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Life is a continuing series of experiences. They can be
big or small, positive or negative. Experiences shape our
character, relationships, health and community.
In this issue of Apple, we look at a number of life-changing moments and experiences and how they can
affect our health.
When asked about my own life-changing experiences,
I reflected on what makes an experience life-changing. A
tragedy, a victory, an epiphany?
The first personal life-changing experiences that crossed
my mind were my marriage, the birth of my children, the
deaths of my parents.
Then I thought of the many life-changing experiences
I have seen families live through during my career in
nursing and emergency and disaster management. One
especially stood out.
I was a 22-year-old registered nurse working the night
shift in an emergency department. A man had collapsed
at work. We tried to resuscitate him, but he passed away.
Then his wife arrived and learned what happened.
To this day, I recall her almost palpable agony. She said
she and her husband had argued the night before, gone to
bed without making up and left for work the next morning
without saying goodbye. And now she would never be
able to say she was sorry and that she loved him.
On the bus home that night, I kept thinking about the
woman. She had lost her husband and was riddled with
guilt and regret. Before I stepped off the bus, I decided
I would never allow myself to remain angry with a
I knew I would have disagreements and losses, but
I never wanted my life or others’ lives to be filled
That decision has been a huge contributing factor in my
life, from raising my kids to my professional career.
I have come to view life-changing events as those
moments—turning or tipping points—that have a
profound impact on the way we think or act.
And while we may not always be able to choose, control
or prepare for the experiences in our lives, we can learn
— Cheryl Bourassa
Cheryl Bourassa is the executive director of
Emergency/Disaster Management for Alberta