Loss before Bereavement 

Contributed By: Samantha Porte 

What does that mean, loss before bereavement? Usually they go together, and traditionally we are told what the trajectory can and will look like. That’s not the way grief, loss, death, and grief work, and while some research has been helpful and informed us over the years, we know it’s dated, and we can learn new things about ourselves and our grief journeys.  

So, loss before bereavement, in my experience can be a relationship change or loss and/or loss of the person you once knew (they may have changed). Over the years, I have lost friends, jobs, homes, pets, experiences, people, any and everything, and sometimes the complicated ones are ones without death. Friend loss can be a strange one, being so close to someone for a long time and then drifting apart, it can feel complicated and confusing and there may also be no closure.  

Today we’re going to talk about the grief associated with the loss of a person before death.  

This sounds weird perhaps, but it has happened to me and I’m sure I’m not alone. Before his death, my father and I had a roller coaster of a relationship, I will always have love for him and the person I knew, but that’s not who he was when he died. When I think about when he died, I wasn’t surprised and, to be honest, I wasn’t that sad. He had been through a lot, his body had been through a lot, and I didn’t want him to be suffering mentally or physically. It can be tough for people to understand what it means when I say I wasn’t very sad. Yes, I will miss him, but I lost the version of him that I missed long before his death. I will miss that version, and I will miss the potential for him to have found himself again in that version. But I will not miss the man who died.  

I grieved when I started to lose him as a person many years ago. I went through a grieving process not unlike ones I have gone through for death in my life. I went through all the emotions, and I found it more complex than some deaths because I had to also set boundaries once I realized that version of him, he as a person, wasn’t there anymore.  

Maybe this is a common experience, maybe it’s not, but I do know that there can be immense and immeasurable loss before death. If you are having complex or complicated feelings, know you are not alone. Losing someone you knew- even if they haven’t died, can happen. You can grieve that loss, you can grieve that person, you miss them, and you long for the time you had them in your life.  

There isn’t a lot of discussion around this topic, because as a misunderstood idea, the person you are missing isn’t dead, you are grieving a loss while the person is alive. I assure you, that is a valid feeling, and you can take space and time to honour those emotions.  

This is sometimes described as anticipatory grief, which is traditionally associated with feelings of grief or loss that are felt before an impending death happens. What I’m referring to is more ambiguous, where your relationship with the person is in question and a death isn’t imminent nor a timeline defined. In my experience, there is very little conversation around this topic. 

Grief and reflection can be heavy and confusing. Take some time and check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Where is your grief sitting in your body? Is there something kind you can do for your body and mind?  

If this is someone you know, you can let them know they are not alone.  

What is Grief?  

Contributed By: Samantha Porte

Everyone will experience it at one time or another, we have a hard time putting it into words, and it is both simple and complex. So, what is grief? Grief is what we feel after   the loss of something, whether it be the death of someone in your life, a relationship, a pet, a job. Grief can come in many forms, and we can mourn and experience the loss in many ways.  

When we talk about grief, we are most often talking about the death of someone in our life. You will also notice that we say the word “death” which can be hard for people. We name it and give ourselves permission to not “dance around” words, and therefore allow ourselves to feel whatever is coming.  

Grief is different for every single person and every single scenario. You may experience a range of emotions dependent on many factors. We tend to assume that if we grieve for something it means we had a good relationship with what we are grieving. This isn’t always the case, making the emotions more complicated and the feelings surrounding the death or loss more complex.   

In grief, nothing is assumed, nothing is certain, and everyone can grieve regardless of the relationship. 

It’s hard to describe grief because, like we said, it’s so different for everyone and every situation. Grief is hard work and so unique to each person and to each loss. This makes it hard to talk about, and sometimes makes it hard for people to know how, what, or when they should be feeling things. We just want to let you know that there is no timeline, there is no set of emotions you “should” be feeling, and whatever you need on whatever journey you take- that’s your individual path.  

Grief can be complex, messy, beautiful, memorable, insightful, infuriating, hopeless, and many things in between. Our grief journey is our own, our emotions are our own, and it is not up to society or anyone in our lives to dictate what that looks like for us.  

Here are some quotes that may or may not resonate with you or someone you may know on a grief journey: 

“Grief changes shape, but it never ends.” 
Keanu Reeves 

“Time heals old pain, while it creates new ones.” 

“Honest listening is one of the best medicines we can offer the dying and the bereaved.” 
Jean Cameron 

“Our grief is as individual as our lives.” 
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” 
Edgar Allan Poe 

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” 
Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie 

Grief and reflection can be heavy and confusing. Take some time and check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Where is your grief sitting in your body? Is there something kind you can do for your body and mind? If this is someone you know, you can let them know they are not alone. 

BFO Midwestern no longer releasing butterflies at fall memorial

After careful consideration, Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region has made the decision to no longer offer a butterfly release as part of our fall memorial event.

Many factors influenced this decision:

  • Monarch butterflies are currently on the endangered species list.
  • There are risks associated with commercially raised butterflies, and releasing them in the wild may have potentially devastating environmental effects.
  • We no longer feel comfortable with the practice of packaging and shipping live butterflies.

We acknowledge and respect that this news may be difficult for those who attend the Butterfly Release Walk to Remember every year. We will be hosting a new memorial event this fall that will continue to create an opportunity to connect with others, share in our grief and honour the people in our lives who have died.

We are excited to share that we are partnering with Sustainable Waterloo Region to create a meaningful and environmentally responsible way for folks to honour their loved ones through the planting of a microforest.

The butterfly remains a symbol of hope and will be woven into the event in new and different ways. We just won’t be releasing live butterflies as part of the ceremony. We look forward to sharing more about how you can participate in this beautiful new event.

Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to seeing you this fall. If you have any questions, please contact us at admin@bfomidwest.org, or call 519-603-0196.