Heidi Hapalo and Christine Hadden sell tickets for the 100 Mile Hospice 50/50 draw at the Farmer's Market Friday. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).

Grieving during pandemic requires extra support

Restrictions to gathering, visiting ill loved ones make for a challenging grief journey

The loss of a loved one is never easy, but the increasing COVID-19 restrictions this past year have made it more painful than ever.

The 100 Mile District Hospice Palliative Care Society can attest to the difficulties of navigating loss during a pandemic, according to executive director Tracy Haddow.

The volunteer-based organization has seen an increase in people who are struggling in light of COVID limitations reaching out for support through their bereavement program.

“A lot of people are finding it’s extra difficult to be able to process their grief in the middle of a pandemic,” Haddow said. “Many people we find are still struggling emotionally from the fires, never mind adding in the pandemic. And now having losses in a time where your supports aren’t available and neither are the systems in place to help people move through their grief, such as funerals and remembrance gatherings, it’s very difficult.”

READ MORE: Butterflies symbol of ‘life and change’ for Hospice

With Hospice Month well underway, the organization is working harder than ever to bring awareness to what they offer the community in the way of support and outreach.

In addition to spreading the word about who hospice is and what they do, Haddow notes they are also aiming to quell some fears that often arise when people are new to engaging with hospice volunteers.

“Quite often people think ‘if we engage with hospice, it means we’re giving up, that we think it’s the last days,’” Haddow explained. “But really, from the moment somebody gets a diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening illness, if we can engage early on, our volunteers are very well trained to come from the place of emotion and processing, to help people to take through whatever they want or don’t want. It’s very much client led.”

The supports offered through various programs aren’t just for patients, but for family members and friends as well, Haddow pointed out.

While this past year has posed many challenges for those navigating illness and grief, it has also impacted the hospice society’s programming capabilities.

Having to minimize in-person contact has meant that volunteers and clients are connecting more on the phone; grief group sessions have also been put on hold for the time being due to restrictions on gathering.

The pandemic has also delayed the completion of the renovated palliative care suites, a joint initiative with Interior Health.

The new wing in the 100 Mile District General Hospital acute care ward will include two client rooms with a roll-in shower room, a mini kitchen, bathroom and sleeping spaces.

“We’re getting closer every day, but a lot of stuff has been delayed,” Haddow said, noting that her office and garage are piled high with furniture while she waits for the go-ahead to move it all into the wing.

With current infection-control protocol at the hospital, as well as the possibility that they may need to use the space for potential COVID patients, Haddow said the timing isn’t quite right to be moving in and finishing the suites.

“It’s an interesting time in the world, but we will get through it and it will all come together eventually,” she said.

In the meantime, the Hospice Society has plenty on the go this spring to keep their fundraising efforts flowing and their programs running the best they can.

Tickets are on sale for their 50/50 draw – which could have a grand prize of $25,000 if it sells out – until noon on June 21.

READ MORE: ‘Grief never goes away’: Hospice seeks to add programs

They have also partnered with the Lac La Hache Bakery to sell palmiers cookies shaped like a butterfly for $1.75 each, with all proceeds throughout the month of May going towards the Hospice Society.

The Cariboo Plant Ranch next to the Red Rock Grill is selling sunflower pots – a large option for $30 and a smaller transplanter for $6.50 – throughout the month as well.

The various fundraisers taking place this spring will help to keep the Hospice Society’s bereavement programs running, and Haddow said volunteers are looking forward to opening back up the group sessions and other in-person supports, as well as hosting another Hospice Walk next month, if restrictions allow.

She encourages anyone touched by life-threatening illness or grief to visit their website, www.100miledistricthospice.org and reach out for support.

“Grief is a layered thing, and trauma is layered. And not being able to be with loved ones and support them in their journey does add the grief.”


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