This is kara’s story through her sisters eyes

This is such an important topic and a checklist in the doctors office is not enough for diagnosis. Postpartum depression is a real mental illness. There is a need for educating families, loved ones and mothers around what to look out for and for being able to differentiate what are normal emotional fluctuations from what should be addressed by a professional. There is a real lack of education from our medical system. Please read this and help Lauren and her family spread the light.

Here is kara’s story told by one of her sisters, Lauren.

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. Click, HERE.

“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

Shortly after in August 2017, my family and I launched ‘Light for Kara’, an advocacy and informational website, with the hope that by spreading awareness and sharing Kara’s story we can prevent another family from suffering the tragedy of losing a loved one to this treatable mental illness. If you would like to read more about Kara’s story, and my family’s journey to spread awareness about perinatal mood disorders, please visit our website: LIGHT FOR KARA.

In continuing with our mission, we are hosting the first annual Light for Kara 5k for Maternal Mental Health, a 5k/1 mile walk/kids fun run, on Saturday, October 13 (full details below). We have partnered with Postpartum Support International – CT Chapter (PSI-CT) to raise money in support of the wonderful work they do throughout CT helping both mothers and their families. We also plan to donate a portion of the proceeds to Malta House, a Norwalk based women’s shelter that supports pregnant and parenting mothers. Both groups are registered non-profits and donations are tax-deductible.

 We would love for you to join us as a runner, walker, or even as a volunteer. In the event you are unable to attend but would consider making a donation, you can do so through our 5k website. If you know of anyone who may be interested in participating in any way, or even learning more about Light for Kara, please feel free to forward this email.

  Light for Kara 5k for Maternal Mental Health

Saturday, October 13, 2018

7:30am Registration | 9am Race

Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk, CT

Register | Volunteer | Donate

Thank you for your unwavering support,

Lauren Morrow Shrage

on behalf of Kara’s Family – August 2017

PPD AND THE LOSS OF A BEAUTIFUL SOUL

September 13, 2018

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