“You have to come back…..You have to come back….Cory, you have to come back….”.
Those words and the absolute anguish behind them is something that will never leave my memory…..for the rest of my life.
Those words were coming from my Mom in the early morning hours of October 28th. On October 27th my big brother Cory passed away tragically of a fentanyl drug overdose. My Dad was the one to call me….but it was my brother that woke me up. My ringer was off, phone facing down so no light would have been shining. And at the moment my Dad was calling I woke up and picked up my phone, not even knowing it was ringing. There was my Dad’s face on the screen at 12:05am and I knew it was bad news.
Dad said “Tiffany, your brother passed away”…..and instantly all the air in my lungs was gone.
For quite some time I knew there was a high probability of it happening, but I gotta tell ya, NOTHING can ever prepare you for when it actually happens. The only thing I remember after hanging up with my Dad is crying hysterically, swearing like a drunken sailor, dry heaving and yelling. Like a mad woman.
My family lives about 3.5 hours away from me….even in my state of mind I knew I needed to get to them right away, especially my Mom. James stayed home with the kids so I could leave right away.
Without a doubt my brother guided me home. I don’t remember more than 10 minutes of that drive. I know I made a couple phone calls, but I don’t remember much else, except a feeling of dread the closer I got to Medicine Hat. Knowing I had to see my parents and sister in the worst pain of their lives. And yeah, it was very hard…..but what sent me into a tailspin was when I went into the living room and sat on the couch….my Mom had put a picture of Cory on the coffee table. It was seeing his face in that picture and knowing I would never see him again – I lost all air again and a full blown anxiety attack hit me. Thank God Mom and Denise were there in that moment with me on the floor.
The days that followed are a bit of a blur – but there were a few moments that I am wanting to share with you. The reason being is best explained in a text that a dear friend of mine sent me, and here it is….
”As you rejoice in the raw, real truth of it, it gives me and others permission to get real with our own grief and sit in our own feelings. You’re such a big beautiful bright light of love in all its mess and grace. Truly. Thank you for being you and loving all of her!! The more we all do that, the more we will all pull through together and learn acceptance more and surrender more.”
The first moment I want to talk about was the day after Cory died. I was under the influence. I felt the need to numb myself as much as possible, so I didn’t have to feel my heart breaking every single second. It was early afternoon. My parents live across the street from a school (it was a Thursday so had kids in it).
If you listened to Episode 50, you would have heard how my brother and I danced in the rain together and laid on the grass in that school yard and told each other how much we loved each other and that he would get through this. Well…..I wanted to feel close to Cory again and in my state of mind I thought “go to the schoolyard, he’ll be there”. I grabbed a blanket, put on my hoodie with my Panama pants and headed across the street. I put the blanket on the grass, laid down and started talking to Cory.
It was a rainy, cloudy, day, but I felt a ray of sunshine hit my face…..and I knew it was him saying “I’m ok Tiff”. Then, I saw my brother-in-law’s face in front of me asking me to get up….cuz it was almost time for recess and I might scare some kids if they see me laying there in the rain. I do believe I told him to beat it once or twice but then my sense returned and agreed with him and went back to the house.
My brother lived in an apartment in the Hat….one I had never been to. It still breaks my heart when I think about that. He had been in it for about a year or so and I guess we never made an effort to go there when we went down to visit….he would always come over to Mom and Dad’s. So a couple days after he passed away, I went there with my Dad. I needed to. Well that just about did me in.
My Dad opened the door and right there at the front door were his work boots, nice and neat and orderly like he always kept his homes. Like he just got home from work. Then I went around the corner into his living room and on his coffee table was a bowl of chips. That bowl of chips sent me into a tailspin that lasted a good hour. It was like he just put them there and was sitting down to watch a football game. Something drew me to a spot on his living room floor and I knew in my soul that was where he passed away. I laid down on that spot and wept. I felt Cory with me so strongly. Like he was hugging me as I laid on his living room floor. Even though it was so, so sad, I am very grateful that I went to his last home and paid my respects there.
A couple days after he passed away, I needed to get away from everyone so I rented a hotel room not far from my parents home. I laid in that hotel bed for almost two days straight and cried. The only thing that got me out of bed was the washroom and Skip The Dishes. What was so amazingly beautiful in those two days is I felt my brother with me….literally felt him sitting on the bed. I thought for sure I was imagining it, so I would hold my breath and not move an inch and then….the bed would move. Over and over it happened. And the goosebumps would wash over me like a warm hug. It was exactly what I needed to get through those two days.
The morning I was checking out, the weather had turned cooler and my windows were all frosted over. I was about to reach for something in my purse to scrape my driver side window when I clearly heard the words “Get Inside”…..and no I was not being robbed! So I did and when I turned my head to the left, the sun was shining through the frost and I could see so many beautiful snowflakes – in amazing detail. That was incredibly comforting and a beautiful sign from my big brother that he was ok and we’d get through this…..together.
When it came time to plan Cory’s Celebration of Life, I knew I wanted to do something that is my love language. A video tribute. This would serve as my part of the eulogy. I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough to talk on the day of the service so this was the best way for me to do it. I was reminded of so many incredible moments with my brother. We were 18 months apart and very close as young kids. Seeing those old photos and telling funny stories from our childhood was very hard but also comforting.
Also, while creating the video, I had one thought replay through my head over and over…..”I’ve got to get this right”….what I mean by that is I wanted everyone to REALLY see and remember my brother as the adorable, innocent child he once was. The son, brother, father, nephew, grandchild….friend. I didn’t want people to remember my brother for how he died but the person he really was. Which is a giant teddy bear with a heart of gold and a smile that could light up the whole world.
His service was incredibly beautiful. Denise was so strong and got up to read a final goodbye letter to Cory….how she did that still amazes me. Then my video was shown and yep, I cried like a baby along with everyone else. We went to the graveyard to deliver his body to the crematorium and then went back to my parents for a lunch. And I crashed…..HARD. Grief is very exhausting.
A week after the funeral, I took a trip down to Texas for a work conference. I made my way to Mustang Island, a beautiful beach community along the Gulf Coast. I sat on the beach with Cory’s bottle of ashes, had a drink and then walked into the ocean with him.
I didn’t think I would be able to let him go….it was very difficult and yes there were many tears. But finally, as the sun was setting, I put my brother’s ashes in the ocean and set him free, even more than he already was. It was a beautiful moment between my brother and I. My sister Denise is in Mexico with her family over New Years and she’s doing the same so now he’s been in two oceans in two months.
Getting back to daily life after the death of a loved one is difficult. It hasn’t been easy. What happens now? How does life go on when a piece of your heart is missing? Mom, Dad and Denise have their own grief journey, which is different from my own, and we are supporting each other through every up and down. My Mom talks to Cory every morning and he leaves her signs through numbers. Dad wrote Cory a letter that he shared with us, it is so, so beautiful. Denise talks to Cory often and enjoys 4:20 dates with her big brother.
Cory’s children Tye, Katy and Liam are always in our thoughts and we check in on them all the time and give them the love and support they need to cope with the devastating loss of their beautiful Dad. Kids, please never forget how much we love you and will always be here for you. This is a very difficult thing to deal with and we hope and pray that you will find peace one day.
The thing that has helped me cope through this devastating loss is something I have been very open about. And that is my spirituality and faith. About two years ago, I started to notice and hear from others that I was highly intuitive. At first I didn’t understand what that meant and how it would benefit my life. I began a daily meditation practice and really tapped into my inner knowing. I started to notice signs from my angels and guides on a daily basis, like repeating numbers, certain animals showing up and even licence plates. I also get full body goosebumps when I know a spirit is with me.
When Cory passed away, I felt him with me right away. Like I said earlier, I felt him at the end of my bed for the first few nights after he passed away, and I still occasionally feel him there. In my meditations I talk to him and he responds. I know it may sound unlikely or strange to some of you, but trust me, it’s real. And if this wasn’t happening, I am positive I would be in a very dark pit of despair.
Do I still cry and have hard days? Every single day I have tears, but almost as soon as they come, I also feel him calming me down. It’s like he’s a warm blanket that is wrapped around my body. I also journal every single day. I write down things I am grateful for and also just write to him and tell him what’s going on in my life and thank him for being my guide.
One time he communicated to me through a relative. My cousin James texted me a few weeks after Cory’s passing and said “I have an idea of how you can honour your brother and his legacy”. The idea? The Cory Carson Foundation. Instant full body goosebumps so I knew Cory was there. In my meditation later that day I asked Cory if he liked James’ idea and I clearly heard him say “I gave him the idea to tell you…I couldn’t reach you in your grief”. And then he showed me what he wanted the logo to include….and held up his always present rocker hand!
And so, with my family and some close friends of Cory’s, we have had discussions about starting up a non-profit foundation in his name. There are a couple big “Why’s” for this foundation.
One is to help those that are struggling with their mental health and addictions get into treatment and another is to help the kids that are left behind get the counselling they need to deal with the death of a parent.
More details about the foundation will be announced as things progress, but for now, we are taking time to grieve. When it’s meant to happen, it will happen. We know how much it will help others that struggle with their mental health, trauma and addictions and if it helps even one person or one family from experiencing the heartbreak we are facing, then it will be worth it.
Now back to the logo idea Cory showed me in my meditation. I immediately knew the person I wanted to bring it to life. My tattoo artist Eric. So I reached out to him….with a very long Instagram message! I met with him and said I’d like a rocker hand with double angel wings and the words Hard Beautiful Journey. I also wanted the colour’s black, white and blue (Cory’s favourite colors). What Eric came up with still takes my breath away….and is now the cover of this podcast and will be used for the foundation when we get it started. And….of course, I got it tattooed on my arm. And if you know my zero pain tolerance….then you know how much I love Cory! I will always be reminded of my beautiful brother every time I see it. Eric, thank you again from the bottom of my heart for using your amazing talent to bring this to life – I know Cory loves it as much as I do.
So now what? Well, I know his death has been the catalyst to really focus my podcast pillars. I want this podcast to be a place for people to talk about their mental health, their trauma, their addictions. I want this to be a place to honour grief and find some peace. I want you to know this is a safe space to be real, raw and vulnerable. I am here to listen and walk you through the process of talking about your journey.
What I also want for this podcast is to be a place to express gratitude and feel joy. Even in the darkest moments, there truly is something to be grateful for. And if you can laugh and find small moments of joy, the hard times will be a little less…..hard.
If you are ready to share your Hard Beautiful Journey with me and my listeners, I would be honoured to be the person to help you share it. Complete the form HERE and I will be in contact with you.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has been there for me and my family over the past couple months, during this very difficult time. Every call, text message and hug has been so appreciated. It truly means the world to me and our family.
And finally, please remember you are NEVER alone in your struggles. Please don’t suffer in silence. There is ALWAYS someone there to listen, and I am one of those people.
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Thanks for listening,