Purposeful remembrance – intentionally making time to re-live favourite memories of a loved one lost – can be very meaningful.

In light of COVID-19, the Alberta Cancer Foundation is not able to host a celebration of life in person. However, those lost to cancer and the families that have chosen to remember them by supporting cancer research and care are ever-more important. You are important to us.

With that, we have created a place for purposeful remembrance in the comfort of your own home. We invite you to scroll down to take part. You can read comforting words from Heather RoukemaGritter, Spiritual Care and Counselling at the Cross Cancer Institute and listen to 12-year-old Elizabeth Thomas play Hallelujah while thinking of your loved one. We invite you to share your story with us, too.

Young violinist Elizabeth Thomas plays Hallelujah in memory of her Grandmother

Elizabeth Thomas
Elizabeth Thomas and her Grandmother

Memorial Reflection

By: Heather RoukemaGritter, Spiritual Care and Counselling at the Cross Cancer Institute

No one could have predicted the wild ride that 2020 has been due to Covid-19, and no one could have imagined what grief and loss would feel like in the middle of a pandemic.  Due to the “crazy” Covid-19 pandemic, it will not be possible to host the Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF) 2020 Memorial in person but that doesn’t mean that the experience of loss and grief goes on hold.  In my experience both professionally in Spiritual Care & Counselling and personally during this past year, living through a season of grief during a pandemic is often more complex and lonely.

Mourning the death of your loved one means that you have also endured the process of someone important to you being diagnosed, treated, struggling with, and then dying because of cancer.  For many of the people reading this, you have also borne the extra burden of Covid-19 related restrictions, safety precautions, worries and stress. You have sometimes been isolated or one step removed from being with your support people who would comfort you in person. We are all missing the comfort of hugs, community, and face to face connections during this pandemic.

In this complex season of your grief, I encourage you to be extra kind to yourself as you face each day without the physical presence of your loved one who has died. This is no time to tell yourself to move on, to just get on with your life, or stuff down your big feelings of sadness, missing, confusion, protest, disorientation, and disappointment.  Your feelings are real and I encourage you to find ways of honouring your grief through journaling, making a photo collage, painting rocks, lighting a candle, sharing a good memory, breathing exercises, music, making a favourite food, going for a walk, exploring nature, allowing for extra rest times, and reaching out to others.  If you follow a particular religion or spirituality, authentically lean into the hope, peace and comfort of your beliefs and values. Consider looking at the self-care ideas at this link spiritual/self-care practices.

As Johnny Cash said, “There’s no way around grief and loss: you can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and, hopefully, come out the other side.  The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.”  If this feels too overwhelming, please reach out for help through community grief counselling services, or the getting help resource page. The impact of Covid-19 is motivating people to be creative as they search for unique ways to connect a hockey stick distance apart, with masks, virtually, over the phone, through social media, and even good ‘ol letters.  Please reach out for the connection and care you need during this challenging time of mourning during a pandemic.

Peace to you as you walk gently with yourself on the path of grief.

Julie Rohr

For Julie, a voicemail changed everything.

Stage four cancer.

Sadly, she is not alone. One in two Albertans will hear the words, “you have cancer” in their lifetime and One in four will not survive.

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