Written by Ana Hrincu for Nest Integrative Wellness
Trigger Warning: Grief
The first week of May marks mental health week in Canada and maternal mental health awareness week for the world. For 2023, the theme of this week is #MyStory, a uniquely fitting theme, as May is also the 10 year anniversary of the start of my own mental health story – after the loss of my sister. My experience with postpartum depression and anxiety and my experience of parenthood is uniquely tied to the loss of my sister and the grief I still feel to this day.
My younger sister and I had our ups and downs growing up. We were complete opposites but were loyal and devoted to each other. We were close in age, had inside jokes, and moving into adulthood had differing social groups and interests but knew we could always depend on each other.
We had plans for the future: places we’d travel, activities we’d do. She had always talked about being an aunt to my children, the baby shower she would throw, and the mischief she would get up to with her nieces and nephews. When she passed suddenly while I was in university, my world shattered. I had never experienced death so intimately before, let alone the loss of someone I could not remember a time without, who had been so interwoven in my life, memories, and being. I found myself struggling with depression and anxiety while navigating the identity of a bereaved sibling. I attended support groups and therapy, read books, and eventually navigated myself out of the thick fog of depression. As a result of my experience with loss and social perception and nuance around death and grief, I decided to pivot my career into social work, seeking to hold space for individuals at critical moments of their lives where pain, heartache, transition, and growth intermingle.
Fast forward 5 years later and my partner and I were pregnant, and I was acutely aware that my sister was not present to plan the baby shower we had always dreamed about together. Every ultrasound had me thinking of her, and of my own mother, who had been coping with the loss of her daughter for years. I wished I could have shared my excitement and nervousness with my sister and I longed deeply to feel a connection with her in a phase of life she would never have the opportunity to experience.
After my daughter was born, my world came crashing down again. Although she was healthy and her pregnancy and birth had been as good as I could imagine, my transition into motherhood, the hormones, and sleepless nights felt familiar and reminded me of the grief, identity change, isolation, and chaos that had occurred years earlier when my sister passed. I again felt the suffocation of depression and anxiety, while adjusting to new motherhood and caring for a newborn who was the spitting image of my sister. My depression scale scores and behaviour, made me seem “well enough”, even though the anxiety was stifling and the depression had me feeling that parenthood was a mistake. It was an overwhelming journey and took me many months to even admit I needed help. Even after experiencing the symptoms before. Even after working in the mental health field. There were limited psychological supports available and I was unable to find an experienced counselor to support me at the intersection of my trauma, grief, and new parenthood. Eventually I clawed my way out of that depression again and resolved to work to create a space for other families to navigate their own postpartum experiences and the complexity that can exist within these journeys.
Fast forward almost another 5 years and Nest was born. The product of my grief and postpartum journey and my business partner’s experience in birth work, Nest seeks to provide a space for those on perinatal journeys to find support, knowledgeable providers, and community. Our lives are a tapestry of the people we love, life events, and our choices. #MyStory is one of loss, grief, and heartache but is also one of love, resilience, and growth that led to the creation of a Nest that strives to be a safe hub for parents to explore their needs and have care while weaving their own tapestry.
If you require mental health support, Nest’s counsellor Paschia is accepting clients.
Crisis mental health support is available 24/7 through Alberta Health Services at 780-424-2424.