Emily describes her three brothers as her support system, her whole heart and her world. She recalls how after their home burned down, her mom Cathy rebuilt a new home for them with what Emily describes as her “beautiful mind”. Sadly, the house fire was only the beginning of the adversity Emily was to face in her young life. When Emily was 11, her older brother James 13 and her younger brothers Nathan and Tristan just 6 and 5, their mom passed from a sudden and devastating infection. After her passing, Emily’s dad was unable to adequately care for the boys and Emily, still a child herself, stepped into this caregiver role and devoted herself to her brothers. Despite her best efforts, the children were removed from their father’s custody and Emily was faced with the reality that she would no longer be living with her brothers.
Emily wrote that “When we lost our mother, we lost warm arms and a kind voice, a contagious smile and our constant blanket of comfort, but most of all we lost the kind of love only an overworked, tired mother can supply”.
Through her teen years, Emily continued to focus on her relationship with her brothers while she worked hard in school and at her job. She learned to accept the love and support of people in her life, who were there for her unconditionally, giving her a place to live, loving her and helping to show her that she is so much more than her life circumstances. She describes her mother’s friends, some family members and her own friends as her “circle that is my rock”, stating “they are there for me through my fears, through my sadness and they share my happiness.”
Over the past year she has made the long trek via transit to Bobcaygeon to see her younger brothers, continuing her commitment to the relationship she has built with them. In September, she will be attending Lakehead University in the Concurrent Education program.
Emily has been told many times how strong she is, but she herself would rather focus on how happy she is. She wrote “We struggle but we also thrive, and we find the things that make us happy. I live because others cannot and I love because I have people who also love me. And I am happy.”
Alicia Marrows is the middle child in her family, between her younger sister Rachel and her older brother, Jeremy. In May of 2014, when Jeremy was 21 years old, he was on a camping trip in Algonquin park. He went missing for two weeks after a canoeing accident and the search ended with the worst possible outcome. Her entire family, surrounded by Jeremy’s friends, cycled between hope and fear for those two interminable weeks. At this time of unbearable pain and grief, Alicia focused on her younger sister Rachel, who was only 11 at the time and idolized Jeremy. She also focused on her parents, ignoring her own grief and healing.
Alicia’s journey through grief’s emotional turmoil was happening at the same time she was finishing her final year in high school and starting her freshman year at Seneca College studying Behavioural Sciences. With the best of intentions and trying to “be strong”, she pushed through and completed her program in 2016. Having experienced so many changes in such a small amount of time, she never took the time to allow herself to process her loss, and her feelings surrounding Jeremy’s death. Then it all caught up with her. Her unprocessed grief came crashing down on her and she lost her focus, her motivation and her way. Still desperately trying to “cope”, she sought help from many traditional and non-traditional sources.
A turning point for Alicia came when she herself turned 21, the age Jeremy was at the time of his accident. She refocused on her need to heal herself, finding resilience within both herself and through her love for Jeremy. This is what led her out of the dark space of deep grief. Believing that she is living and experiencing life for both herself and her brother, allows Alicia to carry on and find happiness.
After working as an Educational Assistant and learning from children who face adversity every day, she found a new focus for her own future. She will be furthering her education at Seneca College in the Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Psychology program in September. Alicia looks forward to pursuing a career where she can make a genuine difference in the lives of special needs children. Alicia also plans to one day honour Jeremy’s memory by helping other people as they cope with loss and grief.
Malcolm has faced multiple adversities in his young life, beginning with a tenuous family situation. His mother struggled with drug addiction and serious health issues and as a preschooler Malcolm was removed from her custody and placed with his grandparents, who faced struggles of their own.
Although Malcolm’s Mom faced difficulties with her addiction that unfortunately affected her eligibility for the kidney transplant that she required in order to save her life, Malcolm passes no judgment on her. He recalls telling his mom as an 11-year-old that as soon as he was old enough he would give her one of his kidneys. Sadly, his mom passed only months following this conversation.
Malcolm describes the time he lived with his uncle as the first time he had experienced a genuine family. However, at age 14, Malcolm’s uncle placed him in foster care for reasons that Malcolm does not understand but has accepted. He continues to have a relationship with his aunt and uncle. Instead of becoming bitter and resentful, however Malcolm chose to continue to make the best of his life circumstances, becoming involved in sports and experiencing teamwork and the support of friends, teachers, coaches and his Social Worker. He has been involved in the Mentor Program at Christ the King, providing support and listening to younger students who are struggling with various challenges. Malcolm has used his life experience to help others to find their way. This is true resilience.
Malcolm speaks with such warmth in his letter to us of his foster Mom, Maggie Secord, who has treated him in a way that he feels truly cared about. He expresses such genuine gratitude to all the incredible people who have supported him along the way.
Malcolm has been accepted into the Bachelor of Social Work program at the University of Windsor.
Recipient of the Eion Campbell Resiliency Scholarship
Ruby is a Georgetown resident currently completing her fifth year at Dalhousie University in Halifax, studying Sociology and Social Anthropology with a certificate in Disabilities Management.
Ruby suffered childhood sexual abuse and, after the legal system failed to provide justice, her experience was dealt with through secrecy and silence. Her later childhood and teen years involved many encounters with therapists, doctors and counselors and a variety of mental illness diagnoses. Ruby’s childhood trauma was reignited during her second year of university when she was the victim of sexual violence. Once again she accessed the traditional avenues of support, however despite doing her best to follow the treatments and advice of the experts, she found herself coping as best she could with medication side-effects as well as social isolation.
From this low place, Ruby sought out resources that she felt resonated with her own experience and slowly built up her resilience. She “learned the distinction between fault and responsibility and accepted that although what was done to me was not my fault, it was my responsibility to choose recovery.”
Through her determination to heal herself, she has healed and deepened the relationships with those closest to her and has gone on to work closely with her Student Union at Dalhousie to create meaningful supports for students who have experienced sexual or gender-based violence. In future, she hopes to develop and teach workshops on how to use writing, art and personal expression to heal from traumatic experiences. She wrote “I want to help people discover safe space within themselves.”
Ruby eloquently stated, “I will always carry the ghosts of all the broken versions of me, but instead of feeling bound to them as if they can still weigh me down, I carry them with all the lessons they have taught me and as a reminder of all the pain I will never need to feel again, because I am resilient.”