Brooke Thompson thought her nana was going to live forever.
The Kelowna teenager, who is now 16, essentially became best friends with her grandmother when she was younger. They did everything together, from baking to watching movies to gardening to painting rocks they would find at the beach.
“We always had fun,” Thompson said. “There was never a time that we were sad. We were always happy, always doing something. And it’s something that I’d never seen or experienced. It was really different. And it was just fun. Like, we always had fun.
“She was just a very happy person—always. Even if she had something wrong with her, she was just always happy.”
Thompson, however, moved to Prince George, which took her away from her nana. Unbeknownst to Thompson, her nana was suffering from cancer but didn’t tell her about it because she was the type of person who didn’t want to burden anyone.
Thompson returned to Kelowna for the summer, but COVID-19 protocols meant she wasn’t allowed to visit her in the hospital. She passed away shortly thereafter.
“I thought she was gonna live forever,” Thompson said. “And just hearing the words that she didn't make, it was like truly the worst thing that had ever happened to me. It was heartbreaking.”
Her nana’s death hit Thompson hard. She stopped eating. She slept for long periods of time. She had trouble getting motivated to do anything. She didn’t think she would ever get over the death of her nana, that she would feel this bad for the rest of her life.
Everything changed, however, when she found Central Okanagan Hospice Association. She was able to talk to Shawn, a counsellor from the association, and she helped Thompson realize that better days were ahead.
“The thing that Shawn has taught me the most is it’s okay to have a bad day, but just don't make it last for a while,” Thompson said. “If you have to have a few bad days, sit in those emotions and feel those emotions, but don’t let them overtake you.”
Thompson, who has dreams of becoming a marine biologist or an entrepreneur, wants other young people to know that talking to someone will make them feel better when they are down. She knows this now thanks to COHA’s counselling program.
“You’re not alone. You’re definitely not alone,” Thompson says. “And even if you think there's no one that understands and there's no one that's going to be there for you, there is. There is one person. There could be lots of people, but you're not alone and there's always someone to listen to.
“You have to be okay with it, and you have to be brave—brave to feel those emotions again and feel what had happened. Overcoming it is the best feeling. Being at peace is what I would recommend, and talking to someone is really beneficial.”
COHA is currently running its In Loving Memory campaign to support their grief and bereavement services so that they can continue to serve the grieving in our community, like Brooke. When you make a donation to the campaign there are three ways donors can pay tribute to those who have passed. They can sign their loved one’s name on the memory wall at the COHA August Centre, have the name added to an online remembrance or have it appear on a billboard along Highway 97 in West Kelowna for the month of May.
Visit the COHA website to donate today.