In life
28May 13

     I was brought up to respect the privacy of others, and that is something I take very seriously. I consider myself to be a private person, as well, and don’t go discussing my personal business with just anyone. I tend to choose my words very carefully, and it is very important to me that they are not hurtful or damaging to anyone.

     I have wanted to touch on the subject of loss and grieving for a while now, but have been waiting for “the right time”. It is not a pleasant subject, and not one that most people are willing/able to discuss. It is definitely not something that would normally be in my “comfort zone” to put out in a public forum.  However, I feel very strongly that it is something I must do.

     2010 was the worst year of my life.  In October of that year, we lost my Sister Leslie in a tragic accident, then my Mom,  five weeks later, in November, after a series of Strokes.  There are no words to convey how utterly soul-destroying losing the two closest women in my life was. It has been a long, dark, difficult road since then.

     Trying to find a reason to get out of bed every morning after that was one of  the biggest challenges, along with feeling like I was losing my mind.  It’s interesting – even though many people go through loss every single day , you feel utterly alone on so many levels – you feel as though no one else could possibly understand what you are feeling.

     I could go on for hours about all the thoughts and feelings I experienced along the way … but that is not the point of this post. I am not writing this looking for sympathy – I simply want to mention a few things that I learned on this most difficult journey:

     The most important thing I have learned is that “Life is short” is not just another cliché to be brushed off in our youth.  My Mom used to always say it, and we never understood. You can’t possibly understand it until someone you love that is far too young is taken from you, suddenly. I used to spend way too much time worrying about the past, letting it haunt me, or stressing about the future/things that really don’t matter. I have learned to be in the present now, to enjoy every moment, every experience, cherish my friends and family, laugh more, let loose …

     The next biggest thing I have taken from this, is that grieving is a lifelong process. Many people ( generally people that have not suffered this kind of loss ) seem to feel that “It’s been a year now, you should be feeling better”. I can assure you, there is no time limit on grieving, and there will never be a time that I feel “o.k.” about the fact that my Sister and Mom are gone. “They” say “time heals all wounds” – well, that, too, is something that people who truly don’t know say, trying to comfort you. Grieving is a process, and everyone goes through different phases of varying lengths of time, and there is no right or wrong.

     One thing that came as a surprise to me is that the people you think would be most likely to call you up and see if you are alright, aren’t necessarily the ones that do.  We may assume that certain people we have known all our lives would be right there for us, but this is not always the case.  On the flip side, I have had people I barely know come up to me in the mall, wrap their arms around me, cry with me, and talk for 20 minutes about what happened. I feel very fortunate to live in such a close-knit community, where people genuinely care about each other. It has almost literally blown my mind how many kind souls have spent time speaking with me since all this happened, offering to help in any way they can.  I have made some close friends since that time – real, caring compassionate people who reached out to someone they barely knew, in an obvious time of need. It still amazes me.

     Another thing I’ve learned is that people mean well.  Many are uncomfortable talking about it when people die – clearly it is not a pleasant or cheery subject. I’ve had  people say they “didn’t want to bring it up” for fear that it would remind me/upset me, clearly not “getting” that it is constantly at the forefront of my mind. Some people avoid you for a while, unsure what to say/do.  Others feel the need to say something profound, when all that is truly needed is to know that people care, and are there for you, if necessary – and often, that’s just for hugs.  Death is an uncomfortable topic to discuss, for sure, and if you haven’t lost someone close to you, you can’t possibly comprehend.

     I am definitely not the same person I was before losing my Sister Leslie, and my Mom.  Only recently have I begun to feel that I am “turning the corner”, and that maybe, just maybe, the worst of the grieving is behind me.  I absolutely know that it will take a very, very long time before I feel “whole” again, if that’s even possible.  I am, however, surrounding myself with new friends lately that seem to bring out the best in me, love me unconditionally, and understand if  a certain song “sets me off” and I need to take a few minutes to compose myself. Many of them have also suffered recent losses, and mine have helped me understand what they are going through. Sometimes we want to be out with our good friends, sometimes we need to be alone – real friends understand that, and don’t try and drag you out when you aren’t feeling up to it.

     Surviving great loss makes you realize so many things: you are much stronger than you know, every moment in life is precious, and you must stop wasting time with people/things that don’t bring you joy.  You must honour the memory of your lost loved ones – talk about them, laugh, cry, share stories … but most importantly, honour them by following your own dreams, doing what you love – you know that’s what they would have wanted.

     If you, or someone you know, has suffered a recent loss, this book was unbelievably helpful to me:  “Transcending Loss” by Ashley Davis Bush.


  1. Kerri, January 8, 2014:

    Thank you so much for sharing this blog Heather. I lost my brother also in 2010. I had just lost a contract renewal 2 months previous & was grieving from that as I was in my best place ever in my life. After Tony’s death from a car accident I felt like my foundation had crumbled. I decided to let go of a 2 year relationship that wasn’t supporting me another 2 months later. It has only been in this last year that I feel too that I have turned the corner. I had no idea the grieving would affect me this way. I thank you so much for sharing your blog as you really touched on several areas regarding friends & acquaintances that I connected with. It is awkward to talk about death & I have met so many people, that when I am open & share my vulnerability, we have something in common & the healing continues.
    My parents are in their mid 80’s & still healthy but I will get that book in preparation for their deaths as I know it will be another transition time.
    I have enjoyed getting to know you a wee bit over this last year & look forward to seeing you in the Mall.
    Sending you love & light on this journey.

  2. Katherine, March 31, 2015:

    That is so true. For some people grieving can be quick, but for others it can last a life time. I do believe that time does heal, but as you said. There will always be some sort of pain weather big or small.

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