Supporting Youth after a Tragic Loss

I have to be honest with you. I am weary from writing blogs about losing young people.Tragedy wears us all down. St. Albert Public Schools lost two young people in the past couple of weeks, in different ways, though equally tragic. My heart goes out to Zach and Luke’s families. The only thing I know to do with these feelings is to reach out to my community to offer support. I think the current context of our pandemic is taking its toll on all of us. My private practice is busier than ever and filled with teens that are struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma and grief. Not everything is pandemic-related but even if it isn’t, our youth aren’t able to connect and cope in the ways that they normally would regardless of the causes of their stress. Our youth are struggling and these recent losses in our community have potential to be the breaking point for some. Here is the best advice I can give you for talking to your young people about loss. It was adapted from one of my earlier posts a few years ago after young Darian Mar died in an accident. 1. Talk to your kids. If a tragedy happens in a community, then the whole community grieves. Regardless of the age of your child, they will likely be exposed to this event in one way or another if they are a part of this community. Even if your child does not know these families or children directly, the school, sports teams and anyone connected directly or indirectly are likely to have a reaction. It... read more

Trauma Triggers: Sexual Assault

This has been a rough week. A rough week for anyone that has experienced sexual assault. A rough week for anyone that has experienced sexual harassment and a rough week for anyone that has had to protect themselves from these things.  It has also been rough for those who love survivors. Because you are taking the time to read this, it has likely been rough on you and it has definitely been rough on me. Hearing stories in the news of sexual violence can trigger our own stories of these events.  It can bring up many emotions including fear, sadness and in some instances rage.  Many people are driven to tell their stories, to say #metoo.  Others are driven to donate, volunteer and find ways to help survivors.  I feel like I need to do my part.  So here are a few things that come to mind that may help you or the people in your life that are struggling with the things going on around us. You are safe now and someone will believe you. Part of the hardest part for victims of sexual assault is the issue of guilt and blame. Often this is an internal process. Survivors often second guess the events themselves.  Often they try to justify the actions of others by taking responsibility.  ” I didn’t say no.” or ” I don’t think he/she meant to go that far” or ” I think they were confused.”  It doesn’t help that society and our judicial process often reinforce these same stories.  So many survivors walk through life confused and hurt. They think that they are... read more

Anne’s Words

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens I think that it will all come out all right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.    -Anne Frank  Anne Frank wrote these words a few short days before her family was found and taken to the concentration camps in the last few months of World War II.  She saw the inevitability of the end of the war coming yet she and most of her family would not live to see it. As I watch the news lately it is hard not to be catapulted into apathy.  Like Anne,  I can hear the thunder.  Yet the world’s problems seem so big for my voice to be heard against it.  It seems like the the people that need to hear my voice aren’t listening. They are consumed by their own fear.  It is hard to hear each other in the middle of a storm. Then there are Anne’s words. Her desire at 14 to be heard and to influence the world is inspiring. Her inability to be anything but authentic changed the way people saw the... read more

Humboldt Strong

Over the course of my career I have written too many of these types of posts. I feel like our community has been through so much over the last few years. For me it started with Thomas Wedman, a young boy that died on his way to school, then there was Constable Wynn, an officer that died protecting our community and of course the loss of Darian Mar last year, a young man struck by a vehicle while on his bike. Many in my community have felt these losses personally. I have spoken to many clients about the direct and indirect impact these losses have had on their lives. While each of us have likely experienced our own losses over this same timeframe there is something unique about a grief that hits the community as a whole. This type of grief ripples through us and touches us all deeply in a shared sense of loss. This week St. Albert lost four young men. These young men were doing what so many of our other young people do in this community. They were going to play hockey. For so many of us, St. Albert is a hockey city.  So many of us parents spend hours at the rinks watching our children have the same dream that Conner Lukan, Logan Hunter, Stephen Wack, and Jaxon Joseph were working hard to make real. Hockey parents can put themselves directly in their parents’ shoes. Not only is this a personal loss for so many in our community, it is also a loss that hits the rest of us so close to home. The... read more

Practical Guide to a New Year

This morning I woke up far too early. In the early hours in the morning on the first day of a new year it is easy become nostalgic, reflective and overly sentimental. Thoughts of resolutions, change and new beginings start to seep into my head. Then it dawned on me, I don’t need to be a victim of the New Years’s tradition of “shoulds” and the self-depricating garbage that comes with it.  So this year I decided to use my early morning musings to give you some free advice. 1. New Year’s resolutions are traps Motivational speakers, personal trainers and the weight loss industry all want us to buy into the story that if we only try harder, put more focused energy into ourselves, then we can transform into our ideal self. In my experience, that isn’t how the world and people work. Change that sticks is more subtle. You can not make yourself a “project” and expect satisfying results. You are not a hobby or a construction project. You are a complex interaction of your mind, body, soul and community. You are greater than the sum of your parts.  Resolutions fail because they don’t take into account the complexity of you. Often they only focus on one aspect of ourselves and ignore the complexity of the human spirit. Resolutions imply judgement. Underneath judgment is comparison, jealousy, envy and other unflattering things. These are the uglier sides of our human nature.  They can be toxic, extreme and disconnecting.  The reality is that judgement is a form of self-protection.  It shields us from the deeper truth.  At the core of judgement... read more

Avoiding Death

 I think a lot about death. I talk a lot about death. I read a lot about death. I guess I’m a bit morbid. I have come to believe that the way we view death is problematic. It is something to be feared, postponed and avoided. I have seen a lot of suffering in dying. I have seen feeding tubes put in, organs transplanted, cancer removed all in an effort to avoid death. I have seen bodies radiated, medicated and mutilated in order to prolong life. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is worth it. Sometimes the suffering is short. Often it is not. Often we only prolong suffering. Often we forget the kind of life we are saving them for. We sometimes deny people a good death only to have them struggle with slow decline. My father’s death was horrible but also kind of perfect. There was little struggle. It was expected. There was no fight. We had no choice but to accept it. We got to prioritize him. We spent time as a family that we don’t often do. All the other events in our life became unimportant for a while. I got to nurture, comfort and protect him in ways that I never did before. He got to see how strong we were and feel the pride of knowing he did well by us. While he suffered, it wasn’t long. There is something beautiful in that kind of death. We had no choice but to embrace it. Not all deaths are peaceful and expected. Death is often about trauma, heartache and failure. We sacrifice the last moments with... read more