“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.