As a new volunteer, I am still very much in the learning phase. I am practicing being in the present, active listening and group dynamics, as well as exploring meaningful activities for the group participants.
I have been a volunteer co-facilitator with the weekly palliative care peer support group since January 2022. I was interested in volunteering in this area due to my own personal experiences with palliative care support (friends and family), as well as the opportunity to use my professional skills as a social worker (working with people with chronic health conditions and disabilities) to improve individuals quality of life.
I have been a HPC volunteer for nearly 3 years. I realized these clients desperately need someone to listen to them and show understanding; I know I do not have the skill sets or experience to resolve their issues. I can however listen to them and also help them with tasks ( such as driving them) that will ease their burden.
When I was in high school, I had the chance to volunteer in hospitals were I saw a lot of people willingly giving their time and dedication to the physical and mental wellbeing of others. Those simple acts of kindness resonated with me so much that I felt that I wanted to be that kind of person.
Recently, I visited a client at her home. This was the 2nd client within the same family unit over a space of time. When I arrived to do the home visit and assessment, the client reminded me that it was the one year anniversary of the death of her family member. She said that I had been in the client’s home on the day of his death a year ago and had assisted her mother and sister know that they could bathe the client’s body and that they could take their time in saying their goodbyes before they called the funeral home. She said it was no coincidence that I came on the same day and that they were going to attend a special Mass for him after the assessment. She added she felt it was his way of saying thank you.
My name is Chrystalla Chew, Palliative Care Co-coordinator in the Hospice Palliative Care team. My three programs support clients namely, by matching them with a volunteer to visit in their home who provides social and emotional support or respite for their caregiver. The two other support programs are our Peer-to-Peer Day Hospice Support Group and our Caregiver Peer-to-Peer Support Group.
Another key part of HPC is the Bereavement Care Program. Alexa Callaghan, a bereavement coordinator shares that the program at SCHC offers support and information to individuals in Scarborough who are coping with grief and loss through individual peer support and peer-facilitated mutual support bereavement groups. Support is provided by a screened and trained volunteer, who has also experienced the death of a loved one to facilitate discussion of your grief journey and experiences. Walking, Therapeutic Art and Meditation groups are also offered.
Our HPC program also includes Psychosocial Spiritual Care (PSSC) , which offers carefully planned, collaborative support for your needs as well as the needs of your family, friends, or caregivers. The coordinator, Karen Rajendra, says through compassionate listening in a spirit of welcoming presence, we assist you to draw upon your own emotional and spiritual resources or find new ways to create meaning, value, purpose, and connection in the face of illness and dying.
I really want to say that your (PSSC) coordinator has been a life saver. I started counselling with her in a such dramatic /chaotic way. My dad wasn’t convinced that any counselling would be of help and it took much coercing for him to give it a try. He mentioned the coordinator’s name a few times with much fondness, making me curious about the agency and the work carried out. I found her so supportive that was much better than some of my friends and my colleagues as the relationship grown from strangers to trusted friends. She had the personal and professional touch that got me to today….. I do not know how to express my gratitude for the referral and to your coordinator, as she is guiding me through this difficult time. - Mr. Wilfred O’Connor’s daughter
The biggest challenge I was facing is depression. I lost the three most important adults in my life in the space of 6 months and felt utterly rudderless. I was lost, alone, and didn't know how to carry on, or why.
I attended two SCHC bereavement groups. During the first one, I barely opened my mouth - it was too hard to try to speak. Nonetheless, just being there and hearing others' stories gave me comfort. It also began to help me to see that I wasn't doing the grieving thing "wrong". During the second group I attended, I was able to begin to give voice to my story. The facilitator ran the group in a way that made me feel safe, supported, and not judged. Getting to know the other group members was an enormous comfort for me. I looked forward to participating every week. I also gained insight and strategies that helped me to cope with life without the individuals I lost.
I'm still grieving. I still feel hopeless sometimes. However, before attending the groups, I was suicidal. I rarely got out of bed and I was unable to give voice to my feelings with family and friends. The group experience gave me the ability to talk about my experience and my emotions (not that I choose to do so very often). I'm getting ready to return to work after 2 1/2 years and I feel, for the first time since my losses, that I may be able to succeed. I know that my progress isn't 100% but I also recognize that SCHC's involvement in my life has played a significant role in my healing. I wouldn't change a thing about the program because the loss groups were exactly what I needed.
How do I feel about the future? Not sure yet. I'm still adjusting to the new normal and haven't made any plans for the future but at least I'm not considering ending my life anymore.
I became acquainted with SCHC during my husband's illness. He used to attend a weekly session. After his passing SCHC contacted me to offer some grief counselling.
Dealing with his illness was quite overwhelming. I could not and did not understand what happened so it was difficult for me to cope. But I had to put on a brave face and gather my strength to support and look after my husband. It was difficult for me as I do not have a large family base here and both my children worked abroad. They visited on weekends to help.
Despite being raised with immense spiritual values I had difficulties to embrace what was happening. I felt lost and alone. Prior to my husband's illness - we enjoyed and had a happy life. I took the offer from SCHC and my journey began from that time to present.
The support from the facilitators, the group atmosphere, the breathing exercise, participating and listening - all of these things helped me to:
1. Getting back my inner strength.
2. Put my husband's passing in perspective.
3. Appreciate life and embrace good actions.
4. Embrace negative actions and learn the lesson being taught.
5. Live in the moment.
You cannot imagine how many lives SCHC is helping by offering these various programs. In helping me (1 individual) I in turn have helped a spectrum of other individuals. It is like falling in a bottomless black hole and there is no one to turn to. I blamed everyone, I felt no one cared. I felt bitter, really alone. And that's where SCHC helped. It gave me the strength, courage and purpose to forge on. These programs contribute in reducing mental and emotional issues.