Supporting grieving military parents in BC

From separations and deployments to the threat of injury or death, military families routinely face stresses that can take a significant toll on individual and family mental health. Once a death notification reaches the family, life is forever changed and viewed as “before and after”.  While the loss has an impact on the immediate family members, there is also a ripple effect on those who interact with the family.

Nancy Szastkiw, the Family Liaison Officer for the Mainland BC MFRC and Transition Centre is the organizer and facilitator of the Surviving Sorrow retreats, a weekend of self-care, education and support for mothers of forces members who died while serving in the military.

 A weekend of self-care

The first retreat was in 2012, and others followed in 2014 and 2017. There was also a Surviving Sorrow retreat for Fathers in 2017.

At this retreat session, subject matter experts focused on the psychosocial impacts of grief and strategies for self-care as time passes. The attendees were a blend of past retreat participants and first-time attendees so experiences were shared with compassion.

“Bond in tears and bond in laughter”

“The grief associated with the death changes as time goes by to include the loss of hopes and dreams and futures,” said Szastkiw. Speaking to another mother who has lived, or is living through this type of death is particularly healing, as they also understand the military nuances that civilian supports may not.

“There is a lot of vulnerability,” said Szastkiw. “Those who have been on the grieving journey longer can share their strength and what worked for them in the dark times.” 

Feedback from the mothers showed the deep impact that a single weekend can have:

  • Thank you for inviting me. I am taking so many new tools and ideas home with me.
  • The ability to bond in person with other mothers also walking the path: bond in tears and bond in laughter.
  • Hearing everyone’s story helped me see the future with hope.

True Patriot Love has funded these retreats since 2012, and thanks to support from the Bell True Patriot Love Fund – and donors like you – the most recent Surviving Sorrow retreat was available at no cost to its participants.

Thank you!