Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley executive director Maria Kliavkoff has recently completed 150 hours of training with the internationally recognized Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado.

She has obtained the Death and Grief Studies Certificate after completing five training seminars (Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Grief; Understanding and Responding to Complicated Mourning; Exploring the Shadow of the Ghosts of Grief; Companioning the Traumatized Griever: Reframing PTSD as Catch Up Mourning; and Suicide Grief: Companioning the Mourner) taught by the Loss and Life Transition founder Alan D. Wolfelt.

Thanks to a very generous grant from the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) social grant program, I was able to take this training with Dr. Wolfelt, said Ms. Kliavkoff, noting the training will help her and the Hospice Society team support people in the Columbia Valley through the loss of a loved one in a healthy way.

When asked what the studies will help Ms. Kliavkoff bring to the valley, the answer was simple.

We have a real misconception about grief in North America, she explained. We believe that somebody dies, then you grieve and youre sad for a while, but then you get over it. The challenge is to understand the distinction between grief and mourning. Grief is the sadness that you feel at the loss whereas mourning is the external expression of that sadness, and when you mourn a loss, then you are able to step through and move on with your life and discover what you life will be like without that person and thats a long process.

Twelve-week Bereavement Support Groups will be offered to the Columbia Valley in two streams: there will be a Suicide Grief Support Group running between 3:30 and 5 p.m. from January 20th until April 13th (except there will not be a meeting on February 24th) at Smoking Waters Coffee Shop in Fairmont; and there will also be a Bereavement Support Group running between 5:30 and 7 p.m. from January 21st to April 14th (except there will not be a meeting on February 25th) in Invermere at the Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley office in Frater Landing.

There will be a 10-person maximum capacity at each private session to ensure that participants needs are met.

Ms. Kliavkoff is prepared to repeat the 12-week support groups if there is a strong desire from the community to participate in the process of grieving and mourning.

North American society is really not geared toward supporting people who are mourning, so many of us carry our grief inside and it never really gets converted to mourning over the period of a couple of years where were carrying this heaviness in our heart but have no way of working through it, she said. We find that were living diminished lives. Were not as joyful as we used to be. Were sad and we cant really put our finger on it these support groups are all about helping individuals who have been carrying grief to transform it into mourning a really authenticate mourning to release that sadness and find a new purpose in life so these 12-week support groups are really important.

To register for a free support group, or to find out more about the screening process to participate, call Ms. Kliavkoff at 250-688-1143.