Darlene Dadian-Gray A.M. Sheehan

Editor’s note: These are powerful stories from our Oxford Hills community of folks who have gone through challenging times and found ways to recover. The ‘Resilience Matters to Me’ campaign helps foster a community of care and empowers the ability to build resilience through connecting and reaching out, to support and be supported. Thanks to all who are bravely sharing their stories, encouraging others to break the silence and stigma and know that no one is alone. 

There are 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that have been recognized as causing harm later in life. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood.

Of those 10, Darlene Dadian-Gray, 50, acknowledges she had six ACEs in her childhood. In foster care from the age of 13, she had her first son at the tender age of 17 – just three days after graduating high school. “After he was born,” she says, “I became an emancipated minor.”

She and her son’s father moved to Maine.

“In Maine I was able to find key people [to support her] … in particular David Pitt. He would just let me pop into his shop and talk. We developed a close friendship which we still have 32 years later. He’s now 92.”

Dadian-Gray says that having different people along the way who simply listened helped her.


She and her first son’s dad divorced and she lost everything. “it was challenging but having a friend support system helped me gt through. Looking back I can see how toxic the relationship was, but in it, I couldn’t see fully.” She describes domestic violence both physical and emotional on a daily basis. Drugs were also involved. “I jumped into the same cycle I had growing up.”

“He made it very challenging being divorced and used our son as a pawn. My son and I had family counseling and I think that helped.”

Dadian-Gray is remarried now and her face lights up when talking about her husband. “It’s very good! My husband and I met at work and were friends. A few years later we married. He is supportive and understanding. We had a son so I have two boys.”

Dadian-Gray opened her shop – The Raven Collection – 10 years ago on Main Street in Norway. She sells crystals, minerals and fossils. She gives away herself.

“At the shop I have a lot of young adults come and I always try to give them time and understanding when they talk about school or their lives. They call me the Main Street Momma or the Mom on Main Street!

“They usually come looking for crystals or minerals to help them with meditation. Some [people] believe crystals have healing properties. And sometimes, when I’m helping them find the right crystal, they open up with their stories. I’m glad I can be an ear for them. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


“When they share their stories it’s bittersweet for me…I can relate. I share that and they know they are not alone.”

Most of these young adults, she says, are teens.

“Once kids are done with sixth grade, there are not a lot of resources for teens, especially over the summer…to make connections with adults.”

She says where she grew up there was a Girls Club with myriad activities and all the activities had adults.

Dadian-Gray says she thinks what made her resilient was a couple of family members, especially her grandfather, who “continue to belive in me and support me no matter what.”

“Our poor teachers are struggling…they want to be there for the kids but we’re in such a political state that teachers don’t want to share their insight for fear of backlash.

“I can’t stress enough the support of only one [or multiple] … just find one person in life who will listen – not solve – just listen. Sometimes saying things out loud gives you a better understanding of yourself and your situation.

“What I do is not problem solving…it’s just an outlet for being heard.”

QR code for Resilient Maine website

“Hard things happen – Make a connection – Connecting helps us rebuild – Love. Support. Connect.” Look for these messages around the community and get involved in the campaign. Everyone can build resilience in ourselves, and help to build it amongst loved ones and community – so reach out because one positive relationship can make all the difference in a life. Visit www.resiliencematterstome.com to find all kinds of resources and supportive ideas, or reach out to Brendan Schauffler brendan.schauffler@mainehealth.org or Emma DayBranch emma.daybranch@mainehealth.org.                             

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