Sunday, 13 November 2016

Letter to a Lost Friend

It's closing in on a whole year from the day you were taken from us. It has been a difficult year, one of the - if not the - most mentally challenging in my life. Not only has missing you brought me a lot of sadness, it has amplified my emotions & brought up grief for other lost relationships in my life. I never could have imagined the effect losing you so suddenly would have on my life & because of that I wish I would have made more of an effort to spend more time with you. It took not having the option to talk to you to really reflect on our relationship & what it meant to me. I made a promise to spread love & positivity, be a cheerleader for others, make more of an effort to stay in touch with the people most important to me & create more experiences & adventures with my family, just as you did every day. Shortly after the accident I had a vision of you walking toward me with your usual enthusiasm & a huge smile that showed you were genuinely really happy to see me. I want to have that effect on others.  But I can't help but feel like I have failed at this so far. It is like someone has dimmed the lights & it takes so much more energy to navigate my way around. I am tired. My emotions are heightened like senses trying to compensate for the inability to see clearly. My sad feels sadder, my love feels longing, & the occasional burst of gratitude feels more thankful. I feel deeper & am unsure of how to deal with these emotions. At the end of the day I find it very difficult to find the energy to fulfil these promises I made to myself, to you. But I know you would be very forgiving, because that's who you are. Your optimistic attitude would pick the positives out of each situation & assure me it will all work out in the end. I'm still looking for my way into the sun, so that I can forgive myself too. And  as I turn each corner it gets a little brighter & slightly easier to navigate my way out of this dark hallway. From you I find glimpses of optimism, of hope, I hold onto them, knowing that, in time, I will eventually find that better version of myself I promised to be.

Thursday, 10 November 2016


Jan 4. 2016 I received a message on Facebook from Chanda's brother asking me to call him. Strange, I thought. No, it can't be bad news. Maybe they are planning a surprise for her. But there was an alarm of urgency so I called him immediately. He asked if I was sitting down. I sat down. Not good news. Chanda & her entire family had been in a car accident the night before. Chanda & her husband Jordan didn't make it. Their kids, close in age with my two oldest, were taken to the hospital, Where Maguire passed away & Kamryn was on life support. They were just saying their goodbyes to her. Instant shock. Light headed. Denial of my ow. Feelings. All I could think was how hard this must be for her brother, to have to call all her friends & deliver this tragic news. And grateful f or including me so I didn't have to hear it from the media. I called my mom & choked out the mews. I think she was as shocked as I was.

It was a drunk driver that crashed into Chanda & Jordan. At first, I was angry. Angry at people for making the decision to drink & drive. But my anger subsided quickly. I wanted to spend my energy on the legacy of my friend & her family.

The next week passed by in slow motion. Sleep was non-existent, I just couldn't turn it off. At first I'm embarrassed to say I was in denial of the extent of my relationship with Chanda. We were so many people closer to her than me, we hardly talked, we weren't that close. I didn't deserve to feel sorry for myself, when there were so many people, namely their family, who have been hit so much harder by this tragedy. Save the grief for them.  But the truth was Chanda was one of my oldest, dearest friends - we grew up with a shared passion for hockey, spent every day together on & off the ice during university, she was the only friend I knew in Moose Jaw when we moved here & I had the honour of being a bridesmaid at her & Jordan's wedding. As our families grew, we saw less & less of one another, but she always made a point of checking in genuinely interested in my well being & always cheering me on no matter what was happening in my life. In retrospect it seems pretty silly to think that wasn't a valid enough reason to feel sad when I lost her, but perhaps this was my minds way of trying not to feel so much at once.

The accident created questions, life didn't seem as simple as it once was. I suddenly felt very vulnerable. The what ifs. How a split second would have changed their fate. How being in the wrong place at the wrong time changed everything. How is this fair? Why them? Chanda & Jordan made such a positive impact on the people around them. This world needs them. Their loved ones need them. My children became vulnerable too. How is it possible for the lives of children that young to end so suddenly? It could have been us.

During those first couple weeks I was consumed, obsessed with social media.  Jordan had a pretty high profile through his photography & his friends were bringing people together through Facebook. Looking for a place where my feelings, my sadness was validated, & that was it. It was a place of hope, sharing, support, understanding & I spent hours looking to fill the huge void I had in my heart. I connected with others who knew Chanda as well or better than me.  I was inspired by the amount of people that joined in celebrating this beautiful family & it helped to process infinite spiral of thoughts swirling in my head. Constantly reminded to not take life for granted.

The funeral was tough, but helped to lift a weight that bared my shoulders...a little bit of closure. Seeing our old hockey friends, most of who I have lost touch with, was a bit nostalgic. It gave me that feeling of belonging, & reminded me of how tight we once were. Another little reminder of cherishing my relationships & experiences.

It wasn't long before all the media & Facebook hype wore off & coping became a little harder, that support network was diffusing. I was no longer surrounded by the attention this tragedy had been getting & the world had started to move on, but I hadn't really. I still wanted to talk about it because what I felt was so strong. But people got weird when I would bring it up. I felt like it made them uncomfortable. They didn't understand (how could they?) I felt like it was old news, so I shared less & less. In fear of making others uncomfortable or bringing them down, I kept most of what I felt unsaid.

The trial consumed me as much as the initial days following the accident. I was hit unexpected by the need to follow & spent the entire day following. News stations were tweeting a play-by-play of victim impact statements & I couldn't stop reading them. I was given the opportunity to write one, but chose to pass it up...I imagined how hard it was for Chanda & Jordan's closest family & friends to talk about how this affected them.

I could never had predicted how much losing a friend would affect my life over the last year. And although with time it has gotten a little easier, there are still changes I notice that loom. First the anxiety. Something that hasn't really been an issue for me since my early 20s.waves of it creep up on me & it's mere presence concerns me. Sometime I can't even decipher its source or what I am anxious about, it's just that wound up feeling inside, making me feel all amped up. I start to focus on things that feed it. Other times I worry about things I normally wouldn't & it feels out of character. I worry more about my children, having flashes of terrible things happening to them. I drive with nervey caution & often have visions or thoughts of other cars crashing into me. One time I lost track of my baby for a minute & started to panick. I had thoughts of him choking unconscious on his bedroom floor. Thoughts of police at my door with bad new stuff about my husband while he was working the night shift. Things that never used to consume my thoughts so often. Bad news in the world hits me so much harder than it would normally, it seems like such a waste to worry about all these things beyond my control.

I've lost interest in things I used to really enjoy & lack the motivation to go do them. Working out (despite telling myself I would take better care of myself with respect to Chanda who always encouraged me to push myself to my best) has become difficult & like a chore. Even hockey, my best sport, isn't as appealing as it used to be. I have more health problems, food sensitivities, injuries than I have in years. On low days we don't leave the house, the thought of hauling everyone out is completely overwhelming.

I used to get a lot out of being around other people, going to gatherings, a break from home. It took a while to realize that I wasn't feeling any less stressed after a night out, sometimes it just caused more anxiety. Until this year, I've always felt a social responsibility to go out of my way to make sure the people around me are happy, but I stopped caring to do that, I just didn't have the energy. Giving to my children I see about all I can muster up these days taking a toll on my relationship with my husband, my very understanding husband.

I made a promise to myself & to Chanda, her family, that I would live life more fully, with more intention. To spread positivit as they had, to ask others about what's going on. I their lives like Chanda did always with me. To smile more. To make more of an effort to keep in touch with the important people in my life. To love more. To take my kids outside more, go on more family adventures, focus less on the material & emphasize experiences, like Chanda & Jordan. I had a vivid dream of Chanda with her big smile walking toward me as if she was genuinely really happy to see me. It made me feel like somebody important.  I want to make others feel that way too. At first I was so inspired to be this person, but with time it has become more difficult to get there. Guilt for not keeping to my promise sits in the pit of my stomach.

Not all bad has come from this, as much as it saddens me, sometimes it takes something drastic to make a real impact. For me, I am much more conscientious about the time I spend with my children. Rules of less time on our phones, & more face to face interactions. Taking time to talk to my kids about the important things in life. Teaching them to be true to themselves & do what is right. This has been my focus. Letting go of material possession with much more ease, in realization that they do not contribute to my happiness & at times bring more stress to my life. I've learned to let go of a certain level of perfection & to be kind to myself during my struggle. Lower expeciations & shift my focus to the most important aspects. Lessened value of material stuff, heightened value in experience & relationships. Taking care of my own needs, rather than putting others before mine when it becomes detrimental to my mental health. Touch base with the friends I don't hear from often & even be more open with the people in my life, expressing my gratitude for their presence in my life. This is a work in progress none-the-less, but something I have become better at it. I know this low won't last forever, & although I do think this loss will have changed my life from that moment, and although I have a ways to go, I do think it will make me a better person in the long run.