“Nobody needs to feel isolated in grief”

For Ann Durham facing the reality of her husband Jim’s sudden death seemed insurmountable – until she found McNally House Hospice.

Ann and Jim shared a wonderful life. Fifty-four years of marriage, five great kids, and a growing number of grandchildren!   After living in Burlington for forty-seven years, they sold their family home and looked forward to many happy years of retirement in Grimsby.   Unfortunately these plans would be cut short when Jim unexpectedly died of a heart attack in the fall of 2014, only a year after their move from Burlington.   Not only did this leave the Durham family in sudden mourning for a wonderful husband and father, but Ann now faced the challenges of coping day-to-day with her loss in a community that was still new to her.

“After Jim died, I quickly realized everything he did for me – he took care of everything!” explained Ann. I wasn’t just dealing with grieving his death, but also with building my independence and ability to live life without him.”  But that wasn’t the only challenge.  Back in Burlington Ann has a wonderful group of friends, but none of them had gone through such a loss nor were they in close proximity to provide the day-to-day emotional support Ann needed.  And although Ann’s children were always eager to help, she knew she needed to find a support network that understood what she was going through and could provide her with the tools and strategies she needed to work through the grieving process.

Ann learned about McNally House through her book club. One of the members told her about a support group being ran by the hospice.  Ann reached out to McNally and was introduced to Rachelle McGuire, McNally’s Bereavement Support Clinician.

Rachelle quickly enrolled Ann in the 1:1 Bereavement Support program. In this program, individuals are matched with one of McNally’s trained, bereavement volunteers who has had a similar loss experience.  Ann was matched with volunteer Rosemary Addison.  Over the course of six months they met regularly and Ann was able to start to open up about her loss.  “Rosemary was just wonderful! It was so nice to have someone to talk to who knew how I was feeling and who really understood what I was going through,” explains Ann.

 

At the same time Ann also started to participate in one of McNally’s Bereavement Support Groups. These are small groups of people who have experienced similar losses.  Groups meet weekly and allow members to explore their grief in a confidential and supportive setting where members have the chance to talk about their own grief experience and listen and learn from the experiences of others. This group provided Ann another outlet to manage her grief and she soon developed a close knit group of friends. “We really look out for each other,” explains Ann, “when one of us is down, we pick each other up and make sure everyone is coping.” Being new to Grimsby this was the lifeline Ann needed.  Ann’s daughter Erin saw the difference in her mother. “She really started to open up, we could see how these programs were helping her deal with her loss and rebuild her life.”

 

Ann now has a core group of friends she met through the McNally Support Group who have remained active in the other bereavement programs provided by McNally House including Walking with Greif, Being Present with Our Grief (a mediation class), and Remembering with Recipes cooking program provided in partnership with the President’s Choice Cooking School. “The support is there, and Rachelle and the volunteers at McNally House have so much knowledge and compassion to share,” states Ann. “Nobody should feel isolated in their grief.”

 

Bereavement services are a critical part of McNally House’s mission to bring compassion to the communities of Niagara West. These programs are available for those whose loved ones have received end of life care at McNally House as well as anyone who has experienced a loss in our community.