Finding Strength from Loss

Her life changed in a moment. In January 2019, Ally lost her best friend and boyfriend, Jaden. “People who knew us thought we were the same person,” laughed Ally. “We had a lot of fun together.” Ally was 16 years old at the time of Jaden’s death.

Jaden was 18 and a freshman in college when he was in a tragic car accident. “He was on his way to my house to meet my parents for the first time,” commented Ally. Jaden’s car skid on black ice. “When he didn’t arrive at my parents’ house I got worried,” shared Ally. “I went outside looking for him and came upon the accident, which had just happened.” An unforgettable image that intensified her grief.

This was Ally’s first experience with the death of a loved one and, sadly, more would closely follow.

“My dad was a silly guy,” smiled Ally. “He was a conventional dad, always fixing things around the house and throwing football with me outside.” When Ally was 11 her father was diagnosed with brain cancer. “Back then, my family did not use the word ‘cancer’ around me, but instead told me that my dad had a growth.” He passed away in March 2020.

“The last three to four years of my father’s life were misery,” shared Ally. “It was like we were living with someone who had dementia. My father could not perform daily routine tasks like feeding himself.” Ally’s father received care and comfort measures from Hospice & Community Care.

Three months later, Ally’s grandfather passed away. “My grandfather died from heart break [after losing his son],” commented Ally.

Getting Support After
Jaden’s death, Ally’s mother sought support for Ally at the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss. Ally participated in the Coping Kids & Teens program, which helps children, teens and families learn about loss, develop coping skills and build self-confidence through activities and small- and large-group sharing. “I loved Coping Kids & Teens,” shared Ally. “I felt like I was a burden to my family and friends when I talked to them about my grief. With Coping Kids & Teens I was with other teenagers who were experiencing the same thing and could be more open with my feelings. I wasn’t sad by myself and I thought if they could do it, I could do it.”

During Coping Kids & Teens, Ally met Pathways’ counselor, Heather Shenk. “Heather is the best,” shared Ally with a smile. “She was so easy to talk to. I was able to tell her things that I hadn’t even told myself. She never made me feel like I was a burden.”

“Ally’s grief was unique in that she was coping with the loss of her boyfriend while experiencing anticipatory grief with the diagnosis of her father’s terminal cancer,” shared Heather. “The feelings that Ally had after Jaden’s death helped to prepare her for what to expect leading up to and after her father’s passing. Ally was able to change her perspective and focus on what was most important while her father was alive. It helped her to create memorable moments with her father.”

Lasting Impact
Ally is now a 19-year-old sophomore at Bucknell University. She was hesitant to seek out grief support when she was younger, but now she is able to take the lessons learned from the Pathways Center and apply them daily. “I know that I am going to be okay,” shared Ally. “Going to Coping Kids & Teens and talking with Heather gave me that reassurance. I have already faced some tough stuff and I know now that I can get through anything I face. I will never be alone.”

For more information about the Coping Kids & Teens series, please contact the Pathways Center at (717) 391-2413 or CLICK HERE.