Dana’s father lost his lifelong battle with mental illness when she was only 7 years old. Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide struggles with complex emotions, and this is only amplified when a child’s mind is forced to grapple with these unanswerable questions. Dana lived with these difficult emotions throughout her childhood and adolescence, eventually developing her own battles with depression and anxiety.
During her first year of University, her emotional state and sense of hopelessness escalated to the point that she was unable to fully engage in or enjoy life. Dana bravely asked for and received help, temporarily stepping away from her schooling in order to heal and regain control of her future. She successfully returned to school at Queen’s and was able to experience what she calls “some of the most joyful and fulfilling years of my life.”
Sadly, Dana experienced another shocking and unexpected loss in January 2019 when her boyfriend Josh passed suddenly. She continues to navigate this fresh grief with the unconditional support of her family, friends and “the love of two incredible men that I will carry with me always.”
Dana graduated from Queen’s University in June with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in English Literature. She will be attending Ryerson University in the fall to take part in their Literatures of Modernity MA program.
Dana states, “It may not be perfect, but I have fought very hard for this life, and I will live it fully for those who are with me, for those who can’t be, and most importantly – for myself.”
Ross describes his childhood growing up in Glen Williams as “idyllic”. His parents were supportive and involved in all of his athletic, academic and personal accomplishments. When Ross was 11, his dad, Dave, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Ross grew up quickly and the family came together to support Dave and each other through his illness. No sooner had they adapted when a short 14 months later, Dave passed. Ross describes the “wilderness of grief” that ensued and feels that his greatest accomplishment has been the relationships he has forged, particularly with his mom Amy and his two sisters; “I am most proud of what we have faced together, staring adversity and grief in the face.”
Ross has excelled in academics, athletics and stage productions and he states, “I know I have made both of my parents proud.”
Ross has been accepted to the Commerce program at Dalhousie University for the fall.
Meghan describes her family growing up as “strong, loving and seemingly unbreakable”, and idolized her older sister Emily and brother Taylor. In February of 2014 Taylor passed suddenly as a result of a snowboarding accident and her family was catapulted into very individual paths through their grief. Meghan very honestly states “our grieving process was spent adjusting and learning each other’s way of coping with the loss of Taylor. We all shared the same terrible loss but we each seemed to have very different ways of managing it.”
Meghan made a series of difficult choices, including changing schools in grade 10 and evolving in her thinking from not wanting anything to change to choosing to live in honour of Taylor and “encompass some of his incredible qualities.” As she was focusing on establishing goals for herself, she had a series of losses of other members of her extended family. She states, “these wonderful people wanted the world for me and now I want to experience the world for them.”
Meghan is in the Medical Radiation Sciences program at McMaster university. Her academic accomplishments as well as the compassion and presence she brings to the patients in her care, as well as the way she brings people together show the impact Taylor’s life and presence has had on the person she has become and on her choice to be resilient.
Maddison grew up admiring her dad, his contagious smile, easy humour and his gift with horses. Sadly, when Maddison was only 12 years old, her Dad passed away unexpectedly. She expresses gratitude for the outpouring of love and support for herself, her brother and her Mom as they dealt with the shock and disbelief that accompanied their grief. What really marked this time for Maddison was the lack of resources available for young people experiencing grief. She has gone on to focus a semester long school project on researching and developing some early grief resources for young people in an effort to help others in similar situations. She shares her father’s love of horses and volunteers her time with several community organizations, including horseback riding classes for people with disabilities.
Maddison will be studying Recreation Therapy at Waterloo in September. She states “living daily life and seeing milestones go by without my dad here will never be easy and I have accepted that but I have also made it my goal that I will help others, I will make him proud and he will forever live on through me.”