Grief support group takes shape at nursing home
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When dealing with grief, it helps to look for happiness amid the heartbreak.

Assisting residents of a local nursing home navigate the grieving process is volunteer Barb Kelly of Bereaved Families of Ontario.

“When people are grieving, it’s like a light goes out. They need to learn to live with the loss,” the Amherstview woman explains softly from Helen Henderson Care Centre where she plans to launch a grief support group on Nov. 11.

A volunteer at the accredited long-term care home for the past 14 years, Barb knows the residents and staff from years of pet therapy and supportive visits. She plans to hold the support group for one-hour, twice a month, in the Gibson Family Room.

“It’s such a nice room,” says the 61-year-old trained facilitator. “We can shut the door for privacy. It’s a cheery room with a big window. Light is important. The room conveys the same feel and look of this home: comfortable and cheery.

“I love this home,” she continues wistfully from Reception Three where her father-in-law has lived since last March. “I’ve been kicking around here for quite some time. It’s nice to see a multi-faceted facility like this which has retirement living, long-term care and specialized extended care.”


Married with an adult son, Barb saw the need for a grief support group in the mostly senior population.

“I’m familiar with most of the residents and I know there are a few people here who have suddenly lost their spouse,” she explains. “You see a lot of loneliness and people starting to withdraw. I think helping people deal with grief is important work.”

Speaking on behalf of the accredited the home, Activity Director Donna Joudoin notes, “I was delighted when Barb approached me about starting this support group because we’ve always wanted to offer something like this at Helen Henderson Care Centre.  We know it’s going to help our families, residents, staff and community.  Barb has been a volunteer here for many years and always shows great compassion and care. It’s been said that death is not the greatest loss in life. It’s what dies inside us while we live. Barb’s efforts to help people deal with grief is a wonderful way to ensure internal lights shine as bright as possible for as long as possible.”

According to Barb, people are welcome to contribute to the discussion or sit quietly and listen.

“Grief affects people in many ways, not just emotionally, but physical aches and pains,” she explains patiently. “Sometimes people have problems sleeping or eating. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. Hugs are important. They’re therapeutic.”

Equipped with years of volunteer visiting experience and training as a bereavement facilitator, Barb brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the home. She plans to use compassion, kindness and patience as guides.

“I’m here because I have experienced a lot of loss in my life,” she attests. “I think it’s important to have this type of program; especially in a long-term family where death is a natural part of life. It happens. I just think a program would be hugely helpful.”

The support group is open to residents, family members, volunteers and staff.

“I think I have a good solid visiting knowledge of the needs of the people who reside here,” she says. “I think it’s nice for them to have a safe place to express their feelings.

“I’m just trying to make a difference,” she says kindly.

Helen Henderson Care Centre is grateful for good work of volunteers such as Barb Kelly. To learn more about living, working or volunteering in our home, please call 613-384-4585.

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