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Quote: The Grieving Process and Volunteer Work  
Started by eKIM
10 Apr 2014, 2:49 PM

To help yourself, help others.  Whatever good you do travels a circle and returns to you many times over.  But remember, life isn’t about what you get, it’s about what you become.  - Dennis Gaskill

Very early in life I was taught that when one gives but a single measure, it is returned one hundredfold.  I didn’t give this much thought for most of my life, writing it off as hyperbole. 

But four years ago when I began my volunteer work at hospice, I discovered the undeniable truth of this expression. 

My life has been enriched beyond measure.  For the one measure of love that I give forth, I truly do feel one hundredfold returned.  I cannot believe how much I have been blessed for doing something so simple – being a compassionate listener for hurting souls  ~ eKim

There are an unlimited number of opportunities to contribute as a volunteer in all facets of our society. 

Here is my question:

  • Is volunteer work (of any kind) a useful and valuable tool to help one during the grieving process?  
  • Or is it something that, if taken on at all, must wait until much later in the process?

Can you please share your experience and your thoughts on this? 
~ eKim

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Reply by Glasslady001
15 Apr 2014, 1:46 AM

i believe that volunteer work is absolutely a useful tool!
i believe it can give us a purpose when otherwise we may feel completely helpless. I certainly know that to be true for myself.
even though I (At times) feel hopeless in my own situation,I know that I make a huge difference in the lives of others.
i have COPD and my husband has stage 4 cancer. I volunteer my time helping people through the loss of their beloved pets, a loss that society (in general) does not see as significant as other types of losses. I do not agree. 
I see it as an honour to be permitted to companion people through their grief. When they open their hearts to another pet, it is even more rewarding!
my life, too, has been enriched beyond measure.... 
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Reply by eKIM
15 Apr 2014, 11:40 PM

After reading your posting, Glasslady001, I had the following thoughts. 

People love to know that their lives made a difference to others, in a positive way.

To see the purpose of their lives, people often look to their children – their legacy in flesh and blood.  But beyond that, people feel good about themselves if they know that they have made a significant contribution to their communities and society at large.  Volunteer work is a great way to accomplish this.

I have often wondered if I would have the strength of character to continue reaching out to “hurting souls”, when something devastating happens to me.  I would like to think that I would, however, I honestly won’t know the answer to this until that day comes.

In the meantime I will look for role models to guide me on my way.  And sweet Glasslady, you are one of my role models.  I must tell you how much I admire you.  Despite what you are going through, you reach out to others in a very meaningful way.  I hope that I can be as strong one day.

Please reach out to us here at Virtual Hospice at any time when you need someone to “talk” to.

All my best.  - eKim 

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Reply by lohoke
17 Apr 2014, 2:57 AM

Hi eKIM, 

Your questions are thought-provoking. I was fortunate to work for a children's cancer foundation for close to 5 years. I worked with many volunteers, adults and children, who helped us organize and execute cycling events that funded kid's cancer charities across Canada. Now I am a volunteer again. 

The answer to the first question is generally yes in my experience if they can manage depending on their personal grief process (so somewhat answering question 2). I have seen bereaved parents, siblings, family and friends find a measure of something to help them with their own grief.

Generally many have found it in giving to others or helping at events that will raise the funds to help others. For the young ones (ie 8 to 18), many times volunteering became a tool they had to do something in the face of helplessness and sadness.

That they could make a difference in the memory of a friend, to give them hope, was a powerful tool that in many cases was part of the grieving and healing process. The ability to help other children was powerful as was the simple fact they were allowed to do something and told they could. I suspect many times we would want to protect kids and cocoon them after losing someone dear. But to enable them to feel that they matter enough and can make a difference to help and to give them the opportunity should they wish it, that can be a tremendously positive thing.  

That being said, tears and pain and grief are many times just a breath or memory away. We have cried and laughed within moments working together with parents and relatives or volunteers who became good friends with many of the families we've come to know. 

On the flip side for Q2, everyone is unique in their pain and grief and the journey they struggle through for the rest of their lives. Some people can move back within the circles of families in similar situations to volunteer, lend a hand, fundraise. Others may not be able to for several years or may never be able to do it. But could maybe volunteer in a totally different situation, with adults instead of children, with reading instead of illness, etc.

It seems that volunteering gives so much to those that do it. A focus outside yourself, a means of being constructive and positive even if you don't much feel like it. Perhaps its a way of being able to feel there is more value in the world and in the people around us by giving time and attention to the causes or needs that matter to each of us. I don't know. But I do know it is a good thing. Maybe some days, being able to do a single small good thing, may be really key to getting through that day when the rest of it may not make much sense at all. 

May we all have some peace and comfort in our volunteer and life journeys. Glasslady001 your words and values are compassionate and profound, thank you for sharing your story. 

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