Trigger Warning: The following post discusses themes and details around multiple losses, suicide, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and loss during COVID-19. If you are aware that these topics may be triggering to you there are other places on the website that you can read through while you are working on your healing. If you'd like to read on and this becomes triggering for you I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust to share your feelings and participate in self- care. If you are unsure on how to do this please reach out to GGH.
"You never know what someone is going through, and I think it made me realize how important checking in with friends is."
I am a child and youth worker at the York school board. I’m also a daughter, a sister, a fur mum, and a fiance.
How do we know each other?
We met in college about 5 years ago and have been close friends since.. practically long lost cousins if you ask us.
Who have you lost/ what life altering event have you experienced?
I feel like I’ve lost a lot of people close to me. Family friends, a friend from college who committed suicide, my grandma and my aunt all within a couple months of each other and most recently my uncle during this crazy pandemic.
How long has it been since?
All under 5 years.
Can you talk a bit about the day of/days leading up to your loss/these life changing events
My friend from college who committed suicide was a complete shock. I got a call from another college friend letting me know what happened and I was just in such disbelief. She was such a free spirited, care free lover of life. I would have never seen it coming. She was so young and such a flower child. A real life angel. And we were in college for Social Service Work so it just makes it harder because no one knew how much she was deeply struggling. There was no funeral or service which made it harder I think because there was no real closure. Her close family and friends started a fundraiser in honor of her name, but because of this pandemic it got cancelled this year but it’s always a nice reminder of her. You never know what someone is going through, and I think it made me realize how important checking in with friends is.
The hardest loss for me was my grandma and then my aunt which seemed like it happened all at once. My grandma suffered from Alzheimer's for a long time and we’re so blessed she was with us for as long as she was but it didn’t make her loss any easier. You could see how much my mum and granddad were struggling and everyone else in our family and it was such a hard time for our whole family. Then a couple months later my aunt passed away from a long and hard battle of cancer. She was fighting it for so long it’s hard to remember a time she wasn’t fighting cancer. This being my mums sister and my mum losing her twin brother in 2003 and then her mum and sister all in one year was... a lot. People told me to watch out for her if she gets depression and all of these things that were so hard to hear at the time. If you know my mum she is the most beautiful soul. She’s the nicest person you will meet in your life, she’s always so loving and happy and this hurt her. This was such an awful thing for our family.
Most recently I lost my uncle during this crazy pandemic. He’s not my blood uncle but he’s my brother’s blood uncle so I know no difference. They’ve always been family to me. He was older - he would have been 89 this year and was struggling with health problems over the past couple of years. We expected it would be soon, but it doesn’t make it any easier. The worst part was it happening during COVID when everyone is supposed to be in quarantine. My aunt had to self isolate because she was at the hospital with him and didn’t want any of us sick but all I wanted to do was go to her house and hug her. I went to my parents house because my fiance is working and I was home alone and just needing to see family. Loss makes you look at the people who you are still blessed to have and I definitely needed to see my mum and dad. Don’t come at me.. this was still when you could have gatherings under 50 people not how crazy it is now.
How did you cope in the month that followed?
All of the losses were definitely different. With my friend from college and it being such a shock I definitely tried to check in more with friends and be more present. I didn’t want this to go unnoticed again with any of my other friends and always let them know that I’m here and that helped me by being proactive and being there.
With my grandma it was the first loss of a blood family member and she was also my only grandma that I was able to meet so she was everything. Watching her suffer from Alzheimer's for so many years was definitely hard for us having to watch that even though she was always so peaceful and active it’s hard with this disease. We started dividing up her stuff before she was gone and that was hard but a lot of stuff we couldn’t have in her care home. That was a big change when we had to put her in a home but she would constantly leave the house and get lost and it wasn’t safe for her to be in a regular home anymore. Knowing she was at peace was peaceful for us but definitely a hard loss.
With my aunt - I mean you know, Carm you’ve watched people close to you with cancer and i think we can all agree it’s an awful disease and it’s never easy. There were so many highs and lows and you think it’s okay and then suddenly it’s not and it’s definitely hard to watch. We just lost my grandma and now my mum was losing her second, and only sibling left and my grandpa had to outlive 2 of his children and his wife and going from the happy and outgoing guy he was to hardly even being able to say “I love you” to me without holding back tears is heartbreaking. I’m finding I’m checking in with my granddad and cousins more and even though I’ve moved far away and they live 2-2.5 hours away I always feel the need to make the effort and go because I don’t want to live with the “what if’s” and doubts of not going to see family when you can.
With my uncle who just passed away, it’s hard to not have closure. I think that’s the worst part. Not having a funeral because of COVID or being able to see family members and come together is the hardest part. It hasn’t been a month of passing yet but the biggest challenge is definitely not being with family when that’s all you want to do when someone passes away. Having facetime convos with my parents and checking in with my aunt over the phone and sending her thinking of you messages definitely helps me and I know she appreciates it.
Spotlight on your loved one(s) (share what they meant to you, how they impacted your life, a special story or something that always reminds you of them):
Sarah my college friend - she was such a flower child. She was so free spirited and such an angel on earth. She had this bunny named Stew - lol - and she would always send me pictures as a fellow animal lover and she knew it always made me so happy. She would always make the craziest noises and always know how to put you in a better mood.
My grandma - was the smallest yet toughest one in our family. She was this little British woman who always knew what to say and gave the sternest looks but always offered up a cup of tea. One of my favourite memories was surprisingly when she was in the old age home and we would be trying to take a picture with her and as soon as we would fake laugh she would laugh so hard and we got so many amazing pictures. She didn’t know what she was laughing at but she always joined in. She was amazing
My aunt - was such a strong woman. She raised her 2 boys basically on her own and never showed that she needed help - even in the end she was so strong and independent. One of my favourite memories was when we were going through something as a family and we showed up to her house on Christmas and she could tell i was crying and upset and there were no words - she could see what was happening and she just hugged me and kept telling it it would all be okay and i’ll always remember that hug.
My uncle - he would always say birdies instead of kiss and i’ll always remember that. I always used to steal his slippers as a kid and think it was the best thing. He was stubborn and a tough guy but always showed me the loving side. As he got older he would forget things and he refused to wear hearing aids so he could hardly hear us but mine and my fiance’s save the date for our wedding is on the fridge and my aunt beside it wrote KELSEY’S FIANCE BRANDON on a sticky note and Brandon’s been around for 9 years and he would still ask if i had a boyfriend or how i was doing in school and you could tell he was forgetful but always so caring.
How do you cope now when you miss them or when you think back to that time in your life?
I’m a very emotional person so I definitely let my emotions show when I have them and I’m totally okay with that. When I go through pictures or find an item that was theirs I just let myself have a moment and I think that really helps and I love thinking back to memories with all of them.
How does this loss impact you today still?
Our lifestyles have changed since. Going to the old age home for my grandma bi-weekly or monthly for so many years was something we were so used to doing and all of a sudden that stops. You wonder how all of the nurses and care staff and the other patients that were there that you form such a connection with are doing and you miss them. I did a placement in high school at an old age home and ended up doing another placement there in college because I loved it so much but with my grandma in an old age home and seeing so many people deteriorate or get worse it was too hard and had to make a career change. Holidays are always hard. Birthdays, Christmas especially - when you would all get together or where I hold some of my favourite memories are very hard. I’m planning my wedding and not having all of these people I love there to watch me get married and all of them that have been there through so many parts of Brandon and I’s life is very hard.
If you could tell yourself something during that difficult time in your life when so much was changing you would say ....
"Everything happens for a reason. Hold your loved ones close and go see them as much as you can."
Finish the sentence:
Girls gotta heal because... you deserve to sis.
Grief In Me: Sister stories will continue next week. These are a collection of stories and conversations with women I've encountered and have formed connections with along my own grief journey and healing. Join the conversation on Instagram Live every Tuesday with the Sister Story guest of the week.