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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Grief chronicles

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Aug 2, 2019

Hi! Me on grief, again.

It’s been over a month now since my grandmother passed away. I went from full denial to accepting the harsh reality that she was not coming back. I was telling myself that it was just a rough patch, that everything would fall back into place, and she would still be there. She’s gone to a better place and I had to accept it.

A year ago, I was with her and took the decision to take the path of sobriety. A year later, I’m still sober and I wish I could celebrate with her by drinking an instant coffee.

Sobriety gave me one powerful gift – being able to set my own boundaries in both my professional and personal life. Grief also strengthened this gift. I say no to project offers, I take breaks from writing and I’m open about my needs. Sobriety and grief taught me to slow down and take care of myself. Lately, I’m tired and fragile, but I’m confident in my decisions when it comes to mental health. Alcohol and drugs do not cloud my emotions anymore, so I can feel the extent of my exhaustion. I then make decisions accordingly.

I took the long way home and was always scared to live in Waswanipi, but I found nothing but love and support here. Truth is, we lost many people within a year and I feel like my grief is fully understood. Life goes on and being in my community allowed me to spend time with Elders who are still with us. I love being with them.

When I do not feel well, I tend to take care of people instead of myself and some people take advantage of that. But the thing with Elders is – they do give me back the love I give them. I find it is a healthy relationship. I learn a lot too and learning distracts me from a lot of negativity.

The other day, my late uncle Wally’s wife Emma was telling me that it is hard for her to make moccasins, because her husband is not there to hunt moose anymore. In this heartbreaking statement, I found motivation – what if I learned how to fix moose hides? They keep me driven and give me ambitions.

I was chilling at Chiiwetau and it was beautiful to see youth helping their grandparents around and breaking this culture of always asking for money whenever we have to do something. I root for the youth, but we need to learn how to get involved in our communities without being paid all the time, and to help because it’s the right thing to do.

The other day, I was having tea with Emma on the porch of her cabin at the Old Post. She was telling me stories about my grandmother and it’s nice to see that she lives on through the memory of our Elders. I’m glad I listened to my heart and stayed around Waswanipi. I’m resting, bonding with people and living my best Cree life.

There really is no place like home.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.