Isn’t Child Loss Enough?

Pour la version originale de cette publication (version française), cliquez ici.


Very difficult these days to find the time to write. First off, the week before spring break, although schools were still open, we had decided to keep the kids at home. The reasons were because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Ottawa and our fear of the variants. So since April 2, we have them full time at home, yet again! Maxandre is struggling with home/virtual school, we might have to revisit something different or an alternative schedule somehow.

On top of that, April is the time that we have to file our taxes. It’s annoying that the government did not postpone the dates like last year. On the Quebec side, their government is allowing an extra month to file their return. But, for us, no time extension granted by the federal government. Yet, like last year, we are again in a pandemic and therefore have difficulty managing things, and have the children at home. They realized this last year and granted an extension, but not this year I guess?

Unfortunately, it is a very complicated tax return this year for us. First, we had to sell our cottage following the accident as it happened on the way to the cottage. The sale of the cottage was another very difficult and stressful event for us in the past year, on top of everything else we had to deal with.

This is considered a so-called secondary loss. The 2019 accident not only resulted in the loss of our sweet Zackaël, but it snowballed with several other secondary losses. I plan to talk more about secondary losses, but for now here is a definition.

Secondary losses are felt after the first loss and can affect many aspects of a person’s life. Grief associated with secondary losses is an emotional response to subsequent losses that occur after the death of the loved one (the first loss).

https://montreal.sehc.com/types-de-deuils/?lang=fr

As the sale took place in 2020, we must then include it in our 2020 taxes. Some will think it shouldn’t be complicated because we are, Carl and I, two accountants. But no, as neither of us specialize in the field of taxation, we’re no more knowledgeable than most people. We need to enter and calculate all of our expenses too because in addition to the sale, we also had rental income from the cottage. Plus all our adjustments for our time off from work, all the medical expenses not reimbursed, etc. And compile it all, in a time of pandemic with the children around!

On another topic, thanks to Carl’s hunt for vaccines, we were lucky to find a pharmacy and so were happy to receive our vaccine on Tuesday, April 20. We jumped on the occasion as soon as we found out about the 40+ age new update. Thanks Carl for contacting over 20 pharmacies! This is a big relief for our family.

The pandemic brought serious repercussions on our already devastated family. This is a topic I will be discussing at some point. Indeed, we are living in anguish for more than 17 months, since for us, it all started in November 2019 and not in March 2020 as for most. So it was a victory on April 20! This is one more step towards the end of this pandemic, reassuring us and also Maxandre who has suffered a lot of anxiety since the accident, which was amplified by the pandemic.

For my next post, I will reveal to you the magnificent painting by Vé Boisvert that I received last week. I just installed it and I want to take some great photos and write a text before I do the unveiling! Here’s a little preview!

I’ve also posted a photo of our beautiful Maxandre in front of the other canvas “Under Zackaël’s Wing”. If you missed the post about it and the story behind it, here’s the link.

Finally, I have updated Maxandre’s video post as I added his latest video “Try Not to Laugh” to it! Please check it out here!

That’s it for now! Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the comments!

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What to Do If You Are Depressed?

Pour la version originale de cette publication (version française), cliquez ici.


In a previous post about Complicated Grief, you might have read that I had fallen into a depression following the accident. It was probably inevitable given the circumstances of Zackaël’s death, my PTSD, and being in the hospital with my severely injured Adélie.

I eventually plan to write a post about what helped me “survive” the year after the accident: “The 5 things that helped me cope with depression.” This is not to say that I no longer have signs of depression. I am still grieving and suffer from anxiety.

Without disclosing my full top 5 list, I am revealing one today: Something I did that helped me deal with depression was being busy in a positive way. This is even more important during this time of pandemic as we are even more isolated.

Yet, it is also important to give ourselves time and not undertake projects if we are not ready. It took me at least 8 months after the accident to start small projects that I love. In my 23 Myths of Grief post, Myth #3 is “The best way to grieve is to avoid thinking about it too much. The bereaved should get busy by doing other things, such as going back to work.”. It is a myth that the bereaved should get busy right away and do other things. The bereaved first needs the time to be ready to do “other things”. Doing too much after a traumatic event is usually a bad idea. This is why we should first start with simple activities (e.g. taking a walk), before taking on projects.

Small projects shouldn’t be too demanding, and especially not stressful. Ideally, a person who is depressed should work on a project only when they feel like doing so, it should not feel like a chore. Note that returning to work doesn’t fall into this category (of starting a nice project) because it is more of an obligation (for most of us anyway).

Increasingly, numerous studies demonstrate the positive effects of Behavioral Activation.

A more proactive way of breaking the vicious cycle of depression is to increase our level of activity even if we don’t feel like it to begin with. This approach is called Behavioral Activation (BA) and it is a psychological treatment for depression with one of the biggest evidence bases to demonstrate how effective it is. Behavioral activation for depression is about making your life meaningful and pleasurable again.

Source: https://www.psychologytools.com/self-help/behavioral-activation/

As much as possible, we should find projects that bring us pleasure and that motivate us. In a future blog post, I plan to talk about behavioral activation with more concrete examples.

Without going into too much detail, I really think that the projects I undertook over the past year helped me a lot. Some bigger, like this blog, and some smaller. I try as much as possible to choose pastimes that bring positivity to my life. People who have supported my projects (for example, my readers who comment on this blog), have also motivated me to continue them.

This week, I continue with one of the projects that I love. I spoke about it in my last post : The Joey modular couch. With the Joey, not only am I helping the kids to have fun, but it also allows me to use my creativity in many ways! Lastly, I can help other parents (AKA “Roopers”) with their Joey!


The Joey Couch

Many other moms were excited to see this post because I’m revealing most of the colour combinations in one summary table. It all started with discussions in the Joey Facebook Group (CCBR VIP), when I saw that many of us (“Roopers”) weren’t sure which colour to order for a 2nd Joey or the accessories. I was able to help out and I hope this post will be beneficial for many. I also plan in the near future to post our reviews on some of the Joey’s build configurations.

Roopers Q&A

Here is a list of some of the questions I had received on the Facebook group. I share my answers here via a Q&A.

How did you manage to create all those combinations?

I use Photoshop and its “Selection” tool. I first select only certain parts of one couch (for example the pink one), align, and then past them on a couch of another colour. Because of the different angles, I often slightly resize some of the selections in order to perfectly align the two couches into one couch.

Do the combinations below represent the true colours of the Joey?

I work with the photos of Chew Chew Baby Roo (CCBR). I don’t alter the colours, I just “copy and paste” the selected couch sections from a different colour to create the couches with two-colour combinations.

New colours: Mint & Lavender
For the 2 new colours (Mint and Lavender), photos of real couches are not available at this time. For this reason and only for those 2 colours, I used Photoshop’s colour picker to select colours from the CCBR samples. As such, the combinations might not look as realistic as those of other colours. This is because the light effect cannot be incorporated as well. So don’t be discouraged if you are disappointed with the mint or lavender look, because they will likely look better in real life! As soon as I get real pictures of Mint & Lavender Joeys, I will update the combinations below!

I’m afraid the colours in your table below might not the same in my house?

Regardless of the product, it is normal to see various shades and intensity of the same colour. Each of us “Roopers” will have a couch that will appear different in our home vs another Rooper’s home. This isn’t because it’s not the “right colour” or that the colour changed, but rather because the light is not the same from house to house. The reality is that we don’t see the colour that is on the couch, but the COLOUR OF THE LIGHT THAT’S REFLECTED off the couch.

Unquestionably, the biggest factor will be where you place your Joey. Since the CCBR photos are taken with plenty of natural light, they might appear lighter than if the photos were taken in shaded area. As such, if you set your Joey in a basement or bedroom with little light, the Joey will probably look darker in your home. Also, artificial lighting will influences how a colour looks. Lastly, most of us have different cameras (mostly from cell phones) which might not display the colours we see in real life.

Because microsuede is a fabric that reflects a lot the natural light, you will see a lot of depth to the couch and therefore a lot of colour variations. This is why on a sunny day, some sections of the couch will appear much lighter than others.

In the example below, I’m demonstrating how much light conditions can affect colour. Using the Photoshop colour picker, I took 5 different shades directly from the very same couch. See how much box #1 is darker than box #5 even though it’s the same fabric (same colour)! This is the beauty of having a room with lots of natural light; we can see so much depth and colours! If your Joey happens to be in a darker location, you might not see the lighter shades (#4, #5). If there’s too much light, the colour might even appear less saturated or washed out (box #5) on some parts.


Therefore, when considering colours for a new purchase, I suggest looking at the “middle intensity colours”, in this case : boxes (#2, #3 and #4).

Your table displays more colours that what is currently available to order?

I’ve decided to include most of the colours, as many of us have couches with previous colours. Here is a history of when the colours have been available. Note that when colours are withdrawn, it doesn’t mean that they will be gone forever. The Core Colours that will be available of every pre-order are grey, sage and navy.

Pre-order #1: Pink, blue, sage, grey and black.
Pre-order #2: Navy, peach/nude, coral and mustard were added. Pink, blue, sage, grey, black, navy, peach, coral and mustard.
Pre-order #3: Same as #2 but peach/nude was removed. Pink, blue, sage, grey, black, navy, coral and mustard.
Pre-order #4: Same as #3 but teal was added. Pink, blue, sage, grey, black, navy, coral, mustard and teal.
Pre-order #5 (the next one!): Pink, blue, black, coral and mustard are removed. Mint, Lavender and Ivory will be added. Sage, grey, navy, teal, mint, lavender and ivory.

Why are Ivory and Peach excluded from your combinations?

Ivory is a new colour and is a tricky colour to work with. As such, I will wait to have a real picture of a Joey Ivory couch before I work with it.

For Peach/Nude, it was only available on order #2, I haven’t received any request yet. If you bought a peach couch and you would like to see a combination, please let me know.

Could you create combinations with 3 colours?

Absolutely. Because there are 12 colours, and you can mix 3 colours in a set, that allows for 220 possible combinations! As such, I’ve created a poll below on which you can add your choice of 3 colours. Please verify that your 3 colours aren’t already listed if you wish to add them. To keep it simple, please only indicate the colours (and not the type pillows you want in a specific colour). The purpose of colour combinations is to see if the colours go well together.

Do you work for CCBR?

No I don’t. I’m creating this post to help other Roopers with colour combinations. For questions about the products, please contact CCBR.


My Two-colour Combinations Table

I haven’t included all the combos since some of them were never asked. Please let me know if there’s any that are missing that you wish to see because you are considering buying.

POLL : Three-colour Combinations – Which ones would you like to see?

Joey Configurations

Stay tuned for our reviews and diagrams of Joey builds! Our reviews will include tips and videos! Coming later this week or next week!


That’s it for now! Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the comments!

What are you thoughts on the colour combos? Any combinations you like that you didn’t think you would have?
Subscribe to the blog to not miss our reviews on various Joey builds and the three-colour combos!
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23 Myths About Grief

Pour la version originale de cette publication (version française), cliquez ici.


Before I start my post, I would like to thank the person who sent us flowers on February 27 for Zackael’s birthday. The card said “Bonne fête Zackaël!”. However, the card didn’t have a name (who gave us the bouquet). So if it wasn’t supposed to be anonymous, please write us and say “It’s from me!”.

l–

Earlier this week, I read a comment on social media which revealed some ignorance in regards to grief. I am not only blaming the person who wrote the insensitive comment, as they probably had good intentions for the griever who is someone they know. Addressed to a grieving person, the comment was something like : “You should stop reading such quotes, they don’t help.” However, the quote the bereaved had shared was in fact inspirational and contained a very positive message.

Death and Grief Education

These kinds of remarks can be hurtful. Along with other comments that I’ve seen in the past, they attest to the lack of education we have about grieving. Unfortunately, bereavement and death are subjects that are rarely talked about. Yet, they are part of the natural cycle of life, and most people will experience grief at some point in their life. Not only that, we are often surrounded by bereaved people, and should therefore be able to support them in their journey.

In 2018, the Australian Medical Association Queensland proposed to introduce the topic of Bereavement and Death Education into the school curriculum. This is a topic that I am planning to talk about in a future post, about why this this type of education would be a good thing.

With respect to the aforementioned comment, I feel that if the person who made the comment was educated about grief, they wouldn’t have written such a message. In fact, the person would have known that:

  • Talking about our emotions and sharing thoughts help with mourning a loss
  • No one is in the same position as the bereaved, and therefore not in a position to judge
  • Each person grieves differently

The reality is that many people find it difficult to be around grief. In support groups, I often see the bereaved expressing disappointment at the level of support from their loved ones. Many of their relatives and friends avoid discussions about grief and the deceased, and some even keep their distance from the bereaved.

It’s sad, but true, that many people are uncomfortable with death, grief and emotion. Yet grief is a natural reaction to loss. It is certainly not the plague, nor a sign of weakness. Running away from mourning does not help ourselves or the bereaved in any way. We have to stop thinking that grief is bad. It is not because something is painful that we should avoid or ignore it, on the contrary.

Picture source : Pixabay

Myths about Grief

There are several myths surrounding grief, too many to include them all in a list. In my opinion, here are the top 23 common myths about grief. Since this list is long and I plan to cover these topics in the near future, I would love to hear your thoughts :

  • Which of the following myths surprise you the most?
  • Are there one or two that you would like me to discuss in a future post?

Based on the results of the poll below, I will write a post about the myths you select. My post will incorporate facts (and maybe even study results), my experience, and what I have learned over the past 16 months.

23 Common Myths about Grief

Myth 1

Grief is bad and we shouldn’t talk about it.

Myth 2

The bereaved who shares emotions, images, thoughts or photos are “stuck” in their grief. This sharing slows down the mourning process.

Myth 3

The best way to grieve is to avoid thinking about it too much. The bereaved should get busy by doing other things, such as going back to work.

Myth 4

The bereaved person who shares their emotions or photos of their loved one only thinks about that.

Myth 5

The best thing to say to a bereaved person is something heartwarming, positive, or optimistic. We must encourage them to think positively and find solutions to make them happier.

Myth 6

The first year is the most difficult. Mourning improves day by day, as time heals all wounds. There’s no real need to invest the time and effort required to work through the mourning.

Myth 7

A healthy-looking person who is functioning well and is back to work, feels good and is no longer grieving.

Myth 8

A bereaved person is surely well surrounded and supported.

Myth 9

I know how I would react if I was in mourning. I wouldn’t do what this bereaved person is doing.

Myth 10

It is best to avoid communicating with the bereaved after the loss, in order to give them time and space.

Myth 11

The goal of grief is to move on.

Myth 12

To feel better, the bereaved can simply think of their loved one or look at pictures of them.

Myth 13

Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and grief experts all have grief training and therefore understand what the bereaved is going through.

Myth 14

Another person who has experienced a similar loss can certainly help the bereaved.

Myth 15

Everything happens for a reason.

Myth 16

A bereaved who talks a lot about their grief should go to therapy.

Myth 17

Most people are empathetic and compassionate.

Myth 18

Going to therapy and participating in a bereaved support group always helps.

Myth 19

It is preferable to avoid mentioning the name of the deceased because of the risk of upsetting the bereaved even more or the risk of bringing sadness to a present moment.

Myth 20

Children are always very resilient.

Myth 21

Young children do not understand death well, it is better not to talk about it.

Myth 22

Following their loss, the bereaved should avoid asking for help from others; they must stay strong.

Myth 23

All bereaved people go through 5 stages of mourning (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). Grieving has a linear trajectory.


POLL

Please participate if you can! It’s not too late!
(participate to view results 😊)

That’s it for now. Thank you so much for participating in the poll and sharing your thoughts in the comments!
My next post will be about the artwork’s reveal (by Vé Boisvert). Subscribe to the blog to not miss it!

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20 Ways to Remember our Loved Ones

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.


💙 I dedicate this post in memory of River Newberry. 💙

In a recent post, I wrote about the importance of commemorating those who have left us too soon. Although many people still find it taboo, grief is a natural state that represents the love we have for the person who left us.

You may at some point find yourself thinking about a loved one who is no longer with us. Making a commemorating gesture is a great way to remember that person. In doing so, you recognize the importance of this person and of taking a moment to reflect. Include our children in such a gesture can be a wonderful way to teach them the meaning of remembrance and compassion. Even if you didn’t get the chance to get to know the person well, making a memorial gesture can still bring solace.

If you can share your gesture with the family of the loved one, I guarantee that they will appreciate it. For my part, when someone tells me about a gesture made in memory of Zackaël, it warms my heart, in part because they’ve initiated it.

There are many creative and meaningful ways to keep the memory of loved ones alive. Share these ideas with your child(ren) and let them chose one that you could all do together. You can even ask them if they have their own ideas.

20 commemorative gestures anyone can make

  1. Light a candle.
    Ligthing a candle is a beautiful and easy way to commemorate a loved one. The other day, before dinner, I lit a candle in honor of Zackael. I told Maxandre, “I’m lighting this candle because I’m thinking about Zackaël a lot right now.”
    chandelle en mémoire enfants - candle is memory of children died

  2. Make a donation in memory
    A charity of choice is often chosen for donations in memory of the deceased or someone who is sick. In our case, CHEO mailed us a list of the names of people who have contributed in Zackaël’s honor. We are grateful to everyone who donated to a charity in his honor, plus they are for a good cause!

  3. Share a memory about them
    The sharing of memories affirms the worth of the person who died. In addition, the memories others share are often memories that we have not heard before.

    It was heartwarming to receive messages from the parents of Zackaël’s friends about their little relationship and the games they would play with him. We are also thankful to everyone who contributed to Zackaël’s honour book which is filled with great memories.

  4. Wear their favorite color
    In honour of Zackael’s birthday on February 26th, I asked Maxandre if he wanted to do something special. Again this year, Maxandre wants us all to wear green, as well everyone at the school. It’s a small tradition that we started last year, and we’re excited to continue it.

    As for myself, Zackaël is always in my heart, so I wear his colour as much as I can. You will probably see me wear green way more than before. That’s the Zackäel in me.


  5. Create a ritual
    A ritual is a concrete gesture that we take and which translates into a symbolic meaning that we give it, it could be anything.

  6. Keep a bookmark or photo on display
    If you received a commemorative bookmark at the funeral, everytime you use it as bookmark, you will remember the person. Another option is to display it somewhere in your home. You can also print a photo or cut out the obituary from the newspaper or online.

    When Isabelle, someone I didn’t know, sent me a message about Zackaël’s picture being on their fridge (her picture below), it touched me so much.


  7. Continue to wear something associated with the person

    Here are some examples:
    • For Zackaël, we distributed small green ribbons. When I still see them on the coats, it always warms my heart. Zackaël’s teacher also told me that a friend wore her ribbon on on her graduation hat in June.
    • In hockey, it’s always touching to watch players continuing to use green tape on their sticks.
    • Another option is to add a sticker with the person’s initials on an object.
    • Last year, Zackaël’s best friend wore a picture of Zackaël on his hockey jersey, thank you Alexi.




  8. Update your Facebook frame in the person’s honour
    If a Facebook frame has already been created, you can add it to your profile photo. If not, you can create it yourself or even with your children, it’s a great way to use technology and be creative at the same time! Here’s our latest frame!



  9. Grow a plant or a tree in their honour
    You can dedicate a tree or a plant in the person’s honour.
    Our front yard tree is getting old and sickly, so when we replace it, we will choose a beautiful tree in Zackael’s honour. A lovely tree at was planted at the school in which we installed some little green lights. The plant below is once I received from Madame Claudine at the anniversary date (Nov.17 2020).


  10. Personalize a gift
    Personalized gifts are always very touching. There are several online options to order gifts that can be personalized: keepsake pendant, memorial lantern, memorial frame, christmas ornament, etc.

  11. Share their name, memories and comment
    The sharing of pictures and stories is an obvious way to remember our loved ones, but let’s not forget that a comment that someone adds to the picture is a commemorative gesture in of itself. By mentioning their name or reading about the deceased and also leaving notes and messages, you demonstrate your compassion the life of the deceased.

  12. Organize a vigil
    You can offer to help organizing a vigil, which can also be held several years after the passing. We had one last year in Zackaël’s honour, and I’m sure we will continue to do so. It was a very nice event. Carl and I needed this and I think it was good for Maxandre to see everyone come out to remember his brother as well.

    I have not yet taken the time to share some of the beautiful moments and music from the evening with you, but I promise I will in an upcoming post!
    Zackaël Vigile Memorial

  13. Name something in their memory
    Some objects (or even people) can be named in honor of the deceased. This can be tricky, so it’s best to discuss it with loved ones first.
    For example, if a friend named his stuffed animal Zackaël in his memory, that would be a touching gesture.

  14. Visit the monument
    In our case, we have a monument at the site of the accident as well as the monument will we have at the cemetery. In addition to a moment of reflection, many people add a little something (photo, stuffed animal, lantern, candle, ribbon, etc.). Some will even help with the maintenance/upkeep by removing snow etc.

  15. Support the bereaved’s project
    The bereaved will often need a project to help them cope with the bereavement and move forward in their journey. I know other grievers who have published a book, become an entrepreneur, or some who blog like me. I know how important it is to show our support for their projects.

  16. Create a memory box or commemorative wall
    You can create a memory box with: photos, memorials, their funeral bookmark, letters or messages you write to them, etc. Another option is to have a small mount on a shelf or a wall with framed photos.
    As I started this post, Charlie’s mom Krista sent me a picture of a box they created in Zackael’s memory, so adorable!


17. Create a photo slideshow or a photobook
If you have some photos of the loved one, you can create a photobook with an online tool. This also allows you to make copies for others. If creating a photobook is not up your alley, don’t forget to send the photos to the family. They might not have seen those pictures before and will be so happy to get them.

Another option is to offer to help make a photobook or a slideshow as a memory gift for the family. We will be forever grateful for the help we got with the making of Zackäel honour photobook.

This picture shows one that created by Zackaël’s daycare teachers, we love it!
Album souvenirs de Zackaël à la garderie

18. Write a card
A card can be addressed to the deceased person or to relatives of the deceased person. It’s never too late to send a sympathy card. Someone gave us a card a year after the accident with a nice message.

19. Hang an object in a tree

With a memorial tree, a small decoration or a battery-powered light, can be added to it. We even saw some people had put green ribbons in their Christmas tree, even this past Christmas.

20. Be creative or have something created

One beautiful way to commemorate is to create art in honor of a loved one; whether it’s sculpture, music, photography or writing. It is also a great way for yourself or your children to be creative and pass the time, especially during Covid-19 winter months!

I am so excited about a painting in memory of Zackaël that will be done by a talented artist Véro Boisvert (a distant cousin who is also from Hearst). Check out her Instagram for her latest work, you won’t be disappointed! To ensure you don’t miss my post about the painting she will make, be sure to subscribe to my blog!

Thank you

I want to sincerely thank everyone who made commemorative gestures over the last 15 months. I wish I could have named everyone who did, but I want to tell you that we are forever grateful.

I was planning to share a little story about Zackaël, but as this post is already on the longer side, I will share it in my next post!

That’s it for now!
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate them so much and your private messages!

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Writing your Grief Course – Today’s Prompt

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.


In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I just started a course on grief. The course is called Writing Your Grief. Every day, we receive an email with a writing prompt encouraging us to explore an aspect of our grievance.

Today is Day # 3. I haven’t shared any of my posts with the public yet, but I’ve decided to share this one. Without getting into details, today’s prompt was about how do we live in a landscape that changed (I was living in the forest, now I live in the desert).

Here’s my story that makes an allusion to today’s prompt. For the ones who didn’t know Zackaël, I just want to mention that jumping was Zackaël’s favorite activity.

How do you live in a landscape so vastly changed?

We were living in a rainforest. Carl, Maxandre, Zackaël, Adélie, and I, even built a little cabin in the trees.

Every day, the richness of the forest made us discover life. The great diversity of plants and animals gave us completely different experiences. We were so well surrounded. We would wake up to the sound of birds and count the butterflies that came to us.

In the forest, the air was clean and fresh. After the rain, there was always sunshine. The alternation between rain and sun brought variety to our activities.

In the reflection of the raindrops on the leaves, we could even see our joy of living.

From tree to tree, we hooked up ropes and took turns bouncing. Our little Zackaël, skilled as always, would tumble in the air to swing with ease between the trees. Pure joy!

Maxandre and Zackaël would often grab their little sister with them and all three would spring forward.

Bright white, the beautiful big clouds allowed us to jump on them, high in the sky. What a joy! Our little athlete Zackaël always got so excited when he saw bouncy clouds. He would jump and show off his spins and turns, so effortless and gracefully.

The green of the trees, Zackael’s favorite color, was a rich green that went beyond nature.


However, on November 17, 2019, with no warning, we were shoved into the desert. We don’t really know how it happened. That day, we couldn’t see the forest anymore.

From that day, we knew we were in the desert.

At first, the wind was very strong, maybe even a sandstorm. The wind carried fine particles of sand and dust that entered our eyes. We had a really hard time seeing ahead.

After the storm, we gradually come to the realization that Zackaël is gone forever. He won’t come back. As much as he loved to jump up high in the sky, he has now reached heaven. The sky has no more clouds. Our Zackaël can no longer jump; his last jump was so high that he went to join the stars.

There’s no longer a cabin to protect us, we only have each other. We were five, but now, we are four. Only the four of us are stuck in that desert.

The rain in the forest has now turned to tears. The intense heat of the desert dries our tears as soon as they fall on our cheeks.

Devoid of vegetation and inhospitable, life is hard here; only a little cactus here and there. Be careful not to touch them, they are full of spikes.


Maxandre is lying on the sand. He is out of breath and looks at the sky trying to see his brother. But the sun is blinding and Maxandre looks elsewhere.

Maxandre’s gaze is turned therefore towards little Adélie. His little sister was injured by a 1,100 pounds beast. Despite her small size, Adélie is strong. She encourages us with her beautiful smile to continue the long course.

Carl and I try our best to ride our own camels. I am frail and have no energy, but I do everything possible to ride the camel. Two camels walking slowly but surely.

We try to bring up Maxandre on the camel that I am riding. Maxandre must hold on to me. We support each other.

On the other camel, Carl carries Adélie in his arms. Carl is already tired. It’s difficult to navigate with all this weight and only a free hand.

We don’t know where the camels will take us. We have been wandering into the unknown for ages. The days are alike. Every day, the heat is oppressive and heavy.

The humpbacks of the camels are indescribably uncomfortable. Several times a day, we imagined letting ourselves fall full on our stomachs in the sand, to let ourselves languish. But the sun is too strong and will scorch us. We don’t have that time.

We remain hopeful and try to keep our balance. Falls are dangerous and we have to hold on tight. The sand is deep and we have to be careful not to sink.

Every day, we travel for miles. The landscape is dry and always the same. There is no end to it.

Why are we alone in this great suffering? What did we do to end up here? When will we be removed from this desert to return and find our forest?

In the distance, we finally see a valley. Let’s go and get some rest. Maybe we will find an oasis?


That’s it for now!
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate them so much and your private messages!

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5 Reasons to Remember our Loved Ones

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.


Before I begin, I would like to apologize to those of you who tried to open the emails with posts starting with “DAY 1” and “DAY 2”. I just began a course on grief and I thought I put the posts to “Private”. Oops! I’m also trying to figure out how to exclude them from the email notifications. Thank you for your patience!


February is Zackaël’s birthday month. We would have celebrated his 7th birthday on the 26th. Thus, for this week and the ones to come, I would like to share more about my beautiful Zackaël.

5 Reasons why it’s Important to Remember our Loved Ones

It is sometimes difficult to talk about a deceased person, especially a child. Throughout our grief journey, the more we can “tell the story” of the death itself and share our memories of the person who died, the more likely we will be to reconcile our grief.

Last November, we made several commemorative gestures in Zackaël’s honor. It’s important to continue commemorating his life throughout the year and the years to come. Here are a few reasons why :

  1. Suppressing emotions is bad for our health

    Talking about the deceased can provoke all kinds of emotions, some that we would like to avoid. On the other hand, we must remember that if these emotions exist, they must come out. So sometimes it’s better for them to come out today, rather than in a few months. Several studies have shown that suppressing emotions can have harmful effects on the human body.

“Suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body. The effect is the same, even if the core emotion differs. We know that it can affect blood pressure, memory and self-esteem. ”

Provisional Clinical Psychologist Victoria Tarratt.

2. Celebrating life allows us to heal

Continuing to talk about the deceased helps us in our grieving process.

“Grief experts agree that taking steps to appropriately remember loved ones is actually essential for healing. Individuals who keep the memory of loved ones alive almost always fare better emotionally than those who don’t.” source

3. Celebrating memories together

We must celebrate the life of the deceased by sharing the beautiful moments lived together. Imagine if tomorrow, an accident happens and you die suddenly? Yes, there will be funerals and other events in the near future. But would you like to be forgotten after 1 year? That we no longer talk about you? Time goes by, but the loss is always as big. Finally, nobody deserves to be forgotten.

Speaking and sharing our stories requires other people who are willing to listen to them. Celebrating the memories together will bring family and friends closer.

Zackaël Vigile Memorial
At the vigile


4. To support those who are grieving

As mentioned in #3 above, support from others is essential in commemorating a loved one. If a bereaved shares about their loved one, it’s important to listen and encourage them in their sharing. If pictures are shared and then no one comments, it’s disheartening because they will feel that other people don’t care about the deceased anymore.

The worst is to ignore that the deceased is no longer with us. If you want to support the family members who endured a great loss, be sure to include the deceased in the moments. This is a topic I will be covering on this blog at some point; the “how” to include the deceased.

5. His life is worth something

Zackaël is dead, he was only 5 ½ years old. Most people didn’t have a chance to get to know him. His life was taken from him altogether. His life, even if it was short, is worth something. I promise my Zackaël to always talk about him.


My next post will provide examples of commemorative gestures that anyone can make!


That’s it for now!
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate them so much and your private messages!

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Let’s Talk

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.


We need to talk about mental health more than ever

Last week, during Bell Let’s Talk day, Canadians were invited to join the conversation to support everyone’s mental health. “Talking and getting help is still difficult for some people today. But for me, it’s a sign of strength and it gave me the tools to get through these uncertain times.” said comedian Maxim Martin.

Why talk about our health problems?

A few years ago, I was reluctant in sharing my health problems. I suffered from insomnia and spoke little about it. Insomnia was probably the biggest problem I had, as it lasted almost a decade. I would sometimes tell family members or close friends about it, but not to others.

I remember driving on the highway to work. I already had a headache, having barely slept all night. The daylight was bright and I had to make an effort to stay focused on the road. Sometimes, I would only sleep for 2-3 hours. I even had nights when I remember that it was getting light outside, and I still hadn’t slept yet. It was terribly frustrating and I would not wish it on anyone.

At the time, I was working (I’m an accountant) for a very kind manager. There was no real reason to keep my health problem a secret. However, we are brought up in a “proud” society; our problems, we keep them at home. Plus, maybe I kept it to myself for fear it would become an obstacle in my young career, who knows?

In my late thirties, I started to be more transparent about my insomnia. I mentioned it to my superior (another), which I should have done long before. He reassured me that it was okay if I get to work later after an awful night. Obviously, I couldn’t arrive late if I had an important meeting in the morning. Arriving later wasn’t something I did often, but having this option reassured me. If it happened, I would stay later in the evening to make up for the work. I know this option may not be available to everyone, but sometimes we find some alternatives by confiding our problems.

Even today, I still have problems with insomnia and need to take some medication. The other day, I tried to not take any meds. However, I ended up not falling asleep because I had flashbacks of Zackaël and the accident.

Why did I start talking more?

I think as I got older I started to realize that it is often best to be transparent and real, especially if we have some concerns. I recently read that being vulnerable isn’t a weakness, but rather shows some emotional maturity.

Vulnerability isn’t a weakness

“At some point in our lives, we realize that showing emotion, admitting we are struggling, and asking for help are not signs of weakness but acts of courage. Knowing it mentally is one thing, but going one step further and actually applying it is next-level maturity.” Psychologist Cassandra Dunn,

Why write a blog?

Following the accident, I read everywhere that one way of “healthy grieving” is to share emotions. Keeping our emotions inside is unhealthy. When Adélie was still in the hospital, I was lucky enough to confide in a social worker, who helped me tremendously. However, even after a year, I had to keep talking, for myself and for others.

On that matter, I remember that for months, I felt lonely in my grief. Not alone physically, but alone emotionally. Yes, I had Carl (my husband) in this grief, but it was already heavy for him; he also had his own grief to go through. I was looking for testimonials from bereaved parents online. I had great difficulty finding personal pages of bereaved parents, especially in Canada. They seem more popular in France. I had found a Facebook group, but I wasn’t sure if that was what I needed.

I was invited to participate in support groups. However, I didn’t have the courage to participate. When we lose someone very close, we are not necessarily ready to share our story and hear the stories of many others. We don’t have a lot of energy and patience. Personally, I preferred reading online more. I can do it when I feel like it and not at a specific set time. In addition, it allowed me to be with Adélie who was still hospitalized.

With writing a blog, I thought that it could certainly help other people as well. Blogs allow us to connect with each other, especially during the difficult times of the pandemic. They also allow you to touch in-depth different topics each week while providing a certain perspective. Anyone can read the publications whenever they want, at any time of the day, which is important in times of mourning.

Here is part of a message I received last month from a mom who recently lost a young child:

“Hello Brigitte, thank you for your kind words. A few days ago I was unable to sleep, so I decided to read your blog and it made me feel good. It’s very difficult at the moment, I say to myself “one day at a time”, but I find the days long and very difficult … As for the group of parents that is on Facebook, I find it difficult 😓 to read all this sadness. I no longer know what is good for me, and what is not. “

Why does it help to talk about our problems?

Research from Southern Methodist University suggests that writing about traumatic experiences or undergoing talk therapy had a positive impact on a patient’s health and immune system. The study argues that holding back thoughts and emotions is stressful. You have negative feelings either way, but you have to work to repress them. That can tax the brain and body, making you more susceptible to getting sick or just feeling awful.

Until it happens to you

I’ve heard people say that they are the type to keep their problems and emotions to themselves if difficult situations arise. It may be, but not necessarily. We shouldn’t assume. Statements like ” If something similar would happen to me, I wouldn’t do that” can be judgemental in nature.

For my part, never would I have thought that I would talk about my problems openly. Writing a blog was never a project I considered. But situations change us. We become more vulnerable after certain events, and also, as we age.

If people feel uncomfortable reading my blog or reading about grief, maybe it’s because they have never experienced much grief. If they are uncomfortable supporting those who have problems, it may be because they have never had “big” problems. Or maybe I’m wrong?

Support others

You’ve seen relatives or friends write a post during Bell Let’s Talk Day? Let’s not forget to empathize and support them by responding. We should also be proud of their courage. They demonstrate not only their vulnerability but also their emotional maturity. It’s by talking and helping each other that we can all get better.

Lady Gaga – Till It Happens To You, Live Oscar Performance 2016
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rufPMisw4o

That’s it for now!
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate them so much and your private messages!

If you would like to receive my next post, you can click “Follow by email”.
Or you can send me a message and I will send you an invitation!

Sources:

https://www.newswire.ca/fr/news-releases/c-est-la-journee-bell-cause-pour-la-cause-votre-voix-compte-maintenant-plus-que-jamais-alors-que-nous-faisons-face-aux-repercussions-de-la-crise-de-la-covid-19-sur-la-sante-mentale-des-canadiens-856370523.html

https://centr.com/blog/show/7180/12-things-emotionally-mature-people-do

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/smarter-living/talking-out-problems.html


My sweet little angel

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.


Before I begin this week’s post, I would like to reveal the significant changes I made to the blog! Some of you might notice that the website looks different. The main reason is that I added a language switcher, rather than reading a long post with both languages. I had to install a plug-in and rework the website (I also improved the menu structure). So this is now officially a multilingual blog (yay!). Multilingual personal blogs are rare I think, so I’m happy to continue in both languages. After all, it’s good for the brain to practice two languages!

Please note that I write each post in French first, and then translate in English. As my first language is French, if you can read French, I suggest reading the posts in French as they are “better written” in my opinion. 🙂

All that to say, this change will bring a cleaner layout, and you as a reader can easily from English to French, and vice-versa. You will find the language switcher drop-down (EN-FR) at the top-right of the menu in green. In the main menu, you will also notice changes with the groupings of the pages.

Sorry to those of you who were trying to open the last email, it was an error that occurred during my redesign and it was the same post as last week (a duplicate). Thank you still for letting me know!


Another week with the kids at home, time flies! For everyone’s health, I sure hope that classroom-based school will start again soon. Keeping our fingers crossed. Yesterday, we received a message from school: once a week, the afternoon will be asynchronous, and without connectivity. The school says it is to help with the health and well-being of students and staff. It’s a good initiative!

I received some kind messages this week from Isabelle, someone I didn’t know. Isabelle told me that she and her husband Pascal often drive by the accident site on the 323 to get to their cottage. For those who haven’t read the post about the accident site, you can find it here.

Isabelle shared with me that she and her family were deeply moved by our story and they think of us and Zackaël a lot. Receiving this kind of message always touches me; it reminds us that Zackaël is always in our hearts, even for people who did not know him.

What touched me the most was when she told me that she and her husband often stopped to clear snow at the site. What a thoughtful gesture! Remember the definitions of empathy and compassion? Well, this gesture is a great testament to that. They are empathetic people because they are wholeheartedly with us, and saw that it was important for us to keep the monument and photo visible. They are also very compassionate because it is a helping gesture that no one has asked them to do. Isabelle and Pascal, you have a big heart, and I thank you very much for what you do!

Zackaël’s roadside memorial during the Holidays
Before Pascal et Isabelle remove the snow
Pascal removing the show
Almost cleared up – Zackaël’s monument on the 323

Pascal et Isabelle removing the snow
Zackaël’s monument
Many people stopped and added decorations during the Holidays

Zackaël’s roadside memorial at night


I would also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to stop at the monument, some of you even added a little something. Thank you Marielle & Raynald, and Tim & Amélie for the pictures. Since I’m not able to visit the monument because of its location, it means a lot when I receive new pictures. I’m able to see if little items were added, which always warms my heart.

As Zackaël favourite colour was green, don’t hesitate to add a little green something (like a green light or ribbon) if you’re ever on the 323 and decide to stop.

My aunt at Zackaël’s roadside memorial
My aunt and uncle Marielle & Raynald often take the time to stop


I would love to share about Zackaël more often and his photos on this blog, but it’s not easy. As some of you know, I am often caught in a battle of emotions.

For today, I’m going to share a poem I wrote last spring. The original language of the poem is French. I quickly did a translation to English. I have to admit that the English version isn’t very good as the flow and rhymes disappear in the translation. If you know French, please read the French version instead.

Ce n’était pas assez (It was not enough)
Click here for original version

Poem in honor of Zackaël
My lapin d’amour (my honey bunny),
the most beautiful human I have ever known,
in my heart forever

It was not enough
That we did everything to make you happy
They still took you from us
Without telling you goodbye

It was not enough
That you always made us smile
They still took away
The chance to see you grow up

It was not enough
That you were the most patient
They still took from us
All our future moments

It was not enough
That you were good to her
They still took away
Her big brother Zackaël

It was not enough
That you were the best brother
They still took you
From their little world

It was not enough
To be an model student
They still took you
From your little classmates

It was not enough
That you were a best friend
They still took you
From your friend Alexi

It was not enough
That you were the sweetest boy
They still took you
To be with them in heaven

It was not enough
That you were our little sunshine
They took you anyway
The cruelest separation

It was not enough
That you are my beautiful “lapin”
They took you anyway
An endless November day

It was not enough
That everyone loved you
They still took you
We’ll never see you again

It was not enough
To be my beloved son
They still took you
Why did nothing protect you?

It was not enough
That you had a heart bigger than your body
They still took you
I hope there’s life is after death

My beautiful Zackaël
My heavenly angel
My love is unconditional
I send you a sweet kiss
Don’t worry, you will never be forgotten

Maman xox

Zackaël Flintoff, August 2019

Are you more empathetic or compassionate?

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.


Are you more Empathetic or Compassionate?

In my previous post, I briefly described how I felt during the first months of my complex grief. Something I came to realize is that Carl and I are fortunate to be surrounded by people who have been very understanding and patient with our grieving process. Maybe this is because we lost a child and another one was severely injured? Regardless, we are incredibly grateful.

As I write this post, I came to realize that I have a lot to share about today’s subject. This topic is part of many conversations in bereavement support groups. It is something you do not necessarily learn in school, but in my opinion, one should learn more about it. They are said to be a skill and a behavior that are key ingredients of emotional intelligence. I am referring to empathy and compassion.

Empathy and compassion are topics that are important to me. Quite often, it is people who have experienced difficulties who better understand their importance. Admittedly, talking with other bereaved has helped me learn more about these two components of emotional intelligence. Throughout the last year, I was also able to learn a lot from exceptional people who continue to demonstrate great empathy and compassion.

What to Say to a Bereaved Person?

Lately, I was able to participate in online support groups, either through messaging groups or video chat groups. I was also able to interact with other bereaved by private messages.

Upon sharing with them, what I take away the most is that not only do they suffer through their grief, but they feel often misunderstood by others. In particular, one of the comments that frequently comes up relates to the words and actions of others. The bereaved are upset by hurtful comments, such as: “Move on”, “At least you…” or “You should…”. Not only such comments are not helpful, but they also indicate a close lack of empathy for the bereaved.

Being blunt with a bereaved person or trying to tell them what to do are two behaviours that usually do more harm than good. Telling a bereaved person to move on or think about something else will in no way diminish the fact that their person is gone or lessen their grief.

Grief and Depression

Everyone has their own way of coping with grief, and on their own timeline. Some people experience the pain intensely much faster, while for others, the pain comes on much later.

Many factors influence the reactions of the bereaved. The bereaved’s relationship with the person who has died will usually be the most important factor in the extent of the grief, and perhaps depression.

For example, let us compare two mothers: Janie and Pauline both just lost their babies at 20 weeks gestation. At first glance, one would think they are “similar cases”. However, it is incorrect to compare them since there are always underlying circumstances. In this case, Janie became pregnant after 5 years of trying, while Pauline got pregnant immediately. For this reason, Janie will probably go through much more intense grief than Pauline’s. Certainly, after all these years of trying, Janie had developed an extremely strong bond with her baby.

Moreover, other elements are often kept private so people often do not know the whole story. As such, it is wrong to assume that someone who shows symptoms of depression is “weak”. Depression is not a sign of weakness and it is important to be supportive and understanding toward someone who is depressed.

Most of the time, two people will react differently to a great loss. The police officer responsible for our case told my husband Carl that child loss can be exceedingly difficult for a couple’s relationship. Not only that it is painful for the parents, but they also must: live their own grief, support the grief of their spouse, and also possibly support the grief of their surviving children. In our case, the officer warned us: Fathers usually grieve differently from mothers, which often creates a gap between the two of them.

People grieving differently occurs in every type of loss, not only child loss. It is indeed rare for two bereaved to react similarly, even if they have experienced the same loss. Unfortunately, this sometimes creates tension between them since they do not understand each other well.

On that subject, I want to share the story of Célia, who I met through an online group:

Célia lost her mother Rose. Since Rose is in her 90s, those close to Celia were not surprised to learn of Rose’s passing. On the other hand, for Célia, her death was unexpected as Rose was healthy. Coping would have been less stressful if she would have had time to anticipate her mother’s death.

Célia was already having a difficult year. She went through a divorce and her children left her home. Following the death of her mother, Célia is, therefore, more depressed. Celia’s mourning is much more intense than her sister Vicky’s, who also has just lost her mother. However, in her case, Vicky lives with her husband and children, so she is better surrounded.

Celia feels a lack of support from her sister. Her sister is supported by her husband, but Celia has no one left. This becomes unbearable for Celia, who was already overloaded with other issues. In addition, Celia finds that her friends are not there enough for her, even if she needs their support.

It would be ignorant to think that Celia should not be grieving because her mother was elderly. It is even sadder to know that her friends and her sister are not supporting her. Celia feels the need to confide but she is afraid of being judged if she talks about it.

Unfortunately, bereavement is still a taboo subject. People are often uncomfortable “hearing” their loved ones grieving.

Celia suffers more than Vicky because she was simply more attached to her mother, not because she is less “strong” than her sister. Above all, sadness stems from the love (and attachment) one still has for the deceased. Celia needs empathy from her loved ones, but she is not getting enough of it.

What to Do and What to Say to a Grieving Person

 

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to try to understand someone’s feelings, not just feel bad for them. There are two types of empathy: cognitive empathy and emotional empathy.

Cognitive empathy is the ability to recognize and understand other people’s emotions. It is sometimes called perspective-taking.

Emotional empathy is when you feel physically along with the other person. It is the ability to share the feelings of another person. This type of empathy helps you build emotional connections with others.

Some people who are better at demonstrating cognitive empathy can have a difficult time tapping into emotional empathy. With cognitive empathy, a person will simply understand that the other person is feeling pain without feeling it themselves. With emotional empathy, the person will literally feel the other person’s emotions. The two types of empathy come from different regions of the brain.

“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.”
— Barack Obama

 

What are the Differences between Sympathy, Empathy, and Compassion?

What is Sympathy?

Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone whereas empathy is as feeling with someone. Some common ways to express sympathy are sending a sympathy card or flowers to the funeral service.

What is Compassion?

Compassion is the ability and willingness to stand alongside someone and to put their needs before your own. Compassion takes sympathy and empathy a step further. Someone compassionate will first recognize that the person is in pain (i.e., sympathy), or feel their pain (i.e., empathy), then they will do their best to alleviate the person’s suffering.

At its Latin roots, compassion means “to suffer with.” Someone who is compassionate, will:

  • not run away from suffering
  • not feel overwhelmed by suffering
  • not pretend the suffering does not exist

Instead, someone compassionate will stay present with suffering. As such, showing compassion helps gain perspective because it puts the person in someone else’s shoes.

To summarize, cognitive empathy can be described as “understanding what others feel,” emotional empathy as “feeling what others feel,” and compassion as “caring about how others feel.”

 

Sympathy vs Empathy vs Compassion

Empathy and Compassion Diagram with examples
Sympathy vs Empathy vs Compassion Diagram with Examples

 

Why are Empathy and Compassion so Important?

Empathy and compassion are needed in everyday life, especially when interacting with others. Without them, it would be difficult to maintain healthy relationships.

Oftentimes, those who are grieving receive more sympathy, than empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion are both truly needed after a great loss.

It is easy to pretend that we would act differently if someone else’s situation would happen to us. Having empathy is not about trying to figure out all the details of why the person is sad, and why they are still sad after several months. The grieving process is complex and long. It is okay not to fully understand their reaction. This does not mean we should not be there for them.

Helping people usually requires emotional empathy. It is not only the bereaved who deserve empathy: a newly separated person, a sick person, a person with a sick family member, a person who is depressed, or alone and isolated, a person who has difficulties, etc.

Having empathy is not just about showing up once. It is not just about going to the funeral or sending a message of sympathy. This is sympathy, not empathy. For a divorcee, it is not just sending them a one-time message saying, “Sorry about your separation, let me know if you need anything.”

Certainly, a gesture (sympathy) is better than nothing, but to have empathy and compassion is to continue to show that you are caring for them. Empathy is listening instead of talking. “Big talkers, little doers” can have difficulty empathizing. You have to be present in their lives and support them so that they can get better.

Some people can show empathy and compassion. For some others, they will be empathetic but not necessarily compassionate. Others still will show their support by being compassionate even if they are not necessarily empathetic.

How to be a More Empathetic and Compassionate Person?

To have empathy is the ability to sense what is important to others and to be present for them, even for seemingly small things. The first step towards empathy is to put yourself in someone’s shoes without judging them.

To develop emotional empathy requires listening carefully to the person without trying to change the subject and to fully support them.

Having empathy and compassion means not assuming that this person is already well supported. Rather, it is to assume that this person is probably sad, even if it has been months, and that they still need support. It is better to assume the worst than the best when it comes to helping.

Showing empathy and compassion means continuing to send messages, being supportive of their approach, and encouraging them in their projects. It is also offering and being available to meet or visit.

Do not change the subject when the bereaved want to talk about their grief or the deceased. Rather, encourage them to share their feelings and talk about the person who is no longer there. Do not try to fix it; grief is not something that is broken, it is more part of love. Instead of thinking that we have to get out of mourning, we should accompany the mourning. Better to act than to say.

Conclusion

Before I finish, I would like to thank everyone who has been empathetic and compassionate to us over the past year! I have been amazed by how supportive people have been, and I hope you realize it. I should be thanking you more often!

My goal in writing this post was not to get people to be more empathetic and compassionate towards us specifically. Rather, I hope I have provided a different perspective that might help people be supportive of anyone around them who might be suffering in the future, no matter the situation.

Finally, I would like to share this interesting blog article that illustrates 7 examples of unempathetic people.

Did you like my post? Feel free to leave your comments.
Did you know that leaving a comment is an empathetic and compassionate gesture?
If you did not know, now you do! Talk to you soon!

If you would like to receive my next post, you can click “Follow by email”. Or you can send me a message and I will send you an invitation!

*Their real names have not been used to protect their privacy

 

My Complicated Grief

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.


My Complicated Grief

Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who recently signed up to the blog. Welcome, and I am happy to chat with you!

The holiday season is now over. Despite the severe restrictions imposed for the 2020 holidays, I must say that for my part, Christmas 2020 was much better than Christmas 2019. It is true that last year, I technically had the opportunity to see more people, walk around the stores and do a lot more. However, when we are not in good health, being free doesn’t help much. Being healthy is much more important and I wish you all good health as we begin 2021.

December 2019

Last year, friends and family were suggesting activities that I should do in order to take my mind off things; “You should go see a movie, spend a day at the spa, or go out for a nice dinner!” and more. What they couldn’t realized was that no outing could have brought me any kind of pleasure. A month and a half after the accident was not enough time to be feeling better. No matter the activity, my heart ached, I felt severe pain and a deep void. More specifically, most of the time, I had difficulty standing for more than 5 minutes and literally felt out of breath. Sometimes, I could be okay for a short period (eg. 30 minutes), but it was quite rare and very unpredictable.

Although my sleep was generally adequate with the help of sleeping pills, I was still extremely tired and exhausted. I had trouble answering the phone and would therefore ask Carl to listen to my voicemail messages. This went on for months, which was normal under the circumstances. I’m not saying that today I have no more pain, that I have no heartache, on the contrary. But at least I can say that there are times when I feel like more like myself.

During a dinner over the holidays, someone kindly accepted to be with Adélie at the hospital so Carl and I we could have a nice evening with others. I remember after dinner, it was suggested to me “why don’t you stay a little later to enjoy it and have a little fun?”. Holding on to my tears, I responded “how could I enjoy this? “. It was impossible for me to enjoy anything. Any “beautiful moment” was tarnished by the deep sadness that was eating me.

Even though it was a lovely dinner with loved ones, I just wanted to rest my head on the table in my arms. I was not hungry. My heart ached and I had to catch my breath. I couldn’t stand myself, although I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I tried to stay presentable and not appear too sad. People couldn’t tell how bad I felt. After all, there are no lessons on grief in school (unless you study psychology) and grief is a subject that is unfortunately still quite taboo.

Me, as a grieving mother

At that time, I thought I felt this way because of the bereavement; a deep and cruel mourning following the loss of my child. It is true that I was dealing with complicated grief, but I was also experiencing many signs of depression. I had actually fallen into a depression; a situational depression as experts call it, caused by the traumatic event of the accident and the loss of Zackaël. On top of all that, Adélie was still in the hospital at that time. She almost died, and there were many unknowns relating to her health and recovery. She didn’t speak yet, didn’t walk, her right limbs were inactive, she often had fevers, vomited frequently, and so on. It was all too much for my system to take, a grieving mother with a broken heart.

What is Complicated Grief?

Complicated grief is a persistent grief in which the death of a loved one causes suffering for a longer time than typical grief. It is said that about 5%-7% of bereaved people suffer from complicated grief and I would imagine that it must impact the vast majority of bereaved parents.

In general, death of a child is the most difficult kind of loss, and bereaved family members are at elevated risk for depression and anxiety for close to a decade after the loss. In addition these parents are at risk for a range of physical illnesses.

source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK220798/

Now, in 2021, some moms who’ve recently lost a child ask me how I got through it. I am so sorry that those parents have go through such an event. I don’t know if I can say that I “made it through”, but I’m able to say I made it through the first year. And “getting through” doesn’t mean we did it like a pro. It just means that we survived, that we did the best we could, that we are still here and we are trying to improve. Everyone experiences grief in their own way. In truth, the way I lived my grief was very different from the way Carl lived his.

I knew I had to get out of the house in order to avoid sinking into a deep depression. So that’s what I did. Every morning, I would get up and get ready to go see Adélie at the hospital. I went out as often as my weakened body would allow. I talked to people who came to visit. I went to gathering and events organized following the accident, even though I sometimes didn’t feel like it. Despite the fact that I followed everything the books would “suggest” I do, nothing could stop the pain that haunted me. People probably didn’t realize how much pain I was feeling all the time.

Coming back to the question of what I did to “get through”, it’s a subject that I plan to touch on eventually in another post. First, I will admit that I eventually started taking anti-depressants (Buproprion), which I believe helped me with my energy levels. I just couldn’t just go on like this. Sometimes, if you’re not getting better despite doing all the right things… sleep, getting help, going out, essential oils … you don’t have any choice but to try something else. Medication can’t alleviate sadness and grief, but at least it can help with energy and I’m not shy to mention it.

It is often said that the first year is the worst, known as the “Year of Firsts”. I hope so, but I am not sure. In fact, in some groups of bereaved parents, I read that many parents have great difficulty for years, no matter if it is the 1st or 3rd year. This is what complicated grief is, we don’t know if we will be better tomorrow. The loss of a child is far from typical grief. We all expect at some point that our grandparents and even our parents will leave us (at a certain age). But no one decides to bring a child in this world knowing that he or she will die before them, let alone their little body dying in our arms.

We spent most of the 2019 holidays at the hospital with Adélie. In my case, I couldn’t say “holidays”, because really, there wasn’t much to celebrate. I had lost my son, my daughter was badly injured (and with a lot of unknowns), my son was very sad and traumatized (although the extent of his trauma wasn’t as evident at the time as it would later become). Carl and I survived and did the best we could.

Despite all the sadness, we had a lovely family dinner at the hospital on December 26th, thanks to CHEO who gave us access to their meeting room. Adélie could not speak (she had a tracheostomy tube), she did not eat on her own and did not walk. Despite all of this, we were happy to be together as a family with our little Adélie. We had the chance to give her little gifts, to make her smile, and she was so happy to see us all at the same time.

December 26, 2019 – our family dinner at CHEO


We could not have survived without the help of many, especially those who stayed with Adélie. When Adélie was in the hospital, I wasn’t physically or mentally able to spend nights in the hospital. I already felt like a zombie during the day (with the symptoms mentioned above). Fortunately, Carl didn’t have as many physical depression symptoms. He had more energy and was therefore able to spend nights in the hospital.

Our family helped us for a lot of the hospital nights as it was important that we also be with Maxandre at home. Thanks to our parents, Yvonne and Francois, Michael and Judy, my brother Joel and his wife Mylène, Carl’s brother Malcolm and his aunt Margaret for all the nights you spent at the hospital with Adélie. These were not restful nights, often disturbed by our poor little girl’s nausea, her loud cough from her trachea tube, noises from other patients (shared room), and so on. Thank you also everyone who kept Adélie company during the day. To all of you, we will always be grateful for your kindness and generosity.

You might have found this post a little depressing, but I think it’s important to give you the context before I post more about what has helped me with depression. Finally, for those who are interested, I recommend watching this video (French). I relate 100% everything mom says, even her last sentence about being happy.

https://savoir.media/vivre-en-funambule/clip/le-deuil-complexe


That’s it for now!
Thank you for reading this post even if it was a sensitive topic. If you enjoyed it, don’t hesitate to comment :-).

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Goodbye 2020

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Goodbye 2020

2020 hasn’t been an easy year for many. For most people, 2020 represents the pandemic, loneliness and restraint. For us (Carl, Maxandre, Adélie and I), 2020 represents the first year without our little Zackaël. We have no memory with Zackaël in 2020.

In 2020, it was only in my dreams that I could see my Zackaël doing new things. I dream of him almost every other night. Last night, I dreamed that he was on a school bus, happy as always. In the dream, I knew he was gone, but I had the opportunity to go and see him anyway. I had to go through the small window of the bus to reach him.

Dreams are a topic that I will cover in more depth at some point in this blog. I don’t dream of him during the day. When I think of him, they are not dreams, but memories.

On December 24, I was preparing little treats for the kids’ stockings. My heart really ached when I realized Zackaël’s will be left empty (no treats). I started to cry. I then decided to write him a little note to put it in his stocking. It is gestures like this that I must do to go on, to help cope with my sorrow. Each year, I will insert a little note for my little angel.

My little note to Zackaël “I love you Zackaël. I think of you. Christmas 2020 – Maman xox”

In November, I was shopping for clothes so that we could all wear green for Christmas. Green being Zackaël’s favorite color, I wanted our family photo to reflect that Zackaël is among us. It wasn’t easy to find, but after a few hours of searching online, I had found some nice green outfits for all of us. For Maxandre, I even ordered two shirts, one for this year and a bigger one (the same) for future years!

Zackaël will always be with us (Shutterfly ornament)


For Adélie, the green and black dress (see below) was given to us by friend from Zackaël’s class, a dress that belonged to little Lillian. Thank you Shauna (Lillian’s mom) for this beautiful green dress!

We wish you all health and happiness for 2021.
May 2021 be a better year for everyone!

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Gone but never forgotten

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Gone but never forgotten

Since Zackael’s death, Carl and I have been particularly touched when we hear other tragic stories, especially when we hear about other children dying too young. We, unfortunately, understand the pain and emptiness those bereaved parents feel all too well.

December 13 was Worldwide Candle Lighting Day in memory of the children who left us too early. It is believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe. At 7 pm, people all around the world lit candles for the children gone too soon. I personally lit a green candle in honor of my Zackaël. The other candle, I lit it for all the other children who have left us. I thought of little Laurence, daughter of my cousin Sophie, and sweet Genevieve, Carl’s cousin.

Chandelles allumées le 13 décembre


I will always have in my heart all the children who are no longer with us, as well as their parents. Some parents have lost 2 or 3 children in a road accident, it is so cruel and unfair. They are the strongest parents I know.

I think of Clare McBride who lost her two daughters in an accident, caused by a drunk driver who didn’t do his stop. Here is a picture of little Oksana (6 years old) and Quinn (4 years old).

I didn’t know that Clare also has her own blog. Clare just shared it with me, I recommend you read it. Here is an excerpt of a poignant letter she wrote to the driver. It begins with:

“Dear Joe *, On August 16th 2019 you killed both of my children, Lucy *, 6, and Betty *, 4.”

Here is the link for the full version.

It is important to keep talking about our children, even though they are physically no longer here. Often, friends and relatives mistakenly believe that it is best to avoid mentioning the deceased child in the presence of the bereaved parent. They believe that if they talk about them, it may bring grief to the parent. It is quite the opposite. Most bereaved parents want people to keep talking about their child who left us too soon. In fact, the worst thing to do is ignore that they existed, and ignore their grief and loss. This can actually cause the grieving parent more pain.

I will always continue to talk about Zackaël. Most people didn’t have a chance to get to know Zackaël, but I can make him known to others. Today, I am sharing a story about him, and I will continue to share some from time to time.

Zackaël’s School Photos

In October 2019, a few weeks before the accident, we received some proofs of Zackaël’s school pictures. Looking at the pictures, I quickly said to Zackaël something like, “You look cute, but you’re laughing a little too much, we can’t see your beautiful eyes. Maybe for the next photo… you could smile just a little less”. This whole conversation was very quick, as it probably was interrupted.

Zackaël, end of September 2019 – Credit: Photomania (photomania.ca)

A few weeks later, on October 23, I picked up the kids from school after work. Zackaël immediately told me that there was a re-shoot that day and assured me that he hadn’t smiled too much. I told Zackaël that I didn’t know the re-takes were that day, I was a little disappointed because I would have dressed him better. He was wearing heavily used jogging pants and a Star Wars t-shirt. I also asked him if his smile was smaller than the last time. He said “yes”. It surprised me that he remembered because I had only told him once and it had been about twenty days since that conversation.

Fast-forward to the beginning of November, I received the new proofs of Zackaël’s photos. These photos made me laugh so much. Zackaël had really paid attention to what I had told him at the beginning of October, but maybe a little too much! He had remembered not to smile too much in the next few photos … so here is the result below! The photos are so different, it’s so funny when we compare them to each other!

Zackaël, October 23 2019 – Credit: Photomania (photomania.ca)

Zackaël was always a good listener. When you told him something, he paid attention and remembered. He was very observant. Even though these photos didn’t showcase his beautiful smile that would highlight his beautiful eyes, I still love these two photos. They demonstrate how cute he was, whether he was grinning from ear to ear, or looking very serious. They demonstrate how attentive he was when I spoke to him. And above all, these photos represent a memory that I hold dear in my heart, only a few weeks before he left us. I love you Zackaël.

That’s it for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed the memory I shared about Zackaël.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate them so much! Feel free to leave messages to the other bereaved parents too.

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When Love and Sorrow Collide

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When Love and Sorrow Collide

This week’s post is about mourning as a bereaved mom, a more sensitive topic. I would therefore recommend that you might want to be in a certain mood to read this post. Although it’s not an easy topic, I think it’s important for people to understand how we feel in mourning. So I encourage you to read it at some point, even if it’s not right away. It can help to better understand those who are grieving, and therefore, to better support them. Thanks for reading.

Yesterday I had an urge to draw my heart. My heart is full of all kinds of emotions, but in large part, this panoply of emotions come from two principal sources; the feeling of love and the feeling of sorrow.

The left part represents the love that reigns in my heart. As you can see in the drawing, this love is solid, intact, soft, smooth, and even shiny. This is the love I have for my family, my children. This love allows me to continue and survive. When I miss Zackaël, that part of my heart calls out to me. Love is present and I think of him. There are plenty of moments in a day when I miss Zackaël. I don’t know how many times I think about him during a day, but I can say that it’s almost all the time.

Drawing of a broken heart: “When Love and Sorrow Collide”
“When Love and Sorrow Collide” – Coloured pencils – December 2020 – Brigitte Lehoux (Grieving Maman)



However, there are times when my love overpowers me; I miss him so much that I need to see more. I have to do more than talk or write about him. I have to see more than his plaque outside. I have to see more than his room which is empty. I have to see more than his photos in the living room. I need to see more than what I’m used to seeing. When we always see the same photos, you kind of become “immune” to them and the emotions and memories they represent. I am so used to seeing them that my heart has hardened over time and I am therefore able to deal with my emotions when looking at them.

But often when I suddenly want to see my sweet Zackaël, my heart is unsatisfied and wants more. So I choose to look at other photos. It is usually when looking at one or two photos that this urge appears, that is, the urge to see more. I can’t help it … I love him too much, he is too beautiful. This urge can manifest itself without even looking at pictures. I miss him so much that I have to open the computer or the phone.

At first, my heart is solid as love dominates. I want to see him, I miss him, so looking at pictures makes me feel good. This all represents the left side of my heart. I continue to look at his photos. Gradually, I become overwhelmed and need to see more. I want to hear his voice, see his movements and his smile, I am in my own world… a world where Zackaël is still with us.

By now I’m well aware of the risk associated with looking at more pictures. But I can’t stop, my heart wants more. I, therefore, keep opening more, sometimes even a video. Be careful maman Brigitte, it’s risky. Is my heart capable of it?

The two parts of my heart are now colliding, a battle of conflicting emotions. It doesn’t take long for the right part of my heart to suddenly take over. Sadness comes in full force, it is stronger and overpowers the love. We are now on the right side of my drawing.

My love has been converted into sadness. In my drawing, we can even see a (subtle) arrow in the middle which denotes this conversion. I would even say that my love was crushed by sadness. Once again, the sorrow has surfaced and I burst into tears. It’s the victory of sorrow, it has beaten love. I feel defeated. My heart hurts. There was already a big hole in my heart and lots of broken pieces, but now my heart is bleeding. I have to stop looking at the pictures, I can’t take it anymore.

This is an excerpt from my journal (dated April 2020) that describes how I feel when this happens. My journal is in French, but basically, I’m saying how torn I feel and how painful it can be when I decide to look at a video.

Grieving Mother Journal – by Brigitte L. (page 1 of 2)
Grieving Mother Journal – by Brigitte L. (page 1 of 2)

This conflict has been persisting for a year. Either I miss Zackaël and therefore want to see him, or I “see” him and cry my heart out. It is very paradoxical. My heart is never intact, there is always a hole, and on either side the two emotions collide. This is the heart of a bereaved parent … at least my heart as a bereaved mother. I hope this heart (my heart) will transform. I hope the black on the right side starts to fade. I hope the cracks will repair. I hope it can be even and completely smooth and shiny. I hope it will soon stop bleeding so much.

That’s it for now. Thank you to have read this post.
If you’ve lost someone special in the past, was it hard for you to look at several pictures at a time?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Zackaël’s Roadside Memorial on the 323

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Zackaël’s Roadside Memorial on the 323

“Memorials tell the story of lives taken too soon. They are personal statements bearing witness to a life lost and they act as a memento to others both to offer a moment of quiet reflection on the significance of the fragility of a person’s life, and as a heeded warning of dangers we have become too complacent in noticing.

Roadside memorials are folk art created out of love and grief. Unfettered by regulations or cost, they are creative acts, restorative acts in the face of destruction. They allow the remembrance to be matched with the death; the death happened in public, the memorial needs to be public, in the very venue that is so intimately connected with the deceased, the place where he died. And since the death was sudden, unexpected, and maybe senseless but not unique, roadside memorials let people know that a particular person, an individual, was alive. They say, we will not let you die unnoticed, you are valuable, you deserve to be remembered. And they invite the world to join in.”

A quote Brigitte found from http://www.debate.org

After looking online for examples of memorials, Brigitte came up with a design to honour Zackaël at the site of the accident. Our good friends Aris and Andrew generously offered to help us with the coordination and installation of the memorial. Brigitte forwarded the design to Aris who took the lead and coordinated with her friend Chris, whose company Ercon Welding was able to create a metal structure that would be solid enough for the side of Highway 323.

On Saturday November 7th, after picking up the structure from Ercon, Andrew and I drove to the site. I had found the accident site on Google maps with information from the accident report. When I got there, the surroundings looked unfortunately familiar. In case there were any doubts that we were indeed at the right spot, in the ditch I found the plastic shell of one of the rear view mirrors and a piece of the roof rack from our van.

Two more friends, Tony and Mike, met us at the site to help with the installation. This was no minor undertaking as the iron monument was very heavy and even had rebar at the bottom of the legs to allow it to be poured into concrete, keeping it stable. Andrew’s engineering skills and general know-how came in very handy. A huge thank you to Aris and Andrew for helping us with the creation of the structure and to our friends for the installation.

This was my first time back at the accident site and it was great to have the support of my friends. We are very happy on how it turned out. Brigitte did an amazing job with the design and planning of everything, including little details like solar lights, lanterns and glow-in-the-dark pebble rocks so the structure will be visible at night. It really all came together very nicely. She also had a large printed photo of Zackaël, with a different photo on each side (see pictures below).

If you ever drive on the 323 and have time to stop and/or take a photo, especially at night, please let us know. We would love to hear your comments. Click on this link for the exact location of the memorial. Please note that it is eastbound, so it will be on your right if you’re going towards Tremblant. (If you stop and see any snow on the solar lights, we would appreciate if it could be removed so the light can absorb the sunlight.)

Green Glow in the Dark Rocks are underneath the years.
This is the view from the back of the structure (westbound).