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Mayor Johnston: Facing grief together


My dear Red Deerians, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, and were able to spend time with family and friends. For Council and I, this holiday season was a somber one. As you know, we experienced two great losses within our Council family.

On Christmas Eve, we received the news that we had lost our dear Councillor Michael Dawe. Michael was a much beloved brother, parent, uncle, friend, Councillor, writer and archivist. Then, a few short days later, we received the news that former Councillor Frank Wong had also passed. Frank was passionate about Red Deer, and we will remember him for his wisdom and generosity.

And most recently, we lost yet another incredible champion in Jack Donald. Jack Donald was a hero of mine, and I regarded him as one of the most outstanding philanthropists and community builders that Red Deer, the province of Alberta, indeed, Canada, has been graced with. I will have more to offer as a tribute to Jack in the following days, weeks and months, but needless to say, his loss is profound.

We very much appreciated the incredible offering of condolences that you shared with Council and I during this time. It meant a great deal to us, as we faced our grief together. That brought me to thinking about the struggle of people facing grief, and what helps you in those moments.

In the journey of life, grief is an inevitable companion. It arrives uninvited, disrupting the very fabric of our existence and leaving us grappling with emotions that are often overwhelming. Whether triggered by the loss of a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, or a profound life change, grief can be an isolating experience. In such moments, the strength of a community becomes a beacon of hope, offering comfort and support to those navigating the turbulent waters of sorrow.

Dealing with grief is a deeply personal process, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, the collective embrace of a caring community can serve as a crucial lifeline during these challenging times. One of the fundamental ways communities contribute to healing is through empathy and active listening. By acknowledging the pain of individuals and providing a non-judgmental space for them to express their feelings, a community lays the foundation for a shared journey towards recovery.

Support networks within communities can take various forms, from formal grief counseling groups to informal gatherings of friends and neighbors. These spaces offer individuals an opportunity to share their experiences, exchange coping strategies, and find comfort in the commonality of grief. In the act of sharing, the burden of sorrow is lightened, and a sense of connection emerges, reinforcing the idea that no one is truly alone in their pain.

Acts of kindness, no matter how small, can make a profound impact on someone grappling with grief. Whether it’s a neighbor offering a listening ear, a community organizing a memorial event, or friends providing practical assistance, these gestures demonstrate the power of collective compassion.

In essence, dealing with grief is a shared responsibility. Communities have the potential to be a source of strength, empathy, and understanding. By fostering an environment where individuals feel supported and heard, communities can help mend the broken pieces of grieving hearts, turning pain into an opportunity for collective healing. As we navigate the complexities of life and loss, let us remember that, together, we can be a beacon of hope in the darkest of times.

And my dear Red Deerians, what an incredible community we have here at the ready for us. I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit, learn, and benefit from our collective community spirit, and for that I am so grateful to you all.

If you are suffering from grief of any kind, please know there are resources available to you. Alberta Health Services has many resources, you can find those online or simply call 811 for assistance. As well the Primary Care Network offers grief support programing, and many other formal programs, supports and services are offered by local agencies, churches, schools and associations. Help is always here for you, and my dear Red Deerians, we are here for you.

Ken Johnston is the mayor of Red Deer