Grief counselor speaks to residents

LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. — The cloud of grief that hangs over a Quebec town ravaged by a train derailment might never lift for dozens of families whose loved ones vanished without a trace. A grief counsellor sent in to help comfort the battered town of Lac-Megantic says that, without a body to bury, many can’t move past the denial stage of loss.

LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. — The cloud of grief that hangs over a Quebec town ravaged by a train derailment might never lift for dozens of families whose loved ones vanished without a trace.

A grief counsellor sent in to help comfort the battered town of Lac-Megantic says that, without a body to bury, many can’t move past the denial stage of loss.

Richard Vaillancourt says the uncertainty can keep families in limbo for years.

Vaillancourt’s team of more than 30 counsellors has listened to shell-shocked residents in community centres and fire stations.

“When we have nothing to confirm that the person we love has died, that denial stretches over time,” he said Thursday. “It’s hard to move on to other things — to experience anger, then experience sadness… then to say, ‘OK, I accept it and I’m going to take care of myself and return to a normal rhythm of living,”’ he said.

About 50 people are feared to have died in last weekend’s disaster but, so far, only one body has been identified.

Some families have found comfort in speaking publicly about their lost loved ones.

Some would rather not.

A first victim was named by police Thursday — 93-year-old Elianne Parenteau, who lived near the tracks.

Her son had spoken publicly about his mom while he still held out hope she might still be alive. Now the family is busy planning a funeral.

“Everything has been said,” said her son, Michel Boulanger, in a phone interview.

“I just want to keep quiet and let her rest in peace.”

Louise Boulet doesn’t know when a funeral might be held for her sister.

Boulet, 63, said she’s sure her sister Marie-France died in the blast, and while she and her nine other siblings accept that, they won’t be at peace until they have her ashes.

“There’s not a lot left, but we definitely want something to put in an urn,” she said.

Though the town is likely to hold a collective memorial to honour those who disappeared in the explosion, Boulet said she won’t let the sister — whom she called her family’s “Mother Teresa” — become an anonymous victim.

“My sister will get her own funeral,” she said.

Born only a year apart, the two sisters were each others’ confidantes, a bond reflected in the name of the upscale lingerie boutique Marie-France, 62, owned: Mari Loup, a combination of their names.

Though she left her hometown as a young woman for Quebec City and later Montreal, Marie-France Boulet returned eight years ago to take over the shop while her sister cared for a dying relative.

She was a meticulous woman who labelled and dated every gift she received in her trademark scribble. Marie-France revelled in the business and even lived in an apartment behind the store, her sister said.

That’s likely where she was early Saturday when the train came careening off the tracks, said Louise, who has kept votive candles burning since her sister went missing.

Many more were in the nearby Musi-Cafe, the town hotspot, to listen to a popular local act or celebrate with friends.

Stephane Bolduc was there to mark his 37th birthday, his friend Sebastien Audet said. Bolduc’s girlfriend, Karine Champagne, made a rare appearance at the bar for the occasion.

The couple had been together for less than a year but were serious about each other, spending weekends outdoors skiing cross-country and downhill, Audet said.

It was the second time tragedy struck around Bolduc’s birthday.

His previous girlfriend had died two years ago from a blood clot, prompting him to overhaul his life and pursue his dream of selling cars, his friend said.

In the final two years, he got his dream job; he obtained his dream car, an SUV Grand Cherokee, and a motorcycle; and he found love again.

“He accomplished many things before leaving us,” Audet said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City council will have to wait longer to hear back from administration on possible alternative sites — if the homeless shelter is moved from Red Deer downtown. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alternative sites for homeless shelter will be explored by the City of Red Deer

Council gave administration more time to return with a report

Quentin Lee Strawberry was found not guilty of second-degree murder in connection with stabbing death of Joseph Gallant in March 2019. (Photo from RCMP)
Updated: O’Chiese man found not guilty of 2019 stabbing death of Red Deer man

Quentin Strawberry found guilty of assaulting murdered man’s common-law partner

(Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer property tax bills are in the mail

Red Deer 2021 tax notices are on their way. Red Deer property… Continue reading

‘Dear Future Children’ takes top audience prize at Hot Docs film festival

‘Dear Future Children’ takes top audience prize at Hot Docs film festival

FILE - Signage promoting the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards and NBC appears in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Jan. 5, 2020. NBC said Monday that will not air the Golden Globes in 2022. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
Amid outcry, NBC says it will not air Golden Globes in 2022

Amid outcry, NBC says it will not air Golden Globes in 2022

RCMP officers work at the scene after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. Homicide investigators expect to release more information about a deadly shooting in Burnaby on Saturday that police say could be linked to a similar slaying at Vancouver's airport just one day later. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

A Palestinian protester does a handstand next to a fire which was set on a road during clashes with Israeli police near Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem's Old City, Sunday, May 9, 2021. Israeli police have been clashing with Palestinian protesters almost nightly in the holy city's worst religious unrest in several years. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Hamas launches new attack on Israel after Jerusalem clashes

Hamas launches new attack on Israel after Jerusalem clashes

Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet holds a news conference before Question Period, Monday, May 10, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
NDP join Liberals to cut short debate, move pandemic election bill forward

NDP join Liberals to cut short debate, move pandemic election bill forward

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question as he speaks with reporters on Parliament Hill, Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Ottawa. Singh says he believes there's a connection between anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests and far-right extremism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

Most Read