Thank you Jackpot Time!

Thank you Jackpot Time!

For more than 10 years the community of Jackpot Time in St. Thomas has been creating impact for Bereaved Families of Ontario Southwest along with 86 charities in our region. As is true of many local charities, Bereaved Families does not receive government funding and we rely on our community friends for support. We consider it a great privilege to be a part of Jackpot Time’s community investment program, which has contributed over $14 million dollars in support of local charities since it’s inception. In fact, over 23% of revenue generated at Jackpot Time through bingo and taptix machines is invested right back into our communities!

For Bereaved Families, these contributions are paramount in providing a steady stream of revenue to help make possible our programs for individuals and families who have experienced loss. Truly, we could not do this without the generous support of our friends at Jackpot Time!

Jackpot Time provides a full service entertainment experience including gaming floor, fully licensed diner, and sports lounge. Visit https://st-thomas.jackpottime.ca/ to plan your next day or evening out! To volunteer at Jackpot Time in support of Bereaved Families of Ontario Southwest, please email [email protected] Learn more at https://bfosw.ca/bingo-volunteering/

Holding you

Holding you

Janet and her husband, Peter, have been involved with BFO-SW in various ways over the years since their infant son, Ryan, died thirty-two years ago this month. They regularly participated in grief support groups, volunteered their time supporting events, and served on the Board of Directors throughout the 1990’s.

Janet recently shared a tender reflection piece, Holding You, written in honour of their son Ryan, and of her ongoing experience as his mother. She has given us permission to share with you, our BFO-SW community, as we recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

“I realize that, upon reflection, before there can be the birth of a child, there is the birthing of a Mother. Our relationship was deeply intimate and started well before the day of his birth – September 2, 1990. This is a look into the heart of the story of Ryan – his birth, his life, his death, and all the time since then.”

Holding You

by Janet Frood

Holding you – at first as the dream of a child who would anoint me as mother.

Holding you – in the first days of quiet knowing you were a germinating soul deep inside my womb.

Holding you – in my thoughts and words as I wrote my first “Letter to Baby”. Somehow, I knew that I needed to have a record of you before you were born. In retrospect, I’m so grateful that I captured my feelings in these love letters as is extended your beingness beyond birth and death.

Holding you – as my belly grew and your life force took shape. Your emergent self took over my body and invaded my heart with every breath I took.

Holding you – as I dreamed of birthing five black puppies. I’ve never checked the symbolism of this. You lived five weeks – maybe that’s it.

Holding you – for dear life as I spoke my final words of gratitude and love at my father’s celebration of life. You and he are forever intertwined in my mind.

Holding you – as I learned that your heart was not fully formed. My heart sunk; panic flared. It’s at that time our world began to swirl and shake. All I heard was “We can fix it”.

Holding you – as we were told that you would likely be a Down syndrome baby. Your heart and other indicators showed a pattern that predicted this.

Holding you – as I tried to hold on to me and not be swept away. The innocence and dreamy quality of being a first-time pregnant Mom was being sucked away by clinical talk and projections of what might be.

Holding you – as a huge needle entered my body to take amniotic fluid for genetic testing. The goal was to determine if you had Down syndrome. My heart was ready to love you and my head needed to know so I could be ready to parent your special needs.

Holding you – as my body cramped and swelled; infection had taken over. We were only 29 weeks, yet my body had to expel you to get rid of the uterine infection. This was not the dream nor the plan. I was not mentally prepared for you to come early. Everything was in fast motion, nonstop, no control. I was literally swept off my feet.

Holding you – in my gaze once you were born and then they swept you away. It was hours before I really got to see and touch you. It was days before I could hold you in my arms.

Holding you – as my breasts swelled with milk yet I couldn’t feed you. A breast pump became my companion as I pumped for you and made daily milk runs to the hospital. I felt like Elsie the cow yet was proud to have a purpose and could provide for you.

Holding you – as I witnessed one of the truly sweet moments of you nestled in your father’s arms. He so big and you so little. This is a moment that is forever etched in my mind.

Holding you – my first time, in a rocking chair. We sat quietly and I could hardly breathe. The moment so precious I wanted time to stop.

Holding you – in my arms length reach as I stroked your head through an incubator opening. The tactile connection one of the very few things I could do for you.

Holding you – the day we had you baptized because there seemed little hope. It was a moment of ceremony and blessings so you would be protected and forever held. This was when everything started to turn from medical to magical. The planned actions veiled in mystical references indicating that no one thought you would survive.

Holding you – the day when you signaled there was no more will nor way to live. That day, I really held you, off all monitors, out of the unit. My greatest wish to just rock you in a quiet room with no buzzers or alarms. I held you like a normal mother does. In those quiet moments you gently slipped away after a gentle, whispered sigh.

Holding you – I uttered these words “I hope Dad is waiting for Ryan” as it was my only solace knowing that you would leave my arms to go to him in the world beyond.

Holding you – as a doctor said, “He’s with the Lord now”.

Holding you – as I handed you over to a nurse, our final goodbye. My arms and heart never felt emptier.

Holding you – as my body was still wired to care for you. Milk came with relentless persistence.  I continued to pump milk and then pour it down the drain. Every. Single. Time. My. Heart. Broke.

Holding you – in the stories we shared as people gathered to hold us in their arms and surround us with love.

Holding you – as we celebrated your short life. We would never have known the impact that you had then, as it was all too raw and fresh, yet looking back, I now understand the mark you have made beyond our lives.

Holding you – so many nights when I couldn’t sleep, and I felt like you were still inside my womb, occupying space. Many times, my body was shrouded in tingles, and I was convinced you were visiting me.

Holding you – in my heart learning that a broken heart feels acutely and has the capacity to heal, slowly and tenderly.

Holding you – in letters I continued to write as our communication was not meant to be done. I had so much more to give voice to that I could not shut down.

Holding you – after all this time, I thought I was holding you and the truth is you’ve been holding me. Your presence is always with me. You are my guide, my mentor, my teacher…and most importantly my beloved first son.

Janet Frood & Peter Hawke

The Inhale and Exhale…

The Inhale and Exhale…

I contacted Bereaved Families of Ontario in 2019.

The first interactions with the executive director were helpful. She talked of her beloved, baby daughter who had died, and asked me questions that kept me from slipping away. It would have been easy to do.

I attended a few meetings at Bereaved Families with other moms before these in-person meetings ended due to the world-wide pandemic in early 2020. I had merely just begun.

At this same time, and in response to the public health guidelines a mix of outdoor, in-person and online meetings commenced. I found myself both comforted by these moms’ words and presence, and also feeling myself reaching to comfort those in crushing pain.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that I was breathing again.

The inhale and exhale of accepting comfort and offering comfort was indeed a sacred thing.

The ability to do this from my home (I reside in a rural area) and without concern for appearance or state of mind was extremely helpful for me. I once heard someone say that face to face is most helpful and I believe that’s true. I also believe it can be attained through the offerings of modern technology.

These moms’ faces and focused pain are etched in my heart for all time.

After almost two years and many online meetings, community events, a long personal pilgrimage and gained and lost relationships, I came to know that I wanted to assist Bereaved Families in offering space for those who want help for their hurting hearts and minds.

I want to listen to and honour the experiences of loss that I am privileged to witness. If I can, I want to offer insight into strategies / ways of coping, and support for those needing comfort at a time where comfort feels so lost.

I would encourage anyone who is feeling the pull toward this action, no matter how small or humble, to extend your hand. Together we are carving out a space where each of us can bring our broken and beating hearts to the table. Where we can provide, offer and gain support in our personal journeying with grief.

Catherine

If you would be interested in becoming a Peer Support Volunteer for Bereaved Families – Southwest you can click here for more information.

Our Ongoing Journey

Our Ongoing Journey

“We the bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in the world- the company of those who have known suffering.” Helen Keller

Laura was our second daughter, the middle child of three.

She was friendly, outgoing and always liked to help others, but at the same time had a very sensitive nature. In October of 2005, when she was a third year psychology student at Brock University, life for her became overwhelming and painful and she died from suicide at age 19.

Laura’s death came without warning and immediately threw my husband, Rick, and I into a dark abyss from where we began our ongoing journey of grief and healing.

It was a simple but significant gesture, a colleague from work handed me a little business card, “Bereaved Families of Ontario-Southwest” region, and said this is a group you might like to call.

I remember putting the card on my bureau at home and looking at it every day. A few weeks after Laura’s death I decided to phone BFO which has turned out to be, after almost 17 years, one of the best phone calls I have ever made.

Rick and I joined a club whose admission fee is excruciatingly high and one that you never want to take out a membership.

Both of us were self absorbed in our own grief those first few years and attended the many support services offered, such as, large group discussions, peer support groups and annual events. We had obtained external professional counselling but the ongoing support we received from the other bereaved parents we met at BFO activities was a significant help to our grieving.

There came a point in time in our journey when Rick and I felt we had moved beyond the intense pain and challenges of our own grief and were ready to reach out to other bereaved parents. Rick was frustrated with constantly receiving help and assistance from others while at the same time wasn’t helping anyone himself. I too was motivated to give back the caring and kindness that I had received when I felt so lost and alone.

Volunteering for BFO was also a way for us to honour our daughter’s life and make something positive from our experience. We wanted to help make a difference to the lives of other parents who are grieving the death of their child.

I remember being approached by BFO’s Executive Director and asked if we might consider becoming peer to peer support workers. Without hesitation we agreed and began training sessions on facilitating peer support groups. Rick and I have co facilitated couples’ support groups and, upon request, have held one on one conversations with a bereaved parent dealing with a death of child from suicide. Rick has also co-facilitated a peer support group specifically for bereaved fathers and I have done the same for mothers.

The benefits of volunteering for BFO is captured in Gandhi’s quote, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Being able to extend a helping hand to others in the same boat as us and offering them encouragement and hope is very rewarding. Giving back makes you feel part of the BFO team. Co-facilitating the peer support groups also provides insight on your own grief and that increased self-awareness can be transformative. You learn new skills and meet new people.

As with any venture one undertakes there can be concerns worth mentioning. As a co-facilitator for a bereavement support group you can be drawn back to your own grief and personal experiences. The training sessions and the ongoing support we received from mentors have been invaluable to deal with any challenges that could arise.

For Rick and I the strength of BFO is, that, the bereaved, are the BFO.

We leave you with the following quote, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall

And to those considering volunteering we say try it!

by Marilyn & Rick Evans

 

If you would be interested in becoming a Peer Support Volunteer for Bereaved Families – Southwest you can click here for more information.

It’s Normal

It’s Normal

The following video was produced for Bereaved Families of Ontario. 

Across Ontario there are 11 different regional Bereaved Families organizations providing support to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Finding Hope

Finding Hope

Carmens’ losses have had a profound impact on her outlook on life. As a registered nurse, she has also been involved with many bereaved families experiencing child loss.

This October and November Carmen raised funds and donations for Bereaved Families through her Baby Wrap Fundraiser.  This was also an important opportunity for Carmen to spread awareness and light on the darkness surrounding Pregnancy and Infant Loss.

You can read more about her experiences and her suggestions on supporting someone experiencing pregnancy loss further down on this page.

** In total $1,450 was raised in support of our organization!  We are so appreciative. **

A Note of Thanks from Carmen to Everyone Who Supported Her Fundraiser…

Dear Contributors & Supporters 🙂

Every small act is no small act and has a huge impact making a difference in lives of countless people 🙂

As I reviewed the amounts and saw the final total (including donation amounts that I didn’t know about) my screen went blurry as I couldn’t hold back the tears.  I immediately just wanted to swarm my supporters in endless thanks although some donors remain anonymous.  I so appreciate you beyond these words!

Sometimes with doing campaigns; though you do it from a place of such empathy and compassion you don’t want to shove the fundraiser in peoples faces and there are times you get discouraged and feel like you aren’t doing enough or want to do more and then I see this and remember…I am the dreamer but it is the power of people who make these beautiful dreams a reality we can all be so proud of!

I do believe people are inherently good and am happy to know we can all wrap each other in loving kindness…supporting Bereaved Families a little more this holiday season…it is people like you who are the found Hope!

Sincerely moved…  Carmen 🙂 xo

We will be continuing to accept donations for Carmen’s Finding Hope campaign until January 2022.

To make a donation online click here or on the button below and you can choose Carmen’s Finding Hope fund in the options.

If making an online donation we also suggest submitting it to the Finch Match My Donation program.  Information available here.

To make a donation by mail, please make out your cheque to “Bereaved Families of Ontario-Southwest Region and mail to  PO Box 22067 London, ON  N6A 6H8.

Funds raised will be used to provide support to Bereaved Parents through initial phone support, and monthly peer support groups.

We very much appreciate Carmen’s support and also want to recognize the support of Mary, Carmen’s friend Karen, and her dear Oma for assisting with all of the sewing 😊

 

My name is Carmen

My name is Carmen, and I have experienced the heartbreak, isolation and challenges of pregnancy loss.

I have been pregnant 9 times and have lost 6 pregnancies.  The losses occurred at different stages ranging from early on in the first trimester, to losing Jude at 21 weeks and Kaia at 24 weeks.

We have also been blessed with 3 children – Case born in 2017, Maelie in 2019 and Ayda in 2021.

I was asked many times ‘why do you keep trying, haven’t you lost enough?, aren’t you scared it will happen again?’  Absolutely I was, but it was also due to what I gained in so many aspects.  A wise high risk obstetrician once told me, “some families are complete at 1 and others are complete at 5.  You are allowed to want what you want.”

Pregnancy loss is such a shock.  One minute you’re pregnant and the next you’re not.  When you head home empty handed and un-pregnant, nothing can prepare you for this kind of trauma.

Throughout my pregnancy losses I was able to return to a sense of hope.  My lost babies are the lights that guide my life.  I do believe we feel deeper and see more clearly the world and the beauty in it, after we have lost.  We are more mindful of the little pleasures that come our way.  We see life and cherish it in a different way somehow.

As a registered nurse, I have also been involved with many bereaved families who have lost a child.  I’ve seen parents in utter disbelief and in shock, not registering the world around them, when their child has died.  It has been a great honour to be with them at these times as they navigate the despair and unimaginable circumstances they are faced with.  I always think of how our children, even in death, are wrapped into our lives forever and will always be intertwined with us.

As a grieving parent, we may feel many different things.  We might feel anger at the happy families who seem to so haphazardly have babies or have not lost a child.  We might recognize that in life, there is so much we cannot control, but still crave control.  We might lean into symbolism, or different spiritual beliefs, and take comfort in these beliefs, even if it feels woo-woo or crazy.

There is no right way to grieve.  Some days I found myself rolling on the grass like an animal, and other days I found myself unable to get off the kitchen floor, convulsing in tears.  Know that some days are harder than others and that’s ok.  We are also allowed to have good days in grief.  And some days we may be side swiped unexpectedly.  Grief becomes part of our journey in life.

 

Carmen’s Suggestions on How to Support Someone Experiencing Pregnancy Loss

Say something.  Do it even if it means engaging in uncomfortable conversations rather than saying nothing at all.  Not saying anything at all only deepens the silence and isolation that we feel.

Speak the babies’ names.  This helps confirm they were here with us, and they mattered.

Listen.  Sit with your person without offering any advice.  This may feel tough as you want to feel helpful, but by just lending an ear for others to process their feelings you are being supportive.

Try not to use cliches.  Saying ‘at least you weren’t very far along’, or ‘you can try again,’ and/or ‘everything happens for a reason’ can make you feel better, but minimizes the loss and your acknowledgement of it.

Use supportive statements. 

  • I am here for you.
  • I love you.
  • I am deeply sorry for your loss.
  • If you want to talk, I will listen.
  • I cannot believe what you’ve just been through.
  • This sucks.

These statements help validate the loss and recognize it’s significance.

Continue to check in.  Even if they say they are okay, don’t leave it at that.  Send freezer meals, flowers, and notes so they feel comforted, even a week, months, a year, or years after the loss.  This means to us someone is thinking about us in the depth of our despair when the world has moved on and we are still grieving.  There is no time-line or finish line for grief, you never get “over it”.

Know this….  When we talk about pregnancy loss, we help break the silence surrounding this type of loss.  It helps get rid of the shame, guilt and stigma surrounding it.  Millions of women worldwide go through pregnancy loss, and it’s scary.  We need to talk about it, and the grief and trauma it presents.  Thank you for being part of this movement.