What People Say about My Work
Hi Barb and Kenn,
I wanted to thank you once again for the honour of attending your workshop.
I made an offering of tobacco yesterday in gratitude to both of you and all the incredible people who participated, who gave so generously of themselves and who taught me so much.
I don’t think I thanked you for telling me that the spirit who came yesterday was for me. My heart and mind were so full at that point that words failed me. I’m still processing everything so all I can say is thank you for this gift and thank you for sharing your wisdom with me.
Have a wonderful week and a safe journey home!
I MET THIS AMAZING MAN AND I HAVE HIS BOOK...ONLY A GRIEVING PARENT WOULD UNDERSTAND...
LM Nicholson: Hi Kenn, I'm about 20-30 pages in on your book and I've already found myself crying and laughing. My younger sister died 5 yrs ago, my older brother just over a year ago. I can't tell you the comfort and insights that are already being opened to me as I read of your own journey. Thank you seems hardly enough to say when expressing my gratitude to you for having shared these feelings...
Scott Borgman How very true. People who have never gone through such a loss don't understand the roller coaster of emotions one goes through. It goes beyond pain and grief. Disbelief, anger, and yes, even hate. We had several people who came up to us during the wake and offered words that I know were intended to bring comfort. "God needed another angel" and "he's in a better place" were just a few of them. Words that were meant to comfort, but had the exact opposite effect. For a grieving parent, those words are a knife thrust that gets twisted. Thousands of people die every day. He had plenty of other people, he didn't need our child. Saying that only puts him into the light of being a selfish being who cares only for himself, only for his own desires. A better place? There IS no better place for a child than in his mother's arms.
I'm not religious, nor is my wife. For those of you who are, I apologize if you feel offended or think I'm cutting down your own personal beliefs. I'm not. I'm merely trying to say that in such circumstances, there is no comfort to be had. No words will ease the pain. None can bring comfort. The best thing to say is a soft spoken "I'm so sorry for your loss."
And never... NEVER... ask what happened. Not everyone dies peacefully, and no one needs to know how a person died. Instead, remember how they LIVED. Perhaps offer a happy memory. There's enough negativity in the world already without adding to the pile.
Sorry for the ramble... I just wanted to pass on what we'd gone through in the hopes that it may help.
March 9 ·
A Personal Journal of Bereavement;
"When My Son Died"
By - Kenn Pitawanakwat
Last night I attended an event in Serpent River First Nation - an author meets the people; or comes to the community where his deceased Son is from. It was informative, heartfelt and left me at loose ends, regarding dealing with loss and looking at Community Wellness.
You see, we do know that the issue of losing someone close is certainly a deep and profound life-changing event that often affects a person on an individual and family level -- but I was struck by how "communities" become affected by loss and how communities 'lose' people, places and things - and never take the time to process and refocus toward become #Stronger, #Healthier, and more focused toward #CommunityVision.
Kenn Pitawanakwat done an excellent job at describing his journey, what happened in his grief cycle, how he re-focused in the world around him. He also invoked much thinking and emotion for those that were there at this event last night.
I was able to sit in a room with two of my former colleagues who I sat with at the council table. Sure was nice to listen and to share some perspective on community level issues around Healing and Wellness -- we can always become stronger and more refined; toward what the Creator had intended for us as #Individuals, #Families, #Communities, and #Nations.
I would recommend Kenn to come to any community to help facilitate this type of important dialogue! http://www.kennpitawanakwat.com/
From Parent Elizabeth Eddy Who Lost Their Child: Miigwetch Elizabeth Eddy.OCT 20TH, 11:10AM
Hi Kenn...here is part of my son's story...OR...Why Culture is Relevant and Essential...My son Will was killed in a terrible MVA at the Chalk River Town Limits in the westbound lane at 8:30 am on February 14 2014. Five post-secondary students were in the vehicle, trying to come home from college/university in Ottawa for Reading Week. My son, and the driver of the car Meghna Atwal, were both killed. One college student, Donovan Thompson from Elliot Lake, was critically injured, but survived. The other two students, both male, and one being the long term boyfriend of the driver, were knocked unconscious as a result of the accident, only to regain consciousness in the car after it was side-swiped by a transport truck pulling out of a transport lie-by on the highway. The driver of the car my son was in was subsequently found to be at fault by the police. The transport driver, as instructed by his transport company in the aftermath of the accident, remained in his transport cab and did not get out to help the kids. My son and the driver were killed instantly. The transport driver could not have helped them, but he could have shown some humanity to the survivors. A car cannot win in an accident with a transport. Impossible. He should have been driving defensively and watching, but that is another story. The paramedics from Pembroke, who were the first responders on the accident scene, were the only people to help the boys in the after-math of what now must be a terrible nightmare for the survivors. They don't recall the accident itself. My son's Father's friend Dave arrived on our little Island (St. Joseph), on the 15th to lend emotional support. My son's body was delayed from arriving at the funeral home in SSM because it was at the morgue in Pembroke and an autopsy had to be completed. On the 17th of February, which was a Monday, friend Dave drove back to his home in Whitney in order to collect his wife for the funeral service. On his way back to Whitney, Dave stopped at the accident site in Chalk River to take cell phone pictures of the fresh skid marks. The snow was so deep that year that the shoulders of that section of highway 17 were not plowed. Dave pulled into the transport lie-by, parked his vehicle and got out to take the photos of the road. He then got back into his vehicle, but was unable to leave because he felt my son's presence so strongly at the scene. He pulled into the west-bound lane and opened the passenger door and spoke aloud telling Willy to get in. "Get in Will...I'll take you home". When Dave looked up again to start pulling out onto the highway he saw 12 walkers on the road in front of him. He jumped out of his vehicle and approached the walkers. After exclamations of "what are you doing here?' from all parties, it turned out that the walkers were a group of adults from Attiwapaskat, walking from that town to Ottawa to raise awareness about Land Claim issues, and to try to speak to the then Grand-Chief Sean Attleo about the Land Claim issues. Dave told the group of walkers about the accident, and the strong presence that he felt. The walkers from Attiwapaskat did not hesitate. They immediately made their way into the transport lie-by and performed an ancient ceremony to free the souls of the dead. After the ceremony, the walkers and Dave continued on their separate journeys. Meanwhile...I had gone from my home in Richards :Landing to my mother's home in Gros Cap to be near to the SSM airport, as lots of people were flying in. I had not been able to sleep. I arrived at my mother's on Saturday, and stated that I would sleep in the living room to be near to the noise of the TV. Every time I tried to close my eyes at night-time, my dead son Will was screaming for me to come and get him. "Come and get me Mommy...right now...where the hell are you"...etc. I could not sleep. Being the English major that I am, I remember thinking "MacBeth doth murder sleep". I thought I would never be able to sleep again. On Monday the 17th, my mother asked my to try sleeping in my old room on the bed. "Maybe a bed will help you to sleep, instead of the couch" she said. That night I tried it. I lay in my old room on the bed and closed my eyes. The screaming was gone. I slept for the first time since Valentine's Day; the day of the accident. I did not know about the ceremony performed by the Attiwapiskat walkers at the time. I did not find out about the ceremony performed at the transport lie-by until the funeral on the 20th, where Dave told the story of what happened. He told it as part of my son's funeral service. It was and is a beautiful story. The kindness of the act given freely by the Attiwapaskat walkers has gotten me through some very dark times. It was an act of generosity and kindness that was unimaginable to me before the accident. I was able to share that story with the family of the driver, Meghna, two years later. They also found comfort in it. They needed to hear that story. They also needed to know about that kindness and generous act provided by the Attipawskat walkers, but I didn't know them at the time of the accident. I have gotten to know Meghna's mother on FB, and I have recommended your book to her now. The week after my son's funeral, his father Paul and I had to go to Algonquin College to clear out Will's room at residence. By that time the Attiwapaskat walkers were in Ottawa. They were staying at the Lord Elgin Hotel. Paul and I got to meet them for breakfast while they were there and to thank them for their kindness and generosity. What the walkers did for two dead kids they didn't even know, and for the parents of the dead kids defies belief and all expectations. That incredible act has saved me many times on this dark road. I found your book "When My son Died" at the Serpent River Trading Post on my way to Sudbury for the final PI mediation for my son's accident. I read it right away, because I am a fast reader, and now Will's father has it. He is a slow reader...ha! But I am insisting that he read it because it is so real and helpful. Will's father has taken to Indigenous spirituality as a direct result of the act of the Attiwapaskat walkers and the ceremony to free the souls of my son and Meghna. He is of Ukranian descent, but he now has a sweat-lodge on his property. According to an Anishnabe shaman he knows, my son has made it over. He is no longer in limbo, as a direct result of the indigenous ceremony performed by the walkers tio free his soul. I am so grateful. Miigwetch...I hope you are well. As you know...any help on this journey of child loss is appreciated beyond words...My son loved the Tragically Hip. The year before he died he went to a Hip concert at the Essar Centre with his father and I. He loved the band so much that he was willing to go to their concert with his parents. The Hip released their 2nd to last album from Attiwapaskat to raise awareness about housing issues. Now Gord is gone too...Circles...so many circles. I am very thankful for the circles...
From Parent Elizabeth Eddy Who Lost Their Child: Miigwetch Elizabeth Eddy.
Great conversation...I have heard too many cliches and platitudes by now. People mean well, but they have no idea. Everyone seems to think that there is an end in sight to the grief process, and this is probably the case for the elderly, who have lived a normal lifespan, even though they may be missed very much. But when individuals die out of sequence, there is no end to the grieving process and no amount of cliches or platitudes help in any way...When you lose a child the anguish is permanent...the questions are permanent...the loss is life-altering...
LM Nicholson I just finished this story earlier this week. It is a profound read, one inundated with an honesty and forthrightness I found so refreshing, thought provoking, and humbling. The tragedies in life can and do teach us so much if only we are willing to see, and listen. Kenn, I wish you hadn't had to write it, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing so because within it's pages I learned so much.
Tasha BeedsGroup Admin Miigwech for your generosity and for sharing your story!! I have heard of the power of this book! Bidders this one is a collector's item for sure <3!!
Barb Nahwegahbow: I was profoundly moved by this book, in fact moved to tears during parts of it. Kenn has given us a precious gift by allowing us into the pain and beauty of his grief and his struggle and his journey, a journey that is by no means finished. The intimacy and dialogue with his son is incredible, and I love that he and his son continue to communicate. Our loved ones are always there for us even though they have passed on into the spirit world. That is the beauty and comfort of our traditional Anishinaabe beliefs and ways. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who's suffered a loss, be they Indigenous or not, and for anyone wanting insight into Anishinaabe culture.
Chi Miigwetch ken for sharing your story. I feel your pain. My daughter died two years ago and no one really understands that pain. I cry as i read through your pages. I was thinking-this person understands my grief. Its a must read for any parent who has lost a child.