Help for the grieving

The mother of slain Mountie Brock Myrol said losing her son is like living with amputation.

Colleen Myrol

The mother of slain Mountie Brock Myrol said losing her son is like living with amputation.

“Part of me is gone,” Colleen Myrol said at a news conference Wednesday to call for more bereavement support for those who have lost loved ones. “I am not the same person I used to be. I am forever changed.”

Since her son and three other RCMP officers were killed in Mayerthorpe in March 2005 she has attended bereavement support groups and sees the need to provide more help for those coming to terms with a loss.

“We need to offer resources for professionals and volunteers to assist them so they can help others with the grief process.

“In our Western culture when it comes to death we flounder, hide, ignore and deny its impact on the lives of our family, friends and community.

“We need to take grief out of the closet and give grief the respect and reverence and education it deserves.”

After the Canadian Mental Health Association discontinued its bereavement services in 2007, the organization sought funding to conduct a Bereavement Needs Assessment Study in Central Alberta with support from the Red Deer Hospice Society.

Over the last 16 months, a series of interviews were conducted with people who deal with bereavement including mental health providers, palliative care nurses, pastors, funeral homes, addictions counsellors and others; four focus groups met in Wetaskiwin, Olds, Red Deer and Stettler; and an online survey set up that gathered more than 500 responses.

That effort showed that more bereavement support is needed, it must be co-ordinated across the region, available at all hours, and be of low or little cost.

There is also a need for additional training for those offering help, whether they are professionals or volunteers.

That feedback forms the basis of a series of recommendations that were unveiled Wednesday. To help provide more education and co-ordination it is recommended a regional bereavement services co-ordinator be created, a website offering regional information be set up and a 1-800-number be established for information and referral.

Myrol said the findings and recommendations were “right on target.

“We really, definitely need a central area where people can go for grief. It’s really lacking for families to go to just one spot and say, ‘Where do I go and how can I be helped?’

“If we can achieve that in this room that would be incredible.”

David Mallett lost his wife after a three-month battle with cancer nearly two years ago and found there were few people to talk to.

“You’re dealing with stuff you don’t understand,” he said. He felt as if he had been “walloped” at the same time as he was expected to make important decisions for his teenage daughter and family.

“I represent a number of people who have lost a spouse through death,” he said. “But the community at large around us doesn’t know how to support us.

“We’re not looking for special treatment. We’re just looking for some treatment — some way of communicating.”

Brenda Watts, of the Red Deer Hospice Society and co-chair of the study steering committee, said their work showed that bereavement help is fragmented throughout Central Alberta and missing entirely in some communities.

Creating a 1-800 number, upgrading the hospice society website — or ultimately establishing a regional bereavement centre — will require funding at a time when grants and other financial support is harder to come by. The society is turning to the community for donations.

Rimbey physician Dr. Kim Adzich said it is important to provide specialized help for those dealing with issues such as sudden deaths, teen suicide or cancer. Adzich would like to see a centralized place developed where expertise can be found, while improving bereavement support in rural areas.

Simone Schumacher, bereavement support co-ordinator at Red Deer Hospice, said many people don’t know how to talk about death. Those who have suffered a loss sometimes feel abandoned because friends and family are unsure what to say.

“People want to support. They are not sure how to do it.”

Schumacher said that’s where bereavement support can help.

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