News

Grief support groups for all ages and stages available in Woodstock

By Megan Stacey, The London Free Press

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Fotolia

Laughter, tears, and a whole lot of pressure – it must be Christmastime.

For many people the holidays are less about joy and more about making it through despite the grief and sadness of a missing family member or friend.

“Christmas brings back memories for everybody, childhood memories or otherwise. Here I am, my mother’s been gone 25 years, and whenever I hear Silent Night, I have to shed a tear,” said Nicole Bruder, a local trained grief supporter.

She noted that sometimes people become frustrated with the emotions the holiday season might evoke.

“Many people put time limits on themselves, thinking ‘why am I thinking this again?’”

But the absence of loved ones can be particularly pronounced this time of year.

“How many families have that large gathering any other time during the year?” Bruder said.

There’s no need to struggle alone. Woodstock is absolutely brimming with grief and bereavement groups to lend a little support to those dealing with the death of a friend or family member.

Sakura House began their Kids Circle in 2016, a program to support children and teens – a very underserved population when it comes to death and loss – as they grieve.

“It’s a fabulous program. We talk about their grief and their experience with death, but we do it in a kid-friendly way and there’s always activities involved,” said Anne Marie Wallace Phillips, coordinator of hospice and bereavement.

“It’s just a safe and comfortable place for the children to express their grief.”

This fall marked the second session of the program, with seven children between ages four and 11. The next session will be in the spring of 2017, and there are plans to expand the program to other locations.

“My facilitators teach them coping skills and strategies,” said Wallace Phillips. “There’s definitely a need for this type of support for children.”

The holidays are a tough time, no matter how old you are or who you’re missing.

“For all the families involved, this will be the first Christmas without their loved one,” said Wallace Phillips of the kids group.

Bruder and Wallace Phillips have a number of tips to help those who are grieving get through the season:

-Find ways to remember and honour the person you’re missing, whether it’s a memorial candle or donating a gift your loved one would have liked to charity.

-Ask for help, even when it’s hard. If you’re not up to cooking a turkey dinner, ask family to pitch in or offer to bring a side dish.

-Talk about your loved one and let others know they’re welcome to do the same.

-Don’t expect too much of yourself. Especially when it comes to holiday traditions, decide what is important to you and forget about the rest.

-Give yourself an out. Drive to parties so you can duck out at any time if the environment is too overwhelming or painful.

Bruder is also preparing to start two programs for the winter season, one specifically for those grieving someone who died by suicide.

“A lot of friendships have been formed through the groups,” she said. “They come to realize they’re not alone. You get to learn from other people what helps them along the journey.”

That camaraderie and support is crucial for many people who are struggling with the loss of a loved one.

“Grief shared is less grief,” Bruder said.

 

FIND A SUPPORT GROUP

 

Understanding your Grief

  • 8 week session, Thursdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Call 519-537-3611 to register.
  • Cost is minimal.

 

Understanding your Suicide Grief

  • 9 week support group, Tuesdays 7 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Call 519-537-3611 to register.
  • Cost is minimal.

 

Suicide Bereavement Support Group

  • Free peer support group, second Tuesday of each month, 7 to 9 p.m.
  • Call 519-539-8055 x210 to register.

 

Caring Circle

  • Free drop-in support group run by VON.
  • First Wednesday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Sakura House, third Thursday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Sakura House, third Saturday each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at VON Office.
  • Call 519-537-8515 x3 to register.

 

Kids Circle

  • Bereavement group for children.
  • Next session will be Spring 2017.
  • Call 519-537-8515 x3 for more information.