Anyone with a loved one who struggles with addiction knows how heartbreaking it is, and it truly never stops consuming those affected by it. For me, those loved ones were my parents. When I was four years old my four siblings and I were removed from their care, and I spent my childhood with various family members until my sister took custody at age eighteen. My parents’ substance-use and mental health struggles impeded them from purchasing life insurance or pursuing financial planning.
Consequently, I learned to be extremely frugal growing up as four of us relied on my eighteen-year-old sister’s modest income. Despite never receiving financial support from my parents, I was determined to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. I worked multiple jobs throughout high school to contribute to our family’s necessities and save for university. I persevered and was accepted into the University of Windsor’s nursing program.
On December 7, 2018, during my first semester, my father lost his battle with mental illness and took his own life. The grief I experienced was overwhelming. Persistent financial struggles meant I never received the professional support required to process the mixture of love, anger, and resentment I felt towards my parents. The feelings that I’d repressed bubbled up when my father died, but I was unable to take time off to grieve because I rely on OSAP as my sole source of financial support and if I took time off, I would’ve had to start repaying my debt. Coping with this loss while working and studying full-time was immensely difficult but strengthened my resolve to finish my schooling and make my dad proud.
Nothing could’ve have made this loss less emotionally devastating but having life insurance to afford the mental health care I desperately needed and to alleviate my financial stress would’ve been life changing. Time to process a loss of this magnitude is essential, and without life insurance, this time was a luxury I couldn’t afford.
My dad’s passing also took a toll on my mother’s health. Shortly after he passed, she was diagnosed with early onset dementia at fifty-six years old. Balancing my academics and employment has become increasingly difficult as I now play a vital role in my mother’s care. During the pandemic, I cared for COVID patients in an Intensive Care Unit placement while simultaneously managing increasing parental-care responsibilities as my mom’s condition deteriorates.
I’m proud that I haven’t allowed these losses to prevent me from pursuing my dream career. If my family had adequate life insurance, the debt I’ve accumulated would be less daunting, but I nevertheless remain determined to pursue a career in mental health nursing. I will use my experiences to provide care for individuals and their families facing hardships like my own. In the future I will undoubtedly ensure I have comprehensive life insurance coverage so I can dedicate my energy to my patients and have the peace of mind, knowing that no matter what, my family will be cared for.