It is said it takes a village to raise a child, but Erin shares it also “takes a community to help support someone who grieves the death of their child.”
Erin’s daughter Ava was only six weeks old when she died in 2010. She experienced what many bereaved parents do when a child dies. She felt “there is no end in sight and I will not get over it. I will never feel whole again.” But she discovered that sharing her grief, coupled with a compassionate and openhearted community of others on the grief journey, was paramount in processing and healing.
I wanted to give to a community
Part of the healing process for Erin included sharing her experience with others, as both an author and openly speaking about her daughter, her grief and the aftermath. In 2018, Erin decided to combine her lived experience as a bereaved mom along with her work experience as an intuitive bereavement coach, and applied to become a volunteer facilitator with Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR). “I wanted to give more to the grief community that clearly needs more support. Every human being will face grief at some point in their life.”
Erin contributed to BFO-MR’s community of support by becoming a volunteer facilitator for its program for parents grieving the death of an infant.
Hope, community and understanding
Erin says when you come to a BFO-MR group, you are gathering people together at their darkest and often most hopeless moments. “As a peer facilitator, our goal is for members to have a feeling of hope, community and understanding among them.”
“When sharing experiences, threads of everyone’s stories are woven together. This helps to connect as a group and support each other through the difficult and challenging emotions and situations that come with grief,” Erin shares “You don’t get through the hardest struggles and loss in this life without support. When we have support from others who have been there, we are given hope that not only can we walk through the pain, but more importantly, it can and will get better.”
Facilitating provides additional purpose and meaning to your own loss.
Erin shares that facilitating aids in giving meaning and purpose to her experience and is fulfilling in a way that cannot be tangibly measured. Facilitators and members are connected through their shared experience and the process of participating in a group that is healing for both members and facilitators alike. “I understand what they are going through because I have been where they are. You can see it in their faces and through their body language – it bonds us together.”
She reinforces that the goal of the group is not to help people “get over it, but rather to provide a safe place to acknowledge, honour their loved ones and move forward in life, integrating their loved one’s memory. This allows the bereft to feel whole again and is an integral part of them working towards a place of happiness and peace.”
“BFO-MR does an exceptional good job in supporting their volunteers. They provide us with the tools and support to help us help others,” Erin says.
Coming back to the “it takes a village” philosophy, facilitating a peer support group is not an individual endeavor. It is a team effort that requires all hands on deck to ensure participation is a positive and healing experience for everyone. BFO-MR provides that safe container for the bereaved.
Erin offers these final reflections on being a facilitator: “Know your boundaries. Be aware of your triggers. Reach out and ask for what you need to support you. It is very special to be part of other’ journey through grief. It is an honour to be a witness for others. To those who are just beginning to traverse the grief road, you are hope.”