Team members and persons served hangout in the shade at the Festival of Loss and Healing

Contributed by: Gabriela Torres, Communications and Events Planning Intern 

Understanding Loss as a part of Life and Healing as a Collective Process 

In life, loss comes in many different forms. Whether one faces the loss of a loved one, loss of a pet, loss of country, or loss of youth, the feelings associated with loss and the ways of dealing with these feelings are unique to everyone. Talking about loss and accessing resources offered by the community are the important first-steps we can take to begin a healthy grieving and healing process.

On May 5th, posAbilities attended the Festival of Loss and Healing hosted by the New West Hospice Society at New Westminster’s City Hall. Along with 25 other non-profits and community organizations, including Century House, first responders, and advocates for spiritual healing, we shared our association’s experiences with loss, how we support our members’ when they are faced with loss, and what we do to educate the community about loss. At the festival, we set up a button-making station where people could express themselves and their feelings by printing labels onto buttons. When we recognized our experiences and the experiences of others in this direct way, we created positive connections between people and our association and came to understand that our seeming differences, when shared, become similarities.

The posAbilities button station in action.

Guided by Dr. Alan Kellehear’s Compassionate City Charter, the festival’s purpose was to educate individuals about grief and everyday losses people experience. The event built a unified community that doesn’t conceal news of death but instead facilitates open and honest discussions about loss in a comfortable space where people feel supported and safe. This sense of openness fosters an environment where residents can die with dignity and family and friends can grieve in a way suitable to them.

During the festival, organizers and partners used displays and handouts to communicate information about loss. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in peaceful and interactive activities including yoga, dance, mindfulness and meditation, painting, and had the chance to craft memorials in honour of someone who passed away.

Festival attendees participate in a drum circle.

Festival attendee, Pam Balog states, “Most attendees agreed that loss is experienced by everyone at some time in our life and we are not alone during these times. There are many resources to support us through the healing journey.”

Robinson Miranda who was also present at the event stated, “everyone had a good time speaking to visitors, listening to choir performances, and participating in the activities. The opportunity to connect with other groups and the possibility of networking and learning from them was very exciting and useful.”

The posAbilities team soaks up the shade.

The Festival of Loss and Healing is a step towards creating a compassionate community that fosters growth and development with support from residents, businesses, and visitors.  It places end of life care and bereavement at the forefront, uniting members of the community by shining the light on loss as everyone’s responsibility. We learned so much from the festival and feel fortunate to have helped kick-start the event with the city of New Westminster this year.