Esquimalt Neighbourhood House is expanding its counselling services with the creation of a monthly grief support group.
The community service provider offers support and programs for residents of all ages in Greater Victoria, particularly in Esquimalt.
“It’s a pretty essential service,” says Brenda Macevicius, head of counselling services. “I’d describe it as a community based mental health and addictions program.”
Morag Martin, a volunteer counsellor with Esquimalt Neighbourhood House for more than a decade, will facilitate the group. The goal is to broaden the reach of those who struggle with grief, and not relegate loss as something that only happens at end of life.
“There’s a huge need from what we hear,” Macevicius says. “We hear a lot about someone who has lost someone to suicide or overdose, a lot of youth. There is a profound impact on a person when someone dies. I don’t think there’s a lot of support to capture just how significant it is.”
Referrals from Island Health, doctors, psychiatrists and other community service providers keep the 40 volunteer counsellors busy at the Neighbourhood House.
“Our program is hugely unique in that we seek out funding so we can offer the service for free,” Macevicius explains.
Longstanding support from United Way, the provincial employees community services fund, the municipality of Esquimalt, local businesses and private and personal donations keep the program running. As of this year, the Victoria Foundation will also help maintain services with community grants.
Their approach is to steer away from traditional medical model of burdening someone with questions and paperwork, and is more about building a trusted relationship so people are comfortable sharing their struggles and returning for long-term support.
“People really do need to have these supports, to be seen and heard as a whole human being,” Macevicius says. “You really want to protect people’s hearts a little bit, and go gently.”
For more information about programs and services at Esquimalt Neighbourhood House, visit their Facebook page.