Finding friends through grief

AT RANDOM: Like being lost in a thick forest, with darkness closing in on you, the journey of grief is like no other.

Like being lost in a thick forest, with darkness closing in on you, the journey of grief is like no other.

Unless you’ve been there, there is no way to explain the often unbearable feeling of losing a loved one. You are quite literally lost.

Aside from the period immediately after a loss, when people surround you with love, sympathy and kind gestures, you are alone in your journey of grief. Yes, there is family and other loved ones who are also dealing with the loss. But grief is different for every person. It affects us all in a unique way.

Therefore when the final arrangements have been made, the last cards of sympathy trickle in and you are left to face your grief alone, that’s when it usually hits you.

Luckily for residents of the North Okanagan, there is help. Thanks to Hospice, there is a bi-annual program put on for those grieving to help them on their journey. Offered in the spring and in the fall, the group is called Finding My Way.

Walking through the doors of the place where so many loved ones have made their final rest can be unnerving. But there is a comfort that instantly surrounds you as you realize that anyone in there either has, or is about to endure the same suffering as you.

The same goes for those in the FMY group. Everyone has lost someone, whether it’s a parent, a spouse, a sibling or child, each of them are there because they are feeling lost in their journey of grief.

Even the counsellor has dealt with her own share of grief, therefore her words come not only from her vast education in the subject, but from experience. The same goes for her trusty, volunteer sidekick, who offers a male perspective.

It seems strange at first, to open up and share your innermost feelings with a group of strangers. But if not them, then who? Most of us don’t want to burden our loved ones anymore, friends can often be distant with the subject as they are unfamiliar or we can’t bear to hear someone else put their own judgements on how we are, or should be, feeling.

So having a special place to go, where no one knows your history therefore they allow you to share your full story, is incredibly relieving.

Having the empathetic ears of others, without their opinions, is sacred. Hearing each other’s success stories inspires hope, while the hard times shared remind us that it’s OK to have our own bad days.

And just knowing that these people truly get it, they are on the same road as you are, is encouraging.

It’s not to say that the support of friends and family isn’t needed, or appreciated. Without it, one may have never made it to such a group. But having an even bigger support circle really helps to fill the holes that one’s heart is full of after any devastating loss.

My group became more like a family, and our relationships continue now, even though the program has since ended.

Instant connections were made between Sara, Kristin, Faith, Dot and I, who have all lost one of our parents.

The same goes for Joyce, Marjorie and Brenda who share similar journeys in the loss of their husbands.

Others could also relate to Dot, who has been struggling through serial losses (the loss of one loved one after another). In fact, Kristin’s own experience with serial loss, coupled with her kind soul, is likely what sparked her ongoing relationship with Dot.

Meanwhile Melissa and I have also formed our own friendship outside of the group.

So while we all walked through those doors at the beginning of the program as strangers, we left as friends.