Nov. 2, 2022

Randa Salem - Losing her sister to breast cancer

Randa’s grief journey has been a long one, filled with emotional rollercoasters. It all started when Perry was diagnosed with breast cancer, after the treatment for that was over they had a couple of good years. Until the cancer came back. Some days...

Randa’s grief journey has been a long one, filled with emotional rollercoasters. It all started when Perry was diagnosed with breast cancer, after the treatment for that was over they had a couple of good years. Until the cancer came back. Some days were good, others not so much. Until Perry asked for her family’s blessing to be able to go. She lost her sister in 2016, after spending 3 weeks at her bedside.Randa compares her grief journey as like having a backpack full of rocks which you learn to live with overtime.

In this week's episode, I am sharing Randa and Perry’s story, how Perry asked for her family’s blessing to be able to move on from the pain she was in, what Randa thinks about moving forward in her grief journey and so much more.

In this episode I’m covering:

  • Intro [00:00:00]
  • The breast cancer diagnosis [00:01:55]
  • Gut feelings and false alarms [00:05:30]
  • Perry asks for her family blessing [00:14:51]
  • Randa’s last words to Perry [00:30:41]
  • Randa gets “The Call” [00:33:19]
  • Perry’s funeral [00:36:18]
  • Randa’s grief journey [00:41:25]
  • Moving on vs. moving forward [01:01:57]
  • Advice for Surviving Siblings [01:06:55]

For full episode show notes and transcript, click here

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Connect with Randa Salem

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Connect with Maya 

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Twitter | @survivingsibpod

Website | The Surviving Siblings 


[00:00:00] Maya: Welcome to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya Ruffler. 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, 2016, and after going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to share my story and his story, and it's taken me quite some time to come to the mic to tell it, but I knew it was an important one to tell.

[00:00:38] Maya: So here I am to share his story and mine with you. And it's important that I tell the story of the surviving sibling, the forgotten mourn, the story that is not told enough. So thank you for coming with me on this journey, and now it's your turn to share your stories.

[00:01:02] Maya: Today I have Randa Salem with me. Randa and I connected in a group on Facebook, which is pretty cool. I was really excited to find out that there are support groups on Facebook. I wish I found out years ago, but glad that I found them. Randa lost her sister Perry the same year that I lost my brother. So I felt very connected with you, Randa. So Randa, welcome to the show.

[00:01:30] Randa: Thank you, Maya. I'm, happy to be on the show, not happy to be, you know, needing to be on the show. I guess ,

[00:01:36] Maya: I say that all the time too. Not happy to be in the club, but it's really wonderful to connect with people like you. So I don't wanna wait. I wanna jump right into it. Let's talk about you and Perry and let's tell Perry's story. So if you wanna dive in and tell us about your sister.

[00:01:55] Randa: Great. well first of all, I'd like to say thank you for letting me share my story or we, my sister's story. it's really quite an honor to talk about her. And, it's been, six years now, which sometimes I calculate that to two years, five years, whatever.

[00:02:08] Randa: But it's been six years now since we lost her on May 10th, 2016. And, it's always an honor to talk about her and I love talking about her, so thank you. so Perry was diagnosed in 2010 with breast cancer. it was initially I think stage three b and, she was 37 years old. she was living in New York at the time and I was living in overseas in the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi.

[00:02:30] Randa: And she called me up one morning and told me, that she had found a lump and, I remember this day vividly. And I was like, Oh, okay. And she's like, Yeah, I'm just gonna go get it checked out or whatever. And things kind of happened pretty quickly because I think that was around. Around May 17th, May 18th, 2010, and she had her double mastectomy June 11th.

[00:02:53] Randa: So everything happened rather quickly between diagnosis and all of that. so obviously she had breast cancer, cancer, she had her mastectomy, she did chemo and radiation. And then things looked pretty good for a few years. my wedding, it was in 2012, and I remember she wore a lymphedema sleeve just because I had taken some lymph nodes out.

[00:03:15] Randa: But otherwise, she was great. Her hair had grown back, things were good. And then in 2013 I moved back from Abu Dhabi and I was actually moving to Canada with, that's where my husband and I were settling down. And I was in New York for I think about a month between, moving from Abu Dhabi to Canada. And I remember we took, my niece to a soccer game that day and her, my sister's sister-in-law and I went out for coffee at a Starbucks.

[00:03:43] Randa: And she kinda sat me down and told me that the cancer was back. And and it's funny because I honestly can't say I think about this particular part of the story very often. So it's interesting how quickly it all comes back very visually. so I said, Okay, well that's fine. Yeah, beat it once, we're gonna beat it again.

[00:04:00] Randa: And that's fine. So that was approximately June, 2013. apparently she had been back for a few months, but she knew I was moving back, had a lot going on and kind of didn't tell me. So on went years of treatments and chemo and various things, and it had metastasized, metastasized kind of slowly, her bones and then a little bit to her liver.

[00:04:21] Randa: And just like, I feel like every, I wanna say three, six months there was something new. And then we take a couple of steps forward, a couple of steps back. She was always super positive, like still fighting. Still like saying, Oh, we're gonna get through this. she was a English, high school English teacher, so she was working through all of this, still 1000% dedicated to her students.

[00:04:43] she was a mother, to two girls at the time. so when she passed, her girls were 16 and 21, so, and when she was diagnosed they were 10 and 15, so they were kind of in their prime teen years. Very busy girls obviously. And, so she was, kind of fighting and going through all this stuff and I feel like it would've been, So I had my son in 2014 and she came, to Canada since, stayed with me for three weeks when he was born.

[00:05:13] Randa: And then in the summer of 2015, I went and spent about six weeks there in New York with him. And it was the last, real big chunk of time I spent with my sister actually. Or I probably even the last time I like really saw her before she was in the hospital, come to think of it. So it was a really nice, big, chunk of time.

[00:05:30] Randa: She got to kind of help me get accustomed to being a new mom and all of those things. And then it was around Christmas of 2015, around that New Year's, I was like, you know, I just had this feeling. I was like, things are, things just keep getting worse. We keep getting more bad news things, cancer keeps coming into different places. but she wasn't really saying that things were, she wasn't giving up or anything. But in my heart I just kind of felt that, I felt we had maybe one more Christmas, so it would've been like New years of 2016. I felt we had one more Christmas and, her birthday's in January and that year she made this very deep post on her Facebook about. Life and God, and we, we, we weren't really overly religious people, but as her cancer progressed, they definitely saw that, you know, recognition of God and religion in her and, higher, higher beings and stuff. So, and I read that and I was like, Huh, okay. Um, carry on. And then it was April, 2016. It was April, yeah, mid, like around Easter.

[00:06:38] Randa: And I remember texting her and she had told me, Oh, I checked myself into the hospital. I'm like, Well, what's going on? She's like, Oh, I just, I just feel like I need some hydration. And she did that often. She'd go in for IVs and stuff and, oh, sorry. In February she had started to get this really bad eye swelling, and they said it had kind of, the cancer had metastasized to the orbits of her eyes, but then she started on a trial medication and it had really come down.

[00:07:04] Randa: And so we were really excited about that. And then she checked herself in the hospital for this, for some fluids. We were like, Okay. It was kind of like a typical day now at this point. And, then it was April, 18th, 2016. I was at work and I got a text message from my brother-in-law, and all it said was, Hey, do you have a minute to talk?

[00:07:26] Randa: And, it's like it brings a right back, right? I, my husband and I, worked together at the time. Like we, we both work in the hospital. So I go up to his office and I told him, Deadly just texted me and said he needed, he, he wants to know if I could talk, and I know that this isn't good. We went in the office and I called him and he said, you know, Perry's in the ICU and she's been intubated.

[00:07:48] Randa: And I'm like, and, and I'm a, I'm a rest. Both of us are respiratory therapist, so we know exactly what that means. I'm like, Pardon of me. Like that wasn't. How did that happen? Like that wasn't part of a, First of all, that wasn't even on the horizon. She was awake and texting me and she didn't really text much over the weekend, but I sometimes she would just kind of come into herself and not wanna be bothered.

[00:08:09] Randa: And I get that, you know? So he said that something had happened and she kind of went unresponsive and they like, kind of called a code on her and she had to be intubated. And so here I am in Canada at work trying to figure out what to do. And we had a, you know, 16 month, 16 month old baby at the time. And so we, my husband and I left work, we picked up our son.

[00:08:35] a friend of mine came to the Our House to take us to the airport. I'm on the phone trying to get flights and then my dad calls me, he's like, Stop, stop. Don't come. He's like, It's a big false alarm. I'm like, What are you talking about? And then he, like, I called back and sure enough, there's my sister on FaceTime.

[00:08:50] Randa: She's like, I'm fine. Like she's extubated and she's fine. And I'm like, What? Is going on. So that particular incident, it sounds like, she was in a lot of pain and they can gave her too many pain medications and knocked out her respiratory drive, and that's what happened there.

[00:09:07] Maya: Wow. What an emotional rollercoaster for you. Oh my gosh.

[00:09:12] Randa: So they're like, Don't come, don't come. So we didn't come that night, but I said, Well, we're coming tomorrow. Like regardless, something isn't right. and we're, we're gonna take a flight out in the morning because the flight that night would've still probably gotten us there the next day.

[00:09:27] Randa: Between connections we're like, fine. And even my sister's like, You don't even need to come. So, we flew out the next day and by the time we got there, they had kind of said, Yeah, things don't, still don't look great. She's really in a lot of pain. she's not really talking. She's doing a lot of moaning.

[00:09:43] Randa: She's not really waking up. And I'm like, What in the world is going on? Like, I just needed to get there and see her. And my big thing with my brother-in-law kind of talking to him and I'm like, you know, I, I'm sure you guys have discussed this, but you know, are there advanced directives in place? Like I know she doesn't want to be resuscitated and CPR and all that stuff, like as much as it kills me to say it, but don't put her through that.

[00:10:08] Randa: And he was totally in agreeance. They had had that conversation and, I'm really lucky that I had and still have a fantastic relationship with my brother-in-law. So there was no, none of that kind of tension and drama to ensue. and so I finally get to the hospital and she's just riving in pain and her eyes are just super swollen and she, she's just not even speaking coherently.

[00:10:34] Randa: And I think it was the next day and we're just like, What is going on? Like, we don't know when they're like, you know, we think that the cancer spread to her brain and all of that, and. the next doctor that had come on and I said, You know, she just like, what, what? She's in pain. Someone give her something.

[00:10:51] Randa: I don't care if she like, doesn't wake up from it, but like, we have to do something here. So they gave her some pain medicine and I said, I'm, I was just gonna go cause I think I became from the airport straight to the hospital, didn't really go to the house or whatever. So I'm just gonna go home, have a shower.

[00:11:07] Randa: Luckily there's lots of family around. I could kind of like ship my son somewhere. And, they called me and they're like, You need to come back to the hospital right away. So, of course I'm thinking the worst and thankfully it's only 10 minutes away. So I get to the hospital and she is wide awake, sitting up saying like, What took so long to get me some pain meds that worked?

[00:11:30] Maya: We hope you're enjoying this incredible episode of the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya ler. We'll be back in just a minute after hearing from our incredible sponsor. Are you feeling lost in your grief journey? Perhaps even stuck as a surviving sibling? I too have felt lost, stuck, confused, angry.

[00:11:54] Maya: Well, fill in the blank. I felt so many emotions along my grief journey. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about too. Along the way, I found that what I needed was answers to all of my unanswered questions. Validation, permission to feel everything that I was feeling at different times, and ultimately, I needed guidance.

[00:12:17] Maya: That's why I created the Grief Guide for Surviving Siblings. This is a 23 page guide that guides you, the surviving sibling along your grief journey, written and created by a surviving sibling. For surviving siblings. Click the link in the show notes to get your copy or visit the surviving

[00:12:39] Maya: Where you can also find more show information, merchandise for surviving siblings like you, and more resources and support.

[00:12:50] Maya: Oh my gosh, you, you know your sister because you know that's what wanted bring to little bit, right? get you laughing. Oh my gosh, what a roller coaster. Okay, so she's up now.

[00:13:05] Randa: So she's up and now she's talking to everyone and she's holding court basically like she feels great. And so people are coming in, visiting and talking and she's visiting with my son and she's so happy.

[00:13:18] Randa: And we're all kind of there. And at this point we're like, okay, now that we figured out what was causing that, like can we figure out what our next steps are? And so we met, thankfully the doctors on service had changed over because the initial one wasn't great, but the next one was phenomenal and we kind of talked.

[00:13:38] Randa: Like, what are we looking at here? What's causing this? what are our options? and so long and short it, they said that it had, it did in fact spread to her brain. And she had something called lepto. Lept, of course, I'm not gonna think of it now. Anyway, the cancer had sp spread to the menge of her brain, and there was really not much to be done.

[00:13:59] Randa: Like the, the, this now excluded her from the study she was in. And, he said that he could call the people back at Sloan Kettering and kind of say that, you know, her status has changed. She's awake now. what can we offer? Things like that. So my brother-in-law and I together went in and talked to Perry, kind of had to break it to her that it's in her brain now, what her options were and.

[00:14:30] Randa: What that meant. And well, we didn't really have to tell her what that meant. She's very like, acutely aware and what she wanted to do. So we told her and we said, you know, we can ask them to call Sloan and ask them to see if they'll, if there's anything else and what else we can offer and what do you wanna do?

[00:14:51] Randa: And she just looked at us, she's like, I don't wanna anymore. And she's like, Is that okay? And, we both said, Of course that's okay. Like, of course it's okay. Like you wanna say no, like, keep it don believe me, going Exactly. But we said, Of course that's okay. Like you've been through so much. Of course.

[00:15:14] Randa: That's okay. So then it went just through the process of days of kind of working it. And, and then she, you know, she had to, she wanted to tell her girls and she wanted to, to talk to everyone and she. Was very, very, very family oriented. And she obviously wanted to make sure that her girls were like, understood where she was coming from and kind of get their blessing.

[00:15:37] Randa: And if they ever listen to this, I don't want them to think that like they gave their blessing for her to give up. It's not that, but just to, for them to understand where she was coming from and I think they did,

[00:15:46] Maya: Of course, of course. To hear it from her is powerful. I can imagine, right? So I, if given the opportunity, I would wanna tell my girls if I had girls, right? So, you know, our boys are whatever, . So Yeah, I get that.

[00:16:02] Randa: So, then we kind of just, everything kind of transitioned from this mode of what are we gonna do, how are we, like, what treatments are we gonna to, Okay. Like we better just, let's just enjoy this time. And, it's all really a blur from days. I feel like it was just within a couple, like maybe three days maxed from when that decision was made.

[00:16:25] Randa: And I didn't leave her room. I slept there every night. I wouldn't leave. I was stubborn, belligerent, just I'm not leaving. if anyone else wanted to stay, they could also stay, but I was also staying. and just being in the healthcare field, like I just felt also I needed to be there, oversee things. She called me her pit bull.

[00:16:44] Randa: She's like, Oh, there you are, my pit bull. She's like, You know, my meds are five minutes late and I'm out there chirping someone saying like, Okay, like it's time for her meds, and, you know, stuff like that. and it, it did, it, we, we just transitioned into a very, I wanna say sacred phase. And we would take, kind of take turns where people would just spend time with her alone, or some of us, all of us would be there together.

[00:17:08] Randa: Her mother-in-law, like cut her hair and we did her nails. her girls would come in and spend time with her. Her youngest was going to prom and so she was out dressing for a shopping for dress. so we were kind of like including her in everyday life as much as we could. and just trying to enjoy those moments.

[00:17:25] Randa: And there were always at least 20 people somewhere in that waiting room. We very, she was very family and did lots of family and loved ones. her, her husband has a very, very large family, and she, she, they were married for over 20 years, so she, that's her family too. So really, really surrounded by love, which was wonderful.

[00:17:44] Randa: And I'm, I'm really happy that that's how it kind of went down. and then, so as the nights went on, you know, people would go home at night and her and I would just kind of hang out. And I remember one night I had fallen asleep and, I guess her, she had a FO catheter. and for those who don't know what a Foley catheter is, just like a, in their, in the bladder so they don't have to get up and pee or go on a bed.

[00:18:06] Randa: And I guess it had leaked or something. And so she was wet and she's like, Wake up, I'm all wet. And I'm like, What? And I guess she had to call me a few times. I I was pretty dead asleep. And, I was like, What? And she's like, Damnit, Randa, you fell asleep on the job. Like, it's one of those things that I remember so vividly, like when I think of those days, it's like a few of those sayings, I remember you fell asleep on the job.

[00:18:32] Randa: And I'm like, Okay, then . So whatever. They got her cleaned up. All was good. And then one night, I think we were just kinda like, we would just, in the evening nights, whatever, we would just sit and talk or reminisce. And then at the time, my mother was also for years, my mother had been in a nursing home.

[00:18:49] Randa: She had had an aneurysm back in 2001. And then she progressively got worse with dementia. So we had to really figure out what was gonna happen with my mother. My mother didn't really know my sister had cancer. She would continuously kind of forget. she knew she had it and then she told her she didn't.

[00:19:06] Randa: And then with the dementia, it was just very confusing. So we didn't tell her that she was in the hospital because it was just, she said, you know, she's gonna feel hopeless that she can't come see me. when I pass. dad's gonna have to go tell her. My parents have been divorced for, since I was 10, so like 30, almost 30 years.

[00:19:23] Randa: And not really on speaking terms, but she had asked my dad to that when she passes to go tell my mom and be obliged. so, you know, we would kind of talk about those things because she was always a control freak. Oh, her whole life. always just the boss of the family and she felt she still needed to do that and make sure she left, like certain instructions.

[00:19:42] and then other times we would just reminisce or we would talk about my son or just, we would just talk and I ca I, I remember the time I remember being there. I don't remember everything we talked about, but I remember just to the point where sometimes we'd sit in silence cuz we had nothing left to talk about.

[00:20:00] Randa: And so it made me feel, mom, it just kind of made me feel like good that I knew that there was nothing left to be said because we would end up just sitting there inside. And then one night, we're getting ready for bed, and she's like, I think I just lost my eyesight. And I was like, What? And she's like, Everything's dark.

[00:20:23] Randa: And I'm like, Well, the lights are out. And she's like, No. She's like, This is, this isn't lights out dark. And she's, so I had, I called the nurse in and sure enough she had lost her eyesight. so she promptly decided that there needs to be some lists written. and she needs to, make sure like, she's like, Okay, well get some pen and paper and we need to write some lists.

[00:20:45] Randa: There's some jewelry that needs to go somewhere. Jolly needs to know this. I don't know. So then, I get the pen and paper. I'm like, Okay, tell me what you want me to write. She's like, No, I wanna write it. And I'm like, What? Wow. She's like, Gimme the pen and paper. So then I give her the pen and paper and she's write, she's trying to write and it's a blind person writing, so we all know can assume what that looks like.

[00:21:06] Randa: And finally she just kind of checks it back at me and she's like, This is stupid. You write. And I'm like, Okay, . So we end up, we write this list of various things and what I, I, I don't even know. So we spent some time on that list. And then the next day I, I might have messaged her husband that night and kind of told him about the eyesight.

[00:21:27] or he might have been outside the room. I don't, I don't really remember. cuz like, again, people would stay, some would, people would stay in the family lounge, some people would stay in the room. and yeah, so she lost her eyesight. I wrote the list. And then from there, like it just kind of, the days would.

[00:21:42] Randa: Drag on a little bit in, in the sense of, I was happy to have every moment with her. We all were, but she, she was done. Like, she was just like, I'm just, she was still in a lot of pain. you know, I remember her telling me one night that, you know, I was like, Are you scared? And she's like, No. she's like, you know, I know that, I know that I'm not gonna see my girls like, grow up and get married or whatever they're gonna accomplish in life.

[00:22:07] Randa: And I know that I'm gonna miss a lot, but I know I've done a lot and, and, and I'm good. I'm at peace with it. She was very much at peace with it. Wow. Which helped us be at peace. Mm-hmm. . so the days would kind of go on. And then, I remember one day, like, she's just saying like, I'm just so tired of, I'm just tired of being in pain all the time.

[00:22:25] Randa: I'm, I'm tired of this. How long is it gonna, how long do I have to keep doing this kind of thing? And. So one day I went out for the day and usually for the days I would sometimes leave At this point, my husband and son had, flown back home and I had probably changed my flight two times by then or so.

[00:22:46] Randa: Like, I just kept changing my flight and I went out. And so my sister's husband, his grandparents had passed quite some time in when they were all very close. They essentially helped raise her girls. Like they all lived very close together. they're, Native American and on a reservation, and they all very, very family oriented, so Right.

[00:23:08] Randa: I went to the cemetery there and, her, her sister-in-law, which I also call her, my sister-in-law came, was with me and I said, I wanna go see Nanny and Grandpa. And she's like, Oh. So she took me to St. Nanny Gr and I think till this day she probably resents me a little bit for not mourning her about this visit.

[00:23:27] because I stood there at their grave and I asked them to comet Mary. Oh wow. What a moment. And I said, You know, she is in pain. She's tired. Her, her, her body is not like being kind to her. I, I want her here forever, but I am just gutted watching her suffer like this. It's not fair to her. And, and again, being in a, as a healthcare professional, seeing people at the end of their life and seeing it be drawn out longer than necessary at times, and how, how hard that is on, on the person and their soul and just, I was just like, Please just come take her.

[00:24:12] Randa: And I remember her sister-in-law saying, Could you have warned me that this is what we were coming here for ? And I said, I don't think I fully knew. I just knew I needed to come see them. Yeah. And so again, the days kind of continued and we were also going back and forth. So she was in this, in the hospital and she was really lucky.

[00:24:35] Randa: This particular hospital had a breast cancer room that was donated by an organization where a woman, who clearly had some, wealth behind her, had unfortunately passed from breast cancer. And she had donated all this money and started this foundation called Lucia's Angels to, and they got a room and this hospital for breast cancer patients.

[00:24:55] Randa: And it was a gorgeous room. Like it didn't look like a hospital. It was really well done. And they basically said that the room is hers for as long as she needs it. And the hospital initially, because hospitals are hospitals and insurance were like, Well, she can't really stay here. You know, she is not really hospital worthy anymore. She should go to a hospice or go home. And she was very adamant that she would not go home. She's like, I am not going home. I'm not doing that to my husband's child. I'm not putting that. so she was very adamant about that. She didn't wanna go to the hospice because it just wasn't as close as the hospital. She just felt like this was, again, convenient for everyone else. She didn't wanna put anyone out and she didn't, you know, all of these things. Always thinking about others and also being like a little control freak.

[00:25:45] Maya: I know I love her combination. I'm like parents, we're, we're kindred spirits parent right now. Relate to her. I'm oldest of four, so I relate to her a lot. So I'm loving this story. Oh my gosh. That part I'm like really connecting with. Wow. Yeah. I get that.

[00:26:01] Randa: So, yeah, like we had gone to go see, The hospice and it, it was actually quite beautiful. I, I'd never been in a hospice and I couldn't believe, I was like, Well, this is really nice.

[00:26:10] Randa: And we'd kind of gone and talked to her about it. She's like, Well, you know, if I have to, like, fine. But she just really, she's like, I just wanna stay here. And thankfully the people that are running the, the Lucia's Angels, foundation, they basically were like, Yep. And they spoke to the hospital people and they said she is to stay here as long as she, she wants.

[00:26:33] so we were lucky in that aspect. So she got, kind of got in that regard. And then we're, look, this is like the beginning of May at this point. We're about three weeks in and we're sitting there talking one day and I kind of said to her, I was like, you know, I was like, I love spending all this time with you.

[00:26:52] Randa: I said, But it's like I've said everything I have to say, I have nothing left to say to you. You know, just how much I love you. You know how. But you've influenced me. And like, I, I, and she, I was like, I know it all. I was like, I know how you feel to me. I was like, you know, I, I'm really lucky. And she said, You know, I, I, I really need you to go home.

[00:27:15] Randa: I need you to book your flight home. You have a husband and a child, and you've been here for three weeks, and I need you to not change your flight anymore. When is your flight? And I said, Well, it's on Saturday Mason. And I'm like, and I was like, But no, I, I'm gonna change that. And she's like, No, I I'm gonna need you to keep that flight.

[00:27:32] Randa: And she's like, And you have to promise me you won't change it. And at that time, I had no idea. Like I did. I couldn't think that far ahead. And I, but she, baby promise and dying or not the, the woman, I had to listen to her always. She essentially raised me. We were, we were five years apart. And she raised me in my, from when I was 10, till I was in my twenties.

[00:27:56] Randa: And then when she went from that mothering role, she kind of switched over to my best friend. and we've always been very close, so she told me I had to go home. I was like, Okay, I'm gonna go home. So as the days went on, I kind of was like, Okay, like I, I can't leave. Right. And I can't leave while she's still alive.

[00:28:19] I, yeah. And I hear, you know, I remember listening to your, like, somewhere in your first or second episode, just that like, I can't go anywhere. I can't, you know, I'm not leaving. And, but I, I promised her and she told me I had to, and it was a pro. I was like, I can't break that promise. So it was May 7th, it was the morning or I spent the last night with her and I kind of just sat next to her bed and held her hand and, Like just sat there and stroked her hand.

[00:28:44] Randa: And, and I'm glad I did that because I could sit here and close my eyes and almost feel it. And I was just like, No, I just, I just love you so much. And I just, I just don't know what my life, how my life is gonna be without you. And I remember as, you know, as she was getting sicker even before she went into the hospital, I would always just wonder like, what is, what is life gonna be like that?

[00:29:09] Randa: How is it, what is, what is her dying gonna look like? What is life after she dies look like? And I can promise you that everything that I, that kept me up at night and I envisioned doesn't come close to what it looked like. It's, it's, I envisioned so many scenarios and none of them looked like what it looked like.

[00:29:26] so I sat there that night and I obviously must have dozed off and slept because you just got exhaustion. And I woke up that morning. And, it was pretty early and I kinda sat on the edge of her bed and I was like, Hey, so I'm gonna go, that's time for me to go now. And she said, Oh, are you going?

[00:29:48] Randa: And she was pretty groggy. Like she had, she was really quite lucid for most of this time, but the few days before I left, she was getting a little bit, bit more out of it and I, I said, Yep, it's, you know, I, I kept my flight, I'm gonna go. And she said, Okay, that's okay. I'm gonna check out soon too. And I said, no, tomorrow's mother's day, so you will do no such thing.

[00:30:13] Randa: And she said, Aw man. That's right. Fine. Those were her words. So, I gave her a really, really big hug. She, I don't know where she got all this strength from, but she gave me a very typical, normal, amazing Perry hug with, you know, all the strength and . When we were younger, we used to call each other yogi and Boo Boo.

[00:30:41] Randa: I used to pay ho Hey Yogi, and she'd say, Hey, Boo Boo from, And I can tell you that we hadn't said that to each other in decades. Like, I, I didn't even remember it. And as I'm hugging her and I'm crying, I look at her and I said, Hey, Yogi. And she said, Hey, boo. And I said I love you, and she said I love you too. and that was it, those were the last words I said to my sister and, I flew home. The next day was Mother's Day. I called. I don't think she was really speaking much. The whole family was there. They said she was kind of just sleeping and, it was hard for the girls. The girls were really struggling, and I haven't really talked about how hard this was for them, but obviously kind of goes without saying.

[00:31:30] and I remember, I think it was that night speaking to my brother-in-law and he was saying, I, the doctor was saying that, you know, this could take, this could take time. He doesn't like, she's young, her other organs are gonna keep functioning. And there really is no timeline as to when, like when, and we were like, okay.

[00:31:53] Randa: And again, like I, I know I don't need to say this. I know anyone listened to this, understands that no one's wishing your loved one dies, but you get to a point where you just, you just want them to be at peace. So, so that was May 9th, that was Mother's Day. sorry, May 8th. Then the next day, I think her daughter stayed with her, eldest daughter, stayed with her that night.

[00:32:12] and then the next night, May, the next day, May 9th, they were all there. And then that night, no, I was gone. Her daughter didn't stay with her. And I, this is fuzzy, I don't remember if it was at Perry's request or not, but, a family, a real, one of her best friends stayed with her, like really close friend slash cousin stayed that night.

[00:32:33] Randa: She sent everyone home and and she passed that night. It was May 10th, I think it was around 4:00 AM And I don't think that there were any signs that, like I said, the doctor had just said that it was gonna take a while. They didn't know. I think that in hindsight, she needed space to like go, to control freak and wonderful caring person that she was, was like, I'm not.

[00:32:57] Randa: Gonna put that on any of them. sometimes I think I know her friend that was there that that night. I don't, I don't know that she, I know it was really hard on her. It was a hard burden on her and I don't know why Perry chose her. Maybe she felt like she could handle it the best out of everyone. and I know like, so, but I do know it was really hard for her.

[00:33:17] and I got a call, my , my brother, my phone rings. It's I feel like it was 2:00 AM here in Calgary. And, I'm like, Hello? And I just, I just know, obviously why is this he calling me and he's like, Good morning, . But I still, I still laugh till this day. And that's when we talk about other people and how they process things or whatever.

[00:33:39] Randa: Good morning, like.

[00:33:43] Randa: You know, and I, like, I wasn't a begrudging thing, I just laugh and it's just like, you know, he's probably trying his best not to fall apart. And so he's just like, good morning. And, and then I, I called my dad, I think felt, they called my brother. Like I, again, all a really big blur. And I booked my flight, I think for that very morning.

[00:34:05] Randa: And I left a few hours later and, she , my, my husband and son didn't come with me to the funeral. And this is actually pretty funny because when he was leaving, my, my husband, my sister loved him and they didn't know each other for, for very long. Cause we were only married for a few years. but he had kind of told her like, you know, I, I have to go and whatever.

[00:34:25] Randa: She said, Yeah, you should go. And, and she's like, you know, like, don't come back for the funeral. She's like, I won't be there. Like, I'm out. She's like, Don't waste your time. Yeah, she is. She is. Yeah. , those are our words. I'm tapping out so I won't be there. Don't, don't bother showing up. And I think that really helped my husband, with the guilt associated with not coming to the cause.

[00:34:49] Randa: I mean, from financial burdening to, to time and trying and logistics and having a 6, 16, 17 month old. And it was, it was just a lot. And, she's like, It doesn't meet. She's like, If you wanna come for you, that's great. She's like, But don't. And, so I flew out myself and, which also was good for me because you, when, when you're a mother, you're always a mother.

[00:35:15] Randa: And if my son was there, like, it was just so helpful to not have him there. So I didn't have to worry or think about him at all. excuse me. So I, I flew back for the funeral. My brother flew in at the same time. We both got picked up at the airport and it was just this like

[00:35:34] Randa: fog, you know, you're, is is it real? Is it happening? is she really gone? Like she's actually gone now. You know where, and you think that you're, you prepare yourself for so long and you're like, Yep, this is gonna happen. And if you compare it with a sudden loss, but it's still a huge shock. It's still a huge shock.

[00:35:54] and I got there and in our culture and religion, you're supposed to be buried right away actually before sunset of the day you pass. But because people were flying in, it kind of put it off just the one one day. And so I, I read her, I wrote her eulogy and I read that. And at her funeral. And her funeral was, was beautiful.

[00:36:18] Randa: Like it was. It was a beautiful day. The weather was great. There were over 300 people, like they bu people bused in. Like, it was amazing. And it was just this, again, it's almost like, a dream or a movie that you're in and you don't really realize what's happening. Yeah. . Exactly. And, and you know, this, like this, this custom or tradition of like hosting people after someone dies, baffles me.

[00:36:52] Randa: Like, you know, like someone dies, you host a funeral that you're fading people and you're just, I'm just like, what something, something needs to change here. I feel like we shouldn't be. so all of that was super. So you don't even have time to grieve, pride, process anything because you're too much.

[00:37:11] Randa: You're doing things. And we were really lucky that we had a tribe of people helping us in doing. You're still like on and, and doing things. You don't really have to. And I guess it's good kind of, but it's also not because it's just weird, you know, Like, you're like, Why am I,

[00:37:28] Maya: I agree with you a hundred percent. Cuz it, it keeps you kind of putting one foot in front of the other, but it also keeps you kind of stuck in the shock of the moment. Yeah. Or some people in denial or, you know, whatever, whatever moments you're in as that person. Yeah. So I agree. It, it can be interesting.

[00:37:46] Randa: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And you know, I do remember right before with the funeral, I kind of just flopped on my niece's bed and was just like, I, I don't wanna go to my sister's funeral.

[00:37:56] Randa: I don't want to. I, and, and like I did have that like moment of guilt of like, why am I crying on these girls? Like, this is their mother, you know? But it was just this moment of like, I just can't, And they're such great girls, they just kind of hug me and. , let me feel it. And then I got up and put my game face on and moved on.

[00:38:16] Randa: And I remember my dad telling me to be strong and for whatever, it just triggered me. And I said, Don't tell me to do that. Like, that's ridiculous. And, and I feel bad cuz the poor man just lost his d you know, like, you just, you're reactive, right? And mm-hmm. , you know, he, he just lost his daughter and he was with her so closely through all of this, and took her to appointments.

[00:38:40] Randa: So he, he was so, he grieving as well, but I'm, you know, you're, everyone's in their own space. And as far as. Family drama goes. I guess I, I'm lucky cuz Sorry, like listening to your podcast, like really me just sniping at him.

[00:38:55] Maya: I got lot, I got lots of drama to unpack, right, Randa? But no, I, I, I wanna, I wanna talk about that and then once, once you are, are wrapping, I mean there's really no wraps. This, there's six years. I understand you, but I wanna point this out while we're here and then we're gonna unpack a lot. Cause we got a lot to unpack and I appreciate it. I just wanna take a moment here. I appreciate your vulnerability and your openness because I know what that takes and it's very hard to do.

[00:39:19] Maya: So thank you for being so vulnerable because I think this story is a very important one because it's so different than mine, but you share so much the same at the same time. There's so much commonality and similarities here. But what I found, and I love your opinion on this, is when your father said to be strong to you, I learned through my Oma sick.

[00:39:42] Maya: I'm coming up on my six years too. I'm right behind you. , I found it's a reflection of them. Has nothing to do with you. When they say be strong or they lash out or they don't wanna process or they don't or whatever. Right. Fill in the blank. It's really what they feel they need to do and maybe they're falling short. And that's what I've learned in my five and a half, six year journey. And so when you say something like that, I'm like, Oh, I remember that. Mm-hmm. , It's interesting. Mm-hmm. .

[00:40:11] Randa: Yeah. And I, I'm like, I'm just, I'm a very empathetic person in general, so I just reflect back and I'm like, Oh, I wish I wouldn't have that. That wasn't nice. Like, you know, you don't wanna hurt some, hurt someone who's already hurting, even though I was hurting, you know, like, so, yeah. So the, the, I delivered her eulogy. we had. Reception or whatever it's called after a funeral, party. I don't know, , like, and

[00:40:33] Maya: What is that called, Randa? Because it's, it's like a cluster, right? What is that called? But anyway, you hosted people when you were in a fog, That's what you did. Yeah.

[00:40:42] yeah. And again, like Thankly, I like, there was tons of people that put it all together and, and all of that, but you're just kind of like, you know, and you're accepting condolences, which is, which is wonderful, but you're just kind of like, what?

[00:40:53] Randa: You know, like, you're like, Oh, okay, thank you. And, you know, there was, but it, again, I'm not trying to sound unappreciative, but it, it's overwhelming. It's overwhelming. You don't know what to say or what's the right thing to say or how to say it or any of that. And then you're just saying, I just wanna go home.

[00:41:08] Randa: I just wanna go home and be in a dark corner and not talk to anyone, including my own family who's also grieving. and, and you know, I actually, my, my brother loves kind of like, yeah, I, I gotta go. And he just stepped away and like, he, you just have to sometimes step away and that's okay. Right. So, yeah, so that, and then, I ki I guess I came home just a few days after that.

[00:41:26] and then that's kind of when, I guess you say the grief journey begins, but I feel like I was in shock for quite some time. I didn't wanna see any of my friends or anyone from work because I didn't wanna anyone, My big thing was like, I don't want anyone to ask me how I'm doing because I'm not gonna be able to answer.

[00:41:44] Randa: And they're gonna be very uncomfortable if I answer honestly. And I also don't wanna lie. I just don't wanna be, I don't want to. and I specifically remember telling a friend of mine, she came over to visit and we worked together and I said, I, I'm going back to work next week. And I really just, people not ask me any , like, you know, and she's like, done.

[00:42:05] Randa: And so, I kind of went back to work. It was hard working in the healthcare field and being around peop dying people, . and you see it in a whole different light. It opens a whole different part of your heart and your brain, of empathy and compassion. I feel like it made me a better respiratory therapist, but it also weighed on me very heavily.

[00:42:24] Randa: I carried a lot and I hurt a lot. And, people dying way down me immensely, where before it would just be a day at work and this was, you know, a person, somebody's family member. But I didn't take that home with me. It wasn't John, it wasn't John Barb's brother, you know what I mean? It was John and whatever.

[00:42:52] but now it's like so and so's brother and oh my God, what she must be going through. And I think it was about a month after I was back, I go to, I go to a call. And there was a 35 year old young lady who was at end stage, not breast cancer, but cancer. And I, I just walked in the room and I just kind of froze and I switched from, I didn't do my job where I was there to as a respiratory therapist.

[00:43:19] Randa: I just kind of went to her and talked to her about what was going on and kinda, she was like, My lips are dry. I'm like, Let me get you some chaps. I wasn't able to do my job, but I was just trying to be her sister, if you will. And my friend slash coworker came in and she said, Let me take over from you. I don't think you should be here.

[00:43:41] Randa: And I said, No, I'm fine. And wasn't an appropriate time to argue, so she just stepped outside the room and I finished the call and I remember walking down with this patient's brother and he was just gutted. And I'm just looking at him seeing a mirror, and. I, taking her down to ICU and I said, You know, we're, we're, we'll take good care of her and, I hope that you have some support as well.

[00:44:06] Randa: And I went to my colleagues, I threw my pager and everything on the floor, and I went in a room and cried for about an hour, and I just like ugly cried sobbed. And I had it since I had been home from the funeral. I had it really cried. I would like tear here and there. I'd get choked up, but I mean, I couldn't breathe.

[00:44:28] Randa: I, my, the colleague who came to try to tap me outta that room and tell me to step out, that I refused, she kind of came in and she didn't say a word and she just came and hugged me and, and I just, I, yeah, I don't have to explain the crying. I'm sure we've all been there that you just can't breathe. You just can't get enough air.

[00:44:47] Maya: It's the release. I call it the release. I didn't have any other explanation for it. I was like, It's the release. I don't know. Like that was it for me. I don't know.

[00:44:55] Randa: Yeah. And, and, and then when that patient, and then I just very unhealthily got attached to this patient, I would walk by her room. I would, like make sure she was well taken care of.

[00:45:08] Randa: And then when she passed, I went and I said goodbye to her. And part of me was like, This is very unhealthy. I can't, I can't go on like this. I can't do this with every patient. and. So I, I got therapy , I found like a grief counselor and it took me a couple of tries cuz I don't know if I, if I haven't gotten there yet.

[00:45:27] Randa: You've gone, gone to see anyone, but sometimes you gotta find someone you click with and it took me a couple of tries.

[00:45:32] Maya: Yeah, I love that you're saying that because I see people comment all the time and they're like, I went once I did, like I didn't really click with that person. No. Go like, here's advice right here.

[00:45:42] Maya: Go multiple times. Like if that first person doesn't work, like there's someone out there that will work for you because Yeah. I mean, if I didn't have my therapist, I would not be doing this podcast today. . .

[00:45:54] Randa: Yeah. And so that's what like I, and every time I would go to a new therapist, I would tell my story, It would help, you know, and it would heal and yeah.

[00:46:00] Randa: And then I finally found someone that helped and then she put me into a group program, me and, I did like group, sibling loss group therapy for six weeks, which was six or eight weeks, which was really, really helpful. Mm-hmm. . And then I felt like I was coming, coming out of the fog and I felt like I had a purpose, of okay, like, I want to, I wanna help people that have the same loss, not on a, on a next level or like something overly time consuming cuz I also know how quickly I get overwhelmed or take on too much and then drop the ball cause I've been there.

[00:46:38] Randa: So, I just, that's kind of where I would start reaching out to, people. And then unfortunately a girl that I worked with suddenly lost her sister and it was about just two months shy of my sister's one year anniversary. And I reached out to her and I spent a lot of time with her just talking and listening and listening.

[00:46:55] Randa: Like, I just want you to keep talking to me. and helping her. healed me as well. not not feeding off of her pain in any way, but just helping her, helping know, knowing that I helped someone know that they're not alone and that they're okay, like that they it, that every feeling that they're having is okay.

[00:47:16] and so then the one year anniversary came and I remember I was dreading it, because I kept thinking that, okay, well, so I've gotten through a year without her. I've survived. Can I have her back now? And I remember like her one year, May 10th, I was like, Okay, I did it. Can you come back now? Like, did I pass test?

[00:47:36] Randa: Exactly. Cause cause I actually really need you .

[00:47:39] there's lot, This is a common feeling. This is a com, the dread of the one year. I understand. I felt it too. Yeah.

[00:47:45] so yeah. And then I guess like one year turned into two, turned into six, and. I have found like various ways to kind of honor my sister over the years.

[00:47:58] after she had passed, a friend of mine had a tree planted in honor of her, so we go visit that tree, on her birthday. Every year I write her card. sometimes I just write to her in general. I love that just to get things off my chest. If I just need to talk to her, I just write her. a lot of times I just talk out loud to her in the car and for whatever reason, the car is my connection to the space. Maybe it's cause where I'm alone or where I just, and I remember in the beginning, I do that you're,

[00:48:26] Maya: I talk to my brother all the time in the car and I'm like, Oh my gosh. I, I, I think it hit me recently. It was probably in the past year, and I was like, Oh my God, if people are like looking in the car, like hopefully they just think of like singing along to the music or talking or talking on dog.

[00:48:41] Randa: Yeah, exactly.

[00:48:43] Maya: Yeah. And I'm like, hopefully, because I'm literally talking to. My brother who's passed on . I, so I'm glad I'm not alone. And hopefully you guys don't feel alone if you do that too. Now that Randa brought that

[00:48:55] Randa: up. . Yeah. And I, I ask her for help when I need it. And my, my mom has also since passed.

[00:49:00] Randa: She passed in 2019. Yeah. so oftentimes I like what, I just feel hopeless or just, I just don't know how I'm gonna get through another day. Or if my son's, if I'm having like, challenges, parenting challenges and parenting, you know, I've got my husband who's amazing, but we don't have any other family close by.

[00:49:19] Randa: So it's hard. And so I will talk to them. I, I remember when my dog had gotten sick, in 2020, and he was in the hospital and he also, he ended up dying. But I yelled at my mom and sister. I was so angry. I was, I, I was like, How dare you? How dare you do this to me? This is bull like as if I haven't gone through like just a, in the car, just raging at them, saying like, How could you do this?

[00:49:50] Randa: How, like, haven't I been through enough? so it's funny, it's that I, I, I still do it. Like I talk to them when , I yell at them , just as if they were here. And, and I, I, I honestly feel that there's some things that come back. Like I, I feel like, you know, if I'm like really asking for help for things, it, it, it transpires in a, in a way and there's a little sign here and there.

[00:50:12] Maya: Yeah. I, I, they're with us. I believe that I do. So I love that you are of the same mindset as we with that. And I love that. And yeah, you went through a lot of loss. You know, they always say, a lot of people are like, Oh, it happens in threes, but it did for you and it did for me as well. So, you know, I lost my brother and then I lost two really close male friends.

[00:50:32] Within one happened just a couple months after my brother, I think it was that February. And then the next, it took a little bit longer, but it was 2018. And so I was like, okay, this is, it was hard. It brought everything back up to the surface and they were all, they, one was cancer and one was sudden, it was a drug overdose.

[00:50:51] Maya: So it was just three totally different situations and it was just difficult. And so I was , I was upset too. And the friend, in 2018 was the, the last one of the three and knew my brother and they were both musicians. And so I was talking to my brother just like you're explaining to, and I was like, That better be it.

[00:51:11] Maya: I can't handle anything else. That better be it. Right? That's all I can handle right now. So I really understand and I appreciate your vulnerability with me and everyone listening because your story, again, is so different and Perry. She sounds amazing. And so I think she's like with us right now too, and I just again appreciate this.

[00:51:31] Maya: But we have some stuff to unpack here because I wanna go back to a couple things that you talked about, Randa, because one of the reasons I really just connected with you, but also wanted your story to be told and Perry's story to be told, is because you said so many important things. One, I think we really diminish the fact that, you know, sometimes we'll say, Oh, this loss is worse than that.

[00:51:54] Maya: You lost, you know, this person or that person, right? And so we get lost, right? This is why I have this podcast for all of you guys, right? we get lost in it as siblings, but something that happens too, that you mentioned is just because you had that time with Perry doesn't make the actuality of her dying and losing her any, any less traumatizing.

[00:52:23] Maya: Significant. Right? I mean, there's, I, I see this all the time and people write to me all the time and you guys can continue to write to me, I, I love hearing your stories. I don't love hearing that people have passed, but I love talking and connecting with people just like you, Randa, and people will say, You know, I can't believe some of the things people have told me.

[00:52:42] Maya: Like at least you got that time with her. At least you got, and like, I'm sure you've heard that, right? I'm sure you've heard that. And that my heart breaks when people tell me things like that because I'm like, I mean, I think just people don't know what to say. I really would love your take on that because the, I'm sure you heard that a lot, so I'd love to hear that.

[00:53:04] Maya: Cuz I get written about this all the time, Randa. All the time.

[00:53:08] Randa: It's funny because it, I have heard it and when I hear it, it hurts. However, I have also said it, when I hear of someone. Who has had a sudden loss or, even when I was listening to the first of episodes of your podcast, I was like, Gosh, am I lucky that I had that time?

[00:53:26] Randa: Like, so, but it's just, it's different when it's my idea and my thought and I'm in the head space for it versus someone imposing their opinion. But I also try to, and again, maybe this is six years in, but it's, or a few years in, I try to remember, I'm pretty sure that I have said some purity and sensitive things to people that I've lost someone without realizing, because you're trying to find something to say, not to make yourself feel better, but to make your, to fill the space, to fill the, the moment or to, to make them know that you empathize.

[00:54:04] Randa: So while it's not the best thing to say, and I, it's, it's hard to hear, I think kind of switching my perspective. Of the comment and seeing where it's coming from helps. And I think also the fact that when you sit and reflect on it, it's very true. It is very true. regardless of the fact that I have, I still have to live my life without my sister and I've endured this tremendous loss.

[00:54:32] Randa: There is nothing like that. I, I still had time to start wrapping my head around it before it happened, as opposed to it not even being a realm of possibility. And it's suddenly they're gone. So I generally do think that I am better off in that scenario. It is harder watching them suffer. it is. But the you people that lose their sibling in an accident or a, a gunshot, you're still watching them suffer for some time.

[00:55:05] Randa: You know, there, there's still that possibility. there's just, there should be no label on it. There, There should be no, at least you or you know, cuz I could say, Well, at least you didn't have to see him suffer. Well, but it doesn't matter. There is no, at least it's at the end of the day. I'm sorry. That's it.

[00:55:24] Maya: Oh my God. So beautifully put, Randa. Yes. This is why I wanted to, to bring. That to light because I think it really, it really just guts people when they hear that. And I think your perspective six years in is really just spot on because you're like, Yeah, I did get that type with her. But it's also being very real about the fact that like, yeah, I had to watch her suffer though.

[00:55:46] Maya: So that's kind of where probably some of your trauma lived or still lives maybe, and like where therapy was super helpful and yeah, you got your time to wrap your head around it, but it doesn't take away from the fact that you don't have your sister here, she's gone. You know? So I just think, I mean, I couldn't have wrapped that up any better myself.

[00:56:03] Maya: That was beautiful how you put that. I wanna go back to another thing, just a couple things you said, just so amazing. I love how you said that you became more empathetic after the loss because you work in the healthcare field. I clearly don't . So, I'm an entrepreneur. I have, you know, another podcast, my own businesses, but.

[00:56:21] Maya: You're in the healthcare field, and I love how you explained that these people became more personal for you. Like you started to like branch out and think about the family tree and think, When I told people, and I said this to people, I said, You know how they would ask me all the time, I'd go on. I finally started speaking out.

[00:56:40] Maya: It took me until 2020 to really start speaking very openly and publicly about this. And they would ask me that, you know, how has this changed you? And I would talk about it and I would say, Honestly, I've become a much more empathetic person. And it would shock people. They would say, What? I'm like, Yes, I am more empathetic than I've ever met in my entire life.

[00:57:01] Maya: And they're like, How can you be that way? Your brother was murdered. Aren't you angry, aren't you? I'm like, Yes, but I'm not there anymore. It has made me more empathetic. I am able to really put myself in other people's shoes in a way that I never could before. It's just. I can't explain it. I try to the best I can on these podcasts, but I love that you brought that up and I'd love to hear your opinion about why do you think that is?

[00:57:30] Maya: Why do you think you feel more empathetic afterwards?

[00:57:33] Randa: I think when you lose someone, be it a sibling or anyone important to you in your life, it kind of, it opens up this untapped territory in your brain and in your heart. I think that, because if we all walked around with knowing what that feels like all the time, we wouldn't really be able to enjoy life to the fullest. We wouldn't be able to have super carefree moments. We wouldn't be able to do stupid things in our lives like we would make us super cautious. And I think that when you lose someone and then you lose more people, as that time goes on and, you kind of just tap into that part of your brain and heart that you're just like, Oh, this is, this is hard.

[00:58:13] Randa: And oh, I want, you know, people, people go, go through this every day. And I had no idea what it felt like. I had no idea what they were going through. And it also comes with age, to be honest, right? Like, you know, if, when you're not to say that someone who's 20 doesn't experience this too, but I think some of that empathy just grows a bit with age because you, you see more in life and things like that.

[00:58:34] but I do genuinely believe it's just that untapped area that kind of gets tapped into when you lose someone. And it's a protective mechanism and it's important that it stays intact. And that's why even the most supportive kind people that really wanna be right there with you, they can't because that vault is closed for them as it should stay.

[00:58:56] Randa: So as much as they wanna empathize and be there and support you, they'll never fully understand until they lose someone and they're like, Oh my God, I thought I was supporting you. And now I realize like I had no, like, I didn't, I had no idea. And so I don't think, for the most part, no one's coming from a place of, of being malicious or trying to hurt you further by insensitive comments.

[00:59:21] Randa: I, some people are just dumb when people are like, Are you over it already? Like they're just ridiculous. Yeah. To them don't listen. Yeah. But for people that are, This makes some random weird comment that you, that sounds like it might be helpful, but it really isn't. It's really probably just coming from a place of ignorance and it's a blissful place and I miss it.

[00:59:44] Randa: I miss that place so much.

[00:59:47] Maya: Amen, Randa. Great, great advice on that as well. Yeah. I mean, honestly, if it's, if it's a comment like that, they're, they're trying, they're trying to be there for you. They, they honestly just can. Fathom it. And sometimes, you know, I mean, let's face it as a society, I mean, not even just US, Canada, I mean, as a global world, there are very few cultures that handle death and grief and all of that combined very well, very few, right?

[01:00:18] Maya: So we are not really programmed and trained or talked or anything, right, to deal with this. So I think your advice is wonderful. I mean, give those people a little bit of grace, especially if you know they love you and they're coming from the heart. Like it's, it's not coming from a bad place. And so I love that.

[01:00:37] Maya: But I wanna go back to two other things and then I have a, and a very important question for you, but I love how you say the same thing as we, because I think this is so important. A lot of people, and this is a, this is an insensitive thing sometimes, but again, guys, remember where people are coming from.

[01:00:54] Maya: When people are saying, you know, Oh, you know, have you moved on? Are you in a place where you feel like you've moved on? People use that verbiage because they don't understand. And so you said it so perfectly, Randa, I'm like, Oh my God, we are so aligned. You can move forward, but you never really move on.

[01:01:12] Maya: We're both sitting here six years in and this is still so much a part of who, who we are. Right? So it's really, and and when you're saying that, I think, I think you probably feel the same way as me, but I wanna hear your take on it, you know, moving forward. I don't think you ever move on, but I think the ability to move forward is so important and that's why finding the right counselor or therapist or whatever route you wanna go and finding the right support group is huge.

[01:01:43] Maya: I mean, I love that you did that. That's great advice for any of you listening. And there's lots of resources, for you guys even on the, Surviving siblings website, but. I would love, like, for your take on that, cause people don't understand the difference between moving on and moving forward, right?

[01:01:57] Maya: Yeah.

[01:01:57] Randa: and it, it, absolutely, and before I experienced this loss, I probably would, would've said the same thing. Moving. What's the difference? Moving on, moving forward? Like you're moving. but to me, you know, I'll never move on from losing my sister. I'll never, move on from experiencing that loss from being without my sister on a day to day basis.

[01:02:17] and so I see like moving on as going from point A to point B and just getting there. but moving forward just means that I am not no longer just stuck in that moment and that time of loss and, the, the weight of it and I'm able to move forward with the loss. I'm able to move forward. But I'm not moving on or away from it. It's just coming with me.

[01:02:43] Randa: And, so every ki every year on the anniversary of, Perry's passing, I always kinda make it a point and post on my Facebook, some, something about her and kind of commemorating the day. And I think my most recent one is what I compared grief to, walking around with a backpack, full of rocks or bowling ball.

[01:03:03] Randa: So grief is like a backpack with, full of rocks. And initially when you put it on or it gets placed on you, you are on the floor, you can't carry it, it's too heavy. You can't, but days go on and you push up a little bit and slowly, slowly you kind of build those muscles and then you're able to stand with the backpack on your back and you're even able to walk.

[01:03:22] Randa: And sometimes people are like, Wow, you don't even, they don't even see the backpack. There's, but it's there. But you've grown all these muscles that you're able to carry this backpack with these, and then some days something happens, hear a song, you smell a smell, you record a podcast, and that backpack takes you right back to the floor.

[01:03:42] Randa: And all those muscles that you've built up have let released and you're back on that floor and you've crumbled. Moving forward means that every time I crumble, I am able to stand up again and take another step forward. And that's why it's never moving on because I always have backpack and to me that's the difference.

[01:04:02] Maya: Oh my God, I love this. I love, love, love this, Randa. I love a great like analogy or something that you can think of because I think it really helps people painting a picture or helping you envision something. Right. Losing someone is just so intangible sometimes, right? Cause then they're physically gone.

[01:04:21] Maya: And so when you can paint a picture so beautifully like that, yeah, you're gonna fall back sometimes with that backpack full of rocks, but you've now built the muscles to pull yourself back up again. Oh my God, that's beautiful. Okay. I'm still in that from you, Randa. I love it. I love it. so yeah guys, the thing is, you know, a couple months in, you might not have those muscles a couple years in.

[01:04:40] Maya: You might not have those muscles, but at some point you realize, Oh, okay, I cried a little bit and I'm back up again. I got those muscles. It's always gonna be with you. But you get, you get like your dad wanted you to, to be strong, but that takes, but it's a different kind of strength that comes to you.

[01:04:58] Maya: That's what the backpack is. Oh, I love that. That's fabulous. so I wanted to ask you one more thing. You mentioned your family, and I understand all about the having the, the family area and that, and I had it only for a, a few short days, very short time. But you know, I was recently talking to a couple of different people for the podcast and discovered, this is actually a new term for me, just like I learned about the backpack today from you Randa, I learned about, what's called the grief bubble.

[01:05:27] Maya: And this was interesting to me. And so I wanna ask your opinion on this too. So, and I think you kind of already kind of touched on this, but the grief bubble is when you're kind of going through everything. So when you're at the hospital and like your family's all around and when you're at the funeral or making the arrangements and then afterwards and everybody's around and so it makes a distraction, right?

[01:05:51] Maya: Like you're not able to, like you were kind of talking about, but there's a term for that. It's called the grief bubble. So you're kind of with people and then it gets popped when you. Leave that and you have to go on with life. Does that resonate with you? Kind of what, what you were talking about before?

[01:06:08] Randa: Yeah. I've never, I've, I've never actually heard that term, but absolutely. That makes sense. I just learned hundred percent. I know. Yeah, yeah,

[01:06:14] Maya: yeah, yeah, yeah. I was interested to see if that kind of resonate cuz I was like, Oh, she's kind of describing the grief bubble. And so yeah, it was a term that I learned and it's a reason why I enjoy speaking to other people about grief because I'm always learning something and today I learned about the backpack.

[01:06:29] Maya: So you have given so much wonderful advice to me and our amazing listeners, but also thank you for your vulnerability. But I wanna ask you one more question. What advice if, I'm sure you have tons of advice, but what, what's a couple things or one major thing that you wish that you would've known prior going prior to going into this situation and, and becoming a surviving sibling?

[01:06:55] Randa: I think one of my biggest regrets, and this is if anyone's listening, that is in the process of that lost phase before their sibling has passed, is to take pictures. that's one of my biggest regrets. I don't have a whole lot of pictures of her in the hospital at that time. And I think at that time it's like, Well, I don't wanna, she doesn't wanna be remembered like that or things like that.

[01:07:13] Randa: But I do have some pictures that I do. Sometimes I have to scroll up by them very quickly. I can't look at them. And other times I just want to, why don't I wanna remember her like that? She was perfect. She was her, and it's, it was part of who she was and, but at that time, you're just not thinking that. so that is one big piece of advice is if, if you're kind of in that end of life phase, is to take some pictures.

[01:07:35] but for those who have lost a sibling, I think my biggest advice is, and I I'm sure it's been set at time and time again, is to be kind to yourself. And there really is no right way to grieve and watching. All of my family members, not a single one of us have grieved the same. I, thankfully none of us seem to have judged each other's form of grief.

[01:07:55] but no one has done it even closely similar to one another. And I, so I think being kind to yourself and just knowing that whatever you're feeling is okay, getting help and to keep going, till you find someone to connect with it, even if it's not a professional, like they generally are better because they do have some insights that, you know, you don't know or they ask some really good questions that things you don't think about.

[01:08:18] and like, you don't have to move forward today and you don't have to tomorrow. but you will. And that is, that's the take home message is that one day you will be able to, and it's not, it's not a betrayal of your sibling, to laugh. I feel like I'm giving a lot of things of advice, but, that's another big one.

[01:08:37] Randa: Yeah. It's definitely not a betrayal to laugh. It's not a betrayal to be happy again. and like you will, you will be okay. You'll never be the same, but you will be. Okay. I think that's,

[01:08:49] Maya: I mean, guys, if you need to re-listen to that, I mean, that's a ton of incredible advice. I know. Same thing for my family.

[01:08:56] no two people grieved the same way. lots of, you know, so it took me personally, which obviously I've already shared. I had to become a. More empathetic and understand that. And luckily that happened naturally, , and I just accepted it, you know, But in the beginning when I went through, you know, the phases and about being angry and things like that, I felt differently.

[01:09:18] Maya: So I wish I had your advice then. Ronda and I, you know what I mean? I, so I think this is huge to, to understand that because I think sometimes when you're in that phase in the beginning, whether you're shocked and I, or wherever you are, you can be in so many different places in the beginning and you judge other people sometimes cuz you're like, Well, I'm feeling this way.

[01:09:38] Maya: You should feel this way. And I think if you just embrace, right? I mean, so if you just embrace the fact that like, this is your journey and they have their journey, I think that's really huge. I think that, that, that's a big thing. And we were, we were actually chatting guys before we got on here. I, I remember this now about, you know, sometimes we feel a little bit.

[01:09:58] Maya: Guilty sometimes if we're not thinking about them. You know, where I, again, Ron and I have the six year commonality here. And so, you know, if we're, if you don't think about them every day, you know, sometimes I'm like, Oh wow. And I pretty much think about my brother every day, to be honest. There's pretty much something every day. Are is it the same for you? Ronda was here?

[01:10:15] Randa: It's, Yep. It's pretty much every day, but there, there are, there has, there's been a day or two or like they, you know, just life gets busy and you're just, you know, something. It's not, or it's a fleeting thought. It's a fleeting thought, not a, I sit and think kind of, That's definitely for sure.

[01:10:31] Maya: Right? Yeah. Where it's not as like reflective or such a long thought. And then there's that like guilt, like, Oh, am I losing them or am I, and you're not. That's how I feel. Right? So yeah. Randa, this has been so incredible. I wanna thank you again for your vulnerability. I wanna thank Perry for being here with us too, because I totally believe that.

[01:10:52] Maya: And Randa, you said you like connecting with people, so where are you comfortable telling people to find you? so

[01:10:59] Randa: I am on Facebook, and I think my account is pretty private, but I'd be happy to kind of open that up a little bit. or, I'm on that Sibling Loss Facebook group as well. but I'm not a big, big social media otherwise, unfortunately.

[01:11:12] Maya: That's okay. So we'll link that in here. And you know what, we should just link the group in there because we should definitely have more of you guys join the group that we connected. And so thank you Randa, for reaching out. I'm so glad we connected. And again, so sorry for your last, but glad that you were able to share your story.

[01:11:28] Randa: Thank you. May, thank you for, uh, letting me share a little bit of my sister today. I appreciate it.

[01:11:33] 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.

[01:11:52] Maya: Remember to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. And don't forget to follow us on all social media platforms. 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.

Randa SalemProfile Photo

Randa Salem

I lost my sister in 2016 to breast cancer. I spent the last three weeks of her life at her bedside.. until 3 days before she passed. She Insisted I go home. It’s like she was waiting for me to leave so she could let go.