Season 1, Episode 1

Dr. Jen Kilgore / Jimmy

Navigating Dual Roles: Surviving Sibling Loss and Anticipatory Grief as Caregiver, Advocate, and Grieving Sister

A conversation with sibling loss survivor, Dr. Jen Kilgore, about losing her brother, Jimmy

  • Dr. Jen Kilgore, a naturopathic doctor, shares her personal sibling loss story of losing her brother to cancer and the challenges she has faced in the aftermath.
  • She discusses the guilt and anticipatory grief she experienced as she watched her brother’s health decline.
  • She also talks about the difficulties of navigating her relationship with her sister after their brother’s death, and the importance of finding support from others who have experienced similar losses.

Additional key points:

  • Dr. Kilgore emphasizes the importance of having a community of support for those who have lost a sibling.
  • She encourages people to reach out for help if they are struggling with grief or loss.
  • She discusses the role of therapy and medication in helping people to cope with grief.
podcast cover showing details of episode and a picture of sibling loss survivor, Jen with her brother, Jimmy
Transcript

Dr. Dean: 

Hello and welcome to the Broken Pack, a podcast focused on giving adult survivors of sibling loss, a platform to share their stories and to be heard. Something that many sibling loss survivors state that they never have had. Sibling Loss is Misunderstood™. The Broken Pack exists to change that and to support survivors. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Dean. Today in our first episode, I talk with Dr. Jen Kilgore, a sister, a mom, a daughter, a wife, a naturopathic doctor, and a sibling loss survivor. You’ll hear her story of loss, her challenges, where she is on her healing journey, and a little about her late brother Jimmy. We recorded this interview late in the summer of last year. But today, the release date January 11th, is Jimmy’s birthday, which is undoubtedly a difficult day for Jen and all of their family, so sending warm thoughts and love to them. Here’s my conversation with her. Thanks for joining me today,

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yes. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Dean: 

You’re welcome. Do you wanna tell me a little bit about yourself?

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah. I am a licensed naturopathic doctor. I have a, a clinic in Nashua, New Hampshire, and, my husband, is mostly home with my kids right now. His name is David and we have two sons, Gabriel and Gavin. Gavin is three, just three in a few months, and Gabriel is about to turn five. a lot going on at the moment, but all exciting.

Dr. Dean: 

As you know, we’re here to talk about, unfortunately, sibling loss, which you and I have both experienced. But today I wanted to hear your story. Before we get there though, what would you want me and our listeners to know about your brother before we talk about the loss?

Dr. Kilgore: 

My brother was the kind of person that, when he was diagnosed the, the doctor that had to come in to tell him they had found a tumor in his heart, it just was out of nowhere. And she came in and when she finished explaining what was going on, very first words out of his mouth were, that must’ve been really hard for you to come in here and tell me that, and this is a, like a 32 year old kid. that’s how Jimmy was his whole life. He thought of everybody else before himself. And, his good work on this earth was to be a really amazing support for a lot of people.

Dr. Dean: 

So even in that moment of life-changing information, he was putting the doctor first that they’ll say a lot. Yeah.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah. He struggled from the time he was young with addiction and was introduced to, pretty dark side of the world, very, very young. And that, just came outta nowhere. And so the family, helped. We all, we all helped. We were very, very close and we all, participated in his recovery in different ways, in different times. But he struggled for nine years before he really found, his rock bottom and, and he almost died. And, he was very aware of that every moment of his life after that moment. And lived, he called them borrowed moments and, he grew into a carpenter and a minor. He would dig out beautiful gemstones from the earth and find, rose quartz and aqua marine, and spend hours on the mountains and in the rivers. He built beautiful homes and carved wood. And, he used those skills all, all the way through until the end and just was very creative and an artist, and did build a career and had a strong recovery from his addiction and was more than 12 years clean when he was diagnosed. And he stayed off pain medication until his last six months. It was a big struggle for him actually, when he did decide to take some help after recovering from using things like that to escape pain, So he’d been on a pretty big spiritual journey throughout his lifetime and that, that came through all the way, after diagnosis and things like that. He lived a pretty amazing life. He had a little girl before he passed. it’s a part of the, the whole story, so I’ll wait to get too much into that, but he does have a little girl, Gwen, Gwyneth Rose. Who I’m very blessed to be within an hour of and I, I see her pretty regularly. And, he was, engaged when he died and she’s still a pretty big part of the family,

Dr. Dean: 

It sounds like you were pretty close to him.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah, very close. We were about, two and a half years apart. And, we all went through some pretty hard things together when we were young. We bonded through that and he and I had great friendship, in our young adult years. And I, I felt like after his diagnosis between, between his diagnosis and his passing, he gave me a glimpse of what our relationship could’ve been for the next 30 years, and I got to satisfy a lot of that because he was so present, yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Were you older or younger?

Dr. Kilgore: 

I’m older now, so I’m the oldest, he’s the middle. And we have a younger sister, Julia, who’s about five years younger than me.

Dr. Dean: 

Okay. How’s your relationship with her?

Dr. Kilgore: 

Good. little bit distant. We’re very different. So we have ways that we’re very close and ways that we’re very distant. And it’s probably part of the story we’ll tell today, I think too, because I do think that, Jimmy passing has changed a lot of things and we’ve both had really different experiences since this passing.

Dr. Dean: 

For sure if you’re okay with sharing whatever you feel comfortable with about the loss. Here to listen and support you.

Dr. Kilgore: 

I hope it’s okay if I, I start, with I was finishing medical school at the time, this is like a few months before his initial diagnosis. And I was at that point, completing a doctorate. I had clinical boards to sit for and a couple months to prep for that exclusively, like after graduation, I was about four days into that study and I had my calendar up on the wall with my board study partner, and we had, every day mapped out all the way until till the end when we were gonna take a break and then go test. And, I got a call, and I, I just was literally taken out of a study session and, my brother had had, some kind of incident where kind of lost control of bodily functions and had passed out and it was out of nowhere and he, there was no reason for it at the time. Paramedics were called and he was taken in emergently and they did a CT of his abdomen ’cause he’d been vomiting and some things. And in the CT of his belly, they caught a glimpse of his heart, which is really, really abnormal. So he right away was transferred to a hospital that could work up a heart problem to figure out why the heart is so enlarged that you could see it on a CT of an abdomen where it doesn’t belong. And, they found liter of hemorrhagic fluid around his heart and he was, over the course of like maybe three days, diagnosed with a tumor in his right atrium. And a, what we. I don’t remember exactly when we found out what the tumor was, but it’s an angiosarcoma of the heart. It’s a very rare tumor that is, it’s an orphan cancer, but it is killing young men all over the world. And it’s just something that you don’t know about until you know about. They don’t teach in medical school even. It’s not in the books or anything.

Dr. Dean: 

So it’s a pretty rare cancer.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Rare cancer, very, very aggressive cancer. Very aggressive cancer. Wasn’t unexpected to live very long. So my family called to say, we, we need you to come home and we help, we’ve gotta figure out what we’re all gonna do. So I did, I came home, we went in and out of Boston and, organized, oncology visits and cardiology visits and got all the specialists on board and coordinated that needed to be, and figured out what initial approaches we would take. And, because I was on board, I also elicited help from the boards. certified oncologist in my field, so it’s a naturopath, but he has an additional board certification for oncology and he is right outside of Boston and Lexington. And we, we went to doctor, after doctor, after doctor, and everyone was just really in the, the initial whirlwind of it all and not thinking very clearly. And one of the most impressing things was, we went to this naturopath and he explained things so differently and he took time in a way that was different. And it’s, it’s why I do what I do. But anyways, Jimmy’s experience was really good and he came out feeling like, he just looked at me. He said, Jenny, I finally feel like I know what’s going on with my body and I know what I wanna do. And he went forward with treatment plan and I went back to life. I, I went and I, I had been studying for board exams in the basement of a library in between all those things that were happening and just figured I can’t pass my boards while life is happening. I just have to retake them, it’s fine. And, that’s the part of life, right? So I, I did, and I, I got through that and I I honestly, that was the first time I felt a little bit of this sibling stuff too, because I felt a lot of pressure. It would be hard on them if I failed and I showed up for them. And so I got there and then I flew a lot. I, I came home often while I was opening practice and getting my, my, first go at running a clinic sorted. And, that was supportive. It probably wasn’t enough, but it was supportive and, because we, we had did such a comprehensive approach, and we raised a lot of money. Jimmy did do a GoFundMe and had a lot of community support and so we were able to afford a lot the things that the naturopath wanted them to do, like the extra supplementation and things insurance doesn’t help with. And, advanced testing, which insurance doesn’t help with and all kinds of things. So he actually got through, He got through and he went into remission. It was amazing. It took, I wanna say at the forgive the timeline is really, really foggy. but maybe a year, 13 months, something like that of chemo, radiation, taking 70 different pills a day, doing all kinds of things with supplements and with, very comprehensive approach. And it just shrunk and they couldn’t operate on it, so it, it undulated into this nothing. And, everyone was really happy with that. So he went back to life and he was building houses with a carpenter or an architect rather, that he was a carpenter for an architect that I had mentored him a lot in his, maturing after his addiction and coming into his adulthood and. he got to put up a house, and all kinds of things that fall and around Thanksgiving, he and Carla announced that they were pregnant, which was cool. He had, done some preservation of his sperm, assuming if he got through this after radiation and things you never know. So, that was a surprise and they were very happy. This is where it’s gonna get hard for me as tell, but

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, take your time.

Dr. Kilgore: 

About seven weeks after that I got pregnant. That was a big surprise I had, I’d been trying for 10 years without doing anything horribly aggressive. So just after the holidays I announced that I was pregnant and the same time there was an insurance hiccup, like something with his Mass Health. he didn’t make a lot of money, neither of them did. So they were on State Insurance, whatever it was, just some paperwork. And he was being scanned every three months because again, this is an extremely aggressive cancer. So they delayed a scan that should have been done in January to fix the insurance problem. And when they got to him in March, it was like really bad. A few things that happened, right? as I mentioned, he got through it, like he, he kicked that cancer’s butt, and went back for life. And it was like $4,000 a month to do the things that insurance wouldn’t cover that got him there. And that, we are not, we all do fine, we’re not of huge wealth. So he stopped asking. And this is, this is for me personally, where I feel the biggest fail because it’s where I know I lost him. Those were the months I should have pushed the hardest. And those are the months where we all should have been hemorrhaging anything we had to give. And instead we all let him go back to life and we didn’t. And so we didn’t keep up with a lot of things that maybe could have kept that, that from being such a problem. But anyways, it, it just was so how, that’s how it went. By the time he got back for his scan and figured out what was going on. And I, I’m, I’m not even sure what, what beat what, was it the cancer that came back first or was it damage to the lungs from the radiation, ’cause they did do radiation to the right atrium, which is quite dangerous. And he was feeling with pericarditis and all kinds of other things. It’s not like things were perfect after all of that. it’s the heart, it was hard. So he started building up fluid in his lungs and his body was decompensating. So the list of medications he was on was, three, four times. He called me in March and I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but it was like, he’s pregnant and I’m pregnant, and it was time to come home. And I was out in Arizona. I don’t know if I mentioned that. Like I had gone away. So I was across the country while this was happening. My family’s in England. That’s where I, I’d been until that time. And, after six years, within, I. Less than a week’s time, I decided to close my practice and I just happened to be at a point where it was okay to exit care with my current patients and the people that needed help for a time period. My husband stayed behind, closed the clinic a little bit more slowly, gave everybody notice, and, we passed off care and I, I took my essentials with me. My sister flew out and we drove home on a weekend with me, almost five months pregnant. And I stayed with my parents until my husband got there, four or five weeks later and we reestablished our clinic and our life here in New Hampshire. And I remember a few days after I arrived, Jimmy came to my parents, like front porch where we’ll all hang out and, and socialize a little bit. And he just had this look in his face and he’s like, I feel like he got here just in time. And right away we had to figure out like he had developed a cough really bad. And at the same time his lungs are filling of the fluid. So everyone’s assuming it’s one thing’s another thing and this and that. He had all these heart meds, they’d started and so he was on an ACE inhibitor. ACE inhibitors cause a cough in a certain percentage of people, right? Most doctors know that. So no one considered that possibility that that’s why the cough was getting so bad so quick because they just started an ace, inhibitor a month ago. So right away we caught the ACE inhibitor was he was having a side effect, so they switched his heart meds and he stopped coughing and, and made things a little bit less confusing. And it was great to be able to figure that out and help. I did attend a lot of his visits. Just to put things in perspective, my husband and I were just starting our practice. and that was paying the practice and our lives. Like we didn’t, we weren’t living on a lot and, we didn’t have the money to move. So we went into debt to do that and we’d just gone into debt to open the practice and we were not in a great position. I was five months pregnant. I came to a new place. Yes, I had old business because I, I worked here before and I have people that have followed me through my education and journey. So I, I started and I, I had business right away and I was figuring out how to, how to support and where my boundaries were. Because the other thing that started to happen is like he needed treatment, and we have family members that know about the things I’m trained in. And everyone wanted me to treat him. They wanted me to give him my Vs. They wanted me to do UV blood radiation. I had just started practice. I didn’t have nurses working for me. I wasn’t set up for me. I, yes, I trained and certified, but I hadn’t even really done, I was just starting and so I had to just navigate that. So I took him to the best people I knew and I helped him navigate the care, but I didn’t take a lot of it on. And then here, as I’m telling you this story, I’m like also like very aware, like what was happening for me is I was pregnant and there wasn’t really much room in my life for that. And I was really having a hard time and didn’t feel like I could, that was allowed. So I, I. I kept it together until about August, and his daughter was born in August, August 10th, and he was pretty full-time at, in Boston, in the oncology unit at that point. He was, he was dying. No one wanted to allow or acknowledge that

Dr. Dean: 

Did you acknowledge that?

Dr. Kilgore: 

I gave him permission at some point, no one was doing that either. His doctors even, I went in at one point and around that time it was getting it like he couldn’t get his needs met and it, because everyone was in denial. He wasn’t getting hospice care. He wasn’t, we, we were making up for that. So my, my sister moved home from New York. I had moved from Arizona back. We were all helping my mother, my sister, and I, just me. And then Carla has a big family too, so they, they, their refrigerator was overfilled all the time, and we were doing everything we could. but also, she was pregnant and wanted some normalcy and it was almost impossible.

Dr. Dean: 

It sounds like neither of you could enjoy the pregnancy journey.

Dr. Kilgore: 

it was just really hard. it was just really, really hard, And I am, I’m having this stress of I support my family. I’m, I’m, my husband worked when he got here, until I became so stressed and overwhelmed and depleted that I had to ask him to stay home and just support things full-time because I, I did lean into work. I, I, I, I’m good at that. I hid there and, so Gwen came. Jimmy did get to see her born and, was, was very sick. And in his last weeks, he, passed September twenty seven, two days after my dad’s birthday. He went in on my dad’s birthday and probably was ready to die. His lungs filling up the fluid constantly and the drains they put in caused nerve pain that never went away. And it was very, very, very hard. He took pain medication and for Jimmy, he had recovered from addiction. It was no one in the family I don’t think. Understood that the same way. Maybe my dad and I a little bit, and I know my mom and my sister really try, but they, It’s really, really hard to, like, he, every appointment he had to say no ’cause everyone wanted to give him things, give him things. And he just, he is Nope, that’s not something and he set that boundary and, to give that up at the end, it just, I think it, it really, that’s really when we lost him, that’s when I saw him start to transition. I knew he was, he was probably not gonna, there was nothing that really could, could turn it around. It was just inevitable. And I, I wanted him to have what he needed in his last days. He had 12 doctors that all have really strong opinions and they didn’t coordinate very well. So we asked for a big meeting with all of them and everyone attended, everyone but his radiologist and I actually ended up leading the meeting because it, it just needed to happen. And I asked them to talk to the family about, the different directions that they could, that we could take as far as getting him into hospice and what that could look like at different levels and just to help bridge that’cause the family really needed that. They were really grateful that I was there’cause I did a very good job facilitating. and to me it felt like the win I needed to be able to have my baby regardless of what was happening. And this is, this is like early August,

Dr. Dean: 

What year was this?

Dr. Kilgore: 

2017.

Dr. Dean: 

Okay.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Five years ago and we did it and everybody was okay. They understood and I felt like I did what I needed to do. It was good. And not 12 hours later, the one doctor that didn’t attend the meeting called with some miracle opportunity to do some new technique and undid everything, It was really inappropriate. But it happened. and everyone looked at me. I was the one who was supposed to force him to make the decision and have the conversation about doing this procedure. I, I was the one who was asked if it was the right thing, And I got really mad to be honest. I got outwardly, like I, I got really, really mad.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s a lot of responsibility for a family

Dr. Kilgore: 

And I didn’t agree to begin with that. He should have done the radiation. I think that’s what he killed. So I, I, I had very different opinions, but it wasn’t, I also had very good boundaries with my brother. It had to be what he could live with, not what I could live with. So just like I counsel on my patients, that’s how I did that. And and at that point it was hard’cause I was kind of like, I. it just felt like too hard of a question to ask, and I threw hands. Yes, that was too hard of a question to ask. I’m about to say no a little bit. and yet I still found myself being puppet of I went and had the conversation and made sure he had informed consent and helped him figure out all the little things that it seemed like weren’t, weren’t happening. And he did do the procedure, and I don’t know if he wanted to do it or if he just felt like he had to. So he tried everything. but that’s when he died within days of a procedure. So whether that was a good idea and he would’ve had more time with his, for his newborn or not. It, it, it doesn’t matter. That’s how it happened and there were a lot of days in Boston at the end. So I was, preparing for a baby. I had no money, no time. For me, to be honest. I was getting ready to completely lose it, And in August I remember laying down and feeling more grief than I’d ever felt in my whole life about anything. And I was pregnant, so I’m also feeling guilty for like feeling all. And then he died and I hadn’t had my baby yet. Okay. So I was supposed to be due September 19th, I think. Yeah, September 19th. Dad’s birthday’s the 25th. Jimmy went in emergently and clearly for his final time, and he looked at my dad and he said, I’m not dying on your birthday. And then he hung on for two days and then he died. And I was getting more and more pregnant and I’m now past my due date. My doctors are wondering, am I gonna be able to get there, but you need to induce this and that. And we’re working on schedules and times for that, which was not my birth milk plan or my preference, but it wasn’t happening. And I went into Boston every day until the day he died. And then I, I saw him that night. I knew we all should have stayed if we wanted to be with him when he died and we didn’t. And he died and everyone else went back in again that morning. And I just, I just said, I’m, I’m good. I’m. I’m done and I went into my, I’ve gotta have my baby. And then I still didn’t. I don’t remember how that went, to be honest. I must’ve for five days, still not had a baby, and everyone was trying to plan services and this and that, and I’m sitting there you’ve gotta put it off. I have to have a baby. And I had to fight for that. And that was maybe like the most invisible I felt through the whole thing. so I went into labor hours before my induction and I had Gabriel and I was in the hospital for two days and I was at my brother’s services five days after his birth. I was swollen and I was in so much pain and I wasn’t ready. But that’s when it happened. And we had 300 people show up, family from everywhere. And, a couple days of all of that commotion. And then my sister went away for a month and. I had just moved my practice across the country and built up enough momentum to pay for the basic things one needs in life. And so I went right back to work. I started phone consults two weeks later and I started working four weeks later, and then I got pregnant nine months after that and ended up in a postpartum depletion state. That’s something I still struggle with up, on and off. And everyone else went back to their thing and you know, the pandemic happened like a lot happened. This was 2017, so by the time my second baby came, the world changed.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Dr. Kilgore: 

That was a whole nother story of how, what happened with family and, and our ability to be connected for certain times and things like that.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, For sure. Thank you. I know that was hard for you to share some of that You hinted at it, it sounded like there was this anticipatory time where you knew I, and you were grieving. But I heard a hint of guilt with during that period. Do you wanna talk more about what that felt like as you’re anticipating his death?

Dr. Kilgore: 

After he died, I, I grew a lot like in my practice and my doctor

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Kilgore: 

and I now do on the daily easily confidently the things that he needed from me. The way that I, and from everything from my confidence in my consulting to my procedures. and he wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t afraid of me doing anything that I could, like he was willing to, he just, was open and had none of that stuff that’s attached, And I, I didn’t know how to, manage that boundary, like it was too much for me. Now I probably could, I could certainly, get someone to supervise that at my clinic and set ’em up with a nurse and at least facilitate it in a way that makes a lot more sense. Then I really couldn’t, and it, there, there was that guilt and then there was also that guilt of I. My beliefs and how I look at things are, I’m like, my paradigm of all of this is quite, is just so different. And, but I, I, I was young in my ship of that, so I just didn’t know how to navigate, having such different feelings against such strong resistance, which is what I felt like I, I was up against Really, everyone was so desperate for there to be a better solution or a better answer, but didn’t really wanna hear about that or commit, I don’t know. There was so much fear mixed with it. It just made it really hard. So I, I did, I put everything on the table. I put all the things on the table. What I know now is I didn’t do it early enough. I didn’t, I wasn’t clear in the ways I should have been clear about now that you got here, this is what you do. So you stay there. And I, I left that up to his team and that didn’t happen. And that’s that’s where a big part of my guilt came from.’cause I missed that opportunity to do something he really wanted to do, which was just to maintain that state of health that he’d earned. And, then I also I just have this philanthropic heart that it never should have been about money. I hate that. I still, I hate that in my clinic now. Hate I’m gonna make my millions and it’s all gonna be scholarship, be.

Dr. Dean: 

I hear you. How supported did you feel by your family as you were grieving, either before his death or right, right after? Because I, I also heard you say you jumped right into work. I.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah, before I felt like there was support, it was really hard, but we were all really aware, all extremities of life were having, like Carla and Jen were having babies. Like this is wonderful and it was wonderful and we spent a lot of time in, in the time after he passed, we were together a lot and we did support and I did it. Did I feel that way? No. I still felt like I was supporting more than I was getting support, but I’m sure there was a lot of both. I know that, I know that everyone’s in intentions were for that. My personal struggle was that I experienced, at first it looked like postpartum depression or anxiety or some blend of that, and it really became a depletion like it makes sense that that happened to me and I felt really, I felt really unsupported when that started happening to me. I couldn’t quite communicate what I needed and did. I don’t know if I didn’t allow it or didn’t ask for it, or it wasn’t available to be honest, but now that I look back, but at the time it felt like it was being withheld, So it, it did feel like, the way that we’d come together to support Jimmy and Carla in their. Spring of the baby and allowing him to go through the passing and all the things that happened. I just didn’t get that same thing after. And it, I don’t, and I don’t know what that was about, if that’s about them or me. I just, that’s how it, it definitely felt like I was more alone than I, starting from about 30 days after my son was born. Like my sister went, I forget where, She went away for a month and, did her thing so she could do that and then get back to life, and I felt like I, I didn’t get to do that at all. I had a baby and then I had a month with him. Then I was working.

Dr. Dean: 

What would you have wanted to be different? Reflecting back or even then.

Dr. Kilgore: 

I would’ve taken a year off. I would’ve been able to afford to take a year off and live on a, my husband just doesn’t make as much money as I do, which is fine, but that’s, that was a reality. We couldn’t, It’s hard to say that though, because I’m also a young doctor that has a beautiful practice now, and that would’ve completely changed the momentum in the trajectory. So maybe I would’ve, I would’ve found someone to come live with me that could have helped us so that we could have had more space from the beginning to have time every day together. I’m still looking for that person. Like it’s, we talk about it all the time. that’s probably the, the thing that we should do is bring someone in to help us because there’s a lot that, It’s been just put off, it’s a five year anniversary right now. This is a really tough time of, of the, the year for me, with all of this. And it’s, it’s just noticeable. We still don’t have a lot of space. We have two little ones, which is beautiful and, all consuming and, this, this business that is also all consuming. So to find space to do probably what we need to do, like I have someone, That could help more. like it’s just, I never really had that, like my sister couldn’t just come over and watch the kids for a few hours. My parents couldn’t really do that either. It was, we didn’t leave our kids with any, we didn’t, we didn’t have anyone to leave our kids with until I, I built more of a community, which happened through my work. Now I, I have more, more help that way. And I do have a nanny that comes a couple days a week, but it was, hard to find places, to get support even to talk about it. I still don’t have that, honestly. This is the second time I’ve ever tried to tell any part of this story out loud because I’ve been going through it and figuring it out. It’s I don’t, I don’t share a whole lot about that stuff. I’m on, like currently processing, so yes, some of that shows up.’cause I, I am, I’m a pretty transparent person, but I also, It is hard, it’s just hard to even reconcile, what did you know and bring it out. Yeah, A lot hasn’t been said or talked about. Just reading your, something I read that you, it was like, it felt like, it normalized a few things that just, I’ve been aware of, been happening, but I don’t have friends I could talk about that with and, yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

it is, 80 to 80% of the world has siblings, so this isn’t a unique experience. However, there’s not a lot of support, and that’s what I’m trying to build here. And this is the first start sharing your story, probably giving you that outlet. But what else would you want, even now that you’ve, because it sounds like you’ve held onto a lot of that and not had even support from the people that are closest to you.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah. And I suppose some of it is as it comes out, I get really, Afraid I’m gonna step on the toes of somebody else’s process or grief in the family. So some of it feels like, it sounds silly to say it this way, but maybe an embarrassment of, the expression or something like, it’s just, yeah. A community space where it’s, sort of like, some of the other group experiences. It, it when you’re with a group that’s like-minded and that has a shared experience that way, or a shared goal, it does get easier to open up and be vulnerable without that fee. And, there’s more purpose to it. Yeah, there’s probably a lot of places that I could reach out and share and talk, but I, I, I, I don’t know that I’ve found those communities, so I, I love the idea of a community space, something where that’s what we’re all we’ve come together on is, is this shared experience and. that’s the, that’s a bond. with the family it’s a little different. We, we do have this shared loss, but our experiences of that loss are so unique. It’s hard for us to talk about that.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. because your roles and your relationships with him are all very different.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yes. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s the core of what I’m trying to create as a community. So hopefully we can keep, keep you posted on that. You have another sibling. Have you, you said your experience has been very different than hers. Do you wanna talk about that at all?

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah. at first we, we were really pretty connected and pretty open about it all, and we’d come together when one of us needed that. And, and then with the pandemic and some of the distancing there, I felt like we as a family had a really hard time coming together. like there was something that, everyone always told me I was the heart.’cause I, I’ve left a couple times. I did university in Colorado. I, I’ve moved around a little bit. but when Jimmy died, it did feel like there was some piece of something like a glue, like a, there was something that wasn’t. It was a little harder for us, and my sister is, her boundaries are different. She has, and her life is different. And when I was leaning into being, really available, there was just like, it was, oh, it’s three hour visits once a month or whatever. There wasn’t like, I, I wanted to go from the space. That we’d been in before Jimmy died, where we were all there, we all did whatever we want. Jimmy could call me at eight o’clock in the morning and I would cancel, 10 appointments if I had to and reschedule and be with him. And then none of that transferred, just went back to that like way people usually are, and, and, and a time for me when I really, really, really needed someone to be there that way for me and like to not. Get that. I think, and then to be in the depletion state, I had a problem with everybody for a long time. To the point that I almost burned those relationships up. I ended up estranged from her last year and I didn’t take my family to Thanksgiving. We had a huge thing over it. We got in our first fight ever. I’ve never exchanged words with her that way. And it was terrible. And then we had months of trying to figure out how to even recover it and, I don’t know that it’ll ever really be the same. And again, this is the first time I’m saying that out loud, but, something about it It just, we didn’t come to, to together to, and I, I don’t know. I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know if that’s just again, about me and my journey and about what I went through and how that, affected my experience of the first five years after his loss, or if that’s, Something, more connected to the world, the events or other things that I’m sure it’s all part of it.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Dr. Kilgore: 

It, yeah, I’m in a very, very, it, it, it’s very different and I, I miss my brother.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Dr. Kilgore: 

I think I missed that. Like we were really good friends as kids. We were friends through high school. We were friends as young adults. We had, oh, he and my, our, my relationship with my sister for both of us was always a little bit, different. And she, just has different boundaries than we do. And the, it’s just different. So the dynamic has changed. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Do you feel supported now in the current day?

Dr. Kilgore: 

I am working on it. No. but I have lots of people that are keeping me accountable to working on it. Yeah, working on it. I am, I business is growing and my, My work here is a little bit bigger than what I’m doing right now. And so I’m really focused on that. And, because of what it was like for me during the acute phases of grief and the very beginning of building my practice, I, I don’t wanna say it this way, but I’m going to, ’cause it’s just how it’s coming out. I, I lost a lot of time with my kids and I, had a lot of hard times and. I’m now not that woman. I am much stronger and I am much more clear, and I am, yes. I’m still processing. Just knowing this podcast was today, I, I had a whole lot of different feelings come up in the hours before, and I didn’t expect that. And then I, of course I’m like, oh, of course that happens. it still hits me like a tidal wave like it did when he was first. When you first left, but I’m doing better at recognizing where I need to depend on myself and where I need to invite support into my life. So I have, I, I, a huge amount of support compared to two years ago. A huge amount of support compared to even a year ago. And, I’m always putting that out there now that, it’s, I’m over the, feeling like I need to do it all myself and just, just trying to find the right, the right places to allow people to help. And, that’s a journey. But, so things are, things are a lot better than they were three years ago and,

Dr. Dean: 

Of course.

Dr. Kilgore: 

it’s, it’s, it’s ongoing. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Well, and you know, the anniversaries are, first you know that I’m a psychologist, so of course I’m gonna ask a couple questions about that. But we know the anniversary of grief and loss are harder with us being the fifth one. You did mention, that’s

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah, so I, I know and I have that, that thing that, is I, I wanna resist that. Like I want that not to be true,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Not deal with it.

Dr. Dean: 

So how do you

Dr. Kilgore: 

It seemed day be like, so are we gonna talk about the fact it’s been five years?’cause it’s it’s been five years, And it, yeah, it’s really big. It’s been really big and I’ve been, it’s, it’s been really, really big.

Dr. Dean: 

Do you mark the anniversary in a certain way?

Dr. Kilgore: 

We do, we go. So when he was dying, he wanted to go to the mountains and he didn’t wanna spend his time, so he would check himself out against medical advice when he felt like it. And his nurses were quite supportive of that because everyone knew he was dying. He had to do all the things he wanted to do, and we all did as much of that as possible. Going up north. It’s a two three hour drive. It was very hard. He is really sick. But we did it and we’d all figure that out. And I, I, again, I, I was taking days off the books constantly. I’m accommodating as much as I can and I’m pregnant. I’m very, very pregnant. And pregnancy was not good for me. I was very sick, all kinds of things. So I did as much of that as possible. But I didn’t do this one trip The last trip he did, it was in. It must’ve been the be a couple weeks before he died and everyone else went and they all got a big hotel and it’s a big deal. My dad never leaves the house ever for anything, even a wedding. And he did it, and they all have this memory. And, so the next year we started a tradition that we all go up and get a place and stay and do this river thing. And, my sister hasn’t participated. but his fiance and his little girl go up and my husband and my family, we go up and, my mother goes up and my dad doesn’t usually do it, but it’s at least I. The core of us that we do, and we, we, we get a really nice Airbnb have been like Waterville Valley and, we do mining one day and then we go to the Ken Mangas to one of his like favorite spots and have a river day. And so we, we put lots of his stones and pictures out and he was an artist and a crafter. So we bring all kinds of things and let the kids play with stuff and, Have a couple really nice days up there and do really, beautiful, sit by the pool and let the kids play. And, we, the three of my mom, Carla and I have just come to love it so that this year I, I got a really nice place and we’re, we’re doing that at the end of the month and I’m really excited about it.

Dr. Dean: 

It sounds like a lovely tribute to him,

Dr. Kilgore: 

Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

captures his essence in a lot of way from what you’ve said. So the psychologist question I have for you, I’m not gonna do therapy with you, I promise. but the question I have is, did you seek counseling or support from a mental health professional?

Dr. Kilgore: 

I did, I did. I was struggling and it mostly, came out through the postpartum problems I was having. and seeing my pediatrician and knowing I was not like I needed help coping. she recommended a social worker that was right there in the hospital. She, my pediatrician, had had twins prematurely. Same time I, I had my, son prematurely. We had a very good relationship. At any rate, I forget exactly when I brought her on board, but when things started to get really dark for me and I wasn’t coping, I did start to see someone. I saw her a lot. there was one point when I did need, a prescriber and she was wonderful at just helping me bridge to that and, get over any shame or guilt around needing something to get through a time. That was extremely hard. It was when I was also expanding my practice. I took on like 2000 square feet and started hiring and it was a really big growth time and I was in a really bad place and it was really hard to make risky decisions in the space I was in. So I did accept some help from a prescriber for a, a short time and did things that weren’t meant to be long-term or forever. And, and in a way that worked for me and I got, I was really blessed that Prescriber was willing to work with me in, A really natural way. And some of the things I, I did through really high dose nutritional iv, that was very targeted, to accommodate treatment in ways that we differed in what the solution should be and that was agreed. And then I had a nurse supervise it, and that was a good solution and it was supported by a provider, which I liked. I don’t love to doctor myself, but I, I do like to do things without medications that aren’t needed. And, And then it’s just been a journey since then. Right now I’m not in weekly counseling, but on and off, like I, I know that’s there. And, my husband and I have someone we work with as well that is there for either of us individually or together. We know we need to do more of that. He and I have had a very hard time, Establishing and renegotiating since these changes, if that makes sense. Like life, it is just changed and it, we’re not quite the same people on this side of it. And so we, we do feel that like we don’t know exactly how to do that, but we’re looking for the right person to help us because we, we, if that happens, we’ll probably be in a much better place and we

Dr. Dean: 

that makes sense.

Dr. Kilgore: 

that this has affected us in ways we haven’t really had support to Correct.

Dr. Dean: 

Do you feel that your providers understood sibling loss?

Dr. Kilgore: 

not really. Not really.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s I.

Dr. Kilgore: 

No. No. I had to go to, actually it’s, and I didn’t mention this part, but I, I, Acutely went on a sort of, wasn’t my pediatrician, it was my ob sent me to someone and she, she completely misunderstood what was going on. And I’m a doctorate. I’m not an idiot when it comes to all this stuff. So I, I recognized right away it wasn’t gonna be a good fit. And I went to three appointments and it, it, honestly, at the time I was in such a fragile place, I felt like it did more harm than good. that’s another thing with this project you’re doing that is so needed is that there was no bridge or understanding or anyone to properly case manage or triage what was going on for me, even though, and I honestly, I felt mad at my husband for a long time. I’m like, look, everyone kind of knew I lost my, my, my brother the, the week I had the baby and they were aware of that and I did have a doctor reach out and say, how you doing one time? But to be honest, there was this part of me that felt so stuck behind the curtain in, in a place I couldn’t get out of. And I felt like, how was there no one for him to call? How was there No, he knew, and, and I don’t mean to say it that way ’cause it wasn’t his job to do that, but it, it also felt like, I don’t know. We just, you know, we probably could have figured a lot more out if we did have. support that was more targeted for our situation and had a place that, to point to is, I, I just, I don’t think everyone understands. So I got to someone good, my, the provider that knew me best, who was my pediatrician, help me find the right person. But it’s, I might not have gone back. I had such a bad experience the first time. She didn’t know how to hold the police for what I was going through, and it was, that made it worse, to be honest.

Dr. Dean: 

Right. Your situation is probably more complicated. Because you, because it sounds had postpartum depression and depletion on top of grief and loss and guilt. So is there anything that I didn’t ask you about or that we didn’t talk about that you want, wanted to share or comment on?

Dr. Kilgore: 

The only thing that comes up is just, You asked me about the guilt earlier and he has a little girl now who’s five We didn’t do videos for her because of that denial that he was dying, and, whatever else kept us from doing that. I do that for my kids. I, every week I make a video. Just started that this quarter, but it’s been really nice. I was at the beach yesterday. I took a nice video of them and I just told them a story about our, sort of something about our life and, I guess I, I also had some questions for him. Not everybody gets time for that kind of thing. I think, I think your brother was taken very quickly, if I remember correctly, but

Dr. Dean: 

He was, yeah.

Dr. Kilgore: 

I did have time. So there’s, I have guilt around that. Like I did have time and I didn’t ask him all, but my sister too, one day she, within a few months of him dying, asked, called us all emergently, like, please, can we all get together? I’m having a really hard time. We all got together and it was about that. It was like, I didn’t, I didn’t say or ask the things I needed to say or ask, and we all said, we’ll do it now anyways, just talk to him. but that was something I mi I, I missed, I don’t. I don’t know, maybe it just wasn’t right to ask what I wanted to add, but I, there are lingering things that I didn’t, I didn’t resolve,

Dr. Dean: 

Sounds like that’s a lot of regret.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Hmm. Yeah. With the addiction there, it took a lot of years in counseling to get through that. Like it’s, a lot of my counseling in my twenties was reconciling. A lot of the things we went through with Jimmy during his years when he was in trouble and how I reacted and responded to that. I went through years of my life where I over gifted him, like obsessively. I couldn’t help it, like how it manifested for a couple years of counseling, I let that go One day

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Someone asked a really good question. I don’t remember,

Dr. Dean: 

There. let’s end on a different note. I wonder if you wanted to share your favorite memory of Jimmy.

Dr. Kilgore: 

Hmm, that’s a great question. Favorite moment of Jimmy? When we were little. we played in the woods all the time and we, always lived on expansive properties with a lot of acreage around, so it’s usually a pond somewhere. And we would muck around the ponds and we, collected all these cinder blocks and next to the pond made like a cinder block tower, with little cubbies. And we would collect treasure from, the woods and put different little fungus and funny little things we’d find. And the cubbies. And we’d, we’d set up shop and we’d play entrepreneurs, my family, my both my parents own businesses. So I guess that was like a thing from whatever. And, I just remember trumping through the woods with him, finding these really cool mushrooms that, you know, you, it just little funny things like that, but just, those, there’s one day and specifically I remember we were just out there and that’s a really good memory,

Dr. Dean: 

Sounds lovely. Thank you for sharing and for helping me start on this journey. Thank you so much for listening. Our theme song was written by Joe Mylwood and Brian Dean, and was performed by Joe Mylwood. If you would like more information on the Broken Pack, go to our website, the broken pack.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, Wild Grief, to learn about opportunities and receive exclusive information and grieving tips for subscribers. Information on that, our social media and on our guests can be found in the show notes wherever you get your podcasts. Please follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

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