Over 310 butterflies released in memory of loved ones through Madawaska Hospice event

·5 min read

Barry’s Bay -- The annual butterfly release, which provides a meaningful opportunity to remember a loved one who has died, had to be moved indoors for a bit on Sunday afternoon due to some showers coming through the area, but participants on site and at other locations were able to release over 310 butterflies.

“We were planning on having it outside, as per usual at Water Tower Park,” Erin Gienow, the executive director of the St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation, said. “But we had to move indoors last minute, just for the ceremony.”

Some people were able to release their butterflies after the ceremony and others took them home.

This is the sixth annual event and serves as a fundraiser for the Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care and St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation. Last year it was a pick-up event and not a gathering, due to COVID restrictions and in 2020 it was a video, but this year a group was able to gather together to remember their loved ones, pay tribute and contribute to a worthwhile cause.

The butterfly release is a way to process grief and gather with others. This year more than 310 butterflies were reserved and released throughout the day.

“The support and generosity of our donors and sponsor means a great deal to ensure that MV Hospice has the funds it requires to continue helping families and individuals facing a life-limiting condition close to home,” Ms. Gienow said.

She added the event was only possible with the support of sponsors which were: Zohr Funeral Home, Church Street Flowers, Greg Kelly Insurance, Madawaska Valley Lions Club, Heubner Funeral Home, Campbell Monuments and Royal Canadian Legion Branch 406.

Madawaska Valley Hospice is a free support service for individuals and families. Support is offered in the home through visiting hospice palliative care or in the two-bed hospice unit through residential hospice. The home care can be in a family member’s home, senior apartment or long-term care home as well.

Lisa Hubers, the executive director of Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care, said the butterfly release is an important event for the community.

“It allows families to recognize their lost loved ones in a meaningful, yet simple way,” she said. “The process of this event funds our grief and bereavement program, which includes one-to-one support to individuals for a year following a death, a facilitate grief group two times per year, specialized grief events and grief education,” she said.

Pandemic Prevented Grief Support

Grief Bereavement Counsellor Dawn Cruchet was the guest speaker for the event. She began by noting those gathered were not there because a special person died, but because they lived.

“The pandemic has prevented many people from having the support they need to grieve,” she said. “It has deprived families from participating in the rituals that help us to process and normalize our grief.”

COVID created a unique and potentially overwhelming burden for caregivers, she pointed out.

“With bedside visits forbidden or severely limited, family members have been deprived of being present as their loved one dies,” she said.

As well, funerals and celebrations of life were postponed, sometimes indefinitely, the time for processing and sharing grief were interrupted and feelings of isolation and loneliness increased.

“Those consequences of COVID have evoked feelings of helplessness, powerlessness and sadness,” she said.

Grief is the most universal of experiences, she said. This is because grief is the flipside of loving. Grief involves many changes as families are changed forever when someone dies.

“We never ‘get over’ a loss,” she said. “We just adjust – from physical presence in our lies to physical absence to place in our hearts and souls for the memory.”

Gradually the pain changes as people adjust to where they can enjoy the memories without the pain, she said. The pain changes from excruciating to bittersweet, with eventually more sweetness to the memories.

“Family grief is complex because every family member had his or her own special relationship with the person who died and now each of you is on your own grief path,” she said. “Give each other space to grieve and be gentle with yourselves and each other.” She said it was nice to see children at the event. This was a way to teach healthy coping skills and acknowledge death is a part of life.

“We don’t have to like it when someone we love dies, but we are born, we live and then we die,” she said. “This is the cycle of life and death. Our relationships with our special people who have died don’t end. They change. Grieving is a normal, healthy process that allows us to enjoy the memories without the pain.”

Focusing on the butterflies, people can think about the person they are honouring, and it could be a way of setting them free or releasing some pain. Other images might be of the person being released in death after struggling with disease or the butterfly might be a symbol of change, she said.

Grief Camp

Ms. Cruchet also noted a grief camp is being held on Saturday, October 1 for children and teens from 5 to 17 who want to talk about their loss experiences. She said to date there have been no resources specifically for bereaved children and adolescents.

“Our goal is to provide a safe, non-judgmental environment where grieving children and teens can tell their stories, share thoughts and feelings and honour the memories of special people in their lives who have died,” she said.

Trained facilitators will provide the opportunity to express feelings through writing, artwork, as well as shared experiences with music, nature and discussion.

On the same day a concurrent parent discussion group will be provided to discuss the topic of children and adolescent grief.

For more information, email mvhospice@sfmhosp.com or call 613-756-3045 ext. 350.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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