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Coping with grief

Local counsellor hopes to bring grieving people together


In her day to day practice, Nancy Routley frequently counsels people from Whistler who are in the process grieving for friends, loved ones and family members. Every time she listens and gives advice she is struck by the lack of rituals in today’s society and support within the community for the bereaved.

On Monday she hopes to fix that by holding a free workshop on grief called Creating Connection When Dealing With Death of a Loved One.

"It comes from hearing the same stories from clients," says Routley. "I really feel that people are often very disconnected when it comes to grief. They feel there is really nowhere for them to go with it, they don’t know where to put it, so they often are just stoic and go through life and pretend they’re not hurting."

Grief is not uncommon in a resort town like Whistler, says Routley, which has a high number of deaths among its younger residents.

"We know we have a lot of untimely deaths here with younger people, accidents and tragedies, and I also have clients who have lost family members in the course of living here," Routley says. "I really find that there is a theme of disconnection.

"I think in past times, there would be a community or a church that you would grieve in, where people would come to you and share in that process. The same thing happens in communities where everybody knows each other."

The lack of rituals and support for locals dealing with grief is made worse by the transient nature of Whistler, and the fact that some people who are grieving may be new to the community.

"Who do you talk to if you lost your dad – do you talk to the guys you party with, or do you keep it to yourself?" asks Routley.

The workshop takes place on Monday, May 10 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Whistler Health Care Centre’s Community Room. Routley, a Canadian Certified Counsellor and B.C. Registered Clinical Counsellor, will facilitate the meeting. There is no charge to attend.

"In our modern day Western society we continue to practice the ritual of funerals but when the funeral is over the survivors are often left to figure out how to go on in isolation," writes Routley.

"As a therapist what I hear expressed repeatedly is the overwhelming disconnection and loneliness that people grieving experience. I often hear an unwillingness to express these feelings because of fears that other people don’t get it, or don’t want to hear how much they hurt. The idea that they have to ‘go it alone’ translates into isolating themselves from others. Of course this intensifies the pain and isolation.

"One person reported, ‘I feel like I have crossed over into another world, the world of the people left behind; nobody can understand what it is like to be here."

Routley is hoping that the workshop will show people that they are not alone, and provide the foundations for a local support group for people who are grieving.

"I want to see if (participants) want to create something that they can go on with together, however that looks. What I’m really doing is giving people a venue to connect. Many people who are grieving don’t know the person standing beside them is grieving also, or that someone at work is grieving."

Grieving is an important part of the healing process, says Routley, and most people can’t grieve alone. She says she wants to give people a safe venue to talk and share their experiences, a ritual and a support group for the community.