You can’t change the past, you can’t change the future and you can only change the present one moment at a time.
Never have I wanted more than to change the past, to go back and undue what was done. To wake up every morning and just for a second before I open my eyes try to imagine that things were different. To go back and do things differently, to see things differently, but we can’t, we can only move forward.
My sister, Kara (Morrow) Kovlakas was a vibrant, outgoing and loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, teacher and friend. No one loved life more than Kara, she was always the brightest light in any room. She was born 22 months after I was and as children we fought like most sisters do, but as adults she was my best friend, my closest confidant. We were each others maid of honor, we drove cross country twice, traveled too many times to count, we share a lifetime of memories.
Already a mom to her daughter, Aydan who was born in September 2012, she had her son, Ari on January 14th, 2016 and it was one of the happiest moments of her life. For the first few months after Ari was born, Kara seemed so full of life and energetic. As any mom/parent knows, juggling two kids under the age of 4 is a difficult task on all days. She had doubts and moments of struggling but seemed to be able to pull it all together.
Then in early August 2016 that all changed. Kara’s thoughts became jumbled and confused. She would talk herself in circles and have endless doubts about what kind of parent she was. There was a cloud of sadness/darkness that was following her everywhere. She couldn’t see past her current mood at most times, she was only seeing the negatives in life. She was taking out her pain on her husband and children. Kara struggled with anxiety her entire life, she was seeing therapists/doctors to seek treatment/medication but to what extent that played into the end result I am not sure we will ever know.
By September, Kara had returned back to teaching her 3rd grade elementary class after having been on leave since having Ari. We thought this would help, she thought it would help. She was talking about the future and how things would be better when the kids were older, when they had more money, etc. She continued to express positive thoughts about a future time but couldn’t find happiness in the present day. We thought she was getting better, trying to find a happy place again.
On October 13, 2016, Kara left the house in the morning, kissing her husband and sending Aydan off to preschool with her Mimi (Kara’s Mom) and then dropped Ari off at daycare like it was any normal day. She waited for her husband to leave the house before going back home and ending her life. She would have turned 33 years old the following day. I don’t want to refer to it that she ‘committed suicide’ - she resorted to suicide, which she perceived, in her unwell mind, to be the only possible solution to her tremendous suffering.
We found out later she had called out sick from work the night before. She had planned this. The day before she had a great day with her children and seemed happy. I live 3 miles down the road from her house and I was home all day. Kara and I have 4 other sisters who are her best friends. We had been supporting her as a family. My mother was helping her get out the door every morning by taking Aydan to school. Anything we could do to ease the burden she was feeling. We offered to check her in somewhere, but she refused. We had wanted her to seek more treatment but she convinced us she could handle this. She convinced us she was getting better. Her husband was supporting her every step of the way in whatever choices she was making. She was seeking outpatient treatment. She had a lot of support, more support than most people ever receive.
Kara’s story needs to be shared so that people understand postpartum depression is a real mental illness. I am not sure what Kara was feeling or going through but she was depressed and had anxiety. From what I have since learned about postpartum depression, in extreme cases it can lead people to have psychotic thoughts - the term is postpartum psychosis. I don’t know if this is what she had, she was also taking medications so that could have added to her compounding issues.
If I were being honest with myself I know that the depression and anxiety was present long before Kara was a mother. I have spent everyday since she left us struggling to understand why she chose this and trying to move forward in this world without my sister and best friend. I am a new Mom also and have needed to call her a million times to ask her advice. She was an amazing mother; she always seemed to know what the right thing was when it came to her children. I will never understand how she could leave them.
But here we are. This is the new world we all live in. As a family, it is our job now to help her husband take care of her children. To make sure they grow up surrounded by love and security. To make sure they know how much their Mom loved them. To share our memories of her and keep her alive in the only way we have. We need to figure out how to live the rest of our lives without her. We are all forever changed by her decision, we will never be the same. We will never take a picture of the 6 sisters again.
It is our job to talk about Kara and share her story in the hopes that we can try to help other families from not going through a tragedy like this. This can happen to anyone. You never know what someone is struggling with on the inside but new mothers in particular are vulnerable and we all need to be more aware. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. How are we really feeling? How are you really doing? What are the signs that you should be on the lookout for? This is a great place to read up on postpartum depression if you aren’t sure. http://www.postpartum.net/
One of Kara’s greatest passions was running. As a family, we are planning to walk/run the SONO 5k on October 14th, 2017 which would have been Kara’s 34th birthday and 1 year and 1 day since she passed. We may do this annually or we might eventually decide to start our own race, but this year, given that this one is on her birthday and with the blessing of race organizers we decided to run alongside them. Given Kara’s love of running we think it’s a great way to honor her memory and would love if all of you would join us and help keep her memory alive. We would love to have a whole team to walk/run with us on October 14th. Please visit our events page for more details.
As a family, we have also decided that the best way we can help Kara now is to share her story and help support her kids’ future education. So that being said we have started a ‘you caring’ page to help raise money for Aydan and Ari’s scholarship fund. www.youcaring.com/aydanandari Given that they will be the direct beneficiary of the funds this will NOT be a tax deductible donation, but we plan take a portion of the proceeds and donate them to the Malta House in Norwalk, CT, in Kara’s name, which is a women’s shelter that focuses on helping new mothers and moms in need. The balance of the funds we will split between 529 accounts (college savings funds) that have been set up for Aydan and Ari. If you would prefer to make a direct donation to Malta House in Kara’s honor that would be tax deductible and you can find them here: https://maltahouse.org/
Please join us on October 14th and remember Kara by doing one of the things she loved most. If you sign up by 8/31 to run/walk with 'TEAM KARA' race organizers will donate a portion of the registration fee to the Aydan/Ari Scholarship Fund and Malta House. Please share this story and share our ‘you caring’ link so we can help Aydan and Ari.
Thank you for your unwavering support,
Lauren Morrow Shrage on behalf of Kara’s Family
“Place your hand over your heart, can you feel it? That is called purpose. You’re alive for a reason so don’t ever give up.” – Unknown