Sisters, Blair Kaplan Venables and Alana Kaplan, talk about the series of events that led up to the loss of their mother. This is part two of two. Part one is Episode 7.
You can read stories of resilience and share your story at: www.iamresilient.info
Trigger Warning: The Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult. The listener’s discretion is advised.
About the Guest:
Alana Kaplan is a compassionate mental health professional based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She’s a child and family therapist at a Winnipeg-based community agency and a yoga teacher. Fueled by advocacy, Alana is known for standing up and speaking out for others. Passionate about de-stigmatizing and normalizing mental health, Alana brings her experience to The Resilience Project team, navigating the role one’s mental health plays into telling their story.
Engaging in self-care and growth is what keeps her going and her love for reading, travel, and personal relationships helps foster that. When she’s not working, Alana can often be found on walks, at the yoga studio, or playing with any animal that she comes across.
About the Host:
Blair Kaplan Venables is an expert in social media marketing and the president of Blair Kaplan Communications, a British Columbia-based PR agency. She brings fifteen years of experience to her clients which include global wellness, entertainment and lifestyle brands. As a pioneer in the industry, she has helped her customers grow their followers into the tens of thousands in just one month, win integrative marketing awards, launch their businesses and more. Yahoo! listed Blair as a top ten social media expert to watch in 2021. She has spoken on national stages and her expertise has been featured in media outlets including Forbes, CBC Radio, Entrepreneur and Thrive Global. Blair is also the #1 bestselling author of Pulsing Through My Veins: Raw and Real Stories from an Entrepreneur and co-host of the Dissecting Success podcast. When she’s not working on the board for her local chamber of commerce, you can find Blair growing the “The Global Resilience Project,” an online community where users share their stories of overcoming life’s most difficult moments.
Learn more about Blair: https://www.blairkaplan.ca/
Submit your story: https://www.iamresilient.info
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trigger warning, the Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult, the listeners discretion is advised.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Hello friends, welcome to radical resilience a weekly show where I lead Kaplan Venables have inspirational conversations with people who have survived life's most challenging times. We all have the ability to be resilient and bounce forward from a difficult experience. And these conversations prove just that, get ready to dive into these life changing moments while strengthening your resilience muscle and getting raw and real. Hello, hello. Welcome back to another episode of radical resilience. I'm Blair Kaplan Venables and I'm back with my sister Alanna Kaplan. So last week, last episode, we started talking about the journey of us transitioning into a life without our mother on this planet. And we covered everything that led up to her passing on and we're gonna now talk about what life is like, what the last year has been like without her. If you are just tuning in for the first time, I recommend you stop this episode and go back to last week's episode so you can hear it. If not, that's totally cool, too. You can even go back to episode one, or two or three or four. And yeah, so I'm here with Atlanta.Alana Kaplan:
Hello. Hello. Hello.Blair Kaplan Venables::Alana Kaplan:
Mm hmm. Yeah. And so I guess I'll just set the scene. So my stop my, our mom was talking a lot about stomach discomfort from November to January. And then simultaneously around that time, I was also having some stomach stuff. In fact, I went and got blood work. When I got an ultrasound. My ultrasound was actually the same day as my mom's. And everything came back fairly normal. And so I had talked to my doctor, my goal must just be anxiety down, like, I guess I'll start some anxiety medication. And so this is happening. And then we talked about how there we woke up to a text one day that said, LOL was just in the ER. And I actually, that night wasn't sleeping because I was vomiting. I believe that's what was happening to me that night. And so I woke up be like, Oh, that's interesting that she was having more intense symptoms. And then that happened again, the day that she went into the hospital on February 9. I obviously didn't know, but I wasn't sleeping the night before. And I didn't know why I was just like, Oh, my, just another sleepless night. Then we also talked about last time how there was like a tumor on a nerve or something that affected my mom's voice. So like, my throat was hurting a bit on February 10. That was it as find a way to peg and I got a text from my mom being like, I don't have a voice and I was like, Oh, that's weird. Like, I have a sore throat. Now my mom is saying she can't she can't speak. And so then that's one of the things started to clue in. And I was telling my mom about these things. And she was like, Oh, you're intuitive. It's like, you know, and so she would ask me like, are you having any bad thoughts? Are you having any thoughts like, get trying to get me to, to almost like tell the future? It's like I can't tell the future. Because I can only like when I reflect back, realize these things. And so essentially, throughout her illness, I was having mirror like symptoms, almost like in therapy when you have mirror neurons firing and you're matching the other person, but in this case, it was not quite that. And then similarly, around this time Blair was also experiencing a really bad case of vertigo which she's never had before. And so for all the Kaplan's are down for the count at this point, not really knowing what's going on, but we're all experiencing symptoms. And so that happened through my mom's illness. And then finally, I don't know if I'm missing anything, but on the last, so we're holding my mom's hand with my uncle and my aunt's there, as she's taking her last breaths, and all of a sudden, I got really dizzy. And I and I said that out loud, was like, I'm really dizzy right now. And that was the same time my mom had taken her last breath. So we were feeling because we were so connected to my mom. Well, I can only really speak to myself. But because I was so connected to her and probably so codependent on her. I was having essentially like these intuitive responses, or intuitive feelings without actually knowing that that's what was going on.Blair Kaplan Venables:
So interesting. And I think it's important that we're sharing this because a lot of other people have these very tight connections to their parents, and might be having these experiences without realize, right, so. So our mom passes away in the middle of the night, like early, early February 23. And we're Jewish, and in Judaism, everything like wrapped like funerals, and everything happened right away. And it was COVID. So we had a graveside funeral, it was minus 40. Like it was very, a lot, minus a lot. And we were only allowed 10 people and we were allowed, pallbearers, and the pallbearers could be different. So we were trying to be very strategic about who we had. And you know, again, as capitals trying to find the humor. So our luckily, like our family helped us plan a very quick funeral. We walk up, and so we're live streaming the funeral, which is actually a really beautiful thing, because people can tune in from all over because our community, our family, our friends are everywhere. And what was hilarious was as we're walking in, it's like, obviously, like a very sad day, Aladdin notices something.Alana Kaplan:
So the person who is filming the funeral happened to be the person who was like the DJ for my Bar Mitzvah.Blair Kaplan Venables:
So how many years ago was that?Alana Kaplan:
Which was from that day, like 18 and a halfBlair Kaplan Venables:
years, like I think that's like one of the best pandemic pivots I've ever seen. On Bar Mitzvah DJ to streaming funerals, and also all lifecycle Yeah. So we, you know, it's very, very like hard, like, I do the eulogy. And then we do this thing called Shiva, where normally you get together with family and you share memories and like tons of people come and different people like send meals, lunch and dinner. And the problem was that it was just me my aunt, uncle, two cousins and Atlanta. So there's six of us, and people were still sending food to feed 50. And so basically, a Jewish hug is a bagel and I turned into a bagel and we eat a lot of bagels and a lot of ordered a lot of cheese and egg nips from Salisbury house one day, they're going to sponsor me in my life.Alana Kaplan:
And party sandwiches, which we renamed Shiva sandwiches because they shouldn't be called party sandwichesBlair Kaplan Venables:
and Shiva loves sugar. So unlike a lot of I've had experienced a lot of loss over the last couple of years grandparents and whatnot. And so it's like, we know like the routine it's not fresh to us, but it was really beautiful being you know, with our with some of our immediate family, it was really great experience. Our aunt and uncle were like they just took us in because again, it's COVID like our grandma Baba, Leah is still alive. She we can't be around her like, you know, we came from other provinces. And so now the real work happens. So we call the lawyer and what's really important to know is like so around New Year's mum told me she had a weird premonition. And our mum was not very in tune, like she would never like identify her feelings. She was really learning to tap into empathy towards the end, and I credit a lot of that to Atlanta. But I asked her like what this was all about. And on New Years, she asked her good friend who's a lawyer to update her will. And I said, Why Why did you do that? Like she said, she had a weird premonition. So in this will Alana and I are executors and I call that lawyer because the lawyer is my mom's friend and he he's our lawyer, and he's he basically tells us like it's a lot easier to have one executor so a lot of like gives me the power of executor tarrying or whatever anyways, holy shit. Being an executor is so much fucking work, especially if you're like one of the main Grievers. Mm hmm And there's actually I think services out there to do this and I I honestly never want to be the executor again like you if someone if you make me an executor anyone out there listening Alanna and or anyone I will I'm gonna hire an external company to do it because it is so much work on top of being really fucking sad. Because you don't make phone calls you have to make to can't, you have to cancel all these accounts, and then not just hey, I'm Blair Kaplan Venables, my mother, Sharon Kaplan just passed away, I'm calling to cancel her insurance. Because then what you need to do is you need to send them a copy of her death certificate, and the will and the this and that and sign this and it's very intense, because it goes on for months.Alana Kaplan:
It's still going on, I'm still getting mail, it's still going on mail twoBlair Kaplan Venables:
days ago. And so anyways, um, my advice here without going into too much, because I want to talk about something else, I want to talk about what our lives are like now, the biggest thing that I've learned was to be organized. And I don't have a well, my husband and I need to make wells. But what's really important that my mom did, and every meeting I went to, the same comment was said was, Oh, my God, your mother was one of the most organized people, this is the most one of the most organized, you know, estates I've seen. And at this because she had a list handwritten of every single password, and every single account, and not just like so house party, because once she had host party and joined a family chat, or, you know, Instagram or a Skype like things that she never used, but not just that she had all of her insurance policies, the phone numbers, the policy numbers, the amount, and basically every single person I had to call if she died when she died. And that made my life so much easier. In fact. I mean, we just discovered a an account that like I thought I dealt with, but I didn't because I don't remember like the last year has been a fog. Like I feel like I was in an accident. Like I feel like this grief triggered concussion syndrome like concussion issues and symptoms I've had from previous concussions. I feel like I've just been existing and I'm starting to feel like a human again. But if if you're listening to this, you take anything away from this conversation. Write down every single account and every single password because it's going to make those you leave on this earth. A little less stressed out, it's going to make things a lot easier for them. Okay, so now Alana and I we no longer have our mother. We now have this house in Winnipeg. That's hers that we both know. Like she owns the estate now owns. We have to sell it. Alanna lives in Toronto. So Lana lives in Ontario, the houses in Manitoba. I'm in British Columbia. Now while this is happening. We're preparing to sell our house in Pemberton, British Columbia and move to Kamloops British Columbia. Because remember, three months before losing my mother, we lost my father in law. And so we're preparing to live closer to Shane's family. So now we have two houses to sell. Our lives have been completely turned upside down. And it was intense. It was really intense. And I think you know, Alanna, I mean, I can't speak for you. But I went into survival mode. Like the only thing in my control I felt was my business and like my business was the most successful was ever financially and like the stuff I was doing. I felt like I was the most successful I'd ever been in my business. I made more money than ever. I worked as little Well, I mean, I still worked, but I didn't work as much as normal. And I think it's because it was the only thing in my control. And it was a nice little escape for me. And you know, I don't drink I'm now three years sober. Yes, I take Prozac and CBD and like I do the best I can to survive and manage my anxiety, depression. But the one thing that really brought me joy that still brings me joy is my clients and what I do for work and showing up and talking about resilience, because this whole time a lot and I've been building the global Resilience Project. And we've been collecting stories of resilience. And it's very interesting how we've, how we've learned these lessons and so a lot and I take a break. After mom passes away, we're in Winnipeg for a bit we start packing and sorting and figuring out what we need to do. We decide, okay, we need a break. Let's go back to where we live, have a reset, come back to Winnipeg in a month, get the house ready to list it and pack it. And I come back to Pemberton and that house is getting ready to be packed and listen. So basically, I felt starting last February. Once soon as I left to Winnipeg, when mom was sick. It's like I immediately felt displaced. They immediately felt not grounded anymore, not rooted like it didn't really have a home. Look at how it's not a home and our lives. I mean, Alana and I have very different lives. And I can't speak to Atlanta, so maybe Atlanta and you can just do a high level of like, the decisions you've made over the last year and where you are today. And I'll do the same because, you know, I think these conversations are gonna keep coming back because we're gonna keep learning all these lessons. And but yeah, like, my life completely changed. I will talk about it in a minute, because you just heard me talk for a bit. But Atlanta, let's do a high level of like, the decisions you made, the process you made and where you are now.Alana Kaplan:d to the summer before summer:Blair Kaplan Venables:
you know, I just want to say Atlanta, I'm really proud of you. Because obviously you and I are close. But the fact that we managed to spend like a month and then another month, like we spent a lot of time together. And I think we never even really argued maybe once.Alana Kaplan:
Maybe once but we actually haven't argued since Mom has died.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Yeah, arguments usually really involved. Yeah, but like, I'm Lana and I are very close. But I just want to say that like since mom die and her moving to Winnipeg, like this is the happiest I've seen you in a very long time, despite the circumstances, because I don't know about you, but I'm like, my grief is there. But now I'm learning to layer life on top of that. And instead of being in constant grief, it comes in waves. And I'm learning to ride the wave and be you know, be in it and then be out of it so I can live my life. And with you being close to home, I mean being now in home like before you were living in Toronto, but now you're home. You're we're homeless and you're thriving. And I think it's really great. And I love it because now it's my new home base because our mother's house was my home base and I came to what a pagan I have a really great network of friends and family when a pagan I love staying with everyone but it's not home. And I can't wait to come make myself home and sprawl in your home. So what's really interesting for me is my mother passing away actually started me on this journey of a spiritual awakening. So since mum passed away, I've sold we sold our house in Pemberton, we've moved to Kamloops. I had like a brief intermission of six weeks of living with my three cats and my mother in law without my husband because he was commuting for work and it was in the middle of fire season so it was smoky and she has you know, a two bedroom home and it was a really interesting experience. So I spent a lot of time like adventuring around. And I went and did some spiritual work and I'm on this path where I am learning who I really am and I'm having this beautiful spiritual awakening and like really tapping into my intuitive hits and gifts and it's it's really beautiful. And you know, I'm living in Kamloops reminds me a lot of Winnipeg. What I love about where I am now is that there's an airport. But and you know, so it's easier for me to travel and whatnot and My business is doing great. And Alana and I, you know, we're finishing up the global Resilience Project book, and it should be ready anytime soon. But you know, maybe we should talk about advice for our friends out there who, you know, haven't really lost a parent yet. I have a lot of friends, you know, in different age groups, and some are like our parents age, who are in their 60s who still have two parents, which is phenomenal, but it's going to happen and it's going to happen to us again, maybe soon do lose the other parent, but I have friends who still complain, like will complain about their parents are have really petty arguments. And really, none of that matters. None of that matters.Alana Kaplan:
Unfortunately, my close friend group, most of us have lost a parent. We talk about how our friend group is kind of cursed in a way as most recently as this past month. And yet at the same time, I do have friends who do have two parents who haven't even lost anyone who've never experienced grief. And so I feel like there's lessons for both lessons. Well, to grieve there is no rules like to grieve as you grieve, however, you need to grieve it comes in waves, it's gonna be very intense at first, that first period will be the last as long as it needs to last. And it will always be there. And there's this graphic that circulated online, essentially, the crux of it all is that you grow around your grief. So your grief never goes away, you just grow. And you'll always experience grief. And my biggest takeaway is let myself feel what I need to feel. Yesterday I was in a restorative yoga class on peloton and just had the biggest wave of grief I think it was because it's now around the same time as Everything was happening with our mom, and I needed to cry. So I just cried and Reclined Butterfly pose for 10 minutes. And then I was okay to move on. And so being really kind to yourself, if and when not, if, when you experience a grief, everyone will experience a grief at some parts. And there's different types of grief. There's like losing a parent, losing someone you're close to losing a pet, which Blair and I also, we forgot to mention, because there's just been so much grief, but our moms I get I'm giggling, but it's like our mom's cat, Xena, who's our cat went to live with Blair. And then in September, we had to put her down. Um, and so there's lessons on how to grieve and the lesson is, is just do what you need to do to grieve. That's my biggest lesson. And then if you're seeing someone you love or care about who is grieving, don't ask them or don't say like, I'm here. If you need anything, just let me know. Or how can I like? Offer things suggest things like, Hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna pop by if that's okay. And that's supportive to you. I'm gonna phone you and if you want to answer great if not, that's okay.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Or just validate their feelings. Wow, that's really shitty. Yeah, that's really sad.Alana Kaplan:
I don't know what to say. But it just really it's really hard to see. You sad, and it sucks. You can just say it. It sucks. It's shit. Yeah, don't try and suppress their feelings. I know the urge is there to make them feel better. You're not going to make them feel better.Blair Kaplan Venables:
It's going to make them feel worse if you're like, but look at all the good things in your life. And you're still alive. No, that does notAlana Kaplan:
know everything happens for a reason. No.Blair Kaplan Venables:
Man, um, yeah. And Alana, you just nailed it. And there's no right or wrong way to grieve, and what's really helped me and this is the you could take away from this as you want. I talk a lot about strengthening your resilience muscle. I'm going to have a whole podcast episode about that. But the things that I do on a daily basis, or almost a daily basis to help me so I practice gratitude, even when mom was dying and passed away. Like at nine o'clock every night, we stopped unless three things we're grateful for this changes the neural pathways in your brain to see the world in a more positive way. And if you do that for 21 days, plus, I've been doing it for five over five years. I meditate that's new. I started meditating this year and it was only the end of the first month but it's made a huge difference to my mental health. I journal sometimes twice a day but I wake up and I journal I move my body whether it's stretching or getting on the peloton, or one For a while, I make sure I move my body, I fuel my body because it fuels and also fuels my mind, I make sure that I eat as clean as possible when I was grieving, I just ate what was given to me. So I think that's another thing is if you are going to bring food to other people don't just, you know, give them some stuff to nourish their bodies, there's comfort food, and then there's what the body actually needs. And I feel like for a month, I hardly eat any vegetables. You know, like, I think it's really important to like you have to nourish your body because if you're not feeding your body, the right stuff, the right nutrients, you have a second brain in your gut, right? You have two two brains, and drinking lots of water. And honestly, sleep sleep is so important. And I'm just do what I need to do if in the middle of the day, I get a wave of grief or I feel really tired. If I can take a 10 minute 20 minute hour nap, I will. And also telling your story like you know, I have a therapist, I do alternative healing. One of the gifts my friend like something my friend got me as a gift from him passed away and I like I appreciate everything. People sent me doughnuts and flowers and meals and sending someone meals or gift cards to order food is like one of the best things you can do. Because the process of even figuring out like, do I want to pour Cheerios in a bowl like do I have the energy to chew it's really hard. But my friend Teresa actually sent me a gift card for a grief counselor who's also a death doula. She's no longer practicing her grief counseling, but she was at that time and she really helped me. She helped me so much that Atlanta started seeing her Chelsea are amazing. If you're listening to this, you will because I'm going to send this to you. She's only practicing her death doula, a doula ship, I don't know, dueling. I don't know how to call it, what to call it. But you know, I had a grief counselor. And you know what, that really helped me. And, you know, you can share your story. Maybe you get a journal and you write your story out or you talk to your friends or your other family members about it, or you submit your story to something like the global Resilience Project. But there are resources out there to help you. You don't need to go through this alone. You don't need to go through this alone, Alanna before we wrap up this because like, I think we're gonna come back to it fairly often. We're coming up to one year of our mother, you know, leaving us in Judaism. There's like a lunar calendar. So on February 11, it's her Hebrew and the anniversary of her, what would I call it? Her urine site?Unknown:
That's right. So it's likeBlair Kaplan Venables:
the herd passing anniversary on the Hebrew calendar February 11. And I'm, you know, we're gonna light the candle together as a family. And I've planned something special with one of my friends to honor her. And then February, Alanna and I are meeting in Palm Springs, because it's very interesting. The week mom passed away is usually around the time we always went on a family vacation like every year until the pandemic we were always away together. And so Alana and I decided to always be together on February 23. And so we're going to be in Palm Springs together. I you know, I don't know how the day is gonna unfold, but we're probably gonna spend it in nature. There's gonna be meditating and probably crying, and we're going to do our own thing or stuff together. Probably lots of floating in the pool and getting a little heatstroke in honor of my mother who loved to sunbathe, but her red face like, yeah. Man, I miss mom. I miss her so much, but I feel her with me. She's with me in a different capacity. And I'm learning to live with it. I'm learning to recognize the signs that she's around me. And it's really hard. Like, it's really, really hard. There are days where I can't get out of bed, there are days where it's all I think about, and then there are weeks where I'm functioning. And I think about it to a degree, but it doesn't derail me. But before we wrap up this episode, you know, I love that you're a social worker, because you have all this experience. And then you've gone through this traumatic experience. And obviously, like hairdressers don't usually cut their own hair. Like it's hard to like therapy yourself, right? Like, I have a I do public relations. And I have the publicist like I can't it's really hard for me to do my own PR. And I mean, it's not hard, but it's hard. You can't explain it. What advice do you have for someone who is about to lose a parent or who have just lost a parent? Like what is something that you just want them to know? I know we've given tons of advice, this episode last episode, and I think we should do another we'll probably do another interview, we'll chat a conversation after February 23. Like maybe even from Palm Springs, we'll record it or when we get back about kind of what you know, a recap of the last year. But what advice do you have? Hmm,Alana Kaplan:
that's a great question.Blair Kaplan Venables:
What do you wish? What do you wish you knew?Alana Kaplan:
Yeah, I think it's just theorizes like whatever you need to feel, feel, there's nothing that's going to prepare you honestly like there was even if you know No, like, say you have a loved one who is sick for a long time. Still going to heart it's still gonna really hurt when they go so whatever it is, will be, you know, just feel what you need to feel. Don't. My advice is like don't set any expectations for yourself. Maybe you'll be fine right away and then it's a response that comes later. You just don't you just don't know. So my advice is like Don't say like it's a reality TV quote from Big Brother but essentially like Expect the unexpected like you just don't know what's gonna know whatBlair Kaplan Venables:
a surprise is not as a wise survivor quote.Alana Kaplan:
I don't know it just wasn't that's not a survivor tagline. It's, yeah.