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Grief is…no “loved one visit”

October 30, 20233 min read

Grief is…no “loved one visit”

When Ben died I was just starting work after 7 months off due to COVID shutdowns. The first few months Kathleen was home with me but then she found a COVID related job and went to work. I was working from home and found out the first day I couldn’t be in a quiet home. Inspired by a podcaster I had been listening to before Ben died, I decided to watch back seasons of Survivor as background noise/company. I took the 30 day trial of CBS all access and started my journey. 

 

I’ve been a Survivor fan but had weaned myself off for a few seasons in the middle and come back when a co-worker said I couldn’t possibly miss the dynamic of the Millennials vs Gen X season. Because I have a completist tendency, I started at Season One. I watched through all 40 seasons that were available at the time. It took me about 4 months. The first loved one visit I completely lost it. I sobbed curled up in a ball on the couch. In idle moments in my imagination, I used to wonder who I would have come to the island if I was a contestant and made it to the loved one visit. How could I choose one child over the other or convince the producers they both needed to come. Now, Ben would never come visit me on Survivor and I would never go visit him. Let’s be clear. There is a zero percent chance either of us would ever be on Survivor. We are Canadians who joke it’s camping when there is no room service. It’s bigger than that of course. When important things happen in my life he will not be there. When there is something to celebrate, he will not be there to pour the champagne. When I am pushed to the brink, he will not be there to bring me back to centre or to be my rock. There are many times that Ben has been my rock the same way I believe I was for him. 

 

And then I was floored by a sibling on a loved one visit. I am constantly reminded of the depth of Kathleen’s loss. Ben and she were great friends. They travelled together. They shared interests and confidences. Ben was the person who was supposed to be there when I was gone. I never wanted an only child because I wanted them to have a built-in support person. While that’s never a guarantee, I had ended up with adult children who actually enjoyed each other’s company. When important things happen in her life, he will not be there. He will not be the man of honour at her wedding having styled the whole thing. We talked about ways we can hold his presence at those types of things, but he will not be there. 

 

The other thing that has been notable about old episodes of Survivor is the amount of homophobia, sexism, ageism and racism freely expressed, especially in the earlier seasons. It reminded me of how much Ben heard in media that he was unacceptable. That being who he was was less than, and subject to scrutiny and ridicule. We must do better for our LGBTQ2S+ community. Their rights must be protected and never legislated away. In Ben’s room I found a picture a friend of his had sketched of Ben where he described himself as a “socialist gypsy”. I know he was concerned about the rights of others because he knew how tenuous the protections were for his rights, especially in other places around the globe. 

 

There will always be reminders that Ben is no longer here with us. Some of those I can see coming and some pop up unexpected, like watching the loved one visit on Survivor. The balance is to keep close all the memories of things he was here for. For those I am eternally grateful.

Photo credit Margot Stewart-Lee

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