“We don’t want people to come to us forever”
“There is no grief like the grief that does not speak.”
That quotation, by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sparked a group of grieving mothers to form Bereaved Families of Ontario (BFO), a not-for-profit organization that supports and encourages people to talk about grief and loss, so they feel more at ease with their emotions. BFO also aims to change the way death is spoken about in the community.
The organization offers support groups for people of all ages who have experienced loss − the death of an infant, a young child, or a spouse or partner. There are also groups for those who have lost family members or friends to suicide or substance abuse. An annual Walk to Remember honours the life of a loved one.
There seems to be one universally accepted response to the question “how are you?” The answer is usually “I’m fine, thank you.” But is the person really fine? Many people bottle up their emotions, often leading to secondary mental health issues.
Barbara Mundell, executive director of Bereaved Families of Ontario, Kingston Region, one of 10 branches in the province, says that people have widely different responses to grief. It is often difficult for people to make that first request for help − or to ask for help for most things, she says.
Bereaved Families of Ontario provides companionship to anyone who is grieving, not by trying to “fix” their pain and make it go away, but through listening, she says.
For example, Derek Falkner attended a drop-in group for people who had lost their spouse. After his wife died, he became stuck in a fog of grief. BFO helped him understand some of the feelings he was experiencing and to do something about them.
“Personally, I believe that you never leave the state of grief,” he says. “It just gets easier with time. Grief is like ripples and something could happen today, or I could hear a song and suddenly I’m just overwhelmed by a sense of loss. But they tend to come fewer as time goes on.”
Derek is now a volunteer and facilitator for other BFO groups.
“You know, it’s good when somebody gets to a point where they can graduate themselves out of our groups,” says Barbara. “We don’t want people to come to us forever. We want to help them to get to a better place where they may always carry their grief, but it is not such a burden anymore.”
– Abhinav Sharma and Gayathri Premprasad Sindhu