Ruth’s world changed dramatically, when at fifteen years of age, her father died on his birthday of a sudden heart attack at the breakfast table. While Ruth was surrounded by caring people, little was known back then about grief and its impact on people’s behavior when it is not processed. Even less was known about the effects of grief on teenagers. For a period of time, Ruth’s world spun out of control. She left school early and struggled to find a place for herself. Eventually she found her way back into studies at the University of Western Ontario and while she discovered that she had an aptitude for studying, she did not know yet what she wanted to do with her life. She found work in various places: a stint in professional theatre was followed by work at Banff where she met the father of her child.
Eventually, Ruth found her way to Victoria, B.C. with her eight year old son and partner in tow. It was there that she started to seriously examine what she should do with her life. She entered the Social Work Program at the University of Victoria through which she did a critical practicum at Hospice Victoria, finally discovering her passion for companioning the bereaved. Perhaps it was those early years after her father’s death, coupled with the memories of the prolonged final journey that her uncle had undertaken shortly after, that gave her the ability to really walk with deep compassion beside the dying and their families. Ruth has a strong sense of how lost a person can feel when they lose a critical dear one. As she relates, “I learned that you cannot walk in another’s shoes but you can know where the footprints are headed”.
Armed with her new Social Work degree, Ruth found a position at the Quesnel Hospital, working extensively in the palliative care field where she gave individual grief counseling and conducted many grief groups. She also worked on various committees in the community, further broadening her knowledge and fine-tuning her skills.
In retirement, Ruth moved to Port Alberni about eight years ago. An advertisement for a grief counselor for Ty Watson House caught her eye and she knew immediately that that was the job for her! Hired in June 2009 shortly after Ty Watson House opened, Ruth has settled well into her dream job.
While she works out of Ty Watson House on behalf of the AV Hospice Society, Ruth’s job is not confined to clients in hospice care and their families. Her services are available to the entire community. She offers individual grief counseling and grief groups. She fields referrals from home-care nursing, the hospital, Health Unit and Mental Health Services. She also welcomes self-referrals from anyone in the community who has suffered a loss through death and has questions about their grieving process.
Ruth says, “It is important for people to understand that I do not have all the answers for them. Indeed, I hold a strong belief that people have all the answers inside themselves. My job is not to tell them what they are feeling but to draw from them what they already know so that they can give voice to their pain and experiences and ultimately find the healing power within themselves. There are definitely patterns to the grief process but it is always a very individual journey….there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Perhaps the biggest part of my job is to help a person understand that their process, while unique, is both valid and normal.”
While donations are gratefully accepted, all bereavement services offered through the Alberni Valley Hospice Society are free of charge, thanks to the generosity of community donations and the support of our fundraisers.
You can contact Ruth at 250-723-4478 or email at email@example.com