Having to say goodbye to someone you love most can feel like our worst nightmare. It can turn our world upside down, leaving us feeling be isolated, lonely, and like there just isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. That is why Evergreen is here – to help those coping with grief find a little bit of light. Our client, Richard, shared his story with us of his sweet wife Joanne.
Joanne and I led a charmed life. We’d met in high-school at 15, married in our early 20’s, raised three beautiful children, and loved each and every one of our eight grandchildren, all under six years old. We ran a successful business together and were in the process of retiring in order to do some travelling. Joanne was my better half, a loving mother, doting grandmother, loyal friend, and a bright light to anyone she met.
But that all came crashing down January 2019 when a routine colonoscopy diagnosed Joanne with stage 3 colon cancer. The doctors were optimistic that with surgery and chemotherapy Joanne could have a full recovery. But nothing went right, and we had trouble at every turn. About a year after the initial diagnosis, the cancer was back, and this time an aggressive strain that couldn’t be stopped. Joanne died May 1st at Markham Stouffville Hospital. I was able to be with her for the day, but due to the new COVID-19 virus our family had to visit through the window. We’d only had a few days to process the fact that Joanne wouldn’t recover and her death put us all into a tailspin. The first week I was surrounded by family and friends but eventually they needed to return to their families and homes.
I spent the next few months in a fog. Nothing seemed real, and my purpose for living had been taken away. A good friend, Karen, had a positive experience with Evergreen Hospice after the death of her husband and recommended the service to me. I signed up for a number of different programs. Due to COVID-19, all sessions were held over Zoom rather than in person. Although new to me it didn’t take long to feel a connection to the other group members who were grieving a loved one. Hayward Hann, our group leader, was very good at getting us to tell our stories without any judgement. He provided a framework for weekly discussions focusing on the different ways we experience grief, the transitions we can expect, and some of the triggers that would sink us. At first I wasn’t sure if the group sessions were helping me. I didn’t feel I had too much in common with some of the people and their situations. But, eventually we all bonded over our common element; grief. Over time I was able to realize that I have a lot to live for and while I won’t have my Joanne, I’ll still have all the people we both loved and cherished and that it’s ok to feel happiness again. After the group sessions, I had one on one sessions with Bonnie Strand. My time talking with Bonnie helped immensely. We could discuss anything and could focus on topics pertaining to me and my family.
My Evergreen experience helped me to see that grief has many different forms and that while I’ve lost the love of my life, I had such great support from my family and friends. I was healthy and capable of enjoying happiness. I was able to separate my grief, which I’ll never lose, from the happy life I can continue to live. Thank you, Evergreen.” – Richard Hawkins, Evergreen Client