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  • Writer's pictureerinwalter

Three words that changed my life ...

Updated: Feb 15

As a human, we know we are going to hit struggles, hardships and twists on the path called life however we also have limits to what we could ever imagine that we would go through.

So after 76 days, I am sharing with you the grief I NEVER expected or could imagine that would happen.

On November 29 of 2023 at 9:30pm I received a phone call that changed the course of my life forever.

"Is this Erin Walter, the mom of Owyn McInnis?" Right then I knew this wasn't going to be a good call, I just could not imagine what came next.

Seconds later the Lead Medical ED Physician at a BC hospital told me that my son was involved in a multi vehicle car crash that killed him and two of his teammates in critical condition.

Owyn had died.

Those three words changed everything, my future, my present, my belief and every emotion surfaced in seconds.

My son at age 22yrs old, just shy of his 23rd birthday died as a result of the severe injuries caused by the crash. Six vehicles were involved and these boys were literally heading to get subs between volleyball practices. They were at a red light, waiting to turn right when everything happened. They were not doing nothing wrong.

In that moment everything had changed.

This is the nightmare that every parent never wants to experience. The death of a child.

The next minutes, hours, days and weeks to come were about picking up the pieces of his life and everyone involved. Booking flights, walking into the unknown, meeting with the University, arranging for two funerals one in BC and Ontario, bringing Owyn home and packing up his University room to send back home to Ontario.

The gut punch was I was just out there 48 hrs before to spend 4 days with him. A girlfriend of mine had never seen the mountains, was cleared medically, so she surprised Owyn and myself with this trip. Our time was booked right before his exams. Those 4 days were packed filled with watching him play volleyball, loaded up his fridge with so much food, went record shopping, joked with his roommates and shared some incredible meals together. The laughter, the story telling and adventures are now memories and not stories to tease him about.

Before ever becoming a Grief Counselor/Palliative Care Social Worker, ALL I ever wanted to be was a mom. Brielle gave me that job title and Owyn crafted the title of Momma.

Nothing in my academic life or the tremendous amount of experience I have had with death prepared me for this. Both professionally and personally I was thrown into the deep end.

This sudden, random and unexpected death rearranged my life from the moment I heard the words, "Owyn did not make it."

I could not unring that bell, you never forget how you are told when someone dies. It shapes your grief and the way forward. I am very mindful how I give this news, I don't take it lightly ever.

This happened in another province, involved the RCMP, different sets of laws, involved two other varsity players, he has/had a fiance, divorced parents, an older sister, a brotherhood of teammates and coaches as well as friends and extended family. Life is complex.

I'm not going to lie, I thought about closing my practice, giving up on the profession I loved and going invisible for whatever time I deemed fit. The thing is one would fault me either.

It was around the end of January, I took a hard look at myself, this massive grief wound and what would be my next step forward. I listened to the whispers, consulted with colleagues and mentors, dug deep into my heart to figure out my next move.

What I discovered was that I will never recover from the death of my son, but I will heal slowly, my community of support will grow with me and people will come in and out of my life. I want to be a light for others. I choose to get back up, some days are definitely harder than others. Grief is isolating, dark and overwhelming. I will not live for my son but because of him. He was a shining light in my life.

Owyn knew how passionate I am about grief education, stepping into hard things, trying to improve 1% better each day and supporting others so I will do just that. I believe in everything I teach, self care, courageous conversations, counselling, connecting with nature, daily movement and having good connections with people in your life. Your world changes and it may not include everyone who was there before, but know the right ones will stay.

I recognize that I have a beautiful daughter who is grieving deeply for her brother, an amazing fiancè who is navigating a very different life and so many others who are trying to step forward with their grief. Owyn was part of so many lives.

I don't have the answers, there are grief waves that knock me on my ass, breakdowns in grocery store parking lots, however I have incredible people in my life, my purpose is STILL to educate this North American culture on grief, the dying and legacy. I am so passionate on living a life full of hope and purpose. Things just look and feel different now.

Anyone who has heard me give a speech, sat with me at bedside or had a coffee with me while I counselled them knows, I love what I do. This experience has given me so much grace for the unexpected death and my compassion has only grown ten fold.

We grieve because we loved SO damn much.

Please understand I am grieving, I am having a human experience on this planet but I will not let this pain harden me in life. If I was told you could have a son but you will only have him for 22 yrs, do you still want that experience in your life? My answer would be ...absolutely!

My son truly LOVED life, he lived boldly and boy did he experience everything he could in his short life. It's up to me, his family and friends to carry out his name and to NEVER forget him....BECAUSE HE LIVED.

From the tender heart of a momma, I miss you Oj and we will be the force to carry out your legacy.

Continue to breathe to all those grieving too...

Erin, aka Momma

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2 comentarios

15 feb

Sending you a big mom hug and all of the healing vibes you need to sit with the loss of your beautiful boy. I hope this walk gets a little less painful every day for you 💕

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15 feb

May the light you shine come back to you magnified a thousand fold, Erin.

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