A grief support program operated by the Airdrie & District Hospice Society is moving online to ensure mourners can still receive the help they need during difficult times.
“With COVID-19, many of us have [gone] on to new ways of doing things,” said Lise Blanchette, the society's executive director. “There is a lot of grief happening out there. With all of the loss in people’s lives, it can lead to feelings of grief for them. It’s important for people to accept and allow their feelings.”
Blanchette said grief experienced by mourners has been compounded by the fact funeral services cannot be held right now, while support systems have become smaller due to gathering restrictions. Because of this, she said the support the online program provides is important for those currently in mourning.
According to Blanchette, the program has shifted to last up to eight weeks, allowing for shorter program sessions. She said it can be difficult to participate online for long amounts of time.
"It can be overwhelming to be in front of a computer all of the time,” she said. “When you are grieving the loss of someone, we want to make it as friendly and as open as we can.”
The hospice society's grief program, which has been offered since 2014, accepts eight to 10 people per intake, and is offered four times a year. The next session, which is available for people 18 and older, starts Jan. 7, 2021, with a registration deadline of Dec. 31.
“Everybody needs an opportunity to share and feel comfortable,” Blanchette said, adding the program’s curriculum focuses on teaching people what grief is, exploring feelings, and how to cope with losing a loved one.
“When you lose someone, that contains you throughout your life,” shen said. “What we try to do is show people and normalize the fact that grief is a part of life. It doesn’t matter if two people have both lost a sibling – each person’s grief is different.”
People who are grieving, according to Blanchette, connect to other people who are going through similar circumstances. She said the program helps people form relationships and support systems during a very hard time.
“It helps people be able to support themselves after the program ends,” she said.
Blanchette said when someone passes away, the grief can be intense. She said people sometimes try and take on the burden of loss by themselves, which can have lasting effects if not properly dealt with.
“The healing process isn’t happening as smoothly or as quickly as it could [compared to] if they reach out to a support group,” she said. “They can walk away with more understanding for what they are going through.”
Meetings will be held Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. and will run until Feb. 25, 2021. Those interested in participating in the program may register at airdriehospice.ca or call 403-880-0420 for more information.