Barbara Anderson

Barbara Anderson

A guided journey through grief

North Okanagan Hospice Society

Grief is inevitable, the way through it is a choice.

The North Okanagan Hospice Society has been helping area residents with individual  grief counseling and group sessions for more than 25 years. The next session of the well-attended Finding My Way, Coping with Grief group starts Oct. 19.

Group co-facilitator Barbara Anderson has been a volunteer with the grief programs for 15 years.

“I’ve been blessed in all the people I’ve met. They have taught me so much. During that time I experienced the loss of my parents, my husband and friends. Each grief is different,” she said.

“When you’re grieving, your thoughts, feelings, behaviour, physical symptoms and spiritual outlook change and it can frighten you and make you feel like you are going crazy. The groups are a safe place to share and feel supported and understood. But people are also welcome to attend and not talk, just listen and learn. It’s not all sadness, we find we can laugh together as well.”

While people might think they should not laugh when they have lost a loved one, it can be an important way to relieve stress.

“It’s healthy to laugh. Another thing that people can learn is how to talk to friends who will talk to you about everything else but your loss of a loved one. Some people find that the second year after a loss can be more difficult than the first because people think you should somehow be over it,” said Ruth Edwards, Hospice Society executive director.

The grief group covers these issues and others, like anniversary dates, going through personal possessions, writing letters to the loved one and dealing with physical and mental symptoms. Each session has an educational component and a sharing time.

“The group is about being truly heard. I have found that deep inside, every human being has an inner wisdom. It takes courage to come to the group but it is a way to connect with yourself and what is best for you,” said Anderson. “The loss of a loved one can bring up all the other losses in our lives, even those that are smaller. We can deal with our little losses every day by acknowledging them, and going on with life. Of course, it is much more difficult and takes more time with a big loss but as we share our stories, we learn to be grateful for the people who have been a part of our lives.

“The greatest gift the grief group gives is for people to know that what they are experiencing is normal, they are not crazy and they are not alone. It will never be the same but they will never lose their memories.”

Anderson and Edwards both stressed the need for people to follow their own timetables for grief and to understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Finding My Way, Coping with Grief runs Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 19 to Dec. 7 (eight sessions). The cost is $50 for materials but the fee is waived in cases of need. Space is limited. For more information and pre-registration (required), call Noel at 250-503-1800 (ext. 200).