My life has been full of loss, I had always learned to just keep going. At eight and a half, I watched my mom fight cancer and at ten she passed. Ten years later, I watched my youngest sister develop a disease and watch it spread, at 19 I watched her pass, too. In between, I had experienced loss and change and so much upheaval that I was unaware I wasn’t living a normal childhood.
The first time I attended a Tamarack grief camp I was eleven. My brother and I showed up at Georgetown Lake all bundled up; it rained the whole time. I love the rain. My sleeping bag was under my arm, backpack on the other. I was wary and hesitant, because I didn’t think that I wanted to talk about my mom and my experiences, because I didn’t know anybody but my family who could relate to me.
I was so wrong.
Although every camper had a different experience with their loss, I realized that I wasn’t the only person whose life was turned upside down by a tragedy and I didn't feel as alone. I learned my experiences could be grieved, making me look at my experience with a different eye, creating a more positive outlook on the way I have experienced loss and grief.
I got home four days later and blocked off the week of camp the next summer in my calendar. I couldn’t wait to go back. Tamarack got in contact with our family a few months later, a holiday remembrance group where I recognized some faces and met a few new ones. I talked about my mom’s favorite holiday movie, our holiday traditions that she would be missing this year, her favorite dinner. I felt like I was in a safe place to finally tell someone how amazing she was without feeling crushed.
As the years passed, I had formed an amazing relationship with Tina, Tamarack’s founder, with Molly, another camper like me who grew up to help others like her involving herself in teen groups as a part of the TGRC team, and soon involved myself in the organization, too. Volunteering with camps and fundraisers for a few years to eventually land myself a job as a part of TGRC’s incredible staff, I had found a niche of the world that I had fit with people who understood and recognized me.
When Addie was gone, I felt Tamarack was more important than ever. I had developed friendships and had companions that knew me more than most people ever will, who guided me through a trauma no one ever expects to happen more than once, and I had a place to feel safe, to feel calm, to feel loved. Having a place in Tamarack’s community made me feel that I could do it, I could do it if I needed to. I have done it, thanks to Tamarack. I learned to love my lost family members, and to love myself, and to love the companionship and friendships I had developed. I still love my lost family members and myself despite my tragedies and I am graduating from college in six months! I feel lucky to have had a light at the end of my tunnel in all of the dark in my world; I know there are thousands of children, teenagers and adults across Montana and the northwest who have experiences like mine who will benefit from Tamarack, just like my family and I did throughout the latter half of my life.
Please hear my story and remember Tamarack is here for anybody like me, and remember that any dollar counts. Tamarack helped our family stay on track, strengthening and supporting us when we truly needed it and could never pay for the services we received. Join me in my Giving Tuesday fundraiser for Tamarack Grief Resource Center so they can continue to excel at strengthening and supporting other families at all times of loss in their lives, too.