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 www.evan­jor­dan.ca to share your thoughts.


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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