April 19, 2023

Chelsey McHale - Losing Her Brother to the Mountain

All surviving siblings have a different story. Chelsey and Clint were inseparable when they were kids, most of the time they were by themselves because their father was in and out of the picture and their mother was a single mom, working two jobs to...

All surviving siblings have a different story. Chelsey and Clint were inseparable when they were kids, most of the time they were by themselves because their father was in and out of the picture and their mother was a single mom, working two jobs to provide for them. Chelsey was about to graduate and was looking forward to having her brother at her graduation, so when she received “the call”, she couldn’t believe her brother had passed in a mountain climbing accident. 

In this week's episode, Chelsey shares about her and Clint’s story growing up, how she found out that he had been in a mountain climbing accident, her relationship with mom and dad after Clint passed, what she did to look for answers in her brother’s death, how she sought and offered support to other surviving siblings and what she has done to honor her brother Clint.

Season 3 is brought to you by SibsForever.org, a virtual platform to commemorate and honor your sibling relationship. Create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative web pages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling.

In this episode I’m covering:

  • Intro [00:00:00]

  • Chelsey and Clint’s story [00:02:13]

  • The knock on the door that changed her life [00:07:16]

  • Family dynamics after Clint’s death [00:14:42]

  • Looking for answers [00:20:19]

  • Seeking support for Surviving Siblings [00:28:23]

  • Supporting other surviving siblings [00:36:06]

  • Honoring Clint [00:41:44]

  • Finding a therapist [01:02:54]

  • Advice for Surviving Siblings [01:06:22]

For full episode show notes and transcript, click here

Connect with Chelsey

Instagram | @chelseym07

Facebook | Chelsey McHale

Listen to Haunted by Chelsey McHale


Connect with Maya 

Website | The Surviving Siblings 

Instagram | @survivingsiblingspodcast | @mayaroffler 

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Facebook Group | The Surviving Siblings Podcast

YouTube | The Surviving Siblings Podcast 

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Twitter | @survivingsibpod

✨Get The Surviving Siblings Guide HERE


[00:00:00] Maya: Welcome to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya Roffler. As a surviving sibling myself, I knew that I wanted to share my story, my brother's story. I lost my brother to a homicide in November of 2016, and after going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to share my story and his story.

[00:00:27] Maya: It's time to share your stories now. The Forgotten Mourners, the Surviving Siblings. The story that is not told enough. Season three of the Surviving Siblings Podcast is brought to you by Sibsforever.org, a virtual platform for you, the surviving sibling. To commemorate and honor your sibling relationship, visit sips forever.org today.

[00:00:50] Maya: To create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative webpages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling. Now let's dive into the episode

[00:01:09] Maya: today. I have another incredible guest for you. She'll be sharing her story and the loss of her brother Clint. Her name is Chelsey McHale. Chelsey, welcome to the show.

[00:01:21] Chelsey: Thank you for having me, and thank you for allowing me to share. My story about my brother and allowing this platform for others to share about their siblings that they've lost. It really is such a great outlet and a great way to express yourself in sharing your story. And as I'll probably talk later on just the importance of sharing therapy group. But everyone has a different story and I love that this is more honed in for siblings and I love that I get the chance to share my story about Clint, not just his passing, but also just he and I and our relationship that we had together.

[00:01:55] Maya: You are welcome, Chelsey, and I'm excited for everyone to hear all of the surviving siblings here to hear your story and Clint's story. So I'm gonna hand it over to you so you can share a little bit about your relationship with Clint, your background, and then of course we can talk about his passing and your grief journey. So I'm handing it over.

[00:02:13] Chelsey: So my brother Clint, he was two years older than me, so he was the big brother and it was just he and I, and we actually were born and raised in Arizona. We're so we're natives, which that's kind of rare in Arizona to have that. So we're like unicorns in a way. And my brother and I though was just he and I with my mom growing up.

[00:02:33] Chelsey: So she's a single parent. My dad was an addict. They were both from the east coast, but he kind of was there on and off and wasn't much involved in our life until later on. And my mom being a single mom and raising two kids, she worked two jobs. Clint and I were by ourselves quite a bit at very young age.

[00:02:51] Chelsey: And looking back now is such a blessing to have that because we just did so many adventures. We were quite the entrepreneurs. We had a patio cleaning business. We had a car washing business. We were seven and nine years old. And I remember we cleaned a patio and they gave us $20 and we thought we were rich

[00:03:12] Chelsey: There was, uh, golf course and we, well, we'd find, you know, the golfers or golf balls. We would steal them. seven, nine years old, polished them up and then we sold them back to the golfers on this little stand, almost like a li little lemonade stand. And we got along bus when we were up to no good. But we were always quick to point, you know, the finger to the other person who, you know, whenever we'd get in trouble.

[00:03:38] Chelsey: And but how that benefited with us in a different way is we fought quite a bit as siblings do. And my mom put us into counseling. We did not wanna go to counseling together. So my brother came up with the idea where he said, Hey, we don't wanna do this anymore. Why don't we just go in there and pretend everything is fine and blame it on mom.

[00:03:59] Chelsey: And I said, okay, , let me just kind of tag it. .

[00:04:03] Maya: Ok. I have to laugh there. That is so funny. ,

[00:04:06] Chelsey: that's how it was. I just kind of tagged along whatever he said. I, I followed and he would do photo shoots, schedule those for Father's Day or Mother's Day and would tell me where to go or what to where. And I'd just show up.

[00:04:17] Chelsey: But at the counseling session, I still, it's so vivid in my mind and I just can see us sitting there and the counselor asking, you know, how is everything going? And we, Clint and I are laughing together. We're hugging and thanking her for all that she's done to help us. And then we shift it and we start talking about my mom in a negative way and.

[00:04:40] Chelsey: Then when we leave, my brother and I are all leaving, you know, hugging each other. And it's all just kind of the facade. We still have that sibling rivalry, but we didn't wanna go to counseling anymore. So when we were leaving, the therapist actually called my mom back and said, I need to talk to you. And so we definitely got in trouble later, but my mom at the end of the day said, well, I can't be too mad cuz at least you guys got along in some capacity.

[00:05:07] Chelsey: And so we worked together with that . Yeah. So yeah, that was definitely a good, really good memory. And he was always a prankster too. Growing up when he was three years old, my dad was kind of like winding up the hose after he was getting done, after he was gardening and he, my brother, put a fake snake where the hose was and just scared my dad.

[00:05:28] Chelsey: And at three years old, , I dunno how, he just loved it. He loved it so much. And so we, as we grew up, we did fight a lot. Brothers and sisters, siblings, you know, do, and my mom and him didn't have the best relationship. She had an abusive boyfriend, so childhood was definitely a little rocky and he did get the worst.

[00:05:49] Chelsey: He had to grow up definitely way too fast and really became independent after he became 18 quite a bit. Whereas I still needed, you know, I was still depending on my mom, but he just moved forward in his life and just kept going. It was really inspiring. And I went to school at Northern Arizona University up north and Flagstaff here in Arizona.

[00:06:13] Chelsey: I was studying to be an English teacher. I wanted to teach eighth graders because they're like a good challenge. And I thought that was the most challenging age. I know. At least for me, I was in a good, yeah, you're very brave. . I, yeah, I was in a good, very brave, very brave . Yeah. I was thinking, I was like, how am I going to relate to these eighth graders, these 14 year olds, when I'm 23 years old?

[00:06:36] Chelsey: But I, I wanted the challenge, so I studied very hard in school and just could not wait to graduate. And my mom and my dad, they had divorced when we were really young. I, my brother and I had our relationship with our dad later on in life. They hadn't seen each other though in 20 years. And the first time that they were going to see each other was gonna be at my college graduation.

[00:07:00] Chelsey: And that was the first time we'd ever, my brother would and I would ever remember, you know, they'd been in a room together, but we were too young to remember. So my brother couldn't wait. He was excited. He's like, how are we, let's make this as awkward as possible. Let's parent trap them. And I said, no, Clint, we, we don't want them back together.

[00:07:16] Chelsey: I'm not, we're not gonna parent trap them . And he just could not wait. He was so excited to just make it as awkward as possible. And that's what he always did. And so one night, a week before my graduation, I was studying for my final exam in my dorm. I had another roommate. I get a knock on my door and it's our resident assistant who stand, hands me a sticky note, just has a phone number on it, says there's emergency with your brother, and you have to call this number.

[00:07:46] Chelsey: And I was very confused. And to backtrack a little bit, just a couple weeks prior when I was down in Phoenix before going back up to study for my last final exam up north, Clint and I spent a good amount of time together. We went to the movies to see the movie Water For Elephants with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattison.

[00:08:08] Chelsey: I had read the book, book is so great and I was excited to see the movie. None of my friends wanted to go with me . So I asked my brother and Clint said, yeah, I guess. I mean, I don't, all right. And we went, but he wanted to make a stop at this Greek restaurant outside the theaters. And we, he ordered all this food that we brought into the theater and the entire theater smelled like onions.

[00:08:31] Chelsey: And the whole time I was like, we're gonna get . He just didn't care. And after the movie I said, you know, did you like it? Like I loved it. And he said it, it was okay. And we went up to this rooftop bar, we had a blue moon that was his favorite drink, his favorite kind of beer. And we took a photo together and he has his goofy face in it.

[00:08:53] Chelsey: Then the next day we laid out the pool at his apartment complex. We took pictures of the clouds. It was just a really beautiful day. And I hugged him and got in the car, waved, said, love you. See you at my graduation. So leading up to that sticky note, as you know, you shared on your the call, whereas with me it was the knock.

[00:09:13] Chelsey: Yeah. And that morning though, this is May 4th, 2011, that morning he texted me that photo of us on that rooftop bar and him looking goofy in it, and I text back lol, and that was that morning. So a few hours later, that's when I got this knock on my door at the sticky note. I call the number thinking it's a prank because how are we supposed to comprehend that?

[00:09:38] Chelsey: I just talked to him that morning and I quickly learned it was not a prank. It was a hospital that I was calling down in Phoenix. They said that my brother was in a mountain climbing accident, that he had fell fallen. and that it's life-threatening and not good. I kept asking, but is he alive? But is he alive?

[00:09:58] Chelsey: And they just kept repeating the same thing. It's life-threatening, not good. You need to get down here. And I was also wondering why I was the one that got notified, which I later learned I was his emergency contact. I didn't even know that.

[00:10:10] Maya: Oh wow.

[00:10:11] Chelsey: My dad was in Tucson, I'm in Florida, so he and I are, were, you know, we're really close.

[00:10:18] Chelsey: But at that moment, physically we were very far apart. So he called the hospital too and they were giving the same information. But I had to call my mom and tell her, you know, that she was a, she was the closest one to get to the hospital because they were all saying the same thing to us. And it was really hard because just a week prior, she was yelling at me to not invite my brother to my graduation.

[00:10:44] Chelsey: She said, no, that he can't come. And I said, it's my graduation. And yes, he's coming. End of story. So it was very weird a week later to now tell her she has to go to the hospital because he was in an accident. So I waited 45 minutes staring at my phone, calling him. I kept calling him because, you know, it had, it had to been a mistake.

[00:11:04] Chelsey: It couldn't have been my brother, it had to been somewhere else. But I waited 45 minutes and finally my mom called me after she had gotten there and very calmly said, Clint died at 4:30 PM today. And that was not what I thought was going to be, what was told to me. And that's when I really learned the true meaning of just, you know, falling to your knees.

[00:11:29] Chelsey: And that's what happened. And just my knees buckled and I just fell. And you're in that fog, in that daze, and you can't comprehend that our brains aren't wired to comprehend something like that. So significant and massive in our life to happen all at once. So, . I was just in a state of shock. And then after I hung up with my mom, because I, I, my roommate took the phone from me cuz I was just shaking.

[00:11:57] Chelsey: I, shortly after I said, wait, I have to call my dad. And when I made that phone call and having to tell my dad that his son died, I, I mean, I can, I can still hear him, you know, screaming when I made that call. And that was, I never wanna do anything like that again. A call like that.

[00:12:17] Maya: Yeah. That's really tough. I was the person that called my dad as well and so I, ugh, my heart goes out to you, Chelsey, because I was that person too. And it's undescribable. So when did it sink in with your dad? Was he in shock? What was his reaction and how did you manage that?

[00:12:35] Chelsey: My roommate again took the phone from me when, because he was just like crying and crying and started throwing up. And so my roommate took the phone and she really. Helped me. And there was, at that moment, my only thing was I have to get home. I have to get home. You know, I'm, I'm up north, I wanna get home. So bef and then I, it's two and a half hour drive. And I was like, oh my gosh, like how am I gonna do this? This whole time though, my roommate was already packing up my entire dorm.

[00:13:04] Chelsey: She had already called her dad, who was less than two hours lived from Flagstaff. And before I knew it, he was there. Later I had asked her, how did you know? Why did you, you packed up my whole dorm. You called your dad. We didn't even know if he'd passed away yet. And she said, I knew. And I said, but how? And she's like, by what they were telling you?

[00:13:25] Chelsey: And she said, I could tell that he was gone, but I knew you were. You needed to hear it though. And I look back now and what a blessing though, because in that fog and state of grief, that's your first thought. What do I do next? What am I supposed to do? Because nobody teaches you. Okay, then you do this. I even packing, what do I pack?

[00:13:42] Chelsey: What do I take? So that was really, I was, that was

[00:13:46] Maya: Oh yeah. . Yeah. Yeah. You were very, I don't wanna say lucky because we're not lucky to go through this situation, but I think you said it beautifully, your roommate was a blessing. Totally. And you know, you've heard my story as most of you guys have as well, and you know, I think we have these people in our lives for a reason, and it's a, it's a beautiful thing.

[00:14:11] Chelsey: Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. And she and I aren't even in touch today, and it's, no, not a falling out or anything like that. We just lost touch. But I look back at that dark, very dark moment, and she's the brightest light that I see in it because she did what I needed that I didn't even know I needed. And then there was the planning of the funeral, that's where it got very complicated because I was not allowed to have any say in planning the funeral, and neither was my dad.

[00:14:42] Chelsey: It was just my mom and her sister. Everything. I just, everything, you know, the photos of me in the house came down and only he was up where just a week prior she was screaming at me telling me he can't come to my graduation. And then now he passes and now she loves him. And that was really hard. That was really hard to not be able to have a part in that while trying to also, at 23 years old, figure out what am I supposed to do next?

[00:15:11] Chelsey: So his funeral ended up being the day of my col what would've been my college graduation, which is, was Friday the 13th. Wow. Yeah. It's pretty crazy is I said that, I said the taping right now it's January, Friday the 13th. But it's, it was very unusual.

[00:15:27] Maya: Hello? Yeah. .

[00:15:29] Chelsey: I know. And I still wore the white and yellow dress I was gonna wear in my college graduation, and I stood out among all those wearing black.

[00:15:39] Chelsey: it was, it's a days and a fog looking back at it all. But I was to live with my mom, you know, while I started my career as teaching. And it's very hard to start, how do you start your career right after that? But I didn't know. The day after his funeral, my mom made me leave and I didn't have anywhere to go.

[00:15:57] Chelsey: So I went to, had to go to a friend's house and slept on his couch for months. And it was, it was brutal. It was hard. And my dad, I think, had shared, he, he was an addict, he was a great dad, but, you know, he had that addiction issue and he relapsed. And then my mom wasn't speaking to me. And I, I didn't wanna be an enabler to my dad, but I also needed my dad.

[00:16:20] Chelsey: I needed someone. So it was very, very challenging as I felt that I was in the middle trying to make it work and, and for everyone, making sure everyone else was okay, that I wasn't really taking care of myself. But, His death. He, I learned more in detail. He was with his friend and it was Camelback Mountain here in Phoenix.

[00:16:41] Chelsey: It overlooks the city. It's beautiful. It you Google what, what are things to do in Arizona? Camelbacks gonna popup it's, it actually pops up as a bucket list item and it is a beautiful mountain. It's a mile.

[00:16:54] Maya: It is so gorgeous. Yeah, it's gorgeous. I've been there, I've done retreats there. When I worked in corporate America, we, when book retreats overlooking I, I did one big retreat.

[00:17:07] Maya: I was probably. , oh my gosh. 23, 24. Probably the same age you were when you lost Clint and it's gorgeous. So that's what he was hiking, that's where he was when he passed.

[00:17:20] Chelsey: Yes, he was Camelback. Mallon was his. Wow. His go-to mountain Go. Growing up we hiked superstition mountains. That's in Apache Junction in Arizona, which is more out in the desert.

[00:17:30] Chelsey: That's what I prefer when it comes to hiking, is being in the actual desert. But there are so many people that love smack, you know? Right in the city. And I get that cuz it is beautiful at the top and he loves sunsets and he just loved going there. He meditated there and then he just started rock climbing essentially.

[00:17:47] Chelsey: But he didn't train for it. He didn't have the right shoes. He didn't even have the safety. and he was with a friend. Mm. They were almost to the top. And I don't know all of the vivid details other than what the news has shared, because his friend refused to share the whole details with me. And early on that bothered me so much.

[00:18:09] Chelsey: I was angry. Is really angry because I wanted to know what happened. And all I knew was what the news said. But looking back now, I'm glad that I don't know all the details, but all I know is he was almost to the top. He was slipping. And I asked his friend, you know, help me, I'm gonna fall. And he goes to grab his hand and he drops it and my brother falls 50 feet.

[00:18:28] Chelsey: And he didn't pass away though, right away. He actually, he was still alert, he was still alive. And the news helicopter just was hovering over them. and I found that out later because they aired it on the news, his accidents. I had no idea. That was back in 2011. So I mean now it'd be even, even worse. But that's about how 75% of his friends found out that he had passed.

[00:18:55] Chelsey: They saw it on the news. Wow. And you can watch him. I watch it. You watch him dying and it was a very, it's traumatizing to see.

[00:19:05] Maya: So hang on a second, Chelsey. Yeah, absolutely. Like I can connect with you so deeply on this because we all know the story , my brother, being brought into, you know, the basically the trauma unit and it being all over for him, but, oh my, I wanna unpack this just a little bit before we move forward.

[00:19:26] Maya: So there's footage out there that was public of him falling from CAMA back and. People saw this, like that is intense. And my second question or, or kind of add on to this is I can completely understand why you would wanna know all that information. And I guess I would wanna know what's the reasoning for his friend not sharing.

[00:19:51] Maya: So it's kind of a two-part question for you to unpack before we move forward. But wow, that's in, that's intense and I connect with you on the level of people knowing about this on a large scale, but I don't connect with you on the level of people seeing this, you know him visually. So that is so much. So if we can just unpack those two. Wow. Wow, that's a lot. So kind of walk me through both of those questions, if you don't mind.

[00:20:19] Chelsey: Yeah. So his friend was 21. He was younger than him. He was younger than me. I don't really know it. It was right after he didn't wanna share the, the details of really what happened. I really only when I read on the news article, cuz my mom when I came to the police and everything, she has already taken the lead on that.

[00:20:34] Chelsey: But he had al already fallen and his friend though got down to him and he was holding him. And my brother was still very much alive. You could tell, you could just tell he was in agony though, at the same time. And they posted that probably, gosh, a, after an hour, they knew my brother or me and my mom and dad knew that he had passed.

[00:20:57] Chelsey: Then they posted that on the news for everyone to see. We didn't even have time to tell anybody before then. Some of my friends, they, that's where they saw it first. And it's very traumatizing. And I, I wish I never saw that footage. I really, really do because it's forever ingrained in me. My dad and my mom never saw it.

[00:21:17] Chelsey: There's, I sheltered my dad from it. Other people sheltered. My mom, they never saw that. And I'm glad they didn't, but I, I can still, it's very vivid.

[00:21:26] Maya: Yeah, of course. That is , my gosh. Of course. That's ingraining you, I know my own experience and so I connect very much with that. Like that's the quote unquote last image you have of your brother.

[00:21:38] Maya: And it's also very public image of your brother, so that's very, very difficult. How did you deal with the fact that his friend never wanted to really tell those like details of like what happened? Because for me personally, that's something that I. Struggled with for years and I'm in a different place now with it, right.

[00:22:03] Maya: With my brother and going through murder, homicide and you know, I just, I wanted to know, I had to know. And so I think we connect probably on that level. But how, I mean, how did you get to that place? Because you're a little bit further along in your grief journey than I am and probably a lot of you guys listening and we're all over the place with our grief journey.

[00:22:24] Maya: But you know, I would, I wanted to know so bad, like what happened in those moments before. I was obsessed, like, and I'm sure you can relate to that. So was there ever a conversation with his friend or like how did you finally kind of release that or move forward? Like I think that, like that's probably a question we all have listening to this story. Cause that's intense.

[00:22:46] Chelsey: Mm-hmm. , I know I was angry because that's my brother. You were with him, you let go of his hand. And in my head I was thinking he probably let go of his hand cuz he was gonna fall too and. then it was just a lot of bitterness where it, I thought, you know, why couldn't it have been you?

[00:23:02] Chelsey: Why couldn't have you been the one? And that was very early on, and I was really mean to him. I had conversations with him leading up to the funeral. I told him, he is not allowed to come. He ended up calling my mom and she said it was fine for him to go at the funeral. He was upset and crying. And he told me, and I, I, he's like, I don't, I don't wanna, you know, fight or argue or anything about this, but I, I just, I can't go down that.

[00:23:27] Chelsey: And, and then he just like quickly left. It really wasn't, we never had a full conversation. Never. And it took me a long time to accept that that wasn't going to happen. But where I'm at now, I'm glad it never did. But at that time, I mean, I could only, I could only yell and scream as much as I, I could. He, he, you know, he couldn't force it out of him, but it just really.

[00:23:53] Chelsey: It was hard. And so with that, since I couldn't get answers from him and I didn't wanna be this crazy person lashing at him at the funeral, I later on reached out to the fire department near the, that would've been the crew that rescued him that day, because I wasn't gonna ask them for the details of what happened.

[00:24:15] Chelsey: But I scheduled that and then I never went because at that moment I thought, I don't wanna know. Now I've seen enough on the news. I did do more, more digging though, uh, and heard the 911 call his friend made. So I heard my brother in the background. I heard him in pain. I heard him say his last words that I was wondering, which would help me. He was very, he was still very much alert.

[00:24:42] Maya: Well, that's, that's a lot to unpack. Yeah. That's a, yeah, that's a lot to un unpack there. So I guess my question for you next is, , what do you think it sounds like hearing that call and kind of getting little, you know, everybody says closure, like I, we'll, we'll talk about that in, in a couple minutes, but like, I don't really believe in closure.

[00:25:07] Maya: I believe in like the power of us being able to move forward, not move on. You know, I think we all know my, my motto on this now, but what do you think compelled you to be like, okay, I don't need to go meet with the fire department. I don't need to see anything else. I don't, it sounds like that hearing his last couple words or what he was saying on that call, but it was that, the turning point for you in, in being like, okay, like I'm not, I'm gonna move on, or this is okay, but like, this is maybe that shifting point for me.

[00:25:45] Maya: What was that for you? Is it are, are we there? Is that what it was? Or kind of talk us through that.

[00:25:52] Chelsey: It was more, it came to a point of I didn't wanna know. I, I mean, I did wanna know, I think what more it came to the point of, even if I do know at the end of it, he's still gone, so why does it matter? I know he fell 50 feet.

[00:26:09] Chelsey: I know he, his death certificate was blunt force trauma, so he had a lot of injuries. I don't know the details of his injuries. And that's where he got to the point of obsessing so much about it. And then finally coming to the point, well, what, what does it matter? He's still gone, whether I know or not. And like you said, closure, especially with sudden death like that, there isn't closure because you're trying to make sense of it and you can't, it's something you can't make sense of.

[00:26:36] Chelsey: So you're not going to get that closure that you're trying to get. You're gonna, it's just, it, your life is just forever change.

[00:26:43] Maya: Yeah. I absolutely love your, your answer to this and, and. How you kind of went through this process, Chelsey, like it's traumatic, what you went through. It's traumatic what your brother went through.

[00:26:56] Maya: I can't even imagine hearing that through the phone, even though I have my own trauma experience. It's like my heart. Just like I'm with you. I'm so connected to you right now with this. But you know, I was in a group the other day and people who had just newly lost siblings, they were like, I need my closure.

[00:27:14] Maya: I need my closure. Because we're so programmed to get our closure, it's not closure. It's what do you need as an individual to be able to process what has happened and move forward in the way that works for you? And I think that's what you're saying so eloquently here in this situation. And when we lose someone suddenly dramatically like you lost Clint, you gotta navigate it in the way that works for you. And I think that's what you've done.

[00:27:44] Chelsey: Everyone has their different kind of family dynamic and with loss and even a a great family, very close family, it's still gonna split you up in some ways because we don't grieve the same. There's different relationships with my mom, she. was very particular in what she wanted me.

[00:28:00] Chelsey: I was just wanted this whole shrine photos everywhere of him and my dad. It was very similar at how he and I grieved, except he had that addiction piece of it. That was really tough. But he was very involved with AA throughout his whole life, and that was his outlook. That is where he got his support. I then learned I need support.

[00:28:23] Chelsey: I started looking up books for sibling loss and found them, and I read all seven of them out there , because that's when I realized where are all these ? Where's all this support? Yeah, and I'm just finding things for parents and people are telling me, you have to be strong for your parents. I know so many we can relate to that, but I understand losing a child, I, I can't imagine that because you are, are supposed to, your child is supposed to outlive you, but we are supposed to outlive our parents, my brother and I.

[00:28:55] Chelsey: That's siblings. , but he died before that. So with my dad and his grief and how he dealt with it, my mom didn't, she did not go to therapy. She didn't do anything. She just kind of stuffed it down. And I had already was seen, I was seen a therapist when he had passed. So when I went to her and shared what happened, what she said to me was, well, it could have been worse. You could have lost a child. And that was just weeks after he passed. And that's when I realized just how

[00:29:26] Maya: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold, hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up. That was your therapist that said that to you? Mm-hmm. . And this is a therapist that you had been seeing for a significant amount of time?

[00:29:37] Chelsey: Yes. But prior to my brother passing, so my next session with her, I was a mess. I was said, this is what happened. And, and shared a lot of what happened. Yeah. What I, what? I had that story at that time. And that was her response. Was, it could have been worse. You could have lost your child. I don't know if she's lost a child, if, if, I don't know why, but that sticks with me.

[00:29:57] Chelsey: That was back in 2011 and I can still remember that and I was in shock, so I didn't really say anything. But I, I wish I could go back now cause I would definitely say something and it made me just realize, she minimized my loss. She compared it well, it could have been worse. How does that help me?

[00:30:14] Chelsey: Because my brother's gone. How does that help me thinking, oh, okay, I could have lost a child. Thank God I only lost my brother. That's not the mindset that you have. We've all known, you know, with siblings, they're the ones who know what it's like to grow up in your family. And we finally became, he was 25 and I was 23. We just got to the point of being friends after fighting most of our lives. And then he was gone.

[00:30:40] Maya: And that's very typical, Chelsey. That's why I think your story, I mean, everybody's story is important in sibling loss because we need to bring so much. More light to this, but this is something that is so interesting about your story because you guys were at that point in time and it's, it's good for parents to hear too, because you were at a point in time when you kind of reconnect, right?

[00:31:04] Maya: Like when you're your siblings and there was the two of you. So it's another dynamic as well. They're your first best friend. They're your first person that you have fights with. They're the first person that you love, you hate. You go through everything. You see everything together. There's a bond that no one else can relate to, and diminishing the grief that happens when you lose that person.

[00:31:30] Maya: They're your first best friend. Fight. All those things you know that we're gonna name. But I always talk about comparing grief, and it's a topic I talk about all the time I on social media everywhere on these podcasts because my heart literally broke as you just told me, that your therapist literally told you that.

[00:31:51] Maya: Well, at least she didn't lose a child. You are 23 years old. You lost your first best friend, your first enemy, your first sleepover like partner, your first person that you shared toys with, the, the person you went through high school with, like all these. Things, right? And you had a similar experience with parents, so it really revs me up when I hear those things.

[00:32:13] Maya: And also breaks my heart because I relate to you so much in that because it's diminished. Our grief is definitely diminished, and that's why our mission is so important. But I think it's really important that psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, are aware of this loss because you said it very well. We expect to lose our parents.

[00:32:37] Maya: We expect that at some point we will lose our sibling, but we don't expect to lose them at the ages that we lost our siblings and in the ways that we lost our siblings. And there's no education on that or preparation on that. However, exactly what your therapist said, we are told the worst thing that can ever happen to you is that you lose your child.

[00:33:02] Maya: So, You were then reinforced with that information and therapy and that is difficult because how are you supposed to find solace or healing in that conversation? And I know we're gonna talk a little bit more and I want you to continue your story cuz I, I know you've done therapy and, and had this great journey afterwards and continue on your grief journey in a positive way. But that would've set me back, whoa.

[00:33:31] Chelsey: That's when I started to learn the forgotten mourners and people telling me I need to be strong for my parents. And it was hard, it was a harsh realization and it was just so I didn't understand it. I like you all that you said that they know us more than anyone, our siblings.

[00:33:47] Chelsey: And it did take, you know, a lot of us go into this adulthood especially, and I, I really feel for those who did, you know, lose siblings around our age or as teens, and you have that guilt and it's, it's sibling rivalry that you guys have. , and that's what it was. But you, you have so much guilt now that they've gone and that they've left and you're, you're like, gosh, I wish I would've been nicer to them.

[00:34:07] Chelsey: I wish I, why did I have to act like this? But we are meant to grow old with our siblings. At least that's how it should be. So when we go carry into adulthood, those memories, you know, those fights, it starts to soften as we become friends and mature. We had just gotten there. We had just became friends and then that's when he passed.

[00:34:28] Chelsey: And the fact that he passed a week before my college graduation is just so crazy. And a week before, or not, probably a week prior than that, that's when my mom was telling me he can't come. And, and then all of a sudden he, he dies. And I can't be in her life anymore. She doesn't want anything to do with me.

[00:34:47] Chelsey: My dad trying to do the best I can with him, but I'm also sleeping on a couch, trying to work a minimum wage job just to eat and also trying to grieve my brother, but. , I thought, I, I need to get this out. And so I started searching everywhere for grief groups because none of my friends got it. So I thought, I need to be around someone who gets it.

[00:35:12] Chelsey: I don't care if they're, you know, a stranger. There's comfort among strangers who get it. So I found the Hospice of the Valley Grief Support Group. That's all I could find. But they welcomed me with open arms. Everyone went, there was about at least 20 years older than me, they'd lost a parent or a spouse.

[00:35:30] Chelsey: I was definitely the youngest one there, but I still felt comfort being there. As time went on though, I thought I need something more than this. So, you know, and I went to the Hospice of the Valley Group because there wasn't a sibling loss group, and that shocked me because I thought there's all these other groups.

[00:35:48] Chelsey: How is there not a sibling loss group? So I started doing more and more research and that's when I came across the Compassionate Friends, the nonprofit organization for child loss. But it also, anyone can come, you know, it could be cousins, it could be grandparents, siblings. Yeah. It's much more inclusive.

[00:36:06] Chelsey: Yeah. So I reached out to the chapter leader at the time for the Compassionate Friends here, and I asked her, I said, Hey, you know, I shared about my story. I wanna build kind of the sibling loss subgroup under what you already have established here. Can I do that? And she said yes. And to, that was back in, I think it was in 2012.

[00:36:29] Chelsey: It was very early on, and she is like a mom to me now. She, she's so much like just this maternal loving person. I am so blessed to know her. But I led this sibling loss group for three years. I facilitated. and I never told anybody what to do, what to say. I just said, Hey, we're here to speak from experience.

[00:36:50] Chelsey: If there's something that someone says that resonates with you or that you think would be helpful, then share how you've worked through it and versus, you know, instead of saying this is what you should do, it's more just speaking from what we're doing right now. And it was really great to see, you know, siblings more and more come.

[00:37:08] Chelsey: Of course, we never want that. At the same time. We wish they were never, we don't want anyone a part of this club. We never asked to join, but it was an outlet for them. It was, it just felt, you know, we would have the child loss group set up and before we broke off into groups, that's when the siblings had their own room.

[00:37:27] Chelsey: And gosh, they just loved it so much as I came. Because before some of them were, were going, but they were with their parents. Now they're just with siblings. So now they can really share. Deeply, and a lot of it is about their parents and the family dynamic and they are now in the back burner. They're neglected or so it was a really good outlet to have that for three years that I did that until eventually it got to the point where I needed to move on in other areas.

[00:37:56] Chelsey: There was, it was a lot of fresh loss that was happening, that was coming in. It was triggering in some ways, but I also wanted to pass the torch onto somebody else, and to this day it still ran the sibling loss group here in Arizona and only sibling loss group in Arizona, which is still shocking to this day that it,

[00:38:14] Maya: yeah. But that's amazing that you were able to cultivate that. The Compassionate Friends is a great group, and I mean, I was just there this week in the sibling group here in Atlanta. I don't know if I told you that, Chelsey, and it's great, but it blows my mind too that that is the only in-person. Group that like I've been able to find here in Atlanta.

[00:38:38] Maya: And so interesting that that is something that you birthed out of the compassionate friends in your local area in Arizona as well. I mean, there's millions of us out here and like you said so eloquently, we don't wish this on anyone, . We don't want anyone to join the club. But if you're in the club, the club, no one wants to join as we say.

[00:38:59] Maya: Right? Um, you should be able to go be in the club and there's nowhere to go be a part of the club. So I love that you did that. I wanna thank you for that. I'm sure everybody in your community thanks you as well as it continues to grow and we don't want it to grow, like you said, but that's an amazing thing that you did.

[00:39:22] Maya: And I don't know that everybody is strong enough at that point in their lost journey to do that. So I really commend you for that. I think that's, Amazing. But I know that you, on your grief journey, had some other significant losses. I find it can be triggering to have other losses as well and mm-hmm. a part of your journey, was that right?

[00:39:47] Chelsey: Yes. So I've lost my, my dad in 2017, we found out that he had stage four lung cancer. He was a smoker most of his life. He had quit though, two years prior. I was told he had four to six months. I knew this day would come that I would have to take care of, you know, my parents. I didn't know that I would be now 29 and he'd be 61, and it was so sudden, so fast.

[00:40:12] Chelsey: This time though, I thought, okay, 4 to 6 months. Well then let me look at it differently. I get the gift of time now. and as devastating as it was, I said, no, I, I can, I need to cherish what I have now. I have a gift of time. We have at least four months. But he just kind of gave up and I did all that I could to take care of him.

[00:40:33] Chelsey: And with hospice, I was the one physically taking care of him, which was incredibly difficult. I needed Clint more than anything in that moment. But my dad passed away three weeks from his diagnosis, and that just kind of really changed me even more because he and I grew so close after, or my brother passed my bro, my dad and I grew more close than ever, and my mom and I grew more and more further apart.

[00:40:59] Chelsey: So now I lost my brother and my dad, who were both my protectors, who would've never, ever abandoned me. You know, they didn't leave by choice, but my mom did. And that was really hard. I think I feel as if I've been in this survival mode for so long, but I like that. It's come more. My therapist helped me realize now you're past survivor mo mode.

[00:41:24] Chelsey: You, you've done more than just survive. Not you're a fighter. That's more your brand new identity, not survivor anymore, a victim or anything like that. It's a fighter and a creator. And that's what I do. If something doesn't exist, I created and I didn't become that until my brother passed and that's when I created the sibling loss group.

[00:41:44] Chelsey: And to kind of go back towards what I've done to honor him, and I know so many other siblings I've heard out there where their stories and what they've done are created foundations and given scholarships and have done so much to have it where their siblings loss is not in vain. I reached out to the news since they had all this footage of my brother and they were getting some of the things that story wrong, minor things like his age and, and I was really upset about that early on.

[00:42:13] Chelsey: I, you know, you're gonna report on my brother, I didn't give you permission. Now you have his age wrong. And I went to the news station just two months after he died. Like I said, that was what I was living on, a friend's couch. It was a fog to me. And I, I shared his story and they played beared the footage.

[00:42:30] Chelsey: And I know I wanted to share the story to get it right, but I knew at that moment that there was something more that I wanted to do. And it wasn't just to memorialize him. There was something more, but I had no idea what that looked like. I knew it was gonna be something, but it hadn't come to me yet. But that was two months after he passed where I kind of thought, okay, how, how can I fix this in the future?

[00:42:50] Chelsey: And so, because losing Clint and the manner his death was so preventative, and I never try to ever make his death seem. You know where it was out of his control. He, he made a mistake. He made a huge mistake. It cost him his life. I will never say, oh, he did everything right and this still happened. No, he did everything wrong.

[00:43:13] Chelsey: And so many of us, especially in 20, you know, in our twenties, we were fearless, we're reckless sometimes, and he thought he was invincible. And a lot of us have thought that before in many areas. And it caused him his life though, unfortunately. And that was really hard, the fact that this was so preventable and I don't want another family to go through this, but how do I do that?

[00:43:34] Chelsey: It took me some time to really decide how, you know, what am I going to do? What does that look like? It had to evolve and slowly started changing that. We don't really have much signage out there for safety. We don't even have much education anywhere on safe hiking awareness. And you would think it's obvious to not hike when it's 110 degrees here, but people from all over come here and they say it's Arizona, it's a dry heat.

[00:44:02] Chelsey: Hundred 10. That was 110. It's it, you should not be hiking. At first, it was more, okay, here's safety with mountain climbing. Then it turned more into the heat and, and then it just overall was just hiking awareness in general and just being safe and making sure you come home safe to your family. So I started doing more media interviews.

[00:44:22] Chelsey: Then I thought, okay, this is what I want. I want to share his story of what not to do, and also provide the education of here's how you can stay safe. So I started partnering with the fire department here with the city officials, with Parks and recreation for the city of Phoenix. We'd get together, we'd have these meetings.

[00:44:42] Chelsey: Yeah, it was really hard for me because we would talk about other deaths that occurred on Camelback Mountain. and detail and some of my brothers. So I had to really get emotionally strong because I wanted to be taken seriously. I couldn't be a solving mess in these media interviews or these, you know, in-person meetings with the city officials.

[00:45:02] Chelsey: I had to really do what I can and in the sense where I could be taken seriously, that that doesn't mean though, after each meeting, I mean I second I got in my car, I lost every time , but while I was there in the meetings, I did what, you know, just a brainstorm of

[00:45:16] Maya: Yeah, I'm sure. I mean, I can't imagine like I relate to this part as well. Obviously I lost my brother in a totally different way, but I understand like having to go into a situation. I remember talking to the detectives. I remember going in to get, you know, autopsy going into the hospital to get records. Like all these things go into a, you know, my girlfriend who was an attorney, all these things to like get.

[00:45:44] Maya: To like the part of the mission that I was trying to, I don't know where I am now. Right? What I'm doing now, telling other people's stories, but also trying to really get to the core of what happened to my brother. But I totally relate to what you're saying, Chelsey, because I realized like I have to like put this somewhere.

[00:46:02] Maya: I have to put this emotion somewhere. I have to, doesn't mean that I'm not gonna go home and ball or you know, maybe have a glass of wine or two or something, you know, afterwards or like go talk to one of my best friends or whatever. Right? It was deeply emotional. I specifically remember leaving the hospital after getting every single record of what went on with my brother after being murdered and being in there and it's all there and I was completely traumatized.

[00:46:32] Maya: And so I really empathize with you and just also commend you for being able to go in front of those people because, again in front of detectives, PIs, things like that that I was in front of too. You know, you've got a cause, you've got a mission and like you're trying to help not only your brother and remember your brother, but you don't want this to happen to anybody else.

[00:46:54] Maya: And although our brothers pass in different ways, I completely understand what you mean by going in there. And it's compartmentalizing essentially. And that's not an easy thing to do when you're grieving. not easy at all.

[00:47:08] Chelsey: Yeah. And, and if you keep it like that, then it, it's definitely gonna come up eventually in other areas.

[00:47:13] Chelsey: But I would save all kind of my crying, all of that when I was a away from everybody. But it was only what my, a lot of what my friends saw or, or the public saw with these media interviews was me just fighting to share his story. But really at the end of it, at the end of these media interviews, some of 'em would last all morning and some, most of 'em would be live.

[00:47:34] Chelsey: I would just melt down after when nobody else was around. But I kept at it because I was getting somewhere. I was trying, I was starting to make some movement. I couldn't give up. And that's just really what fueled me. So I finally shared more about, okay, let's do this safety sign. Let's put it up, you know, three-fourths of a mile up.

[00:47:54] Chelsey: the trail Camelback is a mile long, but it's a mile straight up and three-fourths of a mile up is where people will tend and right going just there. It's, it's a hard hike and that's when people tend to rest, take pictures. It's already from that area. Very beautiful. Then they decide if they wanna go further on their hike.

[00:48:13] Chelsey: That's where I wanted to sign, not at the base of the trail, because a lot of people don't read those. They just start hiking. But the city of Phoenix told me that's against policy. We cannot have a, a story and um, of someone who passed there. We can't have a photo of like that on someone's mount on a mountain.

[00:48:29] Chelsey: We can't have any kind of memorial. And I said, it's not a memorial, it's a safety sign. And that's when that started to develop that it was, it was speaking out just for that safety piece of it. It wasn't a memorial sign. I was trying to use the sign of what not to do essentially, but also have that awareness.

[00:48:47] Chelsey: But, City of Phoenix, I fought and I fought and I fought. And there were times when they didn't answer me . And so I then would go to the news, yeah. . Every single time they would answer me. I just reached out to my media contacts and say, Hey, I'm not getting a response on this, so can we, can we do something?

[00:49:08] Chelsey: Say yes. So I'm trying to work on this, but unfortunately I'm not hearing back from so-and-so. Then they would call and call me after that, but they later would say, we thought you were just this emotional family member. Like we, they've seen the past so many times and they said, we thought you would just go away eventually, but you didn't , you kept coming back.

[00:49:28] Chelsey: So I really pitched it to them that people, they're gonna take a do a double take. You're on a mountain in the middle of your trail, you see a young man on a sign that's not, that's gonna make you look back. And I said, people are going to do a double take. They're gonna see, you know, decide then whether or not they're gonna continue on with their hike.

[00:49:48] Chelsey: then they finally installed it. They knew if I didn't, cuz I, I would just keep fighting. There was no way I was gonna . I was, I was gonna see that through then. And I, I did that three years straight working with them.

[00:49:59] Maya: Yeah. I love that about you. I love that.

[00:50:02] Chelsey: That fire and that passion. It just fueled me more and more, not just because it was in memory and honor of him and working through a lot of my grief, but to know that I could, I could potentially have it save someone's life in a sense.

[00:50:14] Chelsey: With this, I could have it where a family doesn't have to go through this, this horrible pain and all of the, I have that power to try and do that, and up to a million people visit Camelback a year. So it was gonna capture a lot of audiences. The city of Phoenix finally approved it. There was a huge press release for it and the sign was officially installed.

[00:50:39] Chelsey: surprisingly, and why I share this cuz maybe others may be able to resonate. I did all of this hard work. I worked so hard and everyone, my friends were so proud of me when it was in, and that's when I finally broke down though, that just, and I went to my therapist, I said, what is going on? I, I look at me, I've done all these interviews, I've done all of this.

[00:50:59] Chelsey: Why am I not able to get of bed? And she said, it's part of how you work through your grief. And you probably just had this irrational thinking, okay, if I do this and I do this and I get this done, he'll come back to me. Then it was all done and you realize he's not coming back to you. So that was a another layer that I'm like, oh gosh, I have to keep work working through this.

[00:51:19] Maya: Yeah, I, I just wanna congratulate you about this sign that's incredible. Like, that is, that's a huge, huge thing that you have done, Chelsey, that's huge. But I wanna just unpack before we, you know, continue and kind of wrap a little bit, but. So much here. Like I relate so much to like your tenacity and wanting to solve and like create, you know, like prevention.

[00:51:48] Maya: I, I get it. Like I totally understand it. And you said something about your story that, again, I connect with so deeply when I was going through my journey and when I finally got answers, enough answers, right, where I was like, okay, I know what happened to my brother and this is where we are and this is what I can do.

[00:52:12] Maya: It doesn't mean I'm gonna stop fighting because I'm still in the fight. You know, it's, it never stops. And, but it felt like I could take a breath. I was bedridden. I was, I don't even know if I shared this much in my first season, but like, I was exhausted. So I'm gonna go a little deeper with you, but like, I literally was like in bed.

[00:52:33] Maya: I was exhausted. I remember getting the answers from the detective, the other detective who I called the good, the good guy, , you know, in my show and the season. And I was exhausted. I like went to bed and like just kind of like laid there and I was so tired and I felt this whole other mix of emotions because I was so determined.

[00:53:00] Maya: I relate to you on that. I relate to you so much. I'm still de determined, but like I had enough answers. that I was able to like, I don't know if I believe in the at peace thing. I'm not really into that, but I respect people that feel at peace. But I was able to be like, okay, this is what happened. Like someone of a like authority and law enforcement, which is why I think I'm connecting with you on this part of the story has recognized this is really screwed up.

[00:53:28] Maya: This is terrible. What happened, this should have happened this way and I'm gonna help you in any way possible. My body like was loose a little bit and I was mentally a little bit looser and my heart was still in pain, but a little like it was a shift, but I was exhausted. So I connected you so much on this part of your story because it was a fight.

[00:53:51] Maya: It was a fight, and you are in the fight of it too, Chelsey. And so, although we lost our brothers in totally different ways, like I really, really get what you're talking about because. The exhaustion set in and a different form of grief set in. And I really truly think that's when depression set in for me because I was angry for so long.

[00:54:11] Maya: I was angry. I was going for the, and it served, it served me in a sentence like I was able to like fight, fight, fight, like jab, jab, jab. And then I was like, okay, I'm exhausted now. Like, oh, like it was a lot. And so it took me like another year or so until I told my full story here and I became a little proactive again on, you know, about the cause, about the mission and my brother.

[00:54:37] Maya: But I really connect with you on that. But I do wanna ask you another question about this. So you were seeing one therapist who we talked about earlier, had diminished your grief, did you seek out a different therapist? Tell us a little bit about that story before we wrap, cuz I really want. , all of our surviving siblings to hear about that because it sounds like therapy was integral in your grief journey because it has been for mine. So I want you to share that as well. Of course.

[00:55:10] Chelsey: So I didn't see that therapist ever again after that last session for sure. And the sibling loss group was very therapeutic for me. So is a sign, but I'm just a strong believer in therapy and I know it's not for everybody, but I do believe there, there's outlets that we need, whether it's in a group setting or one-on-one.

[00:55:31] Chelsey: We need to, we can't stuff it down. It's gonna come back no matter what we do. And I still was going to therapy through all of this and working through this, and it took me probably just recently to really understand more about my loss in the last decade and, and just getting this sign up there, which I, you know, I sit by and I, I see people do a double take.

[00:55:54] Chelsey: I see people stop and look at it. and say to each other, you know what? We don't have enough water. Let's turn back around. But you're never gonna see that on the news. You're never gonna see what deaths or injuries or whatnot were prevented. But I had several therapists over the years and great therapists.

[00:56:10] Chelsey: What kept happening was either one was moving out of their practice or outta state. And I stuck with therapy though on and off. I was in therapy. My dad was still, you know, when he was alive, he was with his AA meetings. My mom never went to therapy. She kind of just stuffed it down. But just as far as the distressing, the importance of therapy and.

[00:56:32] Chelsey: Why that's something we need to look into. I do want, if we have time to touch on my car accident that I experienced in 21. And the reason for that is to share that I've, I did this sibling loss group and I'm so grateful it still runs today and I look back now and I am proud of myself for that and for his sign, you know, cuz I think it was hard for me to get compliments and things like that for it because to me it was just, it.

[00:56:59] Chelsey: I had to do it. I didn't have a choice is what I felt like. But I was in this car accident, 2021 and broke my back and had to learn to walk again. This time I, you know, I'm the one in the hospital. I'm the one that, you know, vulnerable that needs to be taken care of, that can't even walk yet. And my mom, on and off, we were very rocky and went to recover at her house in three weeks in, she said she'd rather have my brother here than me, and that was April, 2021.

[00:57:25] Chelsey: I have not spoken to her. Since, but that accident restarted my grief in a way. It felt like they had just my brother and my dad, like they had just died yesterday and I couldn't understand why. And it took me a while to my therapist, a wonderful therapist that I have talked me through it and just said, it's trauma.

[00:57:45] Chelsey: You know, where there's grief, there's usually trauma and trauma and grief echo, so something else will completely bring it up. This car accident, the fact that it brought up so much, just the grief, it was so heavy and I couldn't understand it, but I worked through it with a therapist and everything like that to really get through it.

[00:58:07] Chelsey: And it was something to really understand that. I guess going back to the closure part, I think that's what it was. I was trying to get some kind of closure, whether it was with the accident with, with my mom, I was never gonna get it. I, but I obsessed so much about it and luckily I. Worked through a lot of it and realized my mom, it's not a me problem.

[00:58:31] Chelsey: A lot of the things that have happened, it's not that I've caused that or I've caused that relationship.

[00:58:36] Maya: Yeah, I get it. No, I totally understand. So I wanna unpack a lot of what you just said because I think there's a lot here. So for myself, I think you already know , as a lot of you guys listening, know that my relationship with my mother has been challenged as well.

[00:58:55] Maya: And so Chelsey, you and I connect deeply on that level too because you know, my mother has definitely not processed the loss of my brother in my opinion. You know, telling people that you're at peace with the loss of your son being murdered and it's not even been a year, doesn't mean you've processed the death.

[00:59:17] Maya: Right? And so I struggled with this too. My relationship with her has struggled. It's non-existent at this point in time, but you've beautifully put, like, it doesn't mean I don't love her. I love her deeply. She's my mother, but it's not there. It's not there. I, it's just listening to your story Chelsey, I relate so much to the dynamic of, you know, losing Clint and your mom not having this like close relationship with him, but then wanting to swoop in and control everything because that's exactly what happened in my own scenario with my loss of my brother.

[00:59:57] Maya: Our loss is a family and I've had my issues with my father as well, but, and I'm so sorry. Like my heart goes out to you. I'm so sorry for the loss cuz your story's a multi loss story again. And we've had a lot of requests on this show to talk about that and dealing with it's, it's compounding losses. Our therapists will tell us.

[01:00:19] Maya: Right? And I have that actually lost three people in a row, which is a whole other episode. But you know, this brought me and my father closer as I've shared, so I connect so much with you on that because, I wasn't close with my father my whole life, and he was absent for a lot of my life and in and out, and it's a very complicated relationship.

[01:00:41] Maya: So I connect very deeply with you on that. And I had a car accident, so I'm like, I get you, I get you. Like I totally am and following you on this, but trauma traumas definitely do bring all of your other traumas back up in ways that you wouldn't even imagine, in ways that you're like, wow, I, I didn't think I behave this way or act this way, or like, I don't know.

[01:01:08] Maya: But I, I just couldn't move forward or close out our conversation without identifying these similarities. And I think it's really the beauty of the sharing of the sibling loss in our journeys is that we have more in common than we realize in some of the deepest relationships that I have. Found over the past couple years with people who have lost siblings.

[01:01:29] Maya: I'm like, God, we have so much in common because of these family dynamics. And even when they've had, like, I've had a lot of people on other episodes that have had a quote unquote positive experience, but it jumbles up a family. There's always things that happen. And now for you, Chelsey, you're an only child.

[01:01:50] Maya: Like that changes the family dynamic completely, and you've also lost your father. So I just think it's relatable to, to all of us as surviving siblings, that the family dynamic changes completely. And we also go through other traumas as we continue to get older because we lose our grandparents, our parents, different things happen, and that will bring things back up to the surface.

[01:02:16] Maya: So yeah, thanks for sharing that and being very vulnerable with us, but also sharing about therapy because, huh. I don't know if I'd be here without my therapist and I definitely would not have stuck with my therapist who told me like, we shouldn't like lose a child. So I commend you for like starting that group and seeking out the right therapist for you in that connection.

[01:02:41] Maya: I think that's so important. It can be hard because I call like finding your therapist a little bit, like dating. You gotta find the right person for you because you gotta have a connection. Like what are your thoughts on that?

[01:02:54] Chelsey: You definitely wanna make sure they have those specialties such as grief and loss.

[01:02:57] Chelsey: You wanna make sure they are someone where it's supposed to feel like a safe place. It's supposed to fill that. You can tell them anything here you can just share more than what you would share with your friends and other loved ones. And having that space and, and getting those feelings validated. I mean, I was traumatized from that first, the.

[01:03:14] Chelsey: And I didn't want to get anything, any of my loss or anything like that minimized. But after my accident where I got a, a new therapist, gosh, I had so much P T s D, she walked me through so much of that and eventually she got to the point where she said, you don't even talk about your accident anymore.

[01:03:31] Chelsey: What you talk about is your mom and what happened with the accidents. She said, that's now where I think the real trauma lies. And so we were working on getting through that. And why the car accident just really knocked me down was that abandonment from my mom again, and the fact that my brother and my dad weren't here and they were the two people who would've never abandoned me.

[01:03:51] Chelsey: Never. So I had to go through this whole accident. I had friends, but it's hard. I didn't have any other family. So, and it's what I've kind of noticed, and I don't know kind of what those you've talked to regarding as far as loss for men, they grieve so much more differently. , they have their, you know, it's hard for them to go to therapy.

[01:04:11] Maya: Oh my God, I totally agree. Totally agree. Yes, they agree differently. Guys, listening, you grieve differently, which is why we have, you know, at least a guy on every season because it's a different perspective. And I think I know where you're going with this. Chelsey. Like, you know, in, in group earlier this week there was, you know, a young man there.

[01:04:32] Maya: Obviously everything is anonymous, so I'm not sharing details, but we talked about this, how culturally men are supposed to like suck it up. Therapy means you're weak and you don't do this and you, but when they actually engage and do it, oh my god, it's a game changer. So yes, I agree with you, 150% men grieve differently, but I also think it's because of the cultural stigmas that are put on them.

[01:04:57] Chelsey: Exactly. And I feel for them, I've, I've seen. been over the years in their grief, and especially in my, you know, groups and everything that I facilitated. So that's why I just urge them to seek out therapy as well. And, and it's the same like dating, just you know who to look for what's gonna be the best fit and where you feel vulnerable, but you have to also be open to sharing those feelings.

[01:05:16] Chelsey: And therapists can help guide you, but they can't help speak for you with your loss. You're gonna have to still share what you can about it. And it's hard, it's so hard to open up. And I'm someone who like you, I'm very, very open with my grief and my loss because I've dealt with a lot of loss over the years that I don't know who I would be today without it.

[01:05:38] Chelsey: I have no idea where it would be, but I found so many different outlets and so many different ways to get through it. And look at me now. It's year 12, you know, entering in without him. But move forward. But I, I carry them all with me. Those that I've lost every entering into 2023. I said, all right, you know, you guys, my grief is c gonna be carried.

[01:06:01] Chelsey: I'm gonna think of you guys a million, millions and millions of times this year. And that's just how it is. I think, you know, there are the stages of grief, but the acceptance part, I'll never accept how he died and how young he died. He deserved a lifetime. But I will accept that I'm gonna miss him for the rest of my life.

[01:06:22] Chelsey: And I know usually towards the end you kind of share with what advice or what we would be shared with other siblings. And that's what I was gonna kind of segue into and just say, you won't ever get over it.

[01:06:34] Maya: Chelsey, I love you. You already know where I'm going with this. I love it. I love it. Yes. Go for it. What, what are you gonna share with our amazing surviving sibling audience? Yeah, I love it. You already know the show. I love it. .

[01:06:46] Chelsey: I love your show and I just love how it's just growing and expanding and now it's, you're. , you have all these people who wanna share their story and, and I really hope my story and I know other stories that you had, people that shared, I definitely resonate with even Yeah, definitely with yours, your whole beginning.

[01:07:01] Chelsey: I was like, oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Yes, . And even though there's not answers, sometimes there's comfort just knowing you're not alone or that someone experienced something similar to you. So I tell people, you're not gonna get over it. Life is gonna be different. You won't be the same person anymore because you don't even have that same life anymore.

[01:07:22] Chelsey: But one day you'll realize that the tears, the screaming sobs in the pillow crying in our shower are car, the bathroom at work. You'll realize that this pain is so deep because of the love you have for your sibling. So you grieve hard because you love hard. Through all of this, I've learned that love lasts longer than life and just realizing all this, and I still, I still have my days crying and all of that, but that's, that's love.

[01:07:51] Chelsey: And I think, gosh, that's so much love. I have, you know, to give, I love someone that much, that it has this void in my life. And that's some of what I've learned along the way of you're not, you're never gonna be the same. So it, it's hard and everyone's journey is different.

[01:08:11] Maya: Yeah. I mean it, you're absolutely right. It, it is hard. I'm like getting emotional listening to you say that, but like, I don't even know how to follow that. Chelsey, that was so beautiful and I can tell you're a facilitator of groups because you, I just speak so eloquently about this, but you nailed it. You absolutely nailed it, and I think it's really intimidating for.

[01:08:36] Maya: Those of us who are really early in our grief journey, and when I say early, everyone's different, right? It can be the first day. It can be the first year. Some people, it's the first 10 years, and that scares people sometimes. But no, everyone's on their own grief journey, right? We have our own timeline. You are not on this.

[01:08:54] Maya: I, I hear that a lot and I'm sure you've heard that in the groups that you've facilitated. And I hear that a lot as I interview and go to groups and I speak, I have to be at this phase or, or this, you know, part of grieving, or I'm supposed to be in anger right now, or depression or this and this. Hurry up and do this.

[01:09:09] Maya: So what you said is so beautiful and true, Chelsey, because we're on a journey. It's a journey for life. This sibling, brother, sister, or if you're in multi loss, ugh, our hearts really go out to you, but they were a part of your physical life. They're going to be a part of the rest of your life. And it's not about moving on, it's not about forgetting them.

[01:09:33] Maya: It's about honoring them, remembering them, and learning how to move forward in this new life that you have. And I think that you said it's a, I mean, I, Mike dropped, I don't even know , how to comment beyond that. Chelsey, I love, I love what you said because it's so accurate. You're different and it's scary at first, but the person that you continue to grow into is honoring the person, the sibling, or siblings that you've lost.

[01:10:03] Maya: And it's okay. And giving yourself permission to be that person is. Okay. It's a good thing. It's a positive thing and it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be, here's the other tough part. It's okay to be happy again. It's okay to feel fulfilled again, but it's a lot to unpack and I love that you already knew what to say at the end of the episode.

[01:10:24] Maya: I love that because I think it's important that everybody gives their advice, right? Because we all have different walks of life and and different experiences, so thank you so much for that. Chelsey, I just also wanna thank you for the fight that you gave for Clint, but also for everyone I, I know came back about so well, so, oh my gosh.

[01:10:45] Maya: I had no idea how dangerous it is. And this is something that some people might be like, oh, it's a sign. This is much bigger than people realize. And we make these. Small gestures to change. It changes lives because I think it's so important that we hear the stories behind the change and the fight behind it, because people don't know, people don't always realize.

[01:11:15] Maya: So again, I wanna commend you on fighting for that because your life has been changed forever, and here you are over a decade later telling the story. And I appreciate that. Chelsey, I know you're in our Facebook group, but where else can people connect with you if they're local to you or if they've gone through a similar experience and they wanna help fight the fight because this is incredible what you've done, how can they connect with you?

[01:11:44] Chelsey: I can give my email address, or they can send me a request on Facebook or a message. I'll, I'll get actually some messages from there. And there's, there's more things I wanna do with the sign. There's, there's more plans that I have. I'm not done. I'm wanting to work on this kind of TikTok to. Just share how beautiful it is and also how dangerous and hopes that it goes outside of Arizona. So

[01:12:05] Maya: yeah, absolutely. So we, we'll tag you, we'll tag your Facebook, your TikTok, anything that you want to connect. And you're absolutely right. It, it's not just Kim McManon, like this is a thing in so many places where people climb mountains. Like we need to be aware of the precautions that need to happen and in honor of Clint. So Chelsey, thank you so much for being here and thank you for sharing your story. This has been amazing. It's awesome. Thank you so much.

[01:12:37] Chelsey: Thank you so much for having me. And, and I'm just really excited to hear this season that you have, you know, congrats to a third season and it's just growing and growing and the more you get people in there, the more others relate to it.

[01:12:49] Chelsey: I looked up when I started listening to the podcast siblings, yours was the first one that popped up. and hearing your story and just really resonated with me. And as I've shared with how my brother and his friend and how, I don't really, I'm glad I don't know the details now, but I still have that footage, you know, that I saw.

[01:13:10] Chelsey: But I also wanted to add in for those who have had that kind of traumatic loss, in that sense, the way you and I have, I became so obsessed on how he died, that I forgot how he lived, but it took me years to get there. So everyone just needs to kind of really give themself grace. You know, you, you can only do the best you can with what you have, and it's hard.

[01:13:33] Chelsey: No one, you don't get prepared for this. You know, there's not a class in school or anything like that. So what I share though with people now since I am still involved with Safe Hiking awareness is to. Be aware of anywhere you go. I've gone undercover to resorts throughout the valley, especially around Camelback.

[01:13:53] Chelsey: I won't name them, but pretended I was a tourist to see what they were giving out education-wise for the concierge. And it wasn't good. They were saying flip flops or find a climb or hike camelback, one bottle of water when it was 110 out. And there's that education piece. So if you're going to another state and, and there's this, you know, all these tourist attractions where you wanna go, like Multnomah Falls that I've heard in Oregon is actually really hard hike, but it's such a tourist area.

[01:14:22] Chelsey: Just do your researching, your education, make sure that you over prepare, that's fine to do that. And I'll, I can provide you to also the link to City of Phoenix where we implement it in addition to the sign it was a take a hike, do it right campaign that gives all the different safety things that needed and to be aware of when you're hiking.

[01:14:41] Maya: Oh my God, Chelsey. I love that. Yes. We're definitely gonna tag that in this episode and put it in the notes for everybody's a resource, because you're absolutely right. It's not just Cameron Back Mountain. This goes on everywhere. And I don't think people know, like we don't know things until they happen.

[01:14:58] Maya: Right. And that's also the point of this podcast, and you're, you're so kind. Thank you. That's our mission. We wanna bring hope to all of the surviving siblings out there, that people like you and I. Remembered our brothers. We will forever remember our brothers and we've done something about it and we're gonna continue to move forward, but we're never gonna forget them.

[01:15:19] Maya: So all of this will be in the show notes. And Chelsey, you are awesome. Thank you so much for being here on the podcast.

[01:15:25] Chelsey: Thank you, Maya. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so glad I finally got in. I've been trained for a while. You're like a celebrity now. ,

[01:15:34] Maya: thanks so much.

[01:15:37] Maya: Thank you so much for listening to the Surviving Siblings podcast. If you enjoyed this episode as much as I did creating it for you, then share it on your chosen social media platform. And don't forget to tag us at Surviving Siblings Podcast so that more surviving siblings can find us. Remember to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. And don't forget to follow us on all social media platforms.

[01:16:04] Maya: We're on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok at Surviving Siblings Podcast. All links can be found in the show notes, so be sure to check those out too. Thank you again for the support. Until the next episode, keep on surviving my surviving siblings.

Chelsey McHaleProfile Photo

Chelsey McHale

Chelsey created the first-ever sibling loss group in Arizona.

She lost her 25-year-old brother in a mountain climbing accident back in 2011, a week before her college graduation. She then worked with the City of Phoenix for 3 years and has been an advocate for safe hiking awareness. She has been able to get her brother's picture and story on the mountain to be used as a safety sign. She also attended the Compassionate Friends conference and did a workshop on honoring your sibling.