Trigger warning: child loss

On Valentine’s Day, American mum-of-five Shannon Sandvik was forced to do the unthinkable. Kiss her four-year-old little girl goodbye.

Kinsley died from Influenza B, a virus that continues to take lives each and every year. On the 5th of February, Kinsley came home from school vomiting. Shannon knew something was up with her normally active girl and took her to the doctors straight away.

‘This was the last thing we said to each other’

Kinsley was diagnosed with Influenza B and given Tamiflu before being sent home to rest in bed. She spent five days at home and started to get better.

However, one night she woke up coughing up blood. She was immediately rushed to the hospital and placed on oxygen. In the moments before she lost consciousness, Shannon was able to kiss her daughter and tell her she loved her.

She made eye contact with me and through her mask said, ‘I love you, too,’ while nodding her head. This was the last thing we said to each other.”

Kinsley continued to go downhill and by the following afternoon, she was transferred to another hospital and put on life support. She died from Influenza B on Valentine’s Day, leaving behind a very devasted mother, father, and four siblings.

child letters after death from influenza b
Kinsley died of Influenza B. Source: Love What Matters

On February 14th, my husband and I stood in front of the PICU with our family watching us, holding hands, my head leaning on his shoulder, and tears in our eyes. As we walked through those doors, we knew we were walking out without our baby girl.”

‘Something always feels missing’

Kinsley’s death left an unimaginable hole in the family’s heart, one that will most likely never fully heal. Shannon shares with Love What Matters,

Every day I wake up it feels wrong. Something always feels missing. It seems like an eternity without her. I miss her something so fierce, my stomach drops every single time a memory or vision of her pops up. Yet, I want to talk about her, see photos, and watch videos of her, even though it makes me sick.”

Kinsley’s notes

Four days after her daughter’s death, Shannon knew she had to go into her daughter’s room and clean it up. Not because she wanted to, but because Kinsley’s sister Ava shared that room and she knew Ava wouldn’t be able to handle going in there without Kinsley.

So I ripped the bandaid off, drank my vodka, and just did it. Turns out, I’m glad I did.”

As Shannon explains, Kinsley was always into writing “noots” to her parents, bad spelling and all. Often she’d write them apology letters after getting into trouble.

Jordan and I would be sitting on the couch and she would fling crumbled-up apology notes down the steps, enough to make us laugh, and then we would let her out.”

On that particular day, just four days after Kinsley’s death, four days after Valentine’s Day, Shannon discovered two notes in Kinskel’s desk. Both sealed. One addressed to Shannon and one addressed to Kinsley’s dad, Jordan.

We opened them up and they were Valentine’s Day notes for Jordan and I from Kinsley. She had made those for us before Valentine’s Day and in those notes, she let us know we are great parents, always there for her, and how much she loved us, ending with ‘Happy Valentine’s Day.’

Those words from her were so powerful to read at that particular time. Her notes and kind heart, I miss that.

 Her sweet voice, her ‘noots,’ her fearlessness, keeping me on my toes, her sports, I miss all of these things, I miss all of her.”

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Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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