M’Chigeeng Health Services hosted this pilot program from January 24 – March 28, 2023. We had 10 participants register and 6 participants complete the 8-week program.
As the facilitators, it was an honour to develop, promote and implement the first Honouring Your Grief Program for our community members. Offering this type of program has been a passion for both facilitators, as we hoped it would help our fellow Anishnabek understand their individual experience with grief and how their grief was impacting their lives.
It took perseverance but wow, the sense of accomplishment was worth it! The participants put their trust in the facilitators when they registered for this new program. During the eight-weeks, we witnessed how the participants were able to hold sacred space for one another, where they gave themselves permission to share their experiences and vulnerabilities while releasing some of their suppressed emotions and tears. All while learning together and gaining tools to add to their wisdom bundles. Participants were encouraged to share their knowledge, with the hope of helping others who may be living in their grief.
The participants were asked to provide feedback to the following question upon program completion.
Compare how you felt at the beginning of the group to how you feel at the end of the group:
“I was nervous at first but got comfortable with the group and was able to trust and speak out more without fear of sharing”
“I can share most of my feelings and experiences”
“Able to talk about the loss. I felt overwhelmed …and heavy when I started the group”
“Carrying the grief has become much lighter I don’t feel so burdened by it”
“I feel now that I have the tools and slowly let the tears flow as needed. I don’t need to hold it anymore”
Two participants who were not able to complete the program had positive comments when they completed an exit interview and both stated they would like to join the program next time it is offered.
The Honouring Your Grief Program was a blending of best practices and indigenous knowledge about the impacts of grief, with an emphasis on experiential learning where participants share and learn from each other’s experiences.
There is no magical solution to just “get over it” or “move on” in grief. As the facilitators, we watched the participants evolve in their grief journey and the comments above attest to this positive change. The knowledge and skills gained empowered and reminded them of how resilient they actually are.
With some time, patience and a better understanding of the impact of our grief, we can grow around our painful wounds. We can allow ourselves to experience joy again (without guilt) and hold onto cherished memories of our loved ones (who we will never forget) while we continue to live and move forward.
We would like to say Miigwech to M’Chigeeng Health Services for giving us the opportunity to develop our own version of a community-based, grass-roots “Honouring Your Grief Program”. It was a compilation of learning we have gained on our own personal grief experiences, along with various trainings. We want to give a special thanks to Simone Desmoulin of Biidaabaan Healing Lodge, for sharing her knowledge with us. We also want to extend our thanks to Helena Bebonang and Laura Day-Corbiere for the program support and our guest speaker Gloria Oshkabewisens, Traditional Knowledge Keeper, each of whom contributed to the success of our pilot program.
Christy Taibossigai (RN) & Tammy Gordon (MSW)