Surviving loss is a rocky road | RecordCourier.com

Surviving loss is a rocky road

Dec. 5, 2016, should have been a day to rejoice for Alaina Nunez and her family.

Her sister was getting her degree at the University of Nevada, Reno, that day, and the family was all together.

Alaina was 11 years old at the time, thinking about her 12th birthday. Her mom, Elizabeth Poell Nunez, was excited, to the point where family members thought she was having a panic attacks.

"My mom wasn't feeling well that morning, but we thought it was a panic attack, because she suffered from those," Alaina said. "She kept wanting to go outside, and then she collapsed. We were surrounded by a few nurses, and they tried to help as much as they could, but she passed away in the ambulance."

Alaina was the last of the four children living at home. Her parents divorced a few years before, so it was just her and her mom most of the time.

"She was a very well known person here," Alaina said. "She worked in the Smith's Bakery for 15 years."

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The shock was severe for Alaina who'd grown close to her mother in the time they'd been alone together.

"It was definitely hard, because I'd never gone through a death. It was especially hard when it's your mom. That moment when they said she was gone didn't register in my mind. I didn't know what death brought."

Alaina said she wasn't as close to her older siblings as she was to her mom.

"When I found out that mom would never come home again, I didn't know how to be a person without her," she said. "She was my biggest influence. What am I going to do? My mom made me the person I am. I was completely lost."

Alaina went back to school two days after her mother's death, something she acknowledges probably wasn't a very good idea. And, she blamed herself.

"I buried myself in such negative emotions about how I was the reason my mom died because I wasn't good enough," she said. "I didn't know how to express those emotions. I didn't want to let anybody down. I wanted to be strong for my family."

She said those things just made it harder for her to deal with her loss.

"I didn't let my family know I was hurting as much as I was," she said. "I lost who I was."

Alaina's oldest sister Emily told her about the Center for Hope and Healing and Jodi Wass.

"I didn't want to go at first, because I didn't want to share my feelings with anybody. For a long time I didn't want to open up, but at one point, I grew so tired of feeling so hurt, that I started talking to Jodi.

"Even though my mom is not physically here, she's always going to be here with me," she said. "The biggest thing was that I didn't want to be alone, and I've learned to look at life differently. Now I use my heart pass and that traumatic experience to try to do good things."

A 14, Alaina is a clarinet player in the Douglas High School marching band. She said her mother always wanted to play the saxophone but wasn't allowed.

She also works as a teen group advisor at the center, where she works with teens her own age to help them work through their grief.

Wass said that it's no unusual for someone who goes through the sort of journey Alaina did, to want to give back to other people in pain.

Alaina has served as a teen facilitator at grief camp for two years as a counselor.

The center starts free support groups on the second Wednesday and fourth Thursday every month Sept. 12 through May 23. Sessions are open to children 4-8, tweens 9-12, teens 13-17 and adults 18 and older who have experienced a death. To attend, members need to fill out an intake form which is at http://www.douglascenterforhopeandhealing.org and call 775-450-2826 to set up an orientation. The center also offers home visits and grief backpacks to anyone who requests them.

Summerfest supports Hope and Healing

Brats, Bands and Brews, the key fundraiser for The Douglas Center for Hope and Healing is 5-9 p.m. Friday at Minden Park. The event is being held in conjunction with the 2018 Main Street Event car show on Esmeralda Avenue.

Featuring a free concert by the Trippin’ King Snakes and Dakota Wass, tickets for the event are $25 in advance and $30 at the event for unlimited beer and bratwurst. Entrance to the car show is $25, with proceeds going to the center.

There will be a silent auction and raffle. Both events are supported by the Carson Valley Active 20-30 Club.

For information, contact Jodi Wass at 450-2826. The nonprofit center is dedicated to help with grieving.