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A National Grief Strategy: The time is now


COVID-19 is affecting how we live and how we grieve. The public health restrictions in place to contain the virus have affected the grief experience of the families of more than 4,700 Canadians who have died of COVID-19 and of the 50,000 people who have died of other causes during the restrictions. Also affected are those facing a life-limiting illness alone, those grieving an expected death of someone they cannot visit, and those grieving a death that occurred before the pandemic. The visiting and goodbyes that didn’t occur, the family gatherings that weren’t allowed, the funeral rites limited or delayed, the grief suffered in isolation. Many more families will be affected in the weeks ahead.

Leaders in grief and bereavement in Canada have come together with the Canadian Virtual Hospice to provide a plan to the Government of Canada to support and expand grief services and resources in Canada. Below is the media release issued today. You can read the proposal by the Canadian Grief Alliance here.

We need your support. Add your name to the growing list of people and organizations asking governments to make supporting grieving Canadians a priority. Click “Sign up” below. We are stronger together.

More information about the new Canadian Grief Alliance will be shared soon.
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Kindest regards and stay well,

Shelly Cory
Executive Director

Media release

Action needed to address COVID-19’s hidden tragedy

National grief advocates urge support for grieving Canadians & health workers

May 12, 2020 – Never in our lifetimes has Canada experienced the volume and complexity of grief as has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadians have been robbed of goodbyes with dying relatives and forced to grieve in isolation without funeral rites. They and those working on the front lines of health care are at heightened risk for prolonged, complicated grief marked by depression, and the risk of suicide. Existing grief services are fragmented, underfunded, and insufficient. Left unaddressed, significant long-term social, health and economic impacts will result.

The Canadian Grief Alliance – a coalition of national leaders in grief and bereavement - is urging the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories to bolster the country’s grief services to meet the growing demand. Existing and recently announced mental health initiatives do not include grief services.

“This is the hidden tragedy in the current crisis, but one that will also have long term implications for many individual Canadians as well as our health care systems and the economy,” said Paul Adams, spokesperson for the Alliance. “Many people are now facing the deaths of loved ones, isolated from networks of family and friends that normally help people get through such heart-wrenching moments in their lives. Unless we step up and help people now, we will be dealing with the human toll for many years to come.”

The Alliance is asking the Federal Government to invest $100 million in grief supports over the next three years and $10 million in research. It is committed to working with governments to ensure the necessary supports are in place to help Canadians to heal. The Canadian Grief Alliance’s priorities include:
  • Investing in and expanding existing free grief services and resources that provide direct assistance to those grieving during and after the pandemic, with tailored resources for Indigenous Peoples, children and youth, seniors, and other populations with specific needs.
  • Access to specialized grief supports for front-line healthcare workers and first responders suffering grief-related work trauma.
  • A public awareness campaign to increase understanding of grief, healthy coping strategies, and existing resources like MyGrief.ca and KidsGrief.ca.
  • Investing in a National Grief Strategy, to be completed in 5 months, to focus investment to maximize access to supports.
  • Rapidly scaling up research capacity to better equip health providers, communities and the country to better respond to the evolving, long-term grief and bereavement needs.
The Alliance includes front-line providers – psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and therapists – as well as academics and organizations providing grief services from across Canada. The group is convened by the Canadian Virtual Hospice (virtualhospice.ca), an internationally recognized charitable organization that serves 2.1 million users annually.

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For further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Nicole Harris
Maverick Media Solutions Mobile: 204.470.4555
nharris@maverick-media.ca

List of members of the Canadian Grief Alliance:

Paul Adams
Writer, journalist, academic

Marianne Arab, MSW, RSW
Nova Scotia Health Authority

Provincial Manager of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care
Cancer Care Program

Bev Berg, MSW, RSW
Calgary

Carrie Bourassa, PhD, MA, BA(Hons)
Community Health & Epidemiology
College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Susan Cadell, MSW, PhD, RSW
Professor, School of Social Work
Renison University College, University of Waterloo

Hon. Sharon Carstairs, PC, CM
Chair, International Centre for Dignity and Palliative Care

Philip A. Carverhill, PhD
Registered Doctoral Psychologist
Past Chair - International Work Group on Death, Dying & Bereavement
Clinical Instructor - Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan Adjunct Faculty - Psychotherapy & Spirituality Graduate Counselling Program, University of Alberta

Dr. Harvey Chochinov, OM, OC, MD, PhD, FRCRC, FRSC, FCAHS, FAPM
Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, University of Manitoba

Shelly Cory, MA
Executive Director, Canadian Virtual Hospice

Ceilidh Eaton-Russell, PhD(c), CCLS
Certified Child Life Specialist
Adjunct Lecturer, Child Life and Pediatric Psychosocial Care, Department of
Pediatrics Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
 
Pierre R. Gagnon, md, FRCPC

Directeur, Réseau québécois de recherche en soins palliatifs et de fin de vie FRQS Psychiatre spécialisé en psycho-oncologie
Directeur et Professeur titulaire, Département de psychiatrie et de neurosciences
Directeur, équipe de recherche Michel-Sarrazin en oncologie psychosociale et en soins palliatifs Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec – Université Laval, axe Oncologie Centre de recherche sur le cancer, Université Laval

Eunice Gorman, RN, BSW, MSW, PhD, RSW
Associate Professor, Dept of Interdisciplinary Programs, Thanatology
King's University College at Western University

Tory Hagerman, BA, CCLS, RECE
Communications Coordinator, Children and Youth Grief Network
Family Coordinator, Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto

Lana Holinaty
All Nations Hope Network

Darcy Harris, PhD, FT
Associate Professor/Thanatology Coordinator
King’s University College at Western University

Glen Horst, MDiv, DMin, BA
Spiritual Care Advisor, Canadian Virtual Hospice

Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis, CEO
Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network

Katherine Kortes-Miller, PhD, MSW
Assistant Professor School of Social Work
Associate Director Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health, Lakehead University

Dr. Mireille Lecours, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP
Provincial Palliative Care Medical Consultant
Health PEI

Serena Lewis, BSW, MSW, RSW
Nova Scotia

Alain-Philippe Lemieux, md

Directeur général
Maison Michel-Sarrazin

Mary Ellen Macdonald, PhD (Medical Anthropology)
Associate Professor, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University
Program Head, Pediatric Palliative Care Research, Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre
Associate Member, Institute for Health Sciences Education, McGill University
 
Dr. Christopher MacKinnon, PhD Psychologist

Faculty of Medicine, McGill University
Portland Institute for Loss and Life Transition

Heather Mohan, PhD, RCC, MTA
Founder and Executive Director, Camp Kerry

Monica Do Coutto Monni, BA, MPsych
Executive Director, Near North Palliative Care Network

Fred Nelson, MSW, RSW
Canadian Virtual Hospice Psychosocial Specialist

Holly Prince, MSW
Centre for Education and Research on Aging & Health
Lakehead University

Rowley Ramey
Managing Director, the Seasons Centre for Grieving Children

Maxxine Rattner, MSW, RSW
Hospice/Palliative Care Social Worker
Psychosocial Consultant, Canadian Virtual Hospice

Shane Sinclair, PhD
Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing
Director, Compassion Research Lab, Faculty of Nursing
University of Calgary

Jill Taylor-Brown, MSW, RSW
Canadian Virtual Hospice Psychosocial Specialist

Deirdre Thomas, BSS
Executive Director, The Lighthouse for Grieving Children

Marney Thompson, MA, RCC
Director Psychosocial Services, Victoria Hospice

Deborah Ummel, PhD, Psychologue
Professeure adjointe, Département de psychoéducation
Faculté d'éducation, Université de Sherbrooke

Wendy Wainright, BSW, MEd
British Columbia

Blanche Ward, BA, BSW, MSW
Provincial palliative care social worker, Health PEI
Project lead for the provincial palliative care drug program

Andrea Warnick, RN, MA (Thanatology)
Registered Psychotherapist
 
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