Chris Joseph and Kyle Dubé have something in common. They both know what it's like to suffer the enduring, immeasurable grief of losing a child.
Joseph’s son Jaxon was a member of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team. The 20-year-old was killed on April 6, 2018 when a tractor-trailer collided with the team bus. Dubé lost his son Luke, 16, to suicide almost three years to the day, on April 5, 2021.
“I had lost grandparents, but until I lost my son, I never met grief to that depth,” said Dubé.
“Grief is the most relentless thing in my life," he said. "Suicide is so complicated. We live in a world where people want you to be fixed, but we’re never going to be fixed.”
Among his conflicting emotions, he said, “I was so pissed he wasn’t there to hug anymore.”
To mark the anniversary week of the two tragedies, Dubé and Joseph have teamed up to publicly discuss grief, loss and how they’ve coped in a two-episode podcast series posted on the YOUCAN Youth Services website. The first episode of Relentless was released Tuesday, April 4 and the next will be available Tuesday, April 11.
YOUCAN is an Edmonton based non-profit charitable organization that helps disadvantaged and vulnerable young people get an education and find a job. Dubé is executive director of YOUCAN, an organization whose outreach workers are “relentless” at reaching out and empowering youth.
During a phone interview with the Gazette, Dubé describes his son as an incredibly intelligent teenager who slipped into a darkness he could not control.
“From the age of five, Luke could articulate better than most adults," Dubé said. "He had a sense of humour that could stop me in my tracks. Luke was very athletic and enjoyed sports. He was involved in hockey and lacrosse. He was the most compassionate human being I met. He was so beautiful. And he was big into fitness and was teaching us to eat properly.”
Although Joseph was unavailable for comments about Jaxon, during the hockey player’s celebration of life in April 2018, he was described as “a goofy, caring and compassionate young man.”
At the time, Bryan Radmanovitch, Jaxon’s godfather said, “Chris and Andrea (Joseph) raised Jaxon to be kind, caring, thoughtful, but above all else, respectful. Jaxon was all these things and much more.”
Despite the passage of time, to this day Dubé finds himself affected by certain triggers.
“I go to the grocery store and it’s brutal. All Luke’s favourite things are there, and we will never buy them again,” he said. “We go to Cosco and 80 per cent of the time it's guaranteed we run into someone we know from lacrosse or hockey. They stop and ask us how we are, but we want to hide in the aisles. It’s hard on us. It’s hard on them. We don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to say.”
While stumbling through grief and loss, Dubé is forever grateful for the Joseph family’s friendship.
“April 5 my son died. April 6 was the anniversary of Jaxon’s death. April 7, Chris and his wife were in my backyard supporting us. We are bonded together as grief brothers. We’re all in it together, but we’re also in it alone.”
Ultimately, both Dubé and Joseph hope the podcast will shed light on families coping with grief, especially in situations without closure. The first episode deals with what happens to families during a tragedy, while the second episode focuses on “grief literacy,” and how to speak to traumatized families.