Hospice volunteers Judy Riddell and Connie Munson are ready to assist those who are facing the end of their lives and the families they leave behind.

Offering support during the most difficult time

The Prince Rupert and District Hospice Society wants people to know they don't have to face losing a loved one alone.

The loss of a loved one is perhaps the toughest time anyone will face, but the Prince Rupert and District Hospice Society wants people to know it’s not something they must endure alone.

While many associate hospice services simply with being there for the dying individual, hospice volunteers also offer grief and bereavement support for family and friends and assistance with arrangements following the passing of their loved one. It’s a valuable service, but one hospice volunteers say has gone underutilized in the community.

Raising the profile of hospice in Prince Rupert is just one of the goals of the Closing the Circle Conference, scheduled for Oct. 25.

“We do have a hospice here, there are services and people are not alone when they come into crisis in terms of losing a loved one … we would like to bring hospice and the idea around the life cycle to people’s consciousness. We’re here, we’re living, but we will be leaving too. And there is support for those who are still here afterwards,” said Judy Riddell, a volunteer who became involved in hospice after receiving support during the passing of her uncle and mother.

“I wish people would use the resources available in the community and would reach out. I know we have trained over 60 people in the community and they are passionate people who want to be a volunteer, but we don’t get a lot of referrals so it is hard to engage the volunteers. We want our service to be used …  we don’t counsel, we don’t offer advice, we listen and offer support. We believe people don’t have to grieve in isolation and want to help people along their grief journey,” added Connie Munson, a former nurse who now coordinates volunteers for the society.

Lending an ear to those facing the end of their life and supporting those during the grieving process will not appeal to everyone, but it’s something both Munson and Riddell said are very rewarding experiences.

“Just knowing how important communication is, sometimes families don’t fill that gap and it is easier to talk to a caring, compassionate stranger, who becomes a friend. That is why I am very passionate about hospice … I think the most rewarding part is to appreciate the life that we have and learning to live each day to its fullest. That is the gift that I receive from sitting with the dying and their families,” said Munson.

“There is a deep reward for supporting people who are at the end of life. You never know where they are at so you meet them where they are at. Very often people are extremely generous and it is wonderful just to be able to be with the person and the families and just to give them some support during a time that is very difficult for people. I think it’s needed, really needed,” added Riddell.

Speakers during the conference will touch upon everything from suicide to changing the way people view death. Like keynote speaker Stephen Garrett, Riddell and Munson say a different perspective of death could go a long way.

“Death is not taboo. It happens to all of us,” said Munson.

“It’s part of life. It’s something people choose to ignore rather than embrace.”

The Closing the Circle Conference will take place at Northwest Community College on Saturday, Oct. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information or to register, call 250-622-6204 or email princeruperthospice@gmail.com.