Through BFO I have found an amazing community of caring and support

Unlike many others, I came “late” to Bereaved Families of Ontario (BFO). Seven years ago our daughter
Erin – a vibrant, active young woman just shy of her 22nd birthday – died from encephalitis (brain swelling) of an unknown cause. The weekend before her death she had spent with us – and cracked us up
with laughter as she relayed the latest stories from her summer job. Three days later she was found dead in her apartment.

Erin was our oldest child – she changed our lives dramatically and for the better the day she was born. In the next four years, two sons arrived to complete our family.

For two years after Erin’s death, our family spiralled downwards; guilt, anger and sadness washed over
us in unrelenting waves and found their expression at times in undesirable and risky behaviours. And then began the slow, hard journey to accept the reality of our losses and to invest in our “new” lives.
Many, many people helped me along my path. It is true about grieving that only you can do it – but you
can’t do it alone! I gratefully accepted help from family, friends, our Ministers and professional counsellors.

I read so many books – that at least let me know I was not going crazy! But joining a grief group was not something I thought I could do – I couldn’t bear to face the pain of others experiencing a loss like ours.

And I was wrong.

Children typically are their parents’ living legacy. Losing Erin forced me to think about how I could best honor her life, how I could become part of her legacy. Erin was always so positive, so giving and so helpful to others – many of her friends and schoolmates gave us precious stories about how she had
helped them with an assignment, cheered them up when they were down, expressed unwavering faith in
their ability to meet a challenge. And so four years ago, I contacted BFO (Midwestern Region), told my
story in a wavering voice and was accepted for volunteer training. This is my third year volunteering – two years with closed groups (Child Loss) and this year with the open group, Living with Loss (LWL).

Through BFO I have found an amazing community of caring and support. I have met so many resilient
people, have learned that in grief you really can both laugh and cry at the same time! I’ve seen people
come into sessions absolutely shattered – and leave two hours later, bolstered by some helpful comment
that a group member said, or a caring hug. And I’ve been privileged to experience incredible displays
of honesty, forgiveness and creativity. But mostly groups are safe places, all about acceptance and
understanding and caring for each other.

A few weeks ago at check in for LWL group, a participant said her spouse had asked how long she
intended to keep coming. She responded, truthfully, that she did not know. When it was my turn for check in that evening, I told the group that I never intended to stop coming to Group! Being a facilitator for BFO is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life – and as long as I can, I intend to keep on being a volunteer.

Gwen McBride