By Spencer McBride, The Guard –
Michèle Miller Brown lost her husband in May of 2017. She had been married to Pipe Major Sergeant Tom Brown for several years, and had a child together before his untimely death. Through the tragedy, she felt comforted by her support network of family and friends, and when she was first contacted by the HOPE Peer Support Program for bereaved families, she did not believe she needed the service. When her first casual phone inquiry, which was intended to last only five minutes, expanded into an emotional hour-long session, she realized the value of what the service was able to offer.
The HOPE program seeks to provide social support assistance to families that are affected by the loss of a loved one in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), either active or retired, matching the bereaved families to trained peer volunteers who have experienced similar losses. The transition period for those left behind after a loved one dies is very difficult. Family, friends, and professional counsellors are often available for support, but many bereaved individuals also express a desire to speak with a peer who has been through the same experience. For many, that connection makes a significant difference in the grieving process.
Those looking to volunteer go through an excellent training program, covering everything from the common feelings they will encounter to how to deal with compassion fatigue. They learn how to best provide support and act as role models to help others through their grief and recovery journey.
HOPE is a complementary program which is not intended to replace other traditional bereavement services, but it can be impactful nevertheless. For Michèle, the peer counselling was an opportunity for growth. “I didn’t realize how I was feeling until I spoke to another widow my age,” she says. “It had a more profound impact on me than any other source, one that I didn’t foresee as possible. Talking through what was happening to me as part of our shared experience gave me the kind of path towards healing that I didn’t even know I needed.” Joining the program as a peer support coordinator has also helped her find her new path, as she finds that practicing compassion each day helps her as much as those she speaks to.
The HOPE volunteers offer support, a sympathetic ear, understanding of the grief journey, shared experiences, and new options.
All calls and emails are confidential.
Photo courtesy of CAFConnection
This post is also available in: Français (French)