I am one of the 1 in 13 children who has had a parent or sibling die by the time they are 18.

Hi everyone, I am very honored to be speaking at such an important event tonight. I want to thank Sarah and Cara for asking me to be a part of this. For those who don’t know me, My name is Sam Anderson. I am representing one of the statistics shared tonight. . .I am one of the 1 in 13 children who has had a parent or sibling die by the time they are 18. I am speaking today because my father and my brother both died within the same year.

When I was in the fifth grade, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Once he found out, he was determined to be the best parent he could be for as long as possible. He taught me many life lessons that have made me the man I am today. He made sure we got to travel to many places such as Italy, the Caribbean, and other parts of Europe. These were things on his bucket list and he wanted me and my brother Jackson to share in these experiences. After eight years battling cancer, I lost my father on January 26, 2018. He was just past his 50th birthday. Afterward, my mom requested that Jackson and I see a counselor. I was very reluctant to go but did it for my mom. Jackson and I started seeing Sarah when I was 17. I was absolutely amazed at how easy it was to talk to her about my grief. To have a person that specializes in grief and let alone has been through the same type of loss as I have was comforting. Me and my brother would have separate sessions when we were in high school and really grew to have a special connection with Sarah. I always knew there was some place I could go to when I was feeling down.

Now, another hard part, apologies if some tears are shed. Jackson had also battled depression while dealing with his grief. Sarah was the one person he felt most comfortable talking to and she was able work with us so we could get him inpatient help at the most critical time. My brother Jackson was born with a heart defect, we always knew he had to get a heart transplant at some point. Words cannot describe how amazing my brother was; growing up we were like Hall and Oates . . .Joey and Chandler . . ..maybe closer to a friendship like Sponge Bob and Patrick. We were best friends, and spent so much time together playing with Lego, playing video games or watching movies. My parents stressed the importance of spending time with family and to cherish each moment. Jackson started getting sick in October 2018 and was listed for a heart transplant.

Jackson was optimistic about this chance, he was ready to get a new heart, and feel “normal” for once. The one thing about my brother is, he always had a positive attitude. There was one moment when the medical staff was going to take his breathing tube out to see if he could succeed in breathing on his own. My mother says to him “okay are you ready to do this?”, Jackson grabbed the white board and wrote “Born Ready!”. My brother fought like hell to live a normal life, unfortunately we lost him due to a rare blood disease on January 19th 2019 at the age of 16. After losing my brother, I was in a dark place and stopped seeing Sarah for quite a few months. I got into some trouble with school and I wasn’t making the best life decisions. After realizing I needed help with my grief, Sarah was the first person I reached out to. I started with individual sessions working through my grief. When Covid hit, we continued our work using FaceTime. This demonstrated that she really cared and wanted to continue to work with me as I focused on putting purpose into the pain I was feeling. We also had sessions together with my mom so we could share our feelings and find a way to be able to communicate better with each other. Sarah helped me find more of a purpose by pushing me to get a job, improving my relationships with my mom and friends. She kept me consistent, honest and real. For a young adult like myself, who has dealt with a lot of adversity, I’m here to say . . .there is HOPE.

The Grief Club is a place that provides individual, group, whole family care and more at no cost. Services are easily accessible and they provide an abundance of compassion and support in many different ways. I wanted to be part of this amazing organization to help other Young Adults like me work through their grief. I am grateful for the journey I’ve been on and the support I’ve had along the way.

I am an example of someone who has persevered and I can tell you, hard times go hand and hand with healing times. The one thing that I’ve learned through all these years is that you HAVE to do the work. Grief is hard work and how I was able to put purpose into my pain helped me experience positive changes in my life. I am here to say I’ve experienced compassionate HEARTS, a pathway to HEALING, and a future with HOPE because of the Grief Club of MN.