Media Contacts

Rebecca Walsh

May 01, 2017 10:35 AM

In many ways, mental illness steals people from their loved ones long before old age.

Writer Sherry Young mourned the loss of her younger sister Joy decades before she died of cancer in 2013. “When she was 16 years old—that’s when I began grieving,” Young says. “I wanted my sister back, and that wasn’t going to happen.”

Young, the mother of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young, will speak at this year’s Seeds of Remembrance event, “Honoring Those Who Have Gone Before,” May 2 at 7 p.m. in the Annette Poulson Cumming College of Nursing Building, 10 South 2000 East.

Seeds of Remembrance is one of two annual grief support events presented by the college’s Caring Connections program. Caring Connections Director Kathie Supiano says the feelings of loss after the death of a sibling, and the grief caused by mental illness, don’t get nearly enough attention.

“Loss of a sibling is under-appreciated in our society,” Supiano says. “Sherry expresses the depth of this loss, her grief journey and how her grief differs from that of Joy’s children.

“This year’s Seeds reminds us that each person’s grief is unique, and each and every life is worthy of remembrance.”

Young and her sister were born two years apart, but separated by much more as Joy’s mental illness (eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia later in life) started to emerge during her teenage years—with crying jags, isolation and chaos.

“We hadn’t any idea what was wrong with her,” Young says. “Part of the mourning process has been looking back at the life she could have had, with the promise that she had, if only she had gotten help early enough in her life.”

Joy married and had four children, but eventually divorced and ended up living with her parents. Joy’s three daughters—Angela Fanjul, Jewelia Wall and Annetta Williams—also will speak briefly at the event.

“In the end, every life is worth living,” Young says. “I’ve shed quite a few tears writing and thinking about this, but in many ways, she lived a good life.”

Caring Connections