A Hospice Story of Love and Grief
It’s been said that grief can feel like a walk through a labyrinth path. Janet and Ted have both traversed that path. First, solo. Now, side-by-side. In early 2013, Janet’s husband Trevor died after 27 years of marriage. Later that year, Ted’s wife Pat died after 19 years of marriage.
Ted and Janet first met at a bereavement support group offered by Victoria Hospice’s Bereavement Services. “I started going to group a year after I lost Trevor,” explains Janet. “Going there every week was a necessity for me to help with my grief.”
Janet found group and individual sessions to be a vital support for her. Ted attended one-on-one counselling but found it wasn’t comfortable for him, so the counsellor suggested attending a group session. “I wasn’t sure how I felt about it,” admits Ted, “but I decided to try it out.” He attended group every Wednesday after that for a year and half. “When other people opened up it made it easier for me to talk,” he says.
Over time, members of the group got to know each other and, after sessions, they would walk down the hill for a coffee at Tim Horton’s. “Oftentimes I would leave group feeling sombre and I’d get a shock as I stepped back into the real world with other people who were not grieving,” admits Janet. “That social time together was a nice buffer between group and the real world,” she says.
Indeed, those coffee dates evolved into even more socializing for those who were interested. One summer a group member invited everyone over for a barbeque. Says Janet: “It was so nice to laugh amongst each other without feeling guilty.” Janet had travelled by bicycle that evening but as the party went much later than expected, Ted ended up driving her home.
Soon after that, and after a year and half in group, Ted and Janet went on their first walk together in Beacon Hill Park. “I didn’t think of it as a date,” Janet states emphatically. “If I had thought it was date I wouldn’t have gone! Finding love was totally off the radar for me.”
Many of Janet’s friends are widowed. “Some hope to find love again; others not” she says. “I have deep respect and understanding for every path they’re on. There is no right or wrong way. In fact, I would say the biggest lesson I learned by going to group is that there are no ‘shoulds’ in grief.”
While there is no right or wrong way, Ted’s experience was that men and women grieve differently. “When I was grieving, my friends were supportive but we didn’t talk about my loss. With a few exceptions, we usually avoided the subject,” he says. “Janet has a big social network, and so many friends to open up and share her feelings with.” Group sessions became an outlet for his grief, a time to pause, reflect and open up. “I kept my life busy. I ticked things off my to do list every day – from the meaningful to the mundane – but Wednesdays at group became my ‘day of grief.’”
Finding Support and Comfort in Each Other
Talking with other bereaved people – be they friends, family members or professional counsellors – can help to lighten the weight of grief. For Ted and Janet, they found solace and relief in participating in the bereavement group sessions. They also find comfort in each other.
They continue to make space for their grief. “Trevor and Pat will always be a part of our lives,” says Janet of their former spouses. “When your partner is also widowed you almost feel as though they can understand you. Ted knows when something has triggered me. I don’t have to hold it in.”
Each year Ted and Janet donate to Victoria Hospice to support end-of-life care programs, such as bereavement services. Says Janet: “I don’t know what I would have done without the grief counselling at Victoria Hospice. Anything we can do to give back gives us comfort.”
How Victoria Hospice Can Help You Manage Grief
Around Valentine’s Day, it’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed by the ubiquity of red roses and pink hearts filling our newsfeeds and shop windows. For those grieving a loved one, this time of year can be especially challenging.
Grief has a tendency to resurface again and again. Special events and holidays – like Valentine’s Day – can cause feelings of grief to return or intensify. Sometimes it can happen out of the blue and feel like an unwelcome intrusion. You could be enjoying yourself one moment and be in tears the next.
Victoria Hospice offers compassionate education, support and professional counselling services for those experiencing loss. Support is available in individual and group settings, in person or by phone, and for all age groups. And thanks to generous community donors, most services are offered free of charge.
Some ideas for managing grief when it is triggered:
- Notice your thoughts and feelings
- Talk about your grief and who you have lost
- Engage in self-soothing activities such as walks, visiting, listening to music or helping others
- Build a piece of ‘memory time’, or any other personal grief ritual, into that particular day. Remembering ca be healing. It’s much easier to cope with memories we’ve chosen than to have them take us by surprise. Some possibilities: write a love letter, smile a smile for the person you miss, light a red candle, tell someone about the person you miss
For more information please see our Bereavement Services page.