4 min read

Katherine’s Story

carya is there for Calgarians of all ages when and where they need us most. For many in our community, that means accessing affordable, barrier-free mental health support such as counselling services.

Last year, carya’s team of clinical therapists provided over 29,000 counselling sessions in the Calgary community. These sessions were provided to seniors in the community, individuals requiring language-specific sessions, and families like Katherine’s.

From the outside looking in, Katherine had a picture-perfect life; a beautiful family and a job she loved. But that all changed for Katherine in December 2019…

“I was flying back from New York City. I sat in first class and was very unsettled. I was both elated and devastated. I had just been in two days of meetings with some of the smartest people I have ever met and was so excited about the impact of a project that we were beginning. At the same time, I had the devastating news that my sister’s cancer treatment was unsuccessful and that nothing could be done.” Says Katherine.

By early 2020, Katherine’s sister was in palliative care, and her marriage was struggling. Katherine had been laid off from her role, had no healthcare benefits, and her husband was in the throws of his own mental health struggles. She found herself travelling for hours to be her sister’s primary caregiver and navigating what a trial separation would look like for herself and her family.

She moved out of her house and into an apartment three blocks away, hoping to find the space to grieve and heal, while keeping things as consistent as possible for her two children.

Katherine’s sister passed away in July after months of treatment. When she thinks back on her time and the long drives to be by her side, Katherine says, “I will never regret my time with my sister.”.

After her sister passed, Katherine refocused her attention on her family and marriage. She and her husband wanted to try to make things work and reached out to carya to explore family counselling and were added to the program waitlist.

Just when things seemed to be settling, the unimaginable happened; Katherine’s husband passed away unexpectedly of natural causes, just ten short weeks after her sister.

“Telling my children that their father died was probably the worst day of my life. No one saw it coming, and I was now responsible for their grief and mine.”

Two days after her husband passed away, Michelle from carya called Katherine to tell her that a spot had become available for family counselling. “I remember telling her my husband had just passed away, so I was not sure she could help us with that. In the days that followed, Michelle helped me through my initial shock and fog, and we spent time one-on-one with grief counselling and virtual play therapy with my children.

In the months ahead, Katherine worked closely with her counselling team to navigate her grief and develop coping and parenting skills for her children. Through the support of Michelle, Katherine learned how to have self-care while creating security for her children. She set small goals and worked towards them.

“Michelle helped me understand that it is ok to lay in bed with my kids watching Netflix and that it can be part of a healing journey. But the grief journey also needs a path forward. She helped me create the structure we needed. For months my goal was to get my kids to school, ideally with a lunch… on time was not part of the equation. She taught me it is ok to go slow, it’s ok not to be ok, and that negative self-talk is not helpful, so ditch it. Slowly, these goals became easier to achieve and expanded, and I learned to become a better parent.”

“carya helped me through my grief and helped me to be a better parent and person. Looking back at the past two years, I am grateful I had access to their support.”

Our supporters make programs and services like this available to individuals like Katherine when and where they need it most.

This holiday season, if you are able, please give the gift of carya by making a donation that is significant and meaningful to you.


For more information on how you can donate please visit click the link: caryacalgary.ca/donate/