1. Tell me what kind of person Kylee was…what do you love most about her? How would you describe her?
GM: First of all, Ky was her own person. She spoke her mind and you never had to guess what she was thinking. As a kid, she was just as happy hanging out by herself riding horses or pretending to be a horse. Sheeven ate grass and would come in the house with green lips!She was extremely sarcastic and that is how she showed her love! If she wasn’t sarcastic to you, she probably didn’t like you very much! But she was also the defender of the underdog. She would stand up for kids who were being bullied, and then she would tell them exactly why they were being bullied and give them some life advice! She was focused and dedicated to her school work and to sports. She loved basketball and worked hard to make her team successful. She was team captain andwas the one who would encourage her team mates to be better than they thought they were. I love everything about Kylee, but the one thing I love and miss themost is her giggle! It was contagious! I sometimes go to her Facebook and Instagram just to find videos of her laughing. She also had a beautiful voice and I wish there were more videos of her singing.
2. What exactly happened to Kylee (so that my followers know what happened). Can you recall the special moment when you (unfortunately) were told that Kyleewas gone?
GM: As I mentioned, Ky loved basketball and she was on her way to an open gym. This is where anyone can go to the gym and play basketball. It isn’t a competitive game as far as having teams from to see if she had left yet. Brandon said that she had left, but that she was probably just going slower due to the roads being snow covered. Kristen called a while later and said that Ky still wasn’t there. Brandon got ready to leave to see if maybe she had broken down or slid off the road and when he got to the door, he saw flashing lights of police cars and a line of traffic that had been stopped. He and Kylee lived just a short distance from the main highway that Ky had to travel to get to the gym. Brandon figured that Ky was probably in that line of traffic, so he started walking to see if he could find her. From what I understand from Brandon’s story is that he was looking for her car and saw that there was an accident and asked a police officer what color the car was that was in the accident. The officer said blue and Ky’s car was black. The officer asked Brandon what he was doing and he said that his girlfriend was going to Bend and she hadn’t arrived at her destination. The officer asked what his girlfriend’s name was and Brandon told him at which time the officer said that she was in the accident and was deceased. We still don’t really know what happened and I’m not sure the investigation is closed. But a witness that was two cars behind her and actually knew Kylee said that she just suddenly swerved hard and lost control. She crossed the lane of oncoming traffic and was hit by an SUV on the passenger side of her car and broke her neck. She died on impact. The moment I found out will be etched in my memory forever. It was December 20, 2016 at 9:21PM. I was just leaving the home of an elderly lady that I took care of a few nights a week. My shift had ended and I was walking to my car when my phone rang. I missed the call because I had my hands full, so as soon as I put the bags down and had started my car, I listened to the message from my oldest son asking me to call him. I called him immediately, we made small talk and then he told me that he had some news that wasn’t good. I instantly thought that his wife, who was a fairly new driver, had been in an accident with their kids and my mind searched for the strength to be available to him so I could support him. Then he told me that Kylee had been in an accident and didn’t make it. That poor boy had to sit and listen to his mother wail and scream, “No, God! Don’t take my baby!” After I was able to stop screaming, he told me that he had called his dad and that he was going to call the rest of the kids, except our youngest because her phone wasn’t working very well. She was the only one living at home at this time, so I had to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life which is to go home and tell my daughter that her sister was gone. That moment was the most heart-wrenching moment of my life. It was hands down harder than finding out that I had lost a child. We cried and collapsed on the bed still not quite believing that it could be real.
3. What has changed since the day Kylee (unfortunately) died?
GM: Everything! Our family dynamic is not the same without her presence, my children aren’t the same without the unique relationship they each had with Kylee. Her friends miss her laugh and sarcasm and her outspoken personality. Brandon lost his love and his child; he will never be the same. Kylee’s dad and I will forever be changed. We lost a person that we created, brought into the world and loved and nurtured for 24 years. We carry her absence around like a heavy burden. We all live with a piece of our hearts gone. That part of us will never be reestored. There is no such thing as a “new normal.” In our human-ness it’s not normal for a child to die before their parents. It breaks all the rules of how our minds think things should be. But children do die before their parents and it turns our world upside down for a while until we can wrap our heads around the reality and decide if we will let it consumeus or whether we will embrace the path of joy that still awaits us.Walking around with a chunk of your soul gone is not normal. My identity as Kylee’s mom has changed. I am still very much her mother; however, I am not able to do the things with her that I had planned. I won’t be able to hug her. I won’t be able to watch her and Brandon become parents. I can’t pick up the phone and call her for no reason. I won’t get to hold my grandchild. Kylee’s death made me realize how quickly life can end. I have a new awareness of how I want to spend my time and who I want to spend it with. I find that I have more love for everyone in general, but less tolerance for those who carry negative energy or a negative attitude. I have learned to set boundaries with who I allow in my close circle. I strive to add value to people’s lives and leave them better than I found them by simply being present with them and remembering that they are imperfect children of God just like me. Grieving takes a lot of energy, so it is important to me that I spend time with people who don’t suck the positivity out of my soul! That may sound harsh, but it has to be that way for me.
4. Since that tragic day, you try to help people who have dealt or are stilling with grief of a beloved person. How exactly do you try to help them?
GM: A few ways… I am training to be a volunteer at our local grief center. It is still in the process of being completed and finalized, but I am looking forward to being able to do what I can to listen and bring some comfort to those who are struggling. I also have a Facebook group and Instagram page, both called #lovehardproject where I share inspiration and tips to navigate the grief journey. I am writing a program that also focuses on helping with grief and also touches on mindset because I truly believe that what we think and how we chose to live each day can either make the journey difficult or more joyful.
5. You have an Instagram account (group) called (#lovehardproject). What is the aim of that account?
GM: #lovehardproject started as a facebook page where I wanted a placethat was positive and uplifting. It was 2017 and the feel of the country was very negative and divided politically. The aim was to simply share positive content. Then the members began to share their stories of loss and sadness about not being able to talk to people around them. Grief changes the way people interact with you. They don’t know what to say. They feel inadequate and/or uncomfortable, so they just kind of drift away. Or they tell you how you are supposed to mourn the loss and that you have been sad long enough. I realized that grief is so misunderstood because we aren’t talking about it! I began to listen to the members of the group and what they were struggling with and I started writing things down. Those things are being developed into a program that I plan to launch by spring. The Instagram account is where that will most likely launch from. I am not as confident on IG as I am on facebook, but I hope that by simply showing up I can offer value and support to my community.
6. I know that you are dedicated to keep Kylee’s legacy alive. You managed to get Kylee a tree at a special place. Is it a way to be in (in some sort) in her presence? How often do you visit this place? What does it mean to you?
GM: Actually, a friend is the one who had a tree planted in Deschutes National Forest in memory of Kylee. Neither of us has been able to find out if the tree was marked when it was planted. We’re still working on that. When I find out, I am sure that I will start a traditional hike to her tree every year.
7. What are the most difficult moments, or which are the most difficult days where you feel overwhelmed by grief? And what keeps you going?
GM: I wish I knew the answer to this question! I never know when the difficult days and moments will come. Most of the time, the anticipation and anxiety of the arrival of a certain day is worse than the actual day. I always think that her death anniversary and her birthday will be rough. Sometimes they are, but most of the time it isn’t as bad as I think it will be. A few months ago, I heard a song on the way to work and that started an entire week of my feelings being right on the surface. I mean everyday I had a breakdown! I have learned to be super vulnerable and honest with those around me. All my co-workers know my story and I tell them that I am having a rough day and that I might need them to step in for me if I have a grief burst. They are the best work family and they are happy to take care of me. What keeps me going? My children and grandchildren! I am blessed with family who are close and supportive. They keep me going because it would be a dishonour to them if I felt like their lives were not worth celebrating. Also, I know Kylee would not want me to be sad and give upon life. She was vibrant and adventurous and since she isn’t here to experience earth life anymore, I will do it for her!
8. After all the tragedy you have experienced – do you think that Kylee’s death was not in vain? If yes, explain…
GM: Absolutely! I don’t even know how to explain it except by saying that we all have a renewed sense of closeness and realizing what really matters. After Brandon shared his heartache on Facebook the night Kylee died, the post went viral and people began to have hope in a love like Brandon and Kylee’s. They began to see how we came together as a family and they came along with us and wrapped their virtual arms around us and mourned and cried with us (I’m crying as I write this and remember feeling the power of their love and prayers). I have never felt anything so real and so powerful before from people that I didn’t even know. My niece set up a GoFundMe account and donations poured ineven though it was 5 days before Christmas. My faith in humanity was restored and I was overwhelmed with the generosity. I still have people reach out to me regularly that I only know through the tragic loss of my daughter. You are one of those people whom I feel a great love for and I am deeply appreciative of your support and how you check in regularly! My children have learned empathy for those who have lost loved ones.They are so amazing and are doing their best to honor Kylee’s memory by simply living their best lives and being kind and helpful and adventurous.
9. Have you dealt with the topic of death since the sad event? If yes, how?
GM: My life has been touched by loss quite often, so the topic of death isone that I have experience with; however, until Kylee’s death I realize that I didn’t grieve in a healthy way .I lost both of my parents to homicide/suicide when I was 19 years old and very close to having my first child. My sister was 15 and my brother was 13 and they came to live with my husband and me. We were just kids ourselves, really, and had no idea how to grieve, let alone try to help a couple of teenagers through the loss of their parents. I believed that as the oldest, my job was to be strong for the younger kids. So I was. I never cried in front of them (maybe twice), and we certainly didn’t talk about their feelings. Looking back, it was horrible! I did them a huge disservice of which I have apologized for. I realized that I didn’t grieve properly when I attended a grief support group after Ky’s death. The things I learned in that group opened my eyes to how I needed to deal with the death of my parents and how far I had come since then. I am now an advocate for talking about death and how grief is different for everyone. I want people to know that howevert hey are grieving is the right way for them and that there is no “right” way to do it and there is no “right” amount of time to get through the process. Mostly, we need to be aware that there will never be complete healing; we will just learn to move through our days with that feeling of loss in our hearts.
10. Did your faith in God change after Kylee’s death? If yes to what extent? And do you still believe in God?
GM: I can’t say that my faith changed at all. I wanted to turn my back and walk away, but I always kept coming back to my faith. When I look back over my life, I can see where God has always had my back even when I thought there was no way I could go on and even when I felt alone. I know I will see Kylee and her baby again and that she is still very much near. I also know that they are in a place with other family members who have died and that their joy is full and there is no pain or suffering. I am comforted by that knowledge. I miss her terribly and as much as I want her back, I don’t want to take her from the place she’s at.
11. What would you like to say or advise people who are dealing with grief right now? What tips do you have for them?
GM: The first and most important thing would be that I promise it gets better!!! I can’t say that enough. When the grief is new and raw, it seems like you will never be able to be better. But with all my soul, I want you to believe that it will get better! And I want you to let that comfort you if only a tiny bit! My heart goes out to you! Second, find support! I want to gently tell you that it may not come from your family or close friends. Your family is experiencing the loss, too, and they may not be able to be the support you need. Death is an uncomfortable subject and people don’t know how to approach it, so they may say hurtful things or tell you that you have grieved long enough or that you should let go now. At first, I was hesitant to go to a support group, but I have stayed in touch with a few of the people that I met there and they understand that a hug is sometimes all that is needed. I have lots of little tips, but I will end with just one more and that is to find a way to serve. I am a firm believer that when you serve others your own problems become less burdensome. I like to think of it like this…Kylee is no longer here to perform acts of service, so I am going to do it for her. Your loss deserves an appropriate season of grieving or else it won’t go away. Feel it and let it be what it is and let the source of love for your child take the horrible event and transform it into something that can help others. Our struggles and trials make us who we are. Life isn’t supposed to be free of pain and hurt. We’re always trying to run from the dark into the light without staying in the dark long enough to realize that there are lessons to be learned there. And those lessons will help us appreciate the light on a much deeper level.
„Never. We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.“ – Paulo Coelho
I was speechless when I read your answers and it made me cry. I know how hard it must have been for you answering those questions. In am so sorry for your loss. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giviung insight on death and grief. I am sure, Kylee is proud of your work and how you are helping people dealing with a loss of a loved one. It is incredible how strong you are – and I am proud to know you (even if its not personally). Please keep up the good work. May God bless you and your whole family. You deserve the best. Stay safe! Hugs and Love, Aby!