Allie: 

    Yeah, I feel like for so long people are, they’re like avoiding the question of, tell me more about your sibling, or this or that. I had a coworker when Oliver first passed away and her and I are still fairly good friends. She came into my classroom and she was like, how are you doing? And I’m like, okay, I’m okay. And she’s like, like, I would love to meet for coffee and talk about your brother sometime.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Oh, what a

    Allie: 

    And I was like, cool. I would love to do that too.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    so she introduced me to the idea that I want to talk about him like I’m. I’m gonna break down and cry every time I talk about him because there’s not there, there’s not only his death, there was 28 years of life before his death.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm.

    Allie: 

    And I have so much to talk about that happened in those 28 years between us. And, I feel like nobody thinks about that. They think that I’m just gonna talk about his. and that’s it, and all the trauma that came along with that. But I have so much positive to talk about, that led up to that terrible day. But that was one day in 28 years. So of course it was a significant day and it like hurts really bad. But there’s so many wonderful stories of strength and bravery. Getting through things that nobody really goes, like getting through things that maybe we thought were impossible and coming out on the other side. And so there’s so much more to him than just his death. And I think that people just think that it’s gonna be an emotional whirlwind if they bring him up. And it’s not, it’s, there’s so many cool things about him that I would rather. Share than talk about his death,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Which ironically is today what we’ve focused on so far. was his death and his dying. So what are the fir like few memories or things that you do wanna remember that stories about him that you’re willing to share?

    Allie: 

    Oliver was always, like I said, he he lived in Questionable neighborhoods sometimes, but he enjoyed the community aspect of those neighborhoods because a lot of times, like we might look at it like it’s a bad neighborhood. It’s really scary, but there is big communities behind neighborhoods like that. And he really loved that. his neighbor got a puppy for their kids for Christmas. and they were not taking good care of the dog. he was a little pit bull puppy and they left him outside in the winter. And I actually was like going over to his house one time and I’m like, Hey, that dog has been out there for a really long time. I’m going to call animal control. And he’s don’t call animal control. I got it. Don’t worry about it. And I’m like, okay. Like why don’t you want me to call animal control? he went over there that day and was like, Hey, I’ve noticed your dog. You don’t take good care of him. Can I give you 50 bucks and this Apple gift card for the dog? And they’re like, at first no, we don’t want that. we want our dog. And he’s like, look, I’ll give you this Apple gift card, this other thing, and 50 bucks for the. They end up giving him the dog. and he had Uzi, the pit bull, until he passed away. And now we have Uzi, the pit bull at our house. but it just was like a comp, like he was so compassionate without being condescending. And so helpful without making people feel judged So like rather than being like I’m calling animal control on you, you’re the worst pet owner. He is like, Hey, here’s an out take what I have to give you and I’ll take the dog. And Uzi is crazy and wild and not a very well behaved dog. he is a piece of Oliver and I’m so thankful that Oliver got him that day so that we could have him essentially. My daughter

    Dr. Dean: 

    I saw so much about him.

    Allie: 

    best friends. Yeah. It’s, he’s funny. But, I guess just like Oliver as a person was so good. he was funny. He was not always nice when he was being funny, but he had the kind of humor that you’re like, I know. Tell if you’re like, really making fun of me. Or if you are. being sarcastic, but it’s funny. So I’ll just do it. he was a great uncle to my daughter. very interested in her life and what she had going on as a infant two 10 month old. He was very interested. I’m like, she’s not doing anything that cool. But every day would text, would wanna video chat. Oliver was a great son to my mom. They, they had a really good relationship. They had a lot of fun.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    there maybe was a little bit of codependency, somewhere down the line, but I don’t think it hurt anybody. my mom and him would travel together and go shopping together and they did a lot of things together. I was thankful that he was such a good son to my mom. Cuz I think that a lot of times when people suffer with, the disease of substance use, I think that sometimes people are like, oh, they were so bad to their family, or, and yeah, we had some really trying times, but at the end of the day, like he was such a good son to my mom. He was very, he was a mama’s boy, they took care of each other a lot and he has a great son to my dad too, and they had a really. All of them had a good relationship. So I think that the best memories of Oliver was how he was just like overall such a good and like caring person.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Have you seen changes in the FI family dynamic since he’s been gone?

    Allie: 

    So much, so many changes. And at first it was so hard. It was like, I. Love my parents endlessly. If anybody knows me, they know that. Like I, my mom’s my best friend. I love my dad. My dad watched our daughter for the first year of her life. We are all very close, but for a few months I was like, I cannot with them like this is, I am grieving on my own and they don’t care. And of course they’re struggling. But at the same time I was like, this is not gonna work for me. my mom would say stuff like, I don’t have anything. I feel like I don’t have anything anymore. And I’m like,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    I am a person still. My dad’s a person still. My daughter’s still a per we’re all still here. So those were really hurtful and I understand that they were from a place of grief now, but at the time I was. Why would you say that to me?

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    So that changed, but then once we all started to realize that we grieved differently, we started to work more together. so my mom stopped demanding more emotion out of my dad because that’s not how he grieved. And I stopped demanding, things out of my parents. Not cry or this or that because it made me uncomfortable or sad. I think once we stopped putting expectations on each other’s grief, our family dynamic got a lot better.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Oh, good. How did you come to that process of changing your approach to seeing the different. Grief styles within the same family,

    Allie: 

    I think it was. Almost falling apart as a family took us to a place where we’re like, okay, we either need to get it together or we’re not gonna have this, and we’ve already lost so much. We’re not willing to lose this either. So I think it was, we all had to come to a place.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Was it at that point that the idea for Oliver Stones formed?

    Allie: 

    Yep. So, and honestly my dad came up with the idea in a roundabout way. so Oliver has this huge rose quartz stone. He has a raw rose quartz headstone. It is beautiful. It’s remarkable. It’s one of the, it stands out and..It was always a big thing to me that I want Olive to be able to find Oliver even when I’m gone. Where it’s not just something, she doesn’t know where it’s at, she can always find it. so we searched high and low for this headstone that my mom had to go to, like Massachusetts. I had to get sent here. It was a big orde., but well worth it. So next to this beautiful stone, there is this man buried who just has a little piece of paper and on a stick, like just his name and the day he died and the day he was born and the day he died, and that was it. So my dad’s I really wanna get Jeff A. Head. Like Jeff not having a headstone is like negatively as affecting his mental space.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm.

    Allie: 

    my mom was like, oh yeah, whatever. And then we, I like, he just kept saying it and we’re like, okay, like that makes sense. Like we get it. So my mom, this was like a month or two later, my mom called me and she’s I think we should do that. I think we should start. Buying headstones for people who don’t have them. And I was like, we can’t buy headstones for every single person. Like we have to narrow it down. So we decided to do, like I said, 16 to 36 year olds because that is a time in life where a lot of people don’t have life insurance.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm.

    Allie: 

    you’re not expecting your 16 year old to die. You’re not expecting your 36 year old to die and all the ages in between. it was like a, we just did it one day and it just took off and, we did end up, getting Jeff a headstone. He was one of our, recipients.. So that was a good a feel good. like I said, there have been 13, right now that we have gotten headstones for. So I think with everyone, my mom, talking to the other parents of their kids who passed away, I think she feels like she has a bigger community and it’s almost like they are. Like she is in a different spot now, so it feels like she can help them.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Allie: 

    and she’s always been a super giving person, and I think she struggled for a long time because she was like, how am I gonna make this good? there’s no good that can ever come out of Oliver passing away. And now she gets to talk about him to people. She gets to, Remember him. so I think Oliver Stones really was the point where we all started working together instead of against each other.

    Dr. Dean: 

    That’s such a beautiful way of coming together and honoring him and making meaning of that. I’m wondering, talk about it with your mom’s involvement, what is your involvement? There.

    Allie: 

    So I, . I help her a lot with, I run like the applications, like the selection process, which it’s not really a process, it’s just a waiting list. We don’t, there’s no oh, I need a five page essay from you on why you does, everybody’s deserving of a place to rest and a headstone, so there’s no Oh, you need to tell me where you live, why you live, like this stuff. No, we go by date order, like who’s been without a headstone the longest? we go by that. So I help with the selection process, like going through applications, making sure they fit like the age range. and, getting more information about them. My mom works with a local, Monument place, and they have been wonderful. They give my mom a discount. so they’re really nice to work with. So she does all the legwork,

    Dr. Dean: 

    yeah.

    Allie: 

    she finds donations, she finds fundraisers. I do what I can and like whenever she needs me to do anything, I do it. But I have my three year old and I, run a small business and I’m a pi, like I’m a teacher and I’m a wife and she understands all that and she is super awesome and supportive in that way. Yeah. I do a lot of the social media stuff and things like that.

    Dr. Dean: 

    and it sounds like it gives you a space to hear stories and tell your story about Oliver too, which is we, part of the reason we’re doing this podcast, it, it’s part of the healing process to be able to talk about our loved one. So that’s wonderful. How can people support you in that or find out more about Oliver Stones?

    Allie: 

    So Oliver Stones has a Facebook page. We pretty much just have the Facebook page. I’ve been thinking about getting out to like Instagram and things like that, but we just haven’t made it there yet. But there is a Facebook page. It’s Oliver Stones. there is. all the information for, the application if anybody wants to apply. And there’s also information for donations.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Thank you for sharing that. And then before we wrap up, I know we’ve talked about some memories about Oliver, but do you have a particular favorite one that you want to.

    Allie: 

    So I think probably one of my favorite ones, there are so many, but. When I brought my daughter home, my par, it was like this terrible snow storm. And we are coming home and my parents are like, they don’t care the snow. they’ll show up. They’re the people who will show up. So they brought us Olive Garden for our like coming home meal, which was kind of fun. and Oliver was like not a baby person at all. He was not, he did not like babies. He was not but he held her and we have a few pictures and it’s just like the love in his eyes were like, it was like amazing, right? It was like he was proud of me for, giving this beautiful baby to the world essentially. And it was like such a good memory cuz it’s like he did not like kids, but he loved this kid so much and he had just met. So I think that’s probably my favorite memory about,

    Dr. Dean: 

    and what a great connection with the name and everything to have that moment. Moment. thank you so much.

    Allie: 

    Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    actually one last question. Did you get any professional help in the grieving process?

    Allie: 

    Yeah. I, along with Oliver’s death, I was struggling with postpartum anxiety, really bad..So in like catastrophic thinking, after Oliver died, I was like, Olive’s gonna die. My husband’s gonna die. everybody’s gonna die and I’m gonna be left here alone. So it was when I, I went into school and I always thought that like a tragedy was gonna happen at school with me, and I wasn’t gonna be there anymore. I was like, I can’t live like this. So I started getting some counseling. I am a huge advocate for, medication if you need it. so I definitely got the medication that I needed and it also helped me, identify some underlying mental health issues that I had been apparently dealing with my whole life. that I had no idea, that was not how you were supposed to or not, how to regulate your emotions. So it honestly helped so much because I was able to get on like a medicine, routine that really helped me even now. So I

    Dr. Dean: 

    Is there anything that.

    Allie: 

    thankful.

    Dr. Dean: 

    So I’m so glad that you had good support there. Is there anything that you wish the counselor had known about sibling loss specifically?

    Allie: 

    I didn’t have a counselor that was that great with sibling loss. I wish that there were more specialized counselors, that know about sibling loss because., a lot of it just felt like stuff that I could get on Google and read myself like, oh, when you’re feeling sad, think about all the happy times. And I’m like, I just want to scream, like a neanderthal and cry, and I want them to tell me that’s okay

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah,

    Allie: 

    to

    Dr. Dean: 

    we’re working on that. That’s part of.

    Allie: 

    be there.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Well, it is okay. Just scream and cry when you need to. Whatever you’re

    Allie: 

    Now I do that

    Dr. Dean: 

    good. so yeah, that is part of my mission with this broken pack to, to work on educating people in my field.

    Allie: 

    Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    All right. thank you so much.

    Allie: 

    Yeah. Thank you.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Thank you so much for listening. Our theme song was written by Joe Mylward and Brian Dean, and was performed by Joe Mylward. If you would like more information on The Broken Pack™, go to our website, the broken pack.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, Wild Grief™, to learn about opportunities and receive exclusive information and grieving tips for subscribers. Information on that, our social media and on our guests can be found in the show notes wherever you get your podcasts. Please like, follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again

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