The things I’ve learned through loss and reinvention Part 1…
The things I’ve learned through loss and reinvention Part 1…

For those of you who don’t know me, people often describe me as calm, level headed, and generally viewing the world as half glass full. I am also extremely direct. I tell it like it is, sometimes it gets me in trouble…

I know through experience, that in order to move forward and manage change we have to acknowledge, respect and learn from our experiences and that includes loss.

My life has always resembled a roller coaster. I have experienced a lot of transformation. This past year has challenged and pushed me beyond my boundaries, stretching my moral compass. Those of you who know me would say, that should excite me. I thrive to survive around change. Normally, I would agree. I live for change. It’s everything I do in my work and how I love to give back to others.

Live the Change

This time it’s been different. The magnitude maybe? The depth of personalization? I’m not sure, I just know I feel different. And there’s that, the feelings. I’ve come to realize over the past year. I do a great job coaching others on feelings but my feelings, hmmmm…well that’s another story.

Let’s go back to where I believe this chapter of my story begins…

The start of 2019.


It took me a while to acknowledge that this decision was mine and the right one to make. I grew up in an environment where title and moving up the ladder was everything, so I had an internal resistance every time I faced a new promotion. My dad was so proud of me and his pride made me angry. There was so much friction that it pushed me to say NO! The rebellious side of me. My internal narrative was so conflicted — Wow, big move. Big title. But I had grown over the years and I knew this was my choice and I was not doing this for anyone but me, so I made the decision and signed the contract with Loblaws, VP Packaging and Process. Fulfillment and purpose right? I was becoming a VP at Canada’s largest grocery retailer. The work I was going to be doing was evolutionary, exciting, and totally in my wheelhouse. A new job is a big change. What I did not know and couldn’t be prepared for was all of the other changes ahead…

My year started out strong, I loved my new work and team. It was challenging, but I love a good challenge. Life was good.

The harder part was my mom was not doing well. My mom had been sick for a long time. It wasn’t simple and it was never easy to talk about with anyone. It just seemed too huge. It was a long list of progressive ailments that were always sad and complicated — Ulcerative Colitis, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Facial Neuralgia, nerve damage, progressive pain in her back and shoulder, Parkinson’s, and more.

Joan Kishner

The longer she was sick the more reclusive she became; Along with her, went my dad. My dad had always been so social, strong, loving, and connected. Watching them both fade away was so hard. My dad was fiercely loyal and committed to being by her side even though his age led to another set of problems, worries, and concerns with the amount of care my mother needed near the end. He couldn’t do it alone but he was stubborn… It was tough to watch and experience at times but we did our best to make everything comfortable and positive. I truly felt it was bringing us closer… our relationship had moments of strain over the years but in the last couple of years we got closer. This new bond also included my husband.

As spring progressed my mom just got worse and worse, until it just happened, she landed in the hospital. She fell and smacked her head on the bathtub…I wasn’t there but I have a running picture of this incident in my mind to this day, like a horror movie. I kept telling myself she would be okay, but underneath it all I knew she wouldn’t. She was so frail by then, under 100 lbs., and yet so confident and willful in her ability to do things by herself.

The hospital visit ended in her passing. It all happened so fast. June 11, 2019, my brother’s birthday. That was it; My family was devastated.


I remember the funeral. I remember seeing my mother. It was a feeling of shock I’d never felt before. The woman who was once such a fierce and safe presence in my life was gone. She was lifeless and frail; her body was broken. It felt surreal. I remember looking up at a sea of faces from my past; The memories were overwhelming. For the first time in a long time, my emotions were out of my control. I saw grief in my husband and my nephews that took me by surprise; I wasn’t sure how to feel, I felt like I was drowning. My mom had been so disconnected for so long I never expected such a big turnout to her funeral. It was really heart warming. Seeing how loved she was at the end filled my heart with a lot of joy.

I found a new respect for the process of grieving. It had been so long since I had been part of any sort of grieving ceremony. I needed it. I’m not religious at all; I’m spiritual. I practice mindfulness but I don’t practice my jewish faith. The jewish religion partakes in a process called sitting Shiva. My father wanted to sit Shiva as a family. The Shiva is a time for the families and friends to support each other in their grieving. The immediate family sits shiva, typically for 7 days; however, depending on how religious you are that can vary. We sat for 3. People surrounded and supported us over the course of a weekend and fed us… a lot. It was peaceful, compassionate, and connected us to our family and friends. This was a pure moment of healing.

I know Shiva was not the final answer but it helped. Death can leave us feeling empty; our body and mind in shock. Loss usually means a big change is staring you in the face and you have to make the choice to face it. Everyone deals with it differently and I knew as a family we were going to have a hard time. My dad was beside himself; we all were. The next few months were focused on helping my dad manage his grief and find his new normal. I realize now that normal just doesn’t really fit into the conversation. There are so many things you don’t think about. It all felt a bit like a roller coaster you’ve never been on before with it’s ups and downs, and sudden turns. My father wasn’t the same; he was having a hard time adjusting. In fact it became apparent that adjusting was looking like a mountain to climb. His memory was unpredictable and he was extremely indecisive. It is so difficult to watch people you love suffer. The man we once knew as strong, stoic, enabled, and defined, was falling apart at the seams.


No one can know what loss will do to them. We all manage loss in different ways. Every change we experience leaves something behind. What we don’t always realize is we choose how we manage our emotions and grief. People have to live with it for the rest of their lives and life goes on. It’s our choice how we want to move on and the person we want to be.


I would say that through this I have learned so much. The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this is we can’t do this alone, we have to ask for help. My father, in his grief, lost his path. The grief was so strong and compelling, it felt insurmountable. Sometimes I picture grief like a giant hand coming out of the sky, grabbing me, and it won’t let go. I see it just grabbing hold of my father tightly, smothering him, making it hard to breath. I know he could not face this world alone and I was concerned. During this time I focused on my father and didn’t really face my grief at all. I kept pushing it away into some corner of my mind; it was my coping mechanism to focus on him I guess. It was easier to do that so I could focus on my responsibilities. As we all pushed through the fall, taking care of each other emotionally, we felt he might be getting better but suddenly, towards the end of the fall he started to call less, it was different. We assumed it was his way of continuing down his path of grieving. He was certainly changing; more than we could have ever realized in the moment. He decided to go down to Florida and give it a try on his own. For the past 18 years, since retirement, he bought a family home and the two had spent their winters there. In Canada we call these folks Snow Birds. We were so proud of him and his decision to move forward. It felt like we were making progress and life was slowly adjusting in a good way. The end of 2019 was looking brighter for all of us… What we didn’t realize was what was really going on behind the scenes with my father before the trip. If we had only known….

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