Those who are suffering from a loss are not alone–there are local resources they can access to help address their grief.
“The Grief Outreach Program,” offered jointly by the Family Drop In Centre in the old Bonnie Blue building (272 Scott St.) and Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services, gives people who are grieving the tools needed to address their loss and better navigate their emotions in a meaningful way.
“Generally the response has been positive,” said program facilitator Mary Elder. “The participants have indicated that they’ve learned a lot about grief and about their struggle to express or internalize [it].”
The content of the program follows the guideline of the “Grief Recovery Handbook,” written by John W. James and Russel Friedman, both of whom experienced significant losses and who could not find adequate support to help process their feelings.
After considerable research, they developed and wrote the handbook, which now has been translated into several languages and is used around the world to help those who are grieving.
The book expands on the understanding of what constitutes a loss, explores misconceptions about grief, addresses the uniqueness of it, how people have been conditioned to suppress it, and how to resolve incomplete communications related to grief.
The first series of sessions wrapped up recently and those who participated indicated they learned a lot about themselves in relation to grief, how their open expressions of grief were oppressed, and how their losses affected them, Elder noted.
And once the program was completed, they acknowledged a shift in their intensity of grief–a shift Elder said that was unique to each person.
The program explores how others often do not know how to respond in a way that is supportive of someone when they are grieving.
For instance, individuals can say things like “they’re in a better place now” or “they’re not in pain anymore.” And while these comments might be intellectually correct, they do not support the emotional state of someone who is grieving.
“Many cultures tend to shut down the emotional process of grievers in response to inquiry about how they are doing,” Elder said.
“Grievers tend to say ‘I’m fine’ and mask what they’re going through in order to stay connected.
“What I like about this program is the emphasis that everybody’s grief is unique and no one has the right to judge other’s expressions of grief,” she added.
“There is a clear message that a loss is a loss–that my loss is as hurtful as your loss, that grief is grief, and it is important to remember and respect this.”
Elder urged those who are struggling with an emotional loss of any kind to embrace their grief and work to address outstanding emotional issues related to it.
“I would encourage people to not be afraid of their grief,” she remarked.
“I would encourage them to understand that their heart has broken and that there are some very clear steps that they can take to help mend their heart.”