It hasn’t been an easy road, but these volunteers continue to believe in me

Brigette shared the following story as part of National Volunteer Week celebrations on April 14, 2016. Her story is an inspiring one – of learning and growing through her grief, a journey that eventually lead her to become a volunteer facilitator herself.

When Jaime asked me to speak today on how volunteers have impacted me, I really had to give this some thought.

You see, my grief journey started out west when I lived in Alberta, where there is no BFO. In fact, I couldn’t find any organization, resources, or help dealing with grief in the tiny town I lived in and I started my journey feeling very isolated and alone. I struggled, even spiraled at times, trying to keep my head above the darkness that consumed me.

About six years ago, my husband and I moved to Ontario, to be closer to his aging parents. The change helped my state of mind, I made new friends, gained a new family and began to discover some much needed happiness in my life.

But life has a way of throwing curve balls to keep you on your toes.

In 2013 it did just that when my friend lost her partner in a terrible plane crash and my husband lost his father to cancer. This time, I was on the other side of the grief, as the supporter. I knew the grief experience intimately but I didn’t know how to help my friend or husband on their new journey.

This is when my friend found Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region, but she didn’t want to go alone. I attended the first Living with Loss meeting with her. My intention was to be there to support her but I ended up gaining so much from those meetings that I kept returning for myself.

Even being several years into my loss, thinking I had it all together, I still harbored feelings that I didn’t know what to do with. It was through this group that I finally understood the dark thoughts, the weight of my grief and how to deal with it.

The facilitators had so many nuggets of wisdom from their own experiences that they unknowingly, provide me with the tools to deal with mine.

I now know I will never be the person I was before the loss but I am comfortable with who I have become, and where this new individual is going.

“Grief is a nasty game of feeling the weakest you have ever felt and morphing it into the strongest person you will ever become.” I truly believe this, as I have become stronger everyday but I didn’t get to this point alone.

I had some impactful helpers along the way, a couple of very important, inspirational and encouraging BFO volunteers I thank for being a big part of the enormous changes I’ve have in the last few years.

While dealing with my grief I kept a journal, a place to put my emotions and thoughts where no one could judge me for them. The facilitators didn’t know this but they gave me the tools to turn those ugly words around. Making sense of them helped trigger my imagination and from that I wrote my first novel, which published in 2014.

Since then the facilitators, who have become dear friends, have continued to encourage me on this path, I published another book in 2015 with a third coming out this year and the fourth, I’m happy to announce is well on its way from my crazy mind to paper.

This has not been an easy road but these volunteers continue to believe in me. They check in with me frequently, motivate me when I feel the dark clouds moving in and push me forward when things get too overwhelming.

However, one volunteer in particular has impacted me the most. He reminds me a lot of my Dad. I think this is why I find such a connection with him and like my own father, I seem to be able to talk with him about anything.

So when I had the opportunity for my first book signing and shared with him my fears of public speaking, he coached me through it, by suggesting I become a volunteer myself. Up until then, I had only shared as a member in the group but I had come full circle and it made perfect sense for me to use my own experiences to hopefully help others through their grief journey too.

I now run the Cambridge Living with Loss Group, and the impact continues because every time we meet, I find I get way more out of it than anything I could ever give in return.

My journey brought me to where I am now but the facilitators I met along the way have shown me our life has a purpose, our story is important, our dreams count, our voice matters, and we can have an impact on each other.

I thank all the volunteers here today and a special thank you to those who had and continue to have such an important impact on my life.