An 11 year olds grief

As a parent I am always trying to protect my daughter from the world. It is not because I want her to be oblivious to the way the world works, but rather I want to make sure she can have a childhood. I was naive to think we would make it until she was through her teenage years without a big event that directly effects her life.

She was so stoic when Justin passed away.  I could see this person that was not an 11 year old at all, but a grown person that felt like she had to help others. There were moments where I saw the little girl, like when she held my hand and looked into my eyes with tears in hers and said “mommy I promise I won’t ever do this”. As a parent its a defeating feeling to know that this is something you can’t protect them from.

I feel I have done her a disservice though, because grief takes me over and it comes spilling out over everything in my life. While we have constantly been talking to her and checking in on her, I think she believes she needs to be strong for me. She was seeing the counselor at school and we keep reminding her that we would be able to get her into someone now to have her speak with. She keeps just saying she is ok.

She has been having a tough time sleeping, at first we chalked it up to a pre teen just trying to stay up all night playing video games, but I started to get concerned. This last week one night where I had to stay up to get ready for an over night shift (I always try to stay up as late as possible the night before), I asked her to come out of her room and sit next to me on the couch. When she sits next to me she always instinctively finds the spot where she fits perfectly into the crook of my arm and I can kiss the top of her head.

I asked if she was having trouble sleeping for any reason, she burst into tears and said “I just miss him so much.” My heart shattered into a million pieces again. She talked openly about closing her eyes and only being able to see him without life left in him. She said she doesn’t want to sleep until she is so tired she has no choice but to sleep.

There is something so wrong in having to hold your child while she sobs and wonders what she could have done differently to let Justin know he was loved. I said to her people love people in there own way. I asked her if she remembered when Justin said he was happy she was coming to his school so that he could look after her and make sure that no one ever bullied her. I asked if she remembered when we told her that Justin was transgender and wanted to be called Justin and it was something she took without questioning and was so accepting. She said she did. I said that was him showing you how much he loved you, and you showing him how much you loved him without strings attached.

I so much don’t want this pain for her. I don’t want it for anyone. Somehow though it has stolen some of her innocence and I know there is nothing I can do to change that. She writes about him in her summer journal and she has drawings of him she has done hanging all over her room.


I feel like she lost so much more than any of us did, in all of this.

There will be professional counseling in our future. In the mean time, I will check in with her in every quiet moment, remind her that her dad and I are here for her. I lost my courageous brave nephew to these bullies, I won’t lose my sweet daughter to them.

She won’t ever be the same without him, and there is nothing I can change about that.


Creating your own Perfect Storm

July is this beast of a month for me. I struggle, I fall, and then I just pray I get back up again.

July 31st, 2010 was a turning point in my life, I didn’t know it then, but I definitely know it now. My sister Tiffanie passed away suddenly at the age of 27. Her death took a toll on me, and it is not something I have ever recovered from.

July 28th, 2012, my cousin Greg passed away suddenly, and even though it had been many years since I saw him he was apart of my child hood that I remembered very fondly.

July 6th, 2015, my Grandpa Stan passed away after a long struggle with MS. He was such a big part of my life growing up, and the way he made any person feel like they were the most important person in the world is something this world is in desperate need of right now.

I usually start in June building myself up, getting ready to face the month. I go out more, I enjoy the sun, I spend time doing things that I love, and spending time with people that make me laugh. This June I didn’t get to do that, instead I spent the month reeling at the loss of my awesome nephew. My defenses are down and I am brewing the perfect storm for a mental break down.

My anxiety is at about a 9 almost every single day. My Depression is holding steady around a 5 or 6, most days, but I have seen a few days that spike to 10. Those days where my anxiety is a 9 and my depression is a 10, are the worst days to be around me. I get angry for no reason, I cry at everything, I can’t keep my breathing even, I don’t sleep, and I constantly berate myself for being me.

With all of these things happening, I convince myself that no one likes me, not even my co workers whom I spend the most time with in my daily life. I feel like I am a burden on my husband and I push him away. I stop going out. I go days without sleeping, then sleep for days on end. Doing anything feels like too much work. My house becomes a pit of disarray, then I struggle because I want the house to be cleaned, and I feel like I should be able to do it myself, but I can’t because it gets too out of control. I constantly worry about my daughter, and how I hope she isn’t anything like me. I lock myself in the bathroom, and cry in the shower. My inner dialog is always about something I should be doing more of. I should be losing more weight, I should be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend. I should be happy because I have so many things others don’t. I am constantly telling myself how awful I am.

As this perfect storm brews, I am trying to hold it back with all the coping mechanisms I have learned. Being overly cheerful and speaking love into the world is one of those things. Hearing positive reinforcement from my husband (which he is awesome at!). Spending time with our little family, and with my friends. Actively making myself go out to be with friends or with the family. Writing lists of things I am thankful for. Deep breathing, and reminding myself that I have a 100% success rate of getting through tough times. Resting when I feel overwhelmed. Focusing on one task at a time. Writing.

This is reality for me. This is reality for a lot of people that suffer with mental illness. I just want to remind anyone that is reading this that has a perfect storm brewing in them, that you are not alone. If you need to share my umbrella, I will share it with you. Tough times don’t get to win, tough people do.

Speak Love

18 days ago my 13 year old nephew, Justin took his own life. The way those words hurt to say or to write, rip through my heart and leave me in a dazed state. He had these sparkly eyes and this laugh that would make you laugh in spite of yourself. I keep expecting any day that he will come up those steps saying “Aunt Steph, you know what happened?”, or be sending his an uncle a text starting at 4pm “What’s for dinner?”. No one will ever replace him, and that part of my heart is just for him.


Walking through extreme grief, you start to look inward for things you need to speak out about.

Bullying took my nephew away from me. He was the 2nd of 3 kids that have taken their life on the island I live on, because they were bullied for being different from the norm. I am different from the norm myself, but I am old enough to know that you can walk away from those that speak out against you. These kids feel like they can’t walk away or that they are walking alone in this journey.

First instinct is to blame the bullies. They do hold some of the blame, but it goes deeper than that. These bullies are being raised by parents. Maybe these parents don’t believe their child could say these hurtful things, or do these things that hurt people to the core of who they are. Maybe these parents do know, and they feel lost in the world, not sure where to turn.

In a world full of hate everywhere, its our responsibility as humans to speak love. We sensationalize hate, as a society we are failing each other, and the next generation. Turning on the TV every day to see another shooting at a school or everything that is wrong in the world is depressing. The heaviness of this hate is falling on the youngest in the world, and they can’t process the complexity of these emotions without support from us.

This must be a concentrated effort by all. It should be the most important fight in our life. As Parents, Educators, Mental Health Professionals, and Human Beings we need to combat this hate that is filling the schools and minds of our young people. The hardest part of this is admitting we are doing it wrong. Every time we say “I hate..” or any version of that phrase we are putting negativity out into the world. We need to recognize what this is doing to our youth. This is teaching them hate.

So my challenge to anyone that might be reading this. For your part in this concentrated effort to stop bullying and letting these kids know they are not alone, is just simply to start making the beauty and good in the world more important than hate. Really speak with an extreme amount of love so we can change the tide, and make no mistake about it, we CAN change the tide of hate speak. Every water drop coming together will make a flood. Love each other. Love those that are different than you, try to understand their differences, respect them, and let the way they see the world become part of who you are.

For my part, I am going to continue the fight for transgender rights that my nephew started. I am going to demand that we have a place for these kids (the bullied and the bullies) to get the help they need, this means continue my fight for mental health services. I will tell my daughter every day things that I love about her, about the world, about our life together. I will let her know she is not alone, I will give her options for people to speak with. I will do anything to protect her and all children.

How will you make a difference? How will you speak love into the world instead of hate?


The way of the world, and my place in it.

A lot of things brought me here to write today. The state of the world, it being 6 years since my sister passed away, my best friend moving away, and I watched “The curious case of Benjamin Button”.

The last line of the movie always gets to me. “Some people, were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people, dance.”

I guess we don’t ever really know what exactly we were born for until it comes to the end. Maybe we aren’t just born for one purpose but for many, but some things will define us. I wonder how people will define me at the end of my life? Maybe its that each person you meet in your life will define you as something different.

I believe all things happen for a reason, and all people are put into our life for a reason. It is because I believe these things that I know the story of my sisters life came to an end. She was defined, she served her purpose for her life story, and she has taught me more about loving, living, and laughing in life in the past 6 years since she has passed away then I ever thought possible. If I had to define her, I would say she was born to be the strength we all needed to grow up, the perfect person to bring us our own bit of heaven, Nevaeh, and to teach us that life doesn’t always have a tomorrow.

The way things are in the world, with negative media on every screen, it is hard to dream ahead because it seems so scary. There are wars, there is murder, there is senseless acts of violence, and there is so much hatred. I won’t let that define who I am as a person though. I won’t be afraid to live my life and to keep spreading joy and love into the world. I will smile at strangers, I will say hello and how are you, I will give hugs, and encouragement and I will believe that I can make a difference. In doing these things a little bit of the ugliness in the world will be killed, and hopefully I will teach my daughter that you don’t stop trying, or fighting for a better tomorrow. You do what you can and even the small things matter. I will always be educated but I will not be fearful for more then a fleeting moment.

With all that has changed in my life recently in a rapid amount of time. I think that I am holding up fairly well. I can see clearly how all these life events are defining who I am, and helping me to become stronger. My best friend moving away (she moved 5 hours away) has taught me that relationships will change, and those definitions will change as well. She has set off on a journey to define her life, change her life, and better herself. I won’t and wouldn’t ever stand in her way. She has taught me about life, and will continue to do so as I see her journey un-fold. Our friendship will weather the storm, but it will never be the same as what it was before. Distance between people changes relationships, not in a bad way, but in a necessary way.

The emotions that all of these things have stirred up inside me are clearly defined though. I miss my whole family and the distance between us still remains like a big open sore that won’t heal even after 13 years of living in Canada, it almost feels like this loop where I am constantly having to choose again and again. Somedays I long for those Sunday mornings that my Dad would make us all waffles and my sisters and I would play with our barbies and life was simple because I didn’t know much of the world then. I didn’t know loss, I didn’t know responsibility, and I could just be.

I know I need to stop thinking of my life as what was, and what is, and just think of it as this blessing I have been given.

I know every day I am working on defining the person I am, and the person I will be.