Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Taking the Plunge

Well, after almost a year of interviews, training, counselling, and meetings it's finally time... I am now officially a volunteer with Alberta Health Services! The program that gave me so much in my early days of grief is now one I get to give back to. In January I start as a co-facilitator for my first official grief group!

I am so excited.

Like, ridiculously excited.

Seems so weird, right?

Only it's not. I was chatting with a fellow volunteer at our last meeting and we both said the same thing - that we can't wait to help someone else, to do something, to be to someone else what this group was for us.

I've found with any type of grief, and being widowed at such a young age in particular, you can feel like the only person in the world going through what you are going through. Everyone around you seems happy and normal and the world keeps chugging along as though nothing has happened. Meanwhile you are drowning in sorrow, feeling left behind more and more every day.

While everyone else is worrying about traffic, paying bills, and what to cook for dinner, you struggle to get out of bed, wear the same shirt four days in a row, and eat cheerios off the floor for breakfast. While they head off to work and meet up with friends for lunch, you cry in the grocery store over your husband's favourite gummi candy and replay the answering machine recording 38 times in a row. They catch their favourite tv show before heading to bed at night while you clutch your spouse's old sweater, inhaling as deeply as you can for imaginary traces of his cologne.

Add to that the fact that most of your friends haven't even lost grandparents, let alone a spouse. You become "special"... only not in a way you ever would have wanted. In fact, being ordinary becomes the long lost dream you never knew you had. Oh what you wouldn't give to be plain and boring and have a simple, happy life like everybody else.

And then you find your grief group.

And there staring back at you are twenty other people who feel exactly the way you do, struggling through the same thing, searching desperately for someone, anyone who understands. And the stories are heartbreaking and awful. You cry. They cry. You heal. They heal. There is something about coming together with strangers over something as heavy as the loss of a spouse that can turn you into instant friends for life.

I don't know what I would have done without my grief group or the fellow wids I met online. Meeting in the midst of such shared turmoil brought us together and brought much-needed comfort. Oh, you ate cheerios off the floor? Me too! SO much easier than cooking, right? Oh, drinking coffee makes you cry? Me too! Wait. That shirt looks like it belongs to a man and hasn't been washed in three months. Mine too!

I love this program and believe in it. It works wonders. For me, it was one of the single greatest tools for processing my grief. It is the first recommendation that comes out of my mouth when people ask about dealing with their own loss. Even for the shy and introverted (yes, believe it or not, that includes me) it can be deeply therapeutic. You can talk or listen, soaking it all in. There is so much to learn from others and great comfort in knowing that you are, in fact, not alone at all. And not nearly as weird as you thought. Mostly.

So I can't wait to get started. I hope I can help as much as others helped me. I hope I can be as strong as others were for me. I hope their life is changed by this program and they realize they are not alone. That they belong, they are loved, and they can survive.

Just like me.


  1. Do these type of groups have people in them who have just broken up from a long term relationship or after an official divorce? I know death and divorce have some similiar components (depression) and I don't know if there is any type of support for people who have recently lived through this and need support.

    1. I don't know of any specifically for divorce but perhaps try meetup.com or something similar - they likely have groups specifically for those going through a divorce. I would also try checking with a counsellor - they have access to resources that are specific to divorce.

  2. Hi Emily,

    I found your site on a grief website. I'm so incredibly sorry for your loss. (How many times do we hear that, right?) I'm sincere though. I can't imagine what you are going through. I recently just lost my dad. I was very close with him, my little buddy... he had cancer and got a 6 month life sentence. We said, "You can pull through this," denying the doctor's crystal ball so to speak... Anyway, of course I grieved --- cried for hours, made sure my mom was ok, cry here and there, but now coming into the 4th month of his passing and now with the holidays approaching, I've been having massive panic attacks at night. Then, the following night, 12+ hrs of sleep. I've been avoiding all my friends, not by choice, it just happened. It feels like the grief is getting stronger as the holidays are approaching, or maybe it's just sinking in more. I don't know. I have my first grief support group next week. I'm hoping to find some sort of relation to what others are going through. I can't talk to my family all that much because they're going through it too --- I know, perfect to come together, but I feel like it would make them cry more. Strange.

    I pray that you heal and recover as you remember your husband in positive ways, loving ways. At times, I'm able to laugh at the funny moments. I hope you can as well, I see you have a sense of humor.

    Thoughts are with you ~

    1. Thank you so much, Deb! I'm very sorry for the loss of your father and I understand that need to be alone and pull away from others. This can be a very difficult time of year for anyone experiencing the loss of a family member. Hang in there and do what feels right for you! Best wishes.

  3. Emily, that's so cool that you are doing this. I am really excited for you! You have a perspective and understanding of grief that non-bereaved facilitators won't have and it will bring so much hope to others. There's a book called "Wounded Healers" and I think of you and how you are going to help bring healing to others through your wounds. I wish you all the best with this!!


  4. I have followed all your blogs since you started them. First your Survivor blog, and then this one. I have always known you to be well rounded, articulate, and smart. Also, I always thought of you as wise beyond your years. For whatever reason we lost touch, but I still come and read your writings. I haven't logged on in awhile, or have ever commented, but now that I see this, I want you to know your words do help. I think this job will be perfect for you, By now means will this be easy, and will undoubtedly bring up memories but in that grief you will help someone. Take comfort in knowing that. You have come a long way, and have a long road still ahead of you. You are amazing for being able to do what you do.
    My sister was murdered in 2011, and I would love to connect to a grief group here in Calgary, and find one for my family to attend too. I have been searching since it happened, and keep hitting dead ends. Please help. Where can I find something like this, that you do, for them?

    Theresa McGregor

    1. Hi Theresa,
      I'm so glad to hear from you! I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your sister. Alberta Health Services offers a grief group specifically for loss of a sibling (as well as many others). Here is the website to help you get started:
      They have a contact information there for you to get signed up. Let me know how it goes!