Mike Edwards, Founder, HFH:
Our son and only child, Dylan, passed from a heroin overdose on November 28, 2016, just after his 24th birthday and just before receiving a chip to celebrate six months of continuous sobriety. My wife, Allyson, and I were devastated and really struggled to release the new hope we had from the enormous progress Dylan had made. We attended various grief meetings and two things always stood out – the meetings weren’t designed to help parents continue to live when they came out of “the fog” and very few fathers ever participated. So we turned to an evidential medium to hopefully find some answers and that reading put us on a path to attend the 2018 Helping Parents Heal Conference. The conference provided even more validation and a venue to share with other parents who were searching for answers. For the first time, we left a meeting feeling lighter and more hopeful than when we arrived.
We will always remember and miss Dylan but now understand that we’re living and learning what is meant for us. I’ve decided to help other parents, and particularly fathers, learn how to have good lives after their loss and come to know their own “truth” which will certainly help me to do the same.
I’m a father of 3 amazing men, two here on this side and one across the veil. On September 16, 2019, my oldest son, Josh, exited this life in a single car accident. At that time, I was in England on a business trip and was flown home immediately. From the outset, Josh worked hard to let the family know he was still with us and was safe and happy on the other side. My spiritual awakening started that day and has been growing and evolving to this day. HPH/HFH has been central to my healing and growth, and I am extremely glad that I can help facilitate the growth and healing of other shining light fathers. I feel particularly called and I am passionate about standing alongside my brothers in grief and helping give men a safe and secure space in which to heal from what we have all been through. Josh is with me every day helping me, assist others and for that I am immensely blessed and honored to be able to help in whatever way I can.
Our son Austin, forever 24, passed in a tragic and unexpected accident involving cold weather on December 15th, 2019. HPH has helped my wife Nan and I navigate this grief journey together and has opened doors to a higher understanding of the afterlife. I am a member of HFH and want to give back the love and support I have been shown by an incredible group of fathers.Austin loved his family more than anything. Nan, Kevin, Baylee and I will cherish his memories forever and knowing he is still part of our lives gives us comfort.
Our son Nolan, passed in his sleep 8/18/2020 at age 15. With no cause found, and no prior health issues, his death was classified as Sudden Unexplained Death in Children (SUDC). To me his cause of death was his soul left his body.
Nolan was an incredibly gifted and skilled musician, signer, songwriter, arranger, producer, actor and had just uploaded his first original song for public release only 4 weeks before his death. It went live several weeks after he transitioned. It was hard enough just wrestling with the fact that he had died, let alone that he wasn’t here physically to celebrate his song going live to the world. We are so grateful Nolan shared so much of himself thru his music. Since he passed, my wife and I have continued doing what Nolan intended, to release his original songs and arrangements with help from his coaches, teachers and producers. Being so prolific he had written over 80 songs and 50 A Capella arrangements. Having his music to work on has been like a life preserver helping us keep our heads above water or hand rail to hold onto and steady ourselves, and it has kept us in touch with Nolan’s people, friends, coaches, and fellow artists.
As proud as I was of his musical/artistic accomplishments, I was most proud of the person he was in the world. Nolan was so kind, empathetic, and compassionate, and incredibly funny and such a cheerleader for the disenfranchised, always helping others feel welcomed. And he had a wisdom that didn’t match his young age. We were very close and did everything together. He was my favorite person. For our first year, my wife and I made grief our full time job, with everything else taking a back seat. We have had tremendous support from our grief counselors and therapists, whom we still meet with weekly. But Helping Fathers Heal has been and is the most significant and helpful healing & support place for me. I’ve made new friends and hopefully helped other Dads. It’s an incredibly supportive, loving and safe space for Dads going thru the unthinkable together.
Tom Madsen is the husband of Marilene and the proud father of two stellar young men: Kevin - who passed in 2018, but is still verrrry active; and Gustavo, who lives and works in Boston.
Tom is a retired corporate finance executive, and now a writer. He graduated in Business from UC Berkeley. He has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Atlanta, Hong Kong, Chile and Argentina. He and Marilene now split their time between Brazil and Fort Lauderdale.
My daughter Paige passed over suddenly on August 29, 2017. She was 22 and was very excited to have started graduate school just a day earlier. Paige was diagnosed at age 9 with a progressive and untreatable disease called Friedreich's Ataxia. While we hoped for a cure, I always expected her to die before me, but not that early and not suddenly. The best description I can give for how Paige's passing affected me is "shattered." My wife and I found HPH about a year later and it has been very helpful for us. We live now to see our son, Paige's little brother, thrive in young adulthood, as he is now a few years older than she got the chance to be. I'm honored to help lead the HFH online group, which provides a vibrant, safe place for dads to have their grief witnessed and to learn from each other. Almost five years into this journey, most of my shattered pieces have been glued together, with a few pieces missing and lots of cracks showing.
Chris Ryan is a San Diego native who has lived in different parts of the country while his radio/media/advertising/marketing career developed. After spending time in Tucson and Cincinnati, Chris and his wife Cyn moved back to San Diego in 2016. In 1997 they were blessed to have Sean Gabriel Ryan, their only child. Sean's journey was filled with music, sports, a quirky sense of humor and an irresistible taste for independence. Sean's adventurous nature also led him to experiment with substances to "self-medicate" his anxiety. Ultimately, Sean's time to transition came on September 7th, 2021 when he suffered Fentanyl poisoning. Chris and Cyn are now looking to heal their hearts and put more meaning into their lives through their videography business and with the support of the HPH fellowship.
Here is a video that Chris created after our Second Helping Parents Heal Conference. Fara Gibson brought through Chris and Cyn's son Sean! Please click here to view. It is amazing.
The meetings are held every Wednesday on Zoom; 7:00- 8:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada).