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‘Essential for my recovery’

Friends in Bereavement celebrates 25 years

KINGSTON, NS - As the Friends in Bereavement groups in the Valley tuned 25, three men stood up to praise the good work the organizations do.

Murray Colbo described how shattered he was seven years ago when his wife died.

“I’d cry, then I was angry, then manic. They let me talk and I got back on track,” he recalled. “I became friends with a whole group of people. They were absolutely essential for my recovery.”

Registered nurse Rajeev Chowdhury thought he knew as a health-care professional how to deal with death, but he said part of him died when his partner passed away.

The members of his Kentville bereavement group understood, he said, and were completely non-judgmental.

“All that matters,” Chowdhury said, “is that I was welcomed and supported.”

Anthony Roefs had two big losses to cope with: his son died in 2013 and his wife a year later. The two losses together, he said, shattered his life.

Roefs, who has since remarried, lauded group facilitator Jennifer Longley of Wolfville for her goodness.

“You made our lives better in so many ways,” he said. “My sanity would not be intact without you.”

The bereavement groups began in 1993 in Kentville, said retired palliative care nurse Gail Gordon, who said the gap in grief therapy was evident at the time.

Longley explained that three volunteers launched the program.

“All of us having gone through grief,” she said.

She never imagined that it would have continued uninterrupted and branch out to Bridgetown, Middleton and Berwick.

The groups are all set up, Longley said, as an eight-week grief recovery program, but each community has its individual characteristics. The Bridgetown group even started a Brier Island retreat.

Members, she said, become “like family. They’re such special people. They get what they want and move on.”

Longley thanked Barb Tracy of Wolfville for tackling the group communications.
Then, she jokingly said, “men are always in the minority. There are no gender differences when it comes to grieving and they put up with the yackety women.”

Fern Brydon, district manager of palliative services, said she relied on Longley’s perspective and help when making families more comfortable talking about death, dying and palliative care.

“You never know how many you’ve impacted,” Longley said. “I feel the love and support.”

Members of bereavement support groups from across the region, including some from the early 90s, attended the anniversary celebration at Kingston United Church on Feb. 13.

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