❤️ In memory of all victims and survivors of impaired driving ❤️
A grieving father whose 3 children were killed in 2015 died by suicide earlier this week, the day after Father’s Day. A tragedy that is now a double tragedy.
Studies show that the death of a child is considered the single worst stressor a person can go through in their lifetime.1https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/how-parents-experience-the-death-of-a-child/ It is a traumatic event that has long-term effects on the lives of parents. The pain and the grief never go away.
Morever, grief following the death of a child is rare in comparison to other types of grief. Consequently, the parents often feel alone in their grief journey. As a grieving mother myself, I can attest that it is challenging to meet and connect with other grieving parents in real life and who physically live close by.
In the Neville-Lake case, losing 3 children makes the “worst stressor a person can go through” exponentially worse. The tragedy is further compounded by the fact the children were killed by a drunk driver and that the family had to go through a lengthy trial. And the result of all this is a murderer who now lives free.
It all started in 2015. Edward Lake and Jennifer Neville-Lake’s 3 children and their grandfather were killed by Marco Muzzo in Vaughan, a suburb of Toronto.
Timelines of The Neville-Lake Double Tragedy
Some facts surrounding this tragic event:
It was upsetting to hear the news of Edward Lake’s death. Already a tragedy, Jennifer and the family are affected by yet another loss. In addition to feeling deep sadness, this story leads us to reflect on several problems in our society. In particular, how it could all have been avoided.
1) Drunk driving is rising
Despite education and public awareness efforts against drunk driving, the numbers are rising.2https://www.theglobeandmail.com/drive/mobility/article-are-more-people-drinking-and-driving-amid-the-pandemic/ Getting behind the wheel after drinking is like picking up a loaded gun and shooting in random directions. It is literally road violence.
Aside from Muzzo, who is 100% guilty for his actions, I wonder: Where were the others who were with him or saw him? Surely, there were other people on his private jet from Miami. He also cleared customs.
In 2001, an Ontario judge ruled that an employer is obliged to “personally intervene” to prevent drunk employees from driving home.3https://ehlaw.ca/jul01-hunt/ Although not an employer in this case, why no one intervened Muzzo? A customs agent let him clear customs drunk. This agent, and many other people, let Muzzo leave the airport without checking that he was taking a taxi.
2) Lack of support and intervention
When a family is struck by tragedy, there is often a lot of support in the immediate aftermath ( i.e., during the crisis). However, in the longer term, there is usually a lack of support and intervention to help these families.
I can’t speak for the Neville-Lake family as I do not know them personally. However, I can bring our personal experience. After our son died in a car accident, we never got any calls from of the police, interveners, or professionals to support us. Instead, we were left on our own to find therapists to help us deal with our trauma and grief.
3) Failure of our legal system toward drunk driving
Our justice system fails to treat drunk driving seriously. Muzzo killed 4 people and was released after only 4 years. The parents never got justice, even back in 2016. And in 2021, they were dealt another blow, adding to their suffering and not allowing them to heal.
With reference to #1 above, our justice system needs to enforce accountability. Assuredly, there are many people that are in a position to prevent a drunk-driving, but turn a blind eye instead. In this case, the people on the jet with Muzzo, or the customs agent let him through. They should also face legal consequences since Muzzo’s alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit.
4) Grief is still a taboo subject
Our society tends to avoid grief and being around people who are suffering. Especially after a few months or years after the death, bereaved families often feel alone and not sufficiently supported in their grief. For instance, loved ones often tend to either ignore the situation or offer “solutions” to the bereaved, when in reality they need to feel heard and supported, and for several years.
5) Mental health should be taken seriously
During Muzzo’s sentencing hearing, Edward Lake said he suffered from suicidal thoughts and intense anxiety since the accident, and that the loss had affected his marriage. After the hearing, was there any intervention or offers of help from professionals?
The day before Edward Lake’s death, police were called for an altercation at home. However, the Rapid Response Team and the Crisis Outreach and Support Team were not called. Typically, these teams assist in cases involving persons experiencing mental health crises.4https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2022/06/22/father-of-kids-killed-by-drunk-driver-marco-muzzo-was-tasered-and-arrested-hours-before-his-death-by-suicide.html Given Lake’s history and previous interactions with the police, why were the teams not called?
6) Couple therapy should be offered from the outset
A few days before Edward Lake’s death, Jennifer had disclosed that their marriage had not survived the tragedy.5https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-father-whose-3-children-were-killed-by-drunk-driver-in-2015-dies-1.5955666?cache=%2F7.462541%2F7.350265 The death of a child is an extremely difficult stressor for a couple. Unlike other types of grief, parental grief is unique since both partners grieve simultaneously a loss that is unimaginable and unbearable. Not only must they navigate the differences in their grief, but the weight of the other partner’s sorrow can have detrimental effects on a couple’s relationship.
I cannot comment on the Neville-Lake’s case. However, I can speak to our own experience. After our son Zackaël was killed in an accident, we were not offered family or couple therapy. Instead, we were on our own to educate ourselves about grief and find support and therapy where needed.
It does not matter how strong a relationship you have, or how tightly-knit your family. When such a tragedy occurs, a formal process should in place to help the family. This includes assigning the best therapists, without any waiting list. Couple therapy should be encouraged and offered from the offset. The family should not be left with the burden to find professionals when they are already exhausted and devastated.
That’s it for now!
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