November 24th – February 13th

I shouldn’t have left Halifax. What’s the likelihood of Blake killing my other half whilst I’m there? I’ve tried to hard to get into their heads and walk in their shoes. This is the only conclusion at which I can arrive.

I left my sister alone. She ended up murdered. I think the risk to reward ratio would be far too high if I were there. I would scream, fight, and protect.

That’s why I do the work I do. I owe it to her. I owe her my life.

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Patty and Selma

The irony of your passing can easily put me in a state of denial.
I can still hear your larger than life laugh,
I can still hear you in my mind.
I can still feel the tension of you mad at me in the next room for not doing the dishes, being without direction and borrowing your clothes.
I can hear the concern in your voice, the excitement, the sadness, the pain.
I hear you telling me how hard it will be to write.
Telling me about the officer you sat next to on the plane, who’s son is struggling as a journalist in St.John’s.
But, that’s the kind of women we are. We’re stubborn and say, “Watch me”.
I can hear you telling me, “Fuck insecurities, do it anyway.”

I can feel your pain and your happiness. I can feel you guiding me, protecting me. Wanting the best for me. I reciprocated all of those things while you were here.
I knew you as a great mentor full of untapped potential.
I knew you as me, unable to cry, filled with an unfillable void.
Always searching, holding our breath figuratively and literally for something to happen. But, I’ve seen your eyes since, they were filled with a brilliance I’ve never seen before. I told you I loved and missed you as I sat gapeseed and knowing.

I knew you were gone but at the same time, you are not.

“Feeling insecure is one of the most difficult feelings to manage. You have far more amazing qualities than you do bad. We all have our flaws, it’s a normal and inescapable of human existence. Nobody is perfect (cliche, yes! but very true). You have to recognize and focus on all of the things that make you unique, caring, kind, beautiful. You have the most beautiful soul, you are too amazing to let your insecurities hinder your ability to do whatever your heart desires. Feelings of insecurity are so difficult, they’ll eat you alive if you allow them to. I can guarantee that you are an inspiration to many and I’m pretty sure there are tons of girls out there that wish they could have your perserverance, uniqueness and strength. Focus on the positive, don’t let your past or your flaws dictate your future or define who you are at this moment. If you want to move forward with life, you have to leave past insecurities, hardships, and just life in general where it is.”

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homicidesurvivor.ca

Did I not pay attention to the tragedies that seem to be rampant in this day and age? I’m not sure if this is me growing up and realizing the world can be a tragic and dark place, or if it has become even more so since my sister was killed. Either way, I’ve become more aware of the bad and the beautiful around me.

I haven’t been to a therapist in over a month. I’m looking for another at the moment but have been quite proactive with beginning the healing process on my own. Writing has been a very successful therapeutic outlet thus far but I won’t be posting a lot in the next week or so. I’ll be providing updates, doing interviews, offering little bits of insight.
Keep checking in for sneak peeks of what you have to look forward to when I launch homicidesurvivor.ca!

If you or anyone you know has experienced the loss and trauma of losing a loved one to homicide and are interested in sharing your story you can e-mail me at delilah@homicidesurvivor.ca

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Redefining ‘me’

“Hey Dee,

Just want you to know that I am insanely proud of you and how much you’ve matured over the past couple of years. I see nothing but success and greatness in your future. I may sometimes be hard to get along with but I appreciate having you here with me and I’m grateful that you’re here to help me get through the difficult times, offering advice, and listening to my desperate attempts to make logical sense out of all of the chaos that occurs in my life. I can’t wait to see the joy and happiness you receive from excelling in school. It’s your year to flourish and be the best that you possibly can. The sky is the limit ❤

Love always, Loretta!!”

I’m reduced to tears whenever I read this. The pain is excruciating but along with it comes a clear picture of her writing and the sound of her voice speaking these words. Being able to imagine her so clearly is a bittersweet experience. She believed in me and loved me so much. She would always lend uplifting and loving words when I needed them most or least expected them.

I thought the pain would consume me, and I almost let it. I didn’t see anything but pain and heartbreak in my future. I’ve always struggled with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I spent months in bed, tuning out the reality of my situation with fleeting moments of productivity. I would take on every project anyone threw in my direction and ultimately let them and myself down. I realized my drinking, self-pity, guilt and hazy mind were hindering my abilities. I had to do something about it, and it hasn’t been easy.

In light of this earth shattering experience, I’ve found light and love. I’ve been able to absorb and really take Loretta’s words to heart. I’ve been able to see what she’s always seen. I wish she could see me now. I want her to know and feel how much I love her.

I’ve started the journey of discovering who I am after a major installation in my life’s story has ended. Deciding which parts to keep and which to leave behind is definitely a struggle but so far, has been very rewarding. I was defined by the role I played in the longest friendship I’ve ever had. I wanted to be just like my big sister and I’ve always considered her my biggest role model. I’m sure many of my readers with siblings can testify to the deep and complex relationship that results from having someone with whom you’ve experienced life in tandem. It’s a beautiful thing to be treasured and respected.

I hope you’ll take the time to tell and show your loved ones how much they mean to you as often as you can. Unexpected expressions of love are precious.

Until next time!
delilah@homicidesurvivor.ca

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To the very end.

The autopsy couldn’t be performed until weeks of -20 temperature could be reversed. The police and coroner tiptoed around using the phrase ‘thaw out’. I’ve since envisioned and still envision the positions in which she was placed inside of the hockey bag, or the possible surfaces she had to ‘thaw’ upon. That shouldn’t enter one’s mind, especially when it comes to someone you love so deeply.

No one Loretta or I knew or had in our home before this time played hockey. Where could it have come from? Who owned it?

I wanted to fly home with her. I didn’t want her to be alone like she had been for the past few weeks. I should have been home to protect her. We were inseparable and now she’s fucking dead. For some reason, I wasn’t allowed to escort her home, so we both returned home alone.

The Fab Five trickled into Labrador one by one. I didn’t spend much time at home or with anyone other than these folks. It was too hard and I became extremely reclusive and selective in who I associated myself with. I’ve never been entirely close with the Saunders side of the family. While I consider Clayton my father and he has raised me as his own, it’s unbeknownst to me who my biological father is (Does it really matter?).
Our bunch is never invited to their gatherings and we’ve always felt awkward around them, but we hoped we could put such petty nonsense aside during this time. Even at the preliminary hearing, a select few had shown a sort of animosity towards my grieving family that led me to fully disregard them as human. What sort of human being could be so cruel? Definitely not one I’d consider family or associate myself with. This isn’t to degrade anyone, just shed light on the sort of obstacles my family has had to surmount subsequent to my sister’s murder.

I have nightmares about Blake and Victoria. They inhabit my apartment, plotting to kill me after my sister. They try to kill me or rape me. I have better dreams about finding my sister, reviving her, and succeeding. I have dreams of her telling me not to drink and lending me advice.

My first dream was close to her funeral. She spent the entire time trying to save my mother, father, brothers, sister, nieces and nephews from a toxic gas that filled a strange warehouse.

My parents have a 4 bedroom home and 8 children, plus the foster kids and others they would take in, so space was limited. At the funeral, I thought about how I used to crawl into her bed with her when I was a child, after having nightmares or being too cold in the basement. I then thought back on the times she said it was okay for me to sleep in her room in Halifax instead of the couch. I hated myself for choosing the couch. I wish I could have watched more documentaries, ate bullshit food and talked with her in bed again.
I walked up to her casket, howling, and sat with my legs stretched out. With a storm of thoughts and emotion, I laughed and I cried. I loathed what was happening.

After every milestone moment during the search, discovery and burial for Loretta, it snowed and I’m not the only one who noticed.

On the 7th, it snowed when we left the Pentecostal church and headed to her gravesite. I was freezing in a dress and read a poem. Everyone put a handful of dirt on her casket, hugged, cried and started to leave.

The people who were to bury her said no one was allowed to stay for the lowering of the casket or burial. Sabrina, Kyle, Jess and I parked across the road and I watched the pink and white metal box descend.  I had to stay with her to the end.

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26 (Part 2)

My cell phone and FaceBook account were chock-full of messages from reporters, family, friends, and complete strangers for months following my sister’s disappearance.
From Tofino, I did a couple of Skype interviews with news stations in Halifax. When in Halifax, held a few news conferences at the Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre. Close to the end of our search, my Aunt Barb, Jess, Kyle, Sabrina and I met with CTV to discuss a fundraising event we were planning to raise money to put up a reward. We felt great about it and headed back to the Loyola Building at Saint Mary’s.

I remember sitting in the passenger side of Kyle’s car as we passed the SMU Library entrance on Inglis. We were talking, laughing, discussing possibilities for the fundraiser when I received a text message from Det. Andy Pattison that read something like this:
“Hi Delilah, I have Yalcin here and we’d like to meet with you at Loyola”

My stomach dropped.
We turned onto Tower Road and approached Gorsebrook when I got a text message from CBC Toronto who said something along the lines of : “We’re very sorry to hear this has turned into a homicide investigation. We were wondering if you could speak to us this evening.”
They couldn’t know before us. It’s bullshit.

Later that evening the conclusion was that they had a film crew on site as they removed my sister from the snow. My intuition that she was too cold had proven to be true.

I feel weak and my stomach is turning over and over. I recognize the car with the deep colour of red in front of Rice residence and get Kyle to stop. I jump out and I run as fast as I can. I don’t want to hear what they have to say but no one had to say anything. Yalcin is limp and crying on the sidewalk. I hug and comfort him.

Seconds later I feel an animosity wash over me, an angry feeling that I’ve only felt twice before. At this particular instance, and when I first laid eyes on Blake in court. I became an animal. I was ready to tear flesh apart with my bare hands and crooked teeth. I was mad at this entirely unbelievable situation just playing out before my eyes, so I battled it.. hard.
I screamed, I growled and I could feel the pure hate and anger coursing in my blood as I sped down the corridor. I flexed my fists and yelled. When I got to our room,  I went to the bathroom and cried.

I cried so hard. I spent a while in there screaming, crying, vomiting, defecating, and vomiting because I was defecating. When I could bring myself to leave the bathroom, I paced like a wild cat who was waiting to be fed. I asked Andy questions. They weren’t memorable. I couldn’t reiterate them if I wanted to, but the answers made me angrier and I punched a concrete wall. Punching the wall was stupid. I hurt my hand and I laughed and it brought a smile to a few faces.
I don’t remember much after this and I view that as a positive thing right now.
I thought I would cower and just cry if I was given this news. I surprised myself throughout all of this but it wasn’t so surprising to others who had already viewed me as a strong woman. I didn’t know my strength or what traits I had been handed.

I still feel Loretta’s strength and heart within my own. I feel connected.

In my next post, I’ll share the preparation for the journey home & Loretta’s funeral.

Until then I ask you, how do you think you’d react? Or how did you react?
Share your story, feedback or suggestions with me.
delilah@homicidesurvivor.ca 

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26 (Part 1)

When I landed in Halifax, instead of being greeted by my sister’s beaming smile, there were reporters asking me questions. I got a ride from my friend who dropped me off at the Dartmouth bus terminal where I picked up a copy of Metro News. It had a photo of my sister in the one shouldered, fuchsia dress draped in tulle and lace that was soft to the touch. We used to share all of our clothes and loved getting dressed up. Then I read the words paired with the photo. These were the only details anyone knew concerning her whereabouts. I felt warm tears sting my chapped cheeks as I made the pilgrimage to the Halifax Regional Police HQ. Two days of crying and wiping the tears away had irritated the same face that had been smiling just days before. A genuine smile or laugh wouldn’t emanate from my shell of a body for a while. I have to mention that wasn’t one to cry prior to this. I just did not cry. I held it in or shook it off. I was an expert at blocking out pain. This experience has forced me to get in touch with my emotions. It was definitely a lesson that I’m still feeling my way through but I’ve learned to be patient with myself and appreciate the progress I’ve made.

I haven’t gone through this entirely graceful. I was a mess, actually. I couldn’t sleep or eat unless I threw back a few drinks for the days that came after the 18th. Even then, these luxuries I took for granted prior to my sister’s disappearance were sparse. The events that would unfold before my eyes seemed like a cruel, paralytic nightmare that was beyond the level of chaotic and frightening. Luckily, I had the cream of the crop when it comes to supportive and loving friends.

Amy Elson and her family lived two doors down from us in Happy Valley. We consider her more family than friend. Thanks to the deep connection and love we share with one another and Loretta, we held each other’s heads above water. We cried, laughed, screamed, worried, shared, and reminisced. With her by my side, we felt as if Loretta was laughing with us.

Jessica Coffey, my beautiful and incredible cousin, guided me spiritually. She gifted me with energy crystals and told me how they worked.  Two pieces of rose quartz that represent Loretta and myself catalyzes love, peace and serenity. Rose quartz also releases and heals trauma, guilt, fear, anxiety and heartache. The wisdom lent by the rose quartz is “You are loved. Everything will be all right.” A piece of turquoise is a master healing stone that also protects. The amazonite stone is considered a “Stone of Hope” that promotes clear and honest communication. Jess provided me with the family love, the raunchy and silly laughs, and strength I needed. Looking back, our conversations that consisted of wisdom, epiphanies, and insight, were the beginning of my own personal and spiritual growth.  I’m more than grateful to have bonded with her through the most devastating event in my life.

Kyle Ervin, my now boyfriend, rushed to aide us in our search. He drove us around as we plastered the city in missing posters, to news conferences, and anywhere my family and I needed to go. Most importantly, he held my hand and didn’t leave my side. Dried my tears and held me close as I cried in his arms between the one hour intervals of sleep I could get. I fell in love with how gently he handled my heart. He brings me to a place of peace when we gaze into each other’s eyes. He’s the first man I’ve experienced a visceral foreseeing of a future with.

Sabrina Berry, I still love her to this day for being the friend she has been to me but I’ll save this story for it’s own entry.

We called ourselves the Fab Five from then on. We will always have a very deep connection with one another after having been through this together.

In the wee hours of the morning, as Kyle slept on the floor, I would begin my morning by staring out the 20th floor window that looked over Halifax. I could see the apartment on Cowie Hill. I’d watch the sun rise, cry, listen and sing along with Inuit throat singers on YouTube. I drew a lot of strength thinking about my ancestors, my family, and my older sister as I did this. I would talk to her as I was in a trance-like state gazing upon the beauty of the winter sunrise. I told her to be okay until I found her and that I hope she wasn’t too cold. I hoped to God she wasn’t too hot, which brought a sentimental smile to my face. If there was anything that would bring out the fire in her, it was being too hot. Living on the 10th floor, with no air conditioning, and the humid, viscous Halifax summer weather couldn’t be considered pleasant by anyone, especially Lorett.

For nearly two weeks, I began and ended my days like this in the window, hoping to see her. I spent a lot of time talking to press, plastering posters and trying to hold it together until the day we found she would be coming home..

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