My doctor suggested I would have an 8 pound baby on July 25, 1980. What joy! We welcomed our 2nd born beautiful baby girl – weighing 8 pounds, on July 25, 1980! A sister for Jessica! Did this mean she would be a child that would follow the rules? So compliant from her first breath!
Turned out Natalie Dawn would rock the boat her entire life. What a ride! She had her own unique sense of style, was never a “joiner” but always looking for fun and joy just outside the lines. Having said that, Natalie valued relationships and family above all else. She kept us guessing through her teenage years – where would the next tattoo be? Blue hair? Green hair? Yellow hair? We had a rainbow of colours and one day there was no hair! We learned about piercings in her mouth when the dentist commented on all the hardware.
We enjoyed her quirkiness and so did her sister and her friends. When she started working with students with special needs as an educational assistant, we were amazed with her patience and her ability to bring out the best in her students.
When she met the love of her life and made the move to Esquimalt, B.C. with him in 2003, I was inconsolable. I visited as often as I could and enjoyed exploring Vancouver Island with Natalie. She became a trainer for Shaw Communications and developed friendships along the way. Many of those friends still stay in touch with me.
On July 13, 2008, Natalie was on an adventure to pick up her fiancé on the west side of Vancouver Island. From their home in Nanoose Bay, she travelled to Port Alberni then west on the Bamfield Road. This road is owned and maintained by the Provincial Government, the Indian Band, and a logging company. It is a twisting mountain road with no guardrails, gravel based and in many places having a corduroy surface. At kilometer 23, Natalie’s car left the road and eventually stopped at the bottom of a very deep ravine. Her beloved border collie, Frank, survived the crash. Natalie did not.
Grief kicked me in the gut. I couldn’t breathe. My fun-loving self was gone. I wasn’t sure who I was. How could this have happened to our family?
My friends gathered their arms around me and gave me so much love and support that I couldn’t help but feel the love. After stumbling through my first year of grief and co-worker and friend told me about Bereaved Families. She talked about how they had supported her when she lost her infant daughter. That’s all I needed to hear.
I attended a closed Child Loss Group in 2010. I was unsure what to expect, nervous about exposing my feelings to strangers, and was very close to just driving away that first night. The facilitators were welcoming and kind and guess what? They were bereaved parents as well. They convinced me I wasn’t going crazy. They gave me support and suggestions about how to deal with the situations bereaved parent’s experience. The other members of the group had raw, open wounds just like me. We bonded and we actually laughed out loud!
I knew I wanted to help others who are in the initial stages of grief. I contacted BFO and asked to volunteer. I hoped I had the skills to be appointed to their Board of Directors. Once on the Board, I started to participate in the Program Advisory Committee. Facilitator training was next. Since taking the training I have co-facilitated two closed Child Loss Groups. My life has been enriched by my involvement with BFO and especially by helping other parents in their grief journey. My family has participated in many memorial events to honour Natalie.
The journey of grief will last my whole life. The fun-loving me has peeked through and I am seeing more and more of her. On February 28, 2015 my daughter Jessica and her husband Paul welcomed a sweet new baby girl – Ellie Dawn. She is a bright ray of sunshine for Drew and I. Our family has united to celebrate a new beginning.
By: Brenda Wiles