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Voices of our Community

Please share your grief story or experiences. If you are a family member or friend who would like to share the impact that your support system has had on you we also welcome your story. Simply email us your name, the name of your story, and let us know whether you would like your story to be anonymous. We still need your name and contact, even if your name won't appear here. Thanks for sharing your story.

Bill Pratt
Caring for the Caregivers During COVID-19

You might think grief and loss are just part of the job when one works in a care home — and they are — but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges even the most experienced caregiver could not have been prepared for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Our team, elders, residents and families are dealing with loss — not only of lives — but of routines, friendships,” says Bill Pratt, Chief Relationship, Research & Innovation Officer with Eden Care Communities, which operates 17 care homes staffed by over 400 employees serving over 1,200 residents in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw. 

“We’re a community. These are not institutions, they are neighbourhoods. Volunteers come in, families come in, we have games, entertainment, dinner together, it’s home. Then all of a sudden, by law, everything had to STOP. Not just for a few weeks — this is for many months, not knowing when it will end. The other part is the real possibility of mass death in a short period of time.

“We needed to help our leaders be better equipped to deal with a situation most had never lived through before. So, we reached out to Caring Hearts.”

Thanks to the support of the South Saskatchewan Community Foundation Emergency Response Fund, Caring Hearts was able to empower Eden Care’s 20 senior leaders with grief and loss training. To encourage more intimate conversation, training took place in small groups of five — each group receiving two four-hour sessions. Dwayne Yasinowski, Caring Hearts Director of Education, facilitated the first few groups in person until provincial COVID-19 restrictions necessitated he host them online.

“Eight hours of training in today’s world is a lot — but nobody was in a rush to get out or checking their phones. It was exactly what we needed,” says Bill.

What was their biggest takeaway?

“Everybody grieves differently. Just because someone doesn’t respond the same way you do, it doesn’t matter. Just allow them to be who they are and be available for whatever they need. Listen. Let people talk, or not talk. Provide that space for people to talk or think in silence. Acknowledge that the grief is real.

“We now have more tools in our tool belt. There’s a quiet confidence amongst the team that we’re better equipped to deal with this completely unknown thing. We know we can get through this.”

Alana Shearer-Kleefeld

Learning to Put Their Own Oxygen Mask On First

 

 

For Alana Shearer-Kleefeld and her colleagues, a typical day at the office comes with heavy conversations.

“There isn’t a tragedy in this province — from the La Loche shooting to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash — where our plan members aren’t involved,” says Alana, Director of the Employee Benefits Team for 3sHealth, which administers benefits for Saskatchewan’s 44,000 healthcare workers. “Our life every day is about receiving calls from people saying my parent, child or spouse passed away. And it’s not always a loss of life. It can be a loss of mobility, independence or the ability to do one’s job.”

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging many healthcare workers — and Alana and team — like never before. It has also come with lessons.

 

“The longer the pandemic goes on, we’re seeing healthcare workers hit the wall. The daily strain and pressure and exposure and knowing they’re taking that risk home to their family. We’ve also realized, as a frontline service organization, we’ve got to put our own oxygen mask on first.”

 

Thanks to the support of the South Saskatchewan Community Foundation, Caring Hearts was able to provide Alana and about 30 of her team members psychological first aid training covering grief, loss, self-care and resilience. Though the training had to be online because of the pandemic, participants were placed in small groups to allow for more intimate conversation.

 

“As crazy as it sounds in our virtual world right now, those sessions felt like a hug,” says Alana. “Even though it’s our business every day, it’s scary to talk about those feelings and to really face those emotions, not just of others, but in ourselves. Caring Hearts made us feel comfortable and safe. It was uplifting and empowering to learn the right words to be able to give to ourselves and to give to our plan members — to take care of the caregivers.

 

“I sometimes think the universe hands you exactly what you need when you need it. We were working overtime, not taking breaks. Caring Hearts helped us at just the right time.”

Letter on Trauma by Participant in Piapot First Nation School

As I sit here listening, I hear words.
Those words stem from emotions to definitions.
Can anyone really define anyone’s life?
Emotions are anger, sadness, hatred, guilt, and love. You can survive trauma.
Anger is something we all feel towards people and ourselves.
Anger can define us, or others, in how we feel about life.
Anger can be a lack of attention and a lack of how to express how we feel.
Anger can become traumatic if it leads us on a path of destruction.
Sadness is something that washes over people, and it can make you numb.
Sadness can make you feel alone like no one understands you.
Sadness can encompass you where you don’t shower, or eat, or all you can do is sleep.
Sadness can be drowning yourself in activities that drown out the pain.
Hatred is a feeling that makes you see red, where you feel you can’t control yourself.
Hatred can make you see yourself as not a likeable person.
Hatred can be directed towards those who have ruined who you could be.
Hatred can lead you on a path of destruction where negativity ruins your life.
Guilt is an emotion that holds you accountable for your actions.
Guilt can make you say, “what if I would have done this to change my situation?”.
Guilt is something that can make you feel sorry for the things that have happened.
Guilt is, “do I give into my emotions and just let it happen?”
Love is one that is tough. Do you love yourself and others?
Love is all-encompassing, you have to love yourself before others.
Love is social. You want others to love you.
Love is emotional. It feels good to be cared for.
Love is spiritual. You can be loved by good feelings.
Love is mental and emotional; you are the key.
We are defined by definitions, by life, and by others.
Trauma can define you or you can define trauma.
It is hard as a child, and hard as an adult.
Find a book, a person to talk to, write it down, write a poem, or listen to music.
You define who you are and your trauma.


-Participant from Piapot First Nation School, June 2022

Make the Call

Jacqui Wasacase, Rainbow Youth Executive Director A few weeks after completing training with Caring Hearts, one of the Rainbow Youth participants sadly took her life. Executive Director Jacqui Wasacase reflects “the ability to know who to call for that extra support for staff and participants was vital”. 

 

During challenging times, nonprofits that take initiative become success stories. Rainbow Youth Centre dedicated to engaging, educating and inspiring youth and families to lead their best lives has worked hard to proactively strategize their future. At the core of the Centre’s mission is to empower youth, family, community.

 

Rainbow Youth operates five cornerstone programs: Youth C.A.R.E. (Creating A Respectful Environment) providing front line services to youth using a prevention-based approach focusing on well-being; Youth Skills providing interpersonal development and self-awareness services to youth; Road To Employment addressing academic, employment, and personal development of youth who have not completed a high school education and are experiencing barriers to employment; Young Parent Program investing in the healthy development of young children; and Kids First supporting parents and their children through home visiting, community engagement, childcare and early learning opportunities for children, and connecting families to community services and support networks. 

 

“Trauma informed care and practice needs to be part of our first response in our daily lives as youth worker’s, family workers health workers and care providers. Also just as human being dealing with human beings. Caring Hearts

is well known for just that. Care for humans.” Jacqui explained that during the pandemic mental health issues for program participants and their families, and also for staff were widespread. Jacqui asserts that Caring Hearts enabled staff to “incorporate much of what we worked on not just into our working lives with our participants– but our daily

lives and interactions with each other”. Rainbow Youth has so many families who deal with grief daily. “It is good to have someone and some place to reach out for resources during a time of need is essential to the work we do”. Jacqui’s advice to other organizations when they confront obstacles and need services is “make the call. The training provided is truly life changing. You will find that learning about and understanding trauma informed care and how to make this a part of your humanness is so important, just recognizing that everybody could have experienced trauma in their life helps to provide path forward in communication that will not retrigger trauma for someone – no matter who - partner, client, friend, colleagues.”

Take Care of Your Own So They Can Take Care of Others

Sara Tiefenbach, Community School Coordinator, Bert Fox Community High School & Fort Qu’Appelle Elementary Community School, Prairie Valley School Division

As the Community School Coordinator for both the Bert Fox Community High School and the Fort Qu’Appelle Elementary Community School in the Prairie Valley School Division, Sara Tiefenbach sought support from Caring Hearts as school staff members were voicing significant concerns about their own mental wellness. It is not surprising as they had to adapt to added responsibilities, unexpected conditions and teaching in unprecedented ways while continuing to establish connections with students, families, and their colleagues.

Stress and burnout have been high throughout these tumultuous pandemic times.  As Sara explains “We wanted to ensure staff had the tools to take care of themselves so they can be the best version of themselves. This was an opportunity to ensure staff were heard and validated.” 

The Prairie Valley School Division is a rural school division serving 39 schools. Sara who supports both schools in the town of Fort Qu’Appelle, is part of a dedicated team of professionals who are committed to improving learning opportunities and outcomes for children and youth. ”As the Bert Fox Community High School motto says, “Think, believe, become”. We “think” that Bert Fox is a great place to learn, we “believe” in one another, and we work to create a learning environment where everyone will “become” all they can be.”

Sara describes the most valuable part of her connection with Caring Hearts as “the support, resources, open communication and the willingness to adapt the supports/education materials to meet the specific needs of our staff.”  She also notes that “Staff were validated - they were heard. This learning opportunity was personal rather than professional; which I strongly believe is a requirement to ensure staff remain healthy.

We have to take care of our own so they can take care of others.” School staff now have a ”tool kit” to increase their own resiliency to assist them in managing stress and secondary trauma.

Sara’s advice for other organizations when they confront obstacles and need services is “Do not wait until your staff are at rock bottom. Validate staff by recognizing their needs and working with them to determine what supports they need to be the best they can be. Utilize these supports and resources as a prevention tool rather than a reactive tool.”

Letter on Trauma by Participant in Piapot First Nation School

As I sit here listening, I hear words.
Those words stem from emotions to definitions.
Can anyone really define anyone’s life?
Emotions are anger, sadness, hatred, guilt, and love. You can survive trauma.
Anger is something we all feel towards people and ourselves.
Anger can define us, or others, in how we feel about life.
Anger can be a lack of attention and a lack of how to express how we feel.
Anger can become traumatic if it leads us on a path of destruction.
Sadness is something that washes over people, and it can make you numb.
Sadness can make you feel alone like no one understands you.
Sadness can encompass you where you don’t shower, or eat, or all you can do is sleep.
Sadness can be drowning yourself in activities that drown out the pain.
Hatred is a feeling that makes you see red, where you feel you can’t control yourself.
Hatred can make you see yourself as not a likeable person.
Hatred can be directed towards those who have ruined who you could be.
Hatred can lead you on a path of destruction where negativity ruins your life.
Guilt is an emotion that holds you accountable for your actions.
Guilt can make you say, “what if I would have done this to change my situation?”.
Guilt is something that can make you feel sorry for the things that have happened.
Guilt is, “do I give into my emotions and just let it happen?”
Love is one that is tough. Do you love yourself and others?
Love is all-encompassing, you have to love yourself before others.
Love is social. You want others to love you.
Love is emotional. It feels good to be cared for.
Love is spiritual. You can be loved by good feelings.
Love is mental and emotional; you are the key.
We are defined by definitions, by life, and by others.
Trauma can define you or you can define trauma.
It is hard as a child, and hard as an adult.
Find a book, a person to talk to, write it down, write a poem, or listen to music.
You define who you are and your trauma.


-Participant from Piapot First Nation School, June 2022

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'Our heartfelt thanks for your kindness and generosity with your offer to help our team during such a tragic loss. It was very valuable learning for all involved and Stacey was an incredible facilitator. The care that you provided from the point of the initial contact was amazing. Dwayne, thank you for that. Hearing your voice on the other end of the line and the way you explained things was exactly what was needed. Thank you from our entire team. You are good people who do good things. We will be forever grateful.’

 

Regina Orthodontist Group