“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” pretty well summarizes Kimberley Robb’s take on life. Growing up in a fairly dysfunctional family, Kimberly found herself helping to raise her siblings – two sisters and a brother – as her mother was unfit and her father travelled for work.
Originally from Wolverhampton in England, her family came to Canada when she was two, and her childhood years were spent in Milton. Perhaps because of what was happening in her own family, she took an interest and wanted to understand what made people do what they do.
An avid reader, her first degree was in English, followed by a post graduate qualification in journalism. Initially she wanted to travel to different countries and tell people what it was really like there.
She saw herself as bridging the gap. As part of her studies she got to be mentored by journalists who were in war torn countries, but who sadly often died or went missing on the job. It was a reality check, and Kimberley recognized that while she wanted to make a difference, she wasn’t prepared to put her life on the line.
She started with freelance writing but that was tough and paying the bills became a challenge. “It was when I hit rock bottom, and meditated on where I would be happy, that I realized that working with the elderly and dying, might be a good fit.” And she went back to school to train as a personal support worker.
Because of her abusive background, she’d become good at putting up walls; at hiding her true feelings from others, which actually worked to her advantage with her work at the Carpenter Hospice in Burlington. It’s not that she doesn’t care, she does, but she is able to function after her patients pass away.
It was while she was working in long term care that her business idea of RetroScripts came to her. She had a dementia patient who was difficult to work with – always hostile and aggressive – but as Kimberley observed, “when you looked into her eyes, you could see she was terrified, and that she was trapped in this shell of a body.”
So she sat down and wrote everything she knew about this woman, got photos from the family and would read “her” book to her every day. There was a noticeable change in her behaviour and she started to smile again.
Another patient was really anxious about her impending death. It was not that she was scared to die, she wasn’t, but she had all these memories that no one knew. Again, Kimberley jotted down her stories, and the woman was able to have a peaceful death.
In the last two years Kimberley has written 14 books for people, as well as one for a local rugby team that was celebrating its 45th anniversary. She also gives workshops, helping others to harness the power within in them and tell their story.
“I find at the end of writing a book with someone, there is always a message, a lesson to learn.”
Her workshops have proved popular, with people enjoying her down-to-earth approach and her ability to make her participants feel at ease with who they are and what they bring to the world.
Kimberley may have started with a shaky beginning to life, but she has used that experience to empower herself and build resilience, not just in herself but in others.