An update from Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region

It is hard to believe that July is almost upon us and that we will soon be in midst of the dog days of summer. It is less difficult to believe that summer is absolutely going to look different for everyone this year. As we look ahead to the fall, we know it will as well.

Our spring groups were on the cusp of getting underway when everything shut down because of Covid-19. Fortunately, we were able to transition our programs for parents grieving the death of an infant and parents grieving the death of a child over to virtual. Our Living with Loss and Living with Loss for adults grieving a death by substance use programs also made the move to virtual so we could continue to provide peer support to individuals and families during this difficult time.

  • Unfortunately, our spring Healing Little Hearts groups had to be cancelled. We were very conscious of the strain already being placed on parents and caregivers juggling working from home, schooling from home and other stressors. We did not want to add to that pressure so we deferred our groups to the fall. We are working now on what those are going to look like.
  • Good Grief, our teen support group being offered as a joint initiative with Hummingbird Centre for Hope has evolved from its intended in-person closed group, to an open “drop-in” group being offered virtually through the summer months. Planning for future groups is underway.
  • Our annual Butterfly Release Walk to Remember memorial event has also evolved from an in-person gathering and we’ve loved hearing about how families will be releasing butterflies and walking in memory of their loved ones at home.
  • We’re currently considering if and how we might be able to host our annual golf tournament which is our biggest fundraiser of the year. Naturally, not hosting the event will have a significant financial impact on our organization, so we’re also working on how we might be able to fill the funding gap if the tournament doesn’t happen.

Our staff team has been working from home since March 16 and will continue to do so until September at the earliest. We will continue to offer our grief support groups virtually in the fall. With so much uncertainty about a potential second wave of Covid-19, we feel it is in the best interest of our members, staff and volunteers to proceed this way.

In thinking about how the last few months have unfolded, and how our path is going to change moving forward, we feel it is important to acknowledge the silver linings at BFO. No, it isn’t ideal to be separated from our co-workers every day. It’s been hard. No, it isn’t ideal to be supporting each other over Zoom. There is much to be said about being in a physical space together when sharing our stories.

But it’s working, and going virtual has meant that for the most part, our services have gone uninterrupted. It has also meant that geography or transportation are no longer barriers to accessing support. It has meant that now we know, if we have to cancel a group in the middle of winter due to inclement weather, we can quickly and easily go online and ensure support continues regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us.

We do acknowledge that going virtual has created a different barrier to support however – access to technology and the internet. Our Professional Advisory Committee and staff are keenly aware of this challenge and are working to address it.

In looking to the future, it’s easy to keep our heads down and get stuck in what tomorrow, or next week or next month looks like. What we don’t want to lose sight of is how the pandemic is affecting people’s grief experiences and what that is going to mean for them on the other side of this. As things go back to different (there will not be a normal to go back to), we’re foreseeing the demand for grief support will increase.

As we have said before, we will keep looking forward with hope and optimism and we thank you for your ongoing support.

Take good care of yourself and each other.

Jaime Bickerton, Executive Director
Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region