One Niagara-on-the-Lake woman learned to grow through her trauma, including a late-term miscarriage and a marital split – and now she speaks openly about the darkest moments in her life and her journey through it all.
Sarah Kroeker’s road from rock bottom to success as a social media personality was tumultuous, but she says acknowledging and addressing her trauma was a vital part of the healing process.
“I had so much internal work to do," she says, noting her mental health struggles. "But I was always so distracted with work or being a mom, and I never really did the inner work.”
Kroeker, a 31-year-old mother of three, is better known by her public persona Kaye Parker.
The online moniker stems from her career as an educational assistant, where she was Ms. Kroeker, Ms. K for short and that grew into Kaye. Parker is her birth grandmother's maiden name.
Though she was adopted into a wonderful, loving family, she says she always craved a sense of belonging and being needed.
"I was very much a people pleaser because of that. I spent my whole life trying to make everybody happy and doing what everybody wanted. Even if I didn't want it. I didn't want to let anybody down. I didn't want anybody not to like me."
When she began the healing process, she was unable to climb out of her own darkness until she confronted past pain and worked on her “shadow self.”
She participated in emotional regulation and tolerance courses, and although she says the classes themselves were not a good fit, they provided the tools she needed to begin to heal.
“Healing is an ongoing process,” she says.
The initial darkness and her spiral into depression consumed her after the miscarriage of her fourth child in January 2019.
“I was in a state of shock. I was in a state of extreme emotion.”
She says she was in a haze from December 2018, when she learned her unborn child was no longer viable, until she finally gave birth to her son, Jack on Jan. 6, 2019.
“I don't remember a single thing.”
She still struggles to recall details from the weeks surrounding the death of her son. She remembers feeling lost, confused and uninformed about the miscarriage and the next steps to take.
“There's so much that goes on and women are literally, I don't want to say clueless, but we're not given the appropriate information and we don't know what to expect,” Kroeker says.
“Nobody talks about it (miscarriage). It's awful, because there are so many women in isolation and they navigate this on their own. That's what causes these mental health issues.”
Kroeker wants to break the stigma surrounding miscarriage, an issue the Public Health Agency of Canada says occurs in 15 per cent to 25 per cent of pregnancies.
She was featured in an intensive article in Authority Magazine where she speaks in depth about her ups and downs, the work she has done to overcome her toughest obstacles – and everything in between.
Now she deals with her trauma on her show "Trials and Tribulations," which she has been hosting weekly on Instagram Live at Instagram.com/KayeParkerOfficial for more than a year. She invites a variety of guests, from celebrities to ordinary people, to share their own stories of rising through adversity.
“I made really poor choices when I was grieving. I couldn’t recognize myself. I didn't recognize my actions. And I was lost,” she says. She wants viewers to know you can always come back from the trauma.
“I feel like when people make mistakes, they define and label themselves as that mistake, and they get consumed by it. They're stuck in this ruminating cycle of, 'I am this person, I am this way.' And then they stay there, stagnant, and it's dark,” Kroeker says.
“You're always allowed to write the narrative of your own story.”
When she reached her own rock bottom, she decided to rewrite her own story, saying she had nowhere to go but up. With nothing left to lose she says she was no longer held hostage by the fear of failure.
That's when Kroeker turned to the popular video platform TikTok to share the lighter side of life. But she says she never expected the account to reach almost 160,000 followers and more than 1.3 million likes.
“I was just being an idiot. I was literally just having fun. I was at home with the kids and it was an app that you got to mimic voices and just make videos and be silly,” she says.
“I had no idea my life would be where it is today.”
By that, she means leaving her 9-to-5 job as an early childhood educator to focus on building the Kaye Parker brand. She hopes to be able to make a living from her social persona through sponsorships and collaborations.
“(Manager) C.J. Allen found me on TikTok. He was like, ‘You have something. I don't know what it is, I don't know how, but I want you,’ ” she says.
Allen, who specializes in music management, signed on as her manager and helped create the Kaye Parker persona, she says.
With a background in music and theatre, she initially planned to pursue a music career.
However as her show gained more attention, her content has focused on mental health, cannabis and psychedelics, and working through the difficult times.
She says she “couldn’t be happier” with the direction her show has taken and the possibility of making a difference in the lives of her followers.
“It brings me the greatest happiness and joy. I am absolutely so happy that I started it,” she says.