Centre provides comfort in time of loss

Penticton and District Hospice Society opens door to Bereavement Resource Centre

David Head of the Penticton and District Hospice Society and program director Kelly Phipps of the new Bereavement Resource Centre on Martin Street look over some of the material available for people in need of support services.

Finding answers to end-of-life issues and questions can be an emotional nightmare.

For many people dealing with losing or the loss of a loved one, it is a time they are most fragile, and not knowing who or where to turn to only compounds the problems.

“The whole subject of death is one we avoid at all costs until it is thrust into our face and then we don’t know how to cope,” said David Head of the Penticton and District Hospice Society. “We’re getting more and more people who are passing away and leaving families behind, so they (survivors) have to deal with grief and bereavement and they have to deal with those end-of-life problems, so the need is growing as we speak.”

To that end the society recently opened the doors to its new resource and help centre at 626 Martin St.

Although the organization is still in the development stage for the planned outreach programs it will offer in the future, Head says anything that can be done immediately to help people in their time of need will be done.

“We certainly know by our study done last year that this is something that is badly needed in this community,” he said. “Experience has shown that most everybody who goes through this feels isolated, that they feel alone, they need to deal with their grief.”

Training for the volunteers who will work in the field is expected to begin soon, with a target date of late this summer for the broad range of services to be available.

Similar programs in other cities like Kelowna, Vernon, Mission and Abbotsford are being looked at by society officials for additional ideas.

One of the most important aspects the 2011 review revealed was providing a flexible mobile service.

“A lot of people don’t want to go into a facility such as the hospice, no matter how nice it is, they want to die at home,” said Head. “So having volunteers out in the community helping people who were going through some sort of end-of-life issue is critical.

“Sometimes they just need some sort of respite, it’s got to do with them needing some sort of support in their home during the time a loved one is passing.”

That could mean just having someone sit with the person while the family member is out of the house or it could simply be a matter of having someone to talk to.

“Everyone is different,” he said. “It’s not so difficult to find out what people need. They often know exactly where their stress points are, but most can’t do it on their own.”

And while having a loved one pass away from natural causes such as age or long-term illness is difficult enough, the sudden death situations are even more difficult.

But according to Head, in either circumstance those left behind need to be helped through the period of grief with the result being positive.

“It’s not so that you get over the death of somebody, but you learn to live with it,” he said. “You don’t want to forget the person who has died, you don’t want to get them out of your mind, so what you want to do is to learn to live with it so that pain is not debilitating.”

Anyone who would like more information about the services or volunteering to assist in the various roles at the centre can contact the office at 250-490-1107.