Jessica M – A Parking Lot Memorial
Jessica shares how her family gathered after her uncle died during COVID and how her family came up with a creative way of getting together in a parking lot.
Kristal – Lack of Memorials During Pandemic
Kristal talks about how memorials can offer closure to people who are grieving, find a community, and share stories. With the absence of this during the pandemic, many people turned inward to grieve or isolated, which can create safety issues and have an impact on mental health. She speaks to how this leads to depression, physical pain, and it compounds upon itself.
Nicole – Stigma Surrounding Drug Use
Nicole discusses how the stigma around drug use has an impact on how people feel able to grieve when those in their community are lost.
Nicole – Pandemic’s Effect on Safe Spaces and Mental Health Access
Nicole discusses how the pandemic affected access to safe spaces and shelters for those living rough and living with addiction.
Nicole – Pandemic’s Effect on Grieving as a Community
Nicole discusses the ways the pandemic has affected the way people grieve as a community.
Nicole – Pandemic Leads to Increase in Drug Poisoning
Nicole discusses the increase in drug poisonings during the pandemic due to a number of factors.
By Meghan Sheffield
In the first days of July, there aren’t many flowers blooming, I learned.
I’d sent a text saying “Hello friends, I’m putting out a call for flowers. I went to public school with Kory, the young man who died in downtown Cobourg this week, and though I hadn’t seen him in recent years, I feel the loss of him on a community level, as I imagine you do, too. Some of Kory’s people are gathering tonight in vigil at the bank where he died, and I’m gathering flowers from those of us who have gardens to share with this grieving community. Do you have some blooms in your garden that you’d be willing to share?”
Kory died as a result of a toxic drug poisoning that took his life in the bank vestibule where he was sheltering. His friends were grieving, angry, disbelieving. The wider community was in shock that this could happen here, in such an ordinary place, to a local boy, born and raised.
Those who knew him best, who had been with him in what became his last days and months, began to talk about holding a vigil, a time and place to be together in their grief.
As it turned out, the tulips and peonies had faded and finished, and the dahlias and zinnias hadn’t begun to flourish yet. I got some nervous replies about the current state of the garden. A mom from my daughter’s class texted to say that they were sorry, but just didn’t really have much to offer right now.
Then the first yes rolled in. “Yes, I will pull something together. We have one million daisies.”
A man’s whole life. One million daisies.
As it turned out, there was an abundance to be had, if you knew where to look, if we just widened the margins of “the garden” and looked to the edges of the wild places.
We know that trauma of all kinds is inequitably distributed in our society, and that access to healing resources is even more inequitable. For community members who rely on a prohibited, criminalized supply of certain substances, the experience is not just a risk of personal harm, but of compounding losses and grief. It means mourning in isolation because the cause of death is so stigmatized. It means administering life-saving medicine and performing chest compressions in the glow of flashing lights, while still in mourning for the most recent loss.
I spent an hour driving around, picking up mason jars filled with blooms from doorsteps all over town. There were daylilies and hydrangea, wild vetch and bladderwort, fragrant bee balm and holy basil, and yes, one million daisies.
At the vigil, the jars of flowers were joined by an eagle feather and abalone shell, offerings of cigarettes, and a can of Molson resting on the window sill outside the bank. Candles were lit, stories were told, tears were shed.
Those of us who didn’t know Kory well, who were present to show our support, to acknowledge the community and systemic level failures that had led us to this place, were invited to hold a perimeter of care for those in the centre, who were grieving, by standing at the edges of the gathering.
For days after the sunset vigil, at the doorstep of an ordinary bank, flowers bloomed on the grey cement sidewalk on main street. Wild, fleeting, beauty.
By Noelle Bailey
Grief is weird. Odd start, I know, but that was the sentence I used a lot whenever someone asked me how I was. It was never a constant feeling; it changed day to day. And still does. It’s the full gambit of emotions from sadness to anger to guilt and, though dark, even humour found its way in.
In December of 2019, I lost my father. His health had been declining for several months, and we had started the process to diagnose and begin treatment for what we knew was probably cancer. At his first appointment with his oncologist, he was immediately admitted to the ER. By the next day he was on a ventilator, and within twelve days they came to tell me that the cancer had spread everywhere. We had lost a fight we hadn’t even really begun. In March of 2022, my mother passed away after a 14 year fight with MS. It was a much different process to lose her by degrees over those 14 years, witnessing her own body turn against her while powerless to do anything to stop it.
Those are my two experiences with the strangeness of grief. They were vastly different experiences, but also similar in that they cut me in two and changed my life.
The two biggest things I’ve taken from my grieving process are these:
1. I will, for the rest of my life, miss the conversations we will never have. There are books I’ve read since they left that I would love to talk to my mom about. My dad never got to hear about my new job, and he would have loved it. Pictures people have brought me that I can never ask them about, stories I missed out on hearing. The moments of my life, big and small, that they won’t be here for is the part that takes me under every time.
2. I can grieve however I need to. It doesn’t need to look a certain way or be anything other than what I need. I struggled a lot after losing my mom with the idea that I wasn’t sad enough or broken enough because after watching her long hard battle there was a certain peace lacing itself through the pain. When we laid my parents to rest in the cemetery next to my grandparents, we played “The Rainbow Connection” sung by Kermit the Frog because that’s what my mom had always said she wanted to play to say goodbye. Then my husband, Cale, and I did a shot of Jack, like my dad and Cale did when they went out for my dad’s 60th.
I’ve never been very good at setting boundaries in my life, but I tried very hard to make sure I set them surrounding my grief. To let myself do whatever I needed to process the loss of my parents and not to let anyone tell me I should be acting or feeling a certain way. I laughed at things they would have laughed at, and when I needed to, I cried. I am slowly learning how to live in a world without my parents, and know that I will be for the rest of my life.
Jane – Connection, place, and grief
Jane talks about the difference between living alone in Toronto while grieving during the pandemic compared to her experience once she moved closer to her family in Northumberland.
Jane – My Story
Jane shares her story about losing two of her grandparents just before the pandemic and the ways the pandemic has impacted her ability to process grief.
Jane – Loneliness while processing grief
Jane talks about grieving without her extended family because of the pandemic and how that’s impacted things like scattering ashes and having celebrations of life.
Jane – Struggling to process layers of grief
Jane talks about her experience navigating multiple losses in a short time and the impact the pandemic has had on that by adding even more multi-facitated layers of grief