loss(t) convos with Rebecca Tay

Introducing the loss(t) convos series

I am jazzed (like, literally making jazz hands) about introducing “loss(t) convos” to the blog! In this one of a kind series, you get to hear first-hand from (mostly) millennial folks who have been through all sorts of loss, and how the hell they survived.

These stories are often lost, lodged deep inside our chests unable to help us, or others, heal. My hope is that everyone will find a piece of themselves in these stories and in doing so, we can remove the stigma surrounding loss, share more open and honestly about all our shitty stuff, and help each other get from loss, to found. 

loss(t) convos with Rebecca Tay on losing her mom

For the first loss(t) convos series, I introduce to you the fabulous and fashionable Rebecca Tay! Rebecca, 32, is an editor / fashion & digital person, and currently the Editorial Director at TheOutnet.com (part of Net-A-Porter) in London, England. Learn more about Rebecca here.

I met Rebecca in law school (yes, she also has a law degree!) and she's a kind and caring soul, I have no doubt you'll also feel cared for after reading what she has to share. xo R

What is the most significant loss you've endured  and what made it so significant? 

I lost my mother to breast cancer in April 2008, and later that year, my boyfriend of seven years and I broke up - and my sister went through a similar situation with her boyfriend at the time. It was a pretty big year of loss for our family. My mom had battled breast cancer about 3 years before, and having gone through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and mastectomy the first time, it was a shock when it came back.

In the 3 years prior to her passing, there were plenty of checkups, blood tests, and our fingers seemed permanently crossed for her to pass the "5 year mark" (a remission milestone), but when we went to Hawaii for a family holiday in December 2007, she started having dizzy spells. It turned out that the cancer had come back more aggressive than anyone ever thought possible and was now diffused throughout her brain in a way that made it impossible to operate or treat.

The next couple of months were horrible - watching a loved one deteriorate is unimaginable. My sister and I both also lived in Vancouver, while my mom and stepdad lived in Calgary, so we battled with trying to be there as much as we could, which was most weekends from February onward, and almost all of April.

Most of the time, all we could do was try to keep her spirits up by joking about how many cups of tea she'd had, cuddling her in bed, and making food to keep my stepdad going through the week. The last week was a mixture of emotions; we placed her in hospice care, which was an incredible support, but also crystallized the fact that we all knew it was near the end. 

I think what made losing my mother so significant is a combination of two things. On the one hand, I kept repeating, over and over in my head, those immediate, last few minutes before she passed - asking the hospice nurse if my mother's breathing seemed more irregular than usual, frantically calling my sister back from the cafe around the corner when the nurse said it was time to say goodbye, then us crying over her, telling her it was okay to leave and that we loved her. And on the other hand, there was the slower realization that she wasn't going to be there anymore, for anything else in the future. 

What did you learn from your loss? 

I learned so much about myself and my sister - how resilient we could be, how we dealt with things, and how we were each able to cope with all the little details in a way that I think was emotionally healthy.

I also realized that there's not a single other person in the world in that situation that goes through the exact same thing as you as your siblings. This definitely brought us closer, and I think it also explains, a bit, why we both went through such big changes in our personal relationships later in the year as well. There was definitely a similarity in how we coped with the situation. 

What is your advice for others enduring a similar loss? 

This is tough! Fundamentally, I believe that everyone deals with loss differently, and that providing / giving space for this to happen in its own way is important. Related to that, though, I think it's important to take time for yourself if you're going through loss - but how you interpret that is entirely up to you, too. Whether that's time alone or more time spent on the hobbies and activities you enjoy doing - it's all fine.

Most importantly, I think it's key to have a good way of keeping negative emotions like guilt in check - whether that's through counseling and therapy, a good friend who you can confide in or who knows you through and through, or something else. Experiencing loss is devastating enough without piling on all of the additional stuff that, in my opinion, doesn't help - at least not at that moment. 

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Gratitude to Rebecca for sharing!

If you or someone you know would like to be featured in the loss(t) convos series, hit me up!