Fenton Father Still Living Nightmare of Daughter's Death
One year later, Sam Jawhari said his daughter's death "still feels like yesterday."
Life has continued for Sam Jawhari, but it many ways, it ended Feb. 14, 2011.
The Fenton Township resident still runs Beirut Restaurant & Grocery in Flint, but he says his heart is not in it. He’s still there for his wife, Enaya, and sons Raied, 14, and Ameer, 11, but he always feels like something is missing.
One year after his daughter, Briona, died of a heroin overdose at age 17, Jawhari stills feels very much like it was yesterday.
“I still think she is going to call,” Jawhari said in tears. “Her room is closed off. It’s still the same way. I can’t go in there.”
“It’s not about good days, you just learn to deal with it,” said Enaya, Briona's stepmother. “It never gets easier.”
Two years of hell
After her mother died of a heroin overdose in 2007, Briona, then 13, cursed the use of drugs. But in time, Jawhari said, she wanted to see what kept her mother away.
Jawhari said he went through “two years of hell” trying to get her help. He said he tried everything, taking her to rehab, dealing with professionals — but “the system is broken,” he said.
He eventually had to try to put her in a shelter and had to call protective services to protect his other children from her drug use.
“She kept yelling, ‘Daddy, I’m still your daughter, how are you going to leave me here?' ” Jawhari said. “That broke my heart more than anything because I thought I was doing what was good for her.”
He said calling protective services resulted with him being listed on a neglect and abuse registry.
“I never neglected my kid. I never abused my kid. I got put on a registry for trying to get help. Where’s the help?" he said. “You want to blame me for being a good parent?”
Three weeks before her death, Briona came back home. Jawhari said they made amends, but he also told her the drugs had to stop and that he would get her whatever help she needed. Briona had received her GED and was working on getting her driver’s license. It was Feb. 14, 2011, when he entered her room to wake her up, that he found a needle in her arm and that her skin had turned blue.
“Since then, it’s been a nightmare I can’t wake up from,” he said.
Spreading the message
Jawhari hasn’t stayed silent, however. He has poured his emotion into Community Parent, a drug prevention group formed in Fenton Township, and the shock and awe drug awareness presentation Chasing the Dragon.
“After she died, I didn’t want to be quiet about it,” he said. “I didn’t want our heads in the sand."
Jawhari said the void will never be filled, but the hugs and reaction he gets after the emotional presentations serve as counseling for him, even though he must relive his daughter’s death each time.
“For the whole week, I’m a mess,” he said. “But I think Briona is looking down and smiling, saying, ‘Go Daddy, go Daddy pie.’”
The Jawhari family and friends plan to visit Briona’s grave on Valentine’s Day.
Community Parent will hold a vigil for Briona and her friend Erika Schlosser, who died of a heroin overdose two days after her, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Fenton Township Hall. Genesee County Undersheriff Chris Swanson will lead the service.
Jawhari tries to cope the best he can.
He battles neck and back pain along with depression. He saw a psychiatrist and was taking pills to help him get by, but he didn’t like the way they made him feel.
“I told them I wanted to stop, that nothing they could give me could take me pain away,” he said. “They said, ‘Then why are you coming to see me?’ I left and never came back.”
Jawhari is seeing a therapist but has stayed away from pills.
“Maybe I’m supposed to feel this pain,” he said.
Despite all his struggles, he keeps going as best he can to be a family man and spread the message about drug abuse.
“The world is getting ugly. People are hurting,” Jawhari said. “The pain is still going to be there. You can’t cover it up. You can get drunk and take drugs. You might not feel anything for a little while, but you wake up, and the pain is still there, but now you’ve added to that pain with something else to fight with.
“If I can touch one person, it's worth it,” he said. “I can’t bring her back, but if I touch one person and I save a life, it’s worth it.”