Drumheller Adventures & a Grief Hangover
My Grief Journey

Drumheller Adventures and a Grief Hangover

July 18, 2017

It’s strange how grief can sneak up on you when you least expect it. How odd that you can feel so horrible after such a fantastic day.

My family and I had the most spectacular day in Drumheller, AB on Sunday – but Monday I had a grief hangover.  I didn’t anticipate it for my morning. While I had plenty of work to do, I found myself crying, sad, and missing the little boy with whom I last went to Drumheller with over 10 years ago.

Jacob Kotler Royal Tyrrell MuseumJacob was just a bit older than his brother is now when I first went to Drumheller.  Because they were going to share stories at school about their weekend the following Monday, Jacob decided to have an adventure so he’d have something fun to tell his grade one classmates. So one October Saturday (or was it Sunday?) in 2005, the two of us set off from Calgary to spend the day at Royal Tyrrell Museum.  We visited the museum, walked up to the lookout, Jacob played on the museum’s playground, and just before we went for dinner, we visited the World’s Largest Dinosaur.  After dinner at Denny’s, we headed back home.

Jacob riding dinosaurOur trip wasn’t perfect. We left late, I took a longer route having never been there before, I was anxious about driving to Drumheller by ourselves, and because it was Fall, the day was short. Regardless, Jacob thoroughly enjoyed the museum and seeing all the gigantic dinosaur skeleton models. He was enthralled with the peculiar landscape and was so happy to have a chocolate milk at the end of the day before heading home. He thought the dinosaurs all over town were funny and he hopped on one for a photo opp when he had the chance.

Our Drumheller trip is one of my fondest memories with Jacob. We had our first (and only) spontaneous road trip that was just for fun.

But back to this past weekend’s trip to Drumheller.

First, we stopped at the Museum – it’s changed a lot over the past 10 years, but some elements were the same. I found myself noting the similarities and differences, recalling all sorts of memories.

(The museum is incredibly well done and I recommend it to any one with an interest in dinosaurs and all sorts of science stuff that I have a hard time wrapping my brain around. It’s well worth the money and travel time. One piece of advice, get there early. We arrived around 10:30 am and it was fairly quiet. When we returned to the museum after our Dinosite program around 1:30 pm, the line ups were long. Also packing a cooler full of snacks and lunch worked well for us. No line-ups and food when we wanted it. Saved a few bucks, too.)

Jacob inside Largest DinosaurAfter our adventures at the museum, we were off to the Hoodoos, Wayne, AB’s Last Chance Saloon, and the Rosedale Suspension Bridge. These were all new things that I hadn’t done with Jacob, and they were fun. To end our day we had one last stop: The World’s Largest Dinosaur. My heart was set on taking Corey up for a photo in the T-Rex’s mouth. I thought he’d like it as much as Jacob had. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the dinosaur was closed to visitors because of wind gusts exceeding 50 km/h. It was the one thing I had really wanted to do with Corey. I am disappointed that we didn’t get to go up the dinosaur, but we can go back another time.

While I was aware of my past experience as we went about our day, that awareness would come and go. It would be fleeting thoughts, like, “This is how it was when Jacob was here” or when we went up to the lookout, “Jacob looked through the view finders too.” It didn’t hurt on Sunday, but it sure hurt on Monday. Writing the first draft of this post, I had to see through the tears.

I know that on Sunday, to some degree, I was recreating my trip with Jacob. I don’t apologize for that. It was my way of sharing Jacob with Corey, something I can’t do in real life. All I have are stories about what we did and what he liked and didn’t like. I can take Corey where I took Jacob. I can’t give him his brother to play with, talk to, learn about dinosaurs with; I can only share memories. And that hurts.

Today my heart wishes it was different.

Ger and Corey Drumheller ABI wish my two boys could have had a spectacular day together in Drumheller. I wish an eighteen-year-old Jacob could have shown his little brother around the museum and completed the activity book, looked for dinosaur bones in Midland Provincial Park, and taken him across the suspension bridge, but that will never happen.

But on Monday, instead of basking in the glory of a fabulously fun day, I was a mess – suffering from a grief hangover. I indulged in memories all day Sunday and the next day grief was spilling out of my eyes and purging my heart. I am grateful that Corey was busy at camp so that I could take the time to be in my grief and feel it so it could pass through me. I am glad I could be with the memories, feel the pain, feel the love, and then step back into my life again.

It’s not often that I cry this much over my son who died 10 years ago, but each time it happens, it hurts just the same. Monday I felt the longing to hold him. I remembered the simple joy of looking in his eyes or tucking his head under my chin and smelling his hair. I remembered our one great adventure that just the two of us shared. I am eternally grateful for it. Just the day, it had more weight than the trip I had the day before.

Monday I endured my grief hangover and felt it ALL for within it was my love for my eldest son. I remembered Jacob, I hurt, I healed.

Today, I am back to the present.

Tomorrow is a new day, full of new adventures to be made with Jacob’s little brother. What a gift.

A mama’s love never ends.





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  1. I love this story. Thank you so much for sharing. I believe things happen for a reason and all your new experiences on Sunday mixed with reliving old ones. The greatest gift was allowing yourself to grieve on Monday. Recognizing your feeling and allowing them. You are strong and knowing you don’t have to stay in that grief and that you can start a new day is a great gift. Hugs my friend and so glad you took the trip to Drumheller. Sorry I missed you as I would love to have given you a great hug and look into your eyes, a reflection of your soul and smile and cry with you!

    1. Thanks so much for making such wonderful suggestions as to what to do while we were in Drumheller. We did pretty much everything you suggested and it was awesome! I missed seeing your lovely eyes too… so I’m just going to have to come for a visit. Let’s make a plan. Huge hugs!

  2. Beautifully written! I am blessed with the fact that I know both of your boys. My husband and I often think about Jacob and all that he was. Every time we drive to Spruce Meadows we say a special little prayer for him as we pass his resting place.

    I also have a 17-year-old (almost 18 ) step son that had the pleasure of playing with Jacob a few times. When our boy is celebrating milestones it is hard not to think about Jacob.

    Now we have the pleasure of seeing Corey and having our 2 little “men” play a couple times a year.

    I am very pleased to see your blog posts! They help with the healing process for many and remind people that the grief does not leave but some days are better than others and that is perfectly okay!

    1. Thank you, Brenda for both your comments and ongoing encouragement. Your words truly warm my heart.

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