Calgary Herald


Significan­t losses and changes can bring you to your knees, Shauna Caldwell writes.


The deaths of our 17-year-old twin sons seemed to parallel their births. They arrived and departed from this world sideby-side, and just moments apart from each other.

It was so sudden. It was early morning when we heard. We sat, numb, absorbing the news that Jordan and Evan were dead.

There had been no goodbyes and no advance warning. They died as a result of a late-night high-jinx sledding escapade down a bobsled track. A decision to have some unrestrain­ed fun with friends turned into a deadly tragedy.

We thought our boys couldn’t be dead! Everyone knew they were full of life — with a capital L! This was an assault to our senses. If there had been a way to crawl out of my own skin to escape, I would have done it.

On that day, an unwelcome house guest barged through the front door and hijacked every room in our home. It left dirty clothes lying around and popcorn kernels on the TV room floor. I discovered its name after weeks of disorienti­ng fog. Its name was grief, and it left its fingerprin­ts everywhere, overstayin­g its welcome and violating our personal space.

In recent weeks, this odious house guest may have invaded your home too. As COVID-19 spreads, more people are making acquaintan­ce with this forceful intruder called grief.

It makes sense to me that the malaise you are feeling takes time to identify. This kind of sabotage will usher you into uncharted territory. Significan­t losses of any kind can bring you

to your knees.

Slow down and think about it. Perhaps a simple equation can illustrate what is happening in your life: Losses + Change = Grief.

Add up your losses and changes in the last two months. Do you feel overwhelme­d, anxious or afraid because of significan­t alteration­s in your life? Do you want to crawl out of your own skin and escape the assault? Do you see the fingerprin­ts of grief in your life?

Maybe you don’t have COVID-19, but have you tested positive for grief? Know that you are not alone. This global pandemic has an echo, and we have just named it: grief. You feel numb, scared and can’t function. What do you do?

The journey ahead involves navigating the change and its accompanyi­ng emotions. Many experts have studied the grief process, compartmen­talizing it into a tidy series of steps: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance. In my personal experience, this journey is far from linear. It is a jumble of tangled and messy missteps. Trust me, I’ve circled back randomly many times.

First things first. Name your grief — your losses and changes. Give yourself permission to lay out those honest feelings and emotions. This is the beginning of your trek.

In this upcoming monthly series, I invite you to join me in exploring the various elements of loss and change. Together we will honour this slow-plodding, arduous grief journey. It is hard work, but vital. We will sift through the rubble together. It will give you life back in return.

Grief knocked out all my normal navigation­al systems — physically, emotionall­y, psychologi­cally and spirituall­y. My world had stopped turning.

As others’ lives resumed normality, I was unable to manoeuvre through my days as I used to. No aspect of my being was unaffected.

Feelings of helplessne­ss, confusion, anxiety, indecision and fear were my companions. Sleep evaded me. I felt like my body was in “fight or flight” mode all the time. I was walking in waistdeep Jell-o with every step. It was exhausting.

Perhaps you can identify with this. As this pandemic continues, there is a remarkable dissonance. On one hand, we are suffering as islands: a community, a country, and a human race. On the other hand, we are forced to isolate to be safe, all the while experienci­ng the intrusive pain of grief. Too many losses and changes are adding up. It is tough to cope well.

I don’t have a vaccine to offer. In the brokenness of my own experience, I extend my hand out to you, hoping to meet you in your brokenness. I invite you to join me again on this page on May 30, as I share some insights that have helped rekindle hope and meaning in my life.

Together we can explore the personal protective equipment that has helped me survive. Comments? I’d love to hear from you! Visit to share your thoughts.

 ?? FILES ?? Shauna and Jason Caldwell, whose 17-year-old twin sons died on Feb. 6, 2016 at Winsport after they crashed into a barrier between the bobsled and luge runs, have experience­d grief in all its forms.
FILES Shauna and Jason Caldwell, whose 17-year-old twin sons died on Feb. 6, 2016 at Winsport after they crashed into a barrier between the bobsled and luge runs, have experience­d grief in all its forms.

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