Building Community Through Grief/Loss

I have read a lot of comments on the Humboldt tragedy this past week. I have also read and seen so many amazing comments, videos and tributes. I am not an overly big fan of all of this “god” stuff being brought into the tragedy but it did really make me think about spirituality. Really overall, it left me with far too many questions and far too little answers.

With tragedies such as the premature passing of Erik Karlsson’s son, to the passing of Jonathan Pitre, and finally to the passing of 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos. Why have all of these affected an entire country as well as other parts of the world? Many people have been posting asking why more attention is not being paid to other deaths and such that happen everyday. While this is very true, there is a very strong reason why all of these events I just noted are filling an entire country with great grief and loss.

In the case of the Karlssons, it was only briefly covered through the media as to respect the wishes of the family, but in Canada, hockey players might as well be gods. To see or know one of them is hurting and grieving makes us as Canadians hurt and grieve and feel with them. On the same topic, many children have been lost before birth, and it greatly affects the entire familial unit, especially the mother. I know for my myself having known what loss is over the past eight years, and through a career as a social worker, I now internalize other peoples loss in attempt to understand how they feel, to empathize and to understand what they are going through if I have not yet been through it. For Erik to reach out in the worst time of his life and pay his respects to those lost in the Humboldt Broncos accident , is tearful and upsetting, but comforting in the fact that his son Axel now has a group of boys to guide him through his next life, with lots of love and lots of hockey.

I have heard a lot of people say that hockey has suffered a great loss. To me, it has absolutely nothing to do with hockey. The people lost are the great loss, hockey comes second. I think what everyone really grabs a hold of from this tragedy, along with myself is that “that could have been me” or “this could have been my team” or for my friends with kids “that could have been my children and their friends”. I can recall some of the best times growing up riding on buses. Riding on buses to and from school, riding buses to hockey tournaments and to football games. I can vividly remember atom/peewee hockey with all of the boys singing the entire Shania Twain “The Woman in Me” on a way to a tournament somewhere in Northern Ontario. I can remember our high school hockey bus driver Jim Rankin, who was also our biggest fan. I can recall having Jimmy Rankin as our bus driver to SARSTOCK in Toronto area and we were late to get back to the bus; the entire bus was so angry at us and Jim. Jim refused to leave the city without the three of us on the bus because we were part of his team and him ours. Jimmy Rankin is beauty! It was always less about the hockey and more about friendships, having fun, and going to battle with and for one another. Most of the guys I played sports with I would still take a bullet for or crash through a brick wall for, because I know they would do the same for me.

I think the outpouring of support has been so widespread because everyone realises “that could have been me”. That could have been me and the boys on the way home from AC/DC, or that could have been my 12 year old self and my teammates and our parents on that bus. I do not know a singe person that was involved in that crash, but I do know that I felt immense pain hurt and sadness for them.

Regardless of the media attention, community is important in grieving. Having people around you who can somewhat relate, or not. Someone just being present can being a real game changer. We all experience loss in our lifetime, it is inevitable. What is different sometimes is how people choose to grieve, how to deal with pain and loss, and the timeline in which that grief and loss stays in ones life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in these worst of times. Especially if you are a public figure, or a celebrity or pro hockey player; you may think you can deal with it on your own; you cant! Have a back up plan of “your people” who can help and who will listen or engage if that’s what you want. No person is invincible in the face of death or pain.

I have zero answers to the question “why did this have to happen”, or “where was your god”. I asked the same questions when my friend Fletcher was murdered, when my friend Hooter was killed in a car accident after turning his life around and enrolling in the military, after my bro Teeghan took his own life one week before he was to turn 18 and be free of the care system. I don’t have answers. I just know that if heaven is a real place, it consists of a lot of great people, many who I truly to do believe watch over for us and for one another.

To Erik and Melinda, I am so sorry for your loss, there is no doubt Axel is up there with the boys learning to take clappers from the point like his old man. To the family of Jonathan Pitre, thank you for allowing our country to get to know Jonathan, to see his bravery and courage and perseverance through the worst and making the best of every moment is truly a teaching lesson for all of us; thank you for sharing him with us, he’s up there too, no more pain, ripping around best rink of all time, friends with Axel and all the boys. To the family and friends of the Humboldt Broncos. There is nothing I can add that someone already hasn’t said, but know that those boys were ours as well as a country, even if we didn’t know them, because at one time we were them. No money in the world can replace any of the lives lost or the pain you feel, so please make sure you take care of yourselves and ask for help when you need it, and you will. Know that the entire country is wrapped around you in more than just thought and prayer, but in action in spirit and love.

Love your bawd,



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