Angela Zellner’s Story
When we lost my sister, Camie, I wasn’t ready. Before she died, I thought I planned how I’d react if anyone closed to me died; my plan was to just be STRONG like everyone says. All of this was “supposed” to happen when I was older, not when I was in my 20s, and NOT to my sister who should have had years left with us! Camie was gone on February 26, 2016, and we had no warning, no time to say goodbye or I love you.
We went through the motions of cleaning out her space, going through documents, and getting things in order before her burial. I went back to work but didn’t feel like I was actually there. I was trying to stick to my plan and be strong…little did anyone know that as the weeks passed, I was isolating myself and falling apart. I’d cry, be angry, and hate that Camie was gone; she changed everything when she died! I wanted my sister back.
For over a year I sank into the darkness; I was a stranger in my own body. I found a Cornerstone of Hope brochure on our table, and my sister told me about their services. I visited their website while crying in the bathroom as I read the Tripodi’s story. This was an answered prayer, I was seeking a way to heal and if counseling was the answer, I’d try it.
I sat in the parking lot before my first appointment, sobbing and wondering if I was making the right choice. I got out of my car, walked back numerous times and finally made it inside; from then on, the journey was nothing like I’d imagined. The next months were a blessing filled with tears, hurt, anger, guilt, shame, forgiveness, and love! Love because I could freely talk in my sessions and be transparent with no judgment, I had begun my healing process.
I knew that I wanted to give whatever I could to the place that helped give me hope again, just like my sister, Camie, with the kind heart would have done. God allowed everything to come full circle. Moving through the grief, getting support, and being able start sharing my story with others ignited the healing. I never knew that losing her would look like this: hope, love and support have sprung from the darkness. I thank Cornerstone of Hope, who God knew would be there to support us during such a difficult time.
Saundra Zellner’s Story
I am proud to be number five of six siblings, and that number was very much part of who I was. So when I received a call that my oldest sister passed, my world caved in. Camden Elizabeth is number one. She was 35, extremely intelligent, shy, and compassionate. Camie was gone abruptly, and for my close knit family, it was traumatic. We found out it was from blood clots in her lungs suffocating her. I couldn’t fathom that something like this would happen to my sister. Though she was the oldest I felt so protective over her.
After the funeral, life let me know that was not going to wait for me to get myself together. I had five days bereavement time from work. I was expected to step back into my life and function, but I was not ready. I would cry until 4:00 am and get up three hours later to go to work. Every time I met someone new I was faced with how much do I share? Do I share that I am number five of six and hope they don’t want to know more about my family? When 2017 arrived, I had barely made it through the past year and to myself, I was unrecognizable.
After searching for counseling options and hearing Cornerstone come up more than once, I looked into it. Scrolling through the site, I was captivated by the Tripodi’s story. My life had been at a standstill since we buried Camie, and I desperately wanted someone to reassure me it was okay to keep living. I found that Cornerstone was a space where I could safely fall apart and be put back together. The staff was kind, gentle and understanding. They let me grieve, provided tools and encouraged me to receive love and move forward. I could not believe a place like this actually existed. I was comforted seeing people from so many backgrounds in the same place, receiving help and hope.
Cornerstone was the biggest step I took, and I have a greater understanding, what a place like Cornerstone means to others. Supporting Cornerstone means you are giving tangible help and more importantly hope to those who do not have the resources to make it on their own. To this day, I champion the organization because I don’t want another person to go through grief without a place like this one. Cornerstone is a place where lives can start again; my sister and I are proof of that.