Alberni Valley News editor Susie Quinn’s cousin, Lianne Cameron, celebrating a birthday with Quinn’s mother Judy in Ottawa a few years ago, died suddenly Aug. 7, 2021. (SUSIE QUINN PHOTO)

Alberni Valley News editor Susie Quinn’s cousin, Lianne Cameron, celebrating a birthday with Quinn’s mother Judy in Ottawa a few years ago, died suddenly Aug. 7, 2021. (SUSIE QUINN PHOTO)

QUINN’S QUIPS: Searching for the right words to express grief

When personal losses pile up, how do you mourn loved ones?

A high school mate recently posted on social media pontificating why people insist on sharing deep, emotional feelings on Facebook. He said he could understand sharing an like a birthday, or a sudden loss—something where you want to impart information to people, without having to repeat it.

His post reminded me of a woman I interviewed many years ago who immigrated from a Middle European country that now escapes my memory—perhaps Croatia or Bosnia.

Something she said resonated with me, and my mate’s Facebook post brought it back. My interview subject talked about the way people mourn or express grief in different parts of the globe. She said people in the country where she came from grieve loudly and unapologetically.

She said North Americans for the most part bottle their feelings, and it’s not healthy. Big emotions and a corresponding vocal response are cathartic, she said, but people in her new country didn’t understand.

Big emotions can be mind-numbing, especially as we struggle to understand. When I am wrestling with big emotions, I write.

Last week I lost a cousin and also a high school mate, both of whom were the same age as I am.

I woke up Sunday morning to the news that my cousin Lianne in Ottawa died suddenly of a catastrophic brain event.

When we were both 18—Lianne is a few months older than me—she had a stroke that stole her ability to read and write. She was bilingual at the time, and her doctors told her parents that they would have to choose one language for her to re-learn, so they chose English over French.

We communicated through our family members, and saw each other occasionally whenever I would travel east. She made the trip to B.C. to attend my wedding. I loved her fiercely, and was so proud of how she fought for her independence for 35 years. I feel her loss deeply.

One day later, a friend from high school died suddenly. Yad Sihota’s death came as a shock to a lot of us: his circle of friends was much wider than his fellow high school graduates. Yad, who was also affected by a brain injury from 2005, was always one to check in with me via Messenger and Instagram. He knew I often worked late nights, and since he was a fellow night owl he would message to say hi. I always felt he was invested in our friendship, and even though we only saw each other at high school reunions, it seemed like it was weeks and not years in between face-to-face visits.

I know he faced adversity, but he never dwelled on it in our conversations.

I have learned in the days since he died that he stayed connected to countless people—some he never met in person. In death, he has helped re-connect a number of us who have been sharing memories of him.

As I listen to a livestream of his funeral service while I write this, I am reminded of his love of family, of travel (he worked for Air Canada), his laughter and storytelling. I will miss his stories above all.

I also learned late last week of the death of a teenager whose path crossed mine for only a year, but left an impact. She died under sad circumstances (not in Port Alberni), and her loss has hit me in surprising ways.

I will always remember how her face lit up when she would see me out with my camera, and no matter which friends she was with, she was never too embarrassed to say hello with a big grin.

Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.

Death