In 2008, Andrea watched her mother’s valiant battle with cancer end. She was just 10 years old.
Andrea comes from a small community near Peterborough, a community she credits with providing tremendous support to her family. Even before her mom died, the whole community rallied together to support them, even hosting fundraisers to help to contribute to towards cost of her cancer treatment.
This support didn’t end after her mom died. Andrea’s community continued to be there for her family, but she drew the most strength and support from her father.
Supportive in every way
“My dad was incredible. I slept in his bed for a week after my mom died. He never complained. He even changed his work hours so he could be home with us more. He was so supportive in every way.”
Fast forward to 2018, Andrea was attending university in Waterloo and wanted to get involved in her local community. She began with an online search for volunteer opportunities and came across Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR).
Andrea met with BFO-MR staff to gain an understanding about its work and mission and learn about possible volunteer opportunities. Andrea immediately knew BFO-MR would be a great fit because the organization aligned with her own personal values and she would be able to use her own lived experience. She registered in the fall training and became a facilitator for BFO-MR’s Living with Loss group.
Make connections with other people who just get it
Andrea explains that part of a facilitator’s role is to help navigate a topic for group. The group members participate by contributing their own personal experiences or simply listen to others share. Often, they help each other by sharing their own insights and provide ideas and techniques that have helped them in their grief journey.
“They make connections with other people who just get it,” says Andrea. “It is hope.”
Reflect on my own experience
Facilitating is a great experience, says Andrea. It allows you to help others in their grief journey as well as reflect on your own experience.
“I can reflect on my personal lived experience and it gives me an opportunity to think about what happened in my own life and gain new perspectives,” she says. “I recently came to the realization that I’ve now lived longer without my mom than I lived with her. And I am ok.”
Andrea has always been very grateful for the support from her hometown during her mother’s illness. Through facilitating, she was able to reflect on that experience and have a new appreciation for her community and just how much they did for her and her family.
“I reflected on myself and looked back at things and started remembering personal memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It gave me another level of appreciation for everyone but especially my dad who did so much for me and my sisters and was such an incredible support while he was grieving himself.”
Andrea continues facilitating BFO-MR’s Living with Loss group and also volunteers with its Healing Little Hearts program. She also took her new skills and shared them with her home community. She has seen first-hand the impact BFO-MRs grief support programs have had, and she wanted to bring these opportunities for hope and healing to Peterborough. Andrea became a board member for the Peterborough affiliate and was instrumental in helping to launch a program in her hometown to support those who are grieving.
“The support of BFO-MR helped make this happen, and I am so grateful and proud of this accomplishment,” she says
Andrea’s journey continues. Her experiences both past and present have helped shape her future career goals. She is now moving towards a career in psychotherapy as well as research in the treatment of grief. She has quickly learned there is so much more work that can be done to help understand, support and connect with people who are grieving to help them mourn and to help them heal.
This is a part of life
“Grief does get easier. It is always there, but you learn new ways to cope. This is a part of life. Participating in a peer support group creates opportunities to relate to others with a similar experience, connect and grow.”