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  • Vermilion Voice

Compassion Fatigue Follow Up

From left, Town of Vermilion’s FCSS Representative Carol Coleman, and Compassion Fatigue Facilitator Bill Harder. Photo Angela Mouly

Gaining valuable information on maintaining wellness, personal and professional caregivers gathered at the Vermilion Regional Centre for the Compassion Fatigue Follow-Up session on April 5.

“If you love people, animals, or this earth, you will eventually grieve. The worst kind of grief utterly melts our being, but if we allow grief to do its work in us, something utterly miraculous happens,” said Compassion Fatigue Facilitator, Bill Harder.

Harder described the process of grieving as being similar to that of a caterpillar and a butterfly. He suggested that before bereavement, people are like caterpillars and that grief encapsulates them entirely; like a chrysalis. The butterfly houses the same genetic material but is a different creature entirely.

“If you crack open the chrysalis, you will kill it,” said Harder, who reminded participants that people all have their own timeline in grieving.

Participants learned that grief can build people back up into something new, and in their own time people can discover new possibilities (not better - just different); stretching their wings.

“Grief is not dysfunctional or the result of human weakness. Every human inter - culturally grieves, either by feeling or by thinking and doing,” said Harder.

Participants discussed how our culture is removed from the death and grieving process and how they wished grief would become normal to talk about and not be a faux pas. One person stated that you can recognize when grief is present because it feels heavy.

Harder recommended not to ignore grief and to take breaks from it. He mentioned that for every kind of grief there is a unique road and that workplaces can be affected as well as marriages, parenting, and the body.

“Above all, grief asks that we bear witness to its presence; without an attempt to fix it. Know this; you will survive. You are grieving because you love,” said Harder.

Harder feels there is a huge amount of unacknowledged grief, and suggested maintaining awareness, balance, and connection. He also said that people should ask themselves, ‘Am I grieving?’ and ‘What do I need to let go of?’

Currently, in a role of providing spousal care, participant Hugh Allan mentioned that certain things have been difficult adjusting from pre-illness to chronic illness.

“My participation was suggested by family and friends, and Harder brought up some points helping me to learn, and ideas to implement in the future of what I can do to make things better. It was a good reminder that we’re not alone, and provided useful tips on learning how to adapt to life changes and challenges,” said Hugh Allan.

Alberta Health Services sponsored the event through Kalyna Country Primary Care Network, and the Town of Vermilion Family and Community Support Services. For more information on Compassion Fatigue, you can visit

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