Grief support group

A new grief support group is being offered the last Tuesday of every month in the boardroom at O’Leary Community Hospital. The group will be facilitated by grief support coordinator for the Queens Chapter of Hospice PEI Willard Day, Pastor Sheila McCrea-MacCallum and Reverend Bethe Benjamin Cameron. Melissa Heald photo

Being a listening ear, offering compassion, not judgement, will be the role of facilitators of a new grief support group in West Prince as they create a safe space for those grieving the loss of a loved one.

“The focus of this support group is dealing with grief and supporting families who have gone through the end of life process,” said Willard Day, the grief support coordinator for the Queens Chapter of Hospice PEI.

Mr Day said his organization has been working on offering grief support all over PEI, but recognizes that West Prince in particular has very little resources that can be offered to communities in that regards.

“What we’ve recognized, especially here in West Prince, is the lack of services that are available to people who have lost loved ones,” said Mr Day.

Hospice PEI has decided to step in by offering an open grief support group that meets the last Tuesday of every month in the boardroom at O’Leary Community Hospital.

Mr Day, along with Pastor Sheila McCrea-MacCallum and Reverend Bethe Benjamin Cameron, will be facilitating the group, which is non-denominational and open to anyone in the public experiencing grief.

For Ms McCrea-MacCallum, who facilitates an annual grief seminar each November in West Prince, the new monthly group is something she can recommend to those seeking additional support.

“We don’t have a group after (the seminar),” said the experienced grief counsellor. “We have people come privately for counselling, but we don’t have a group and this will be wonderful in November to say we have a group in place because many people want to continue, so I was really pleased to hear this.”

Mr Day said it’s important for those experiencing grief to know that the loss of a loved one brings changes to an individual’s life.

“Life will never be the same,” said Mr Day. “Life is going to change for the rest of their lives, but they can cope and go on with hope.”

A grief recovery specialist, Ms Benjamin Cameron said the goal of grief support is about helping people to ‘live a new normal because life will never be the same’.

Ms McCrea-MacCallum added the realistic goal of anyone experiencing grief is not necessarily to return to their old self, but to create that new normal and to have that permission to be that new normal.

“Some of the same components will be there... but they have lost something from losing that person, lost some of themselves as well, so it’s really regaining their self and forming a new self. Weaving the past into the present to go into the future,” she said. “To weave the past from this individual they were with in whatever relationship they had and weave it into the present for a beautiful tapestry going into the future.”

Ms McCrea-MacCallum said there is no time frame to a person’s grief or the grieving process, with Ms Benjamin Cameron adding each person’s grief is unique.

“There’s no formula that fits everyone,” said Ms Benjamin Cameron. “Grief is a natural and normal response to loss or change in life, but we all approach and experience it uniquely.”

Mr Day said it can be tough for individuals to take that first step in getting help, but being a part of a group setting can be comforting to some people.

“Our roles are often limited because they are helping each other,” he said. “Each person there is supporting the other person, we’re just facilitating... We don’t go in as counsellors, we don’t go in as pastors, we don’t go in as anything other than offering them a safe environment to express themselves.”

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