'Piecing things together': Christa Couture on how writing about loss helped her move forward

Christa Couture has distilled the layers of loss she's experienced into what she calls her grief bio: "Cancer, death, death, divorce, more cancer." Her new memoir, How to Lose Everything, details how she's writing herself a new chapter.    
How to Lose Everything is Christa Couture's new memoir. (Douglas & McIntyre, Jen Squires)

This episode originally aired November 1, 2020.

Christa Couture has distilled the layers of loss she's experienced into what she calls her grief bio: "Cancer, death, death, divorce, more cancer."

Couture is a mixed Cree and Scandinavian musician and broadcaster, and has described grief as a "falling into pieces." She called writing her memoir, How to Lose Everything, a way of "piecing things together."

Childhood diagnosis

At the age of 11 Couture was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. For her, "having cancer and having my hair fall out, and being hospitalized, and then losing my leg and learning to walk again, felt like just a really over-the-top version of adolescence."

During this time she developed coping mechanisms to, "protect myself and have some thick skin about it." 

When her cancer returned after treatment, Couture's leg was amputated above the knee.

Couture recalled finding comfort in music. "My earliest musical memories are with my family," she said. Her mother was a folk singer in the '60s, while her father sang in traditional ceremonies and hit "the low bass notes of country music," in the family car. 

The loss of two children

Couture went on to have two children, but lost her first son, Emmett, shortly after he was born. Her second son, Ford, died at 14 months. 

Couture said she turned to art, therapy, and watching hours of TV help her process. "It was a great way to just pass the time until you can fall asleep again, when you are in shock, when you are in the early days of grieving. So I watched Buffy. I watched Lost because I had missed it the first time, and then I watched Angel." 

Couture also found solace in the online video game, World of Warcraft. "For one year and one year only," Couture recalled using the game as a coping mechanism, and found the anonymity a welcome respite from her reality. "It was a way that I could ... have interactions with people and not have to say, 'my son is dying.'"

After the loss of her children, and subsequent divorce, Couture found comfort in music. "I think if I were a gardener, I probably would have been digging in dirt for the last 10 years, but music primarily has been my thing. It's been my way of expressing myself, my way of trying to understand my experiences, and songs have felt like my teachers at times."

Moving forward

In addition to the release of her memoir, and a new EP, Safe Harbour, Couture now has a three-year-old daughter named Sona to keep her busy.

"She was a turning point for me," Couture said. "I feel so lucky, and excited and grateful and blessed that she's in my life ... Of course I've been a mom for 14 years now, but Sona is such a different experience. It's being a mom in a new way with her that I really, really love." 

This week's playlist:

Thelma Plum (Thelma Plum/Facebook)

Bette Midler - I've Still Got My Health
Thelma Plum - Better in Blak
Christa Couture - Alone In This
Christa Couture - Water To Sail