Gerry Croteau (with the great bow tie!) is the Executive Director for the
Gilbert Centre in Barrie, ON. Gerry shares:
For the LGBTQ community, there is programming, information,
parenting support, HIV teaching—the whole gamut! There is a website,
people to call and talk to and a variety of programs. There is important information that parents and teachers may not have!
We also network and partner with other organizations such as CMHA
(Canadian Mental Health Association) and public health. We are entrenched in
the Simcoe/Muskoka community.
Gerry and I had a fun and spicy conversation on my ROGERStv show,
“Real Life Talks.” Tune in here:
The Gilbert Centre takes a broad, social determinants approach to our
work that is based in social justice, health equity and human rights. We see
to engage individuals, families, organizations, institutions and communities as partners and collaborators in the work we undertake.
We are committed to the greater involvement and meaningful engagement of people living with HIV/AIDS (GIPA/MIPA). We engage all
those who live, work with and are affected by HIV/AIDS and their allies in a culture of inclusivity intended to foster an expanding and inclusive approach
that embraces those living with HIV in all their diversity and circumstances.
The Gilbert Centre recognizes and respects all human rights, identities, and experiences. People who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, two spirit, and all
queer and trans people are welcomed and supported.
Gerry, Thank you for all that you do to empower and educate people!
Regardless of age, race, ability/disability, sexual orientation...
we can make a difference. No matter how small it (or you) may be.
Thank you, Austin!
You are a Superhero!!
(to watch this amazing video of Austin!)
I am at the Hunter’s Bay Radio studio with my mom.
I asked her to be on my show because she has led me on my spiritual path
and shared part of her story in my book, Love Your Life to Death, in my chapter
for I Bared My Chest and in my chapter for Anxiety Warrior. She is a gift to
others too! I asked her to share information about Waves of Healing:
I am a Wholistic Practioner and my practice is called Waves of Healing.
I work out of a wonderful space called, More Than Just Art. I use different methods to help people be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually;
Reiki, Acupressure, pattern work (a verbal exchange) and energy work.
It helps people look at patterns they’ve repeated in their lives and how
they want to do things differently.
As I mentioned, my mom led me on my spiritual path and changing my
patterns from the past. I was her greatest skeptic. But it helped me so much
in my life. That’s why I share her message, (and not just because she’s my mom!)
We also talked about Finding Your Post, that internal or
permanent something that you can hang onto—no matter what--
in times of despair. She shares:
My Post is knowing that I can turn to love instead of fear anytime I
choose to do that. To be loving toward myself first—sometimes difficult
for most people—then love others. No matter what the situation,
I believe that love is always the answer.
Love and Gratitude are always the answer,
no matter what the question.
I believe we can be lighthouses for each other, if we choose.
We can shine the light for ourselves first,
then be the light for everyone in the world.
We never know where our light ends up or how many people we help.
Thank you, mom, for everything you are.
You have helped me to become a better person.
And you say I’ve inspired you?
Guess we are lighthouses for each other! xo
Many times in life, when we are really busy we reach milestones
and things that we should celebrate. But we often say, “Ok we accomplished
that” and just jump to the next thing, and move on.
Well today, I’m going to stop and say that I am really proud, happy and celebrating. Last week, I was a keynote speaker at a hospice/palliative care conference. I had attended the same conference four years ago and loved the closing keynote speaker and thought, “I want to be her.” Well guess what?
Last Monday, I was!
Then on Friday, we were invited to Centennial College (in Toronto)
where I received the Alumnus of Distinction, 2018 Award. I was given a
beautiful trophy, roses, wonderful lunch; was treated like royalty and the faculty
was amazing. I was also able to say a few words to 500 graduates
and their families. It was magical.
So I am celebrating my accomplishments today. We’ve given our hearts
and souls to “Love Your Life to Death” for the last four years
(and we’re not stopping!). It is nice to be validated and recognized!
Good for us!
I encourage you to celebrate your milestones
along the way--big and small.
What are you going to celebrate you today? :)
And we care.
You are never alone.
Here is a panel discussion of people who are here for you.
As I sit in my lovely office looking at the beautiful trees that surround me,
I am thinking about the many broken hearted people who are grieving, including myself. As we share our I Just Showed Up movement—teaching people of all
ages how to show up for themselves and each other so they are empowered and resilient when grief arrives—I want to share a few more tidbits.
When there is a funeral, celebration of life or tragedy, people Just Show Up.
Then life goes on for them. But for that grieving person, life is never the
same and they have to adjust to a new normal. And it’s hard. So I want to remind everyone to keep showing up for that person. Their grief journey has only just begun. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
Acknowledge and allow all feelings;
Sad, mad, depressed…whatever they are. If they want to talk, listening and allowing is the greatest gift you can give.
Don’t minimize or “at least” people.
“At least you can do this or that…” it is not helpful.
Don’t start telling your story as soon as they finish telling theirs.
In that grieving moment they just need to be heard.
Create that space for them. Be a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.
Forget the Golden Rule.
Don’t treat people as you want to be treated, treat people as they want to be treated. We are all different, so… ASK! What is the most helpful thing I could
do right now? Maybe offer a choice; can I cut the grass, pick up the kids, bring you dinner, grocery shop for you. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
And if they really don’t know, just do something nice!
Forget the polite conversation.
“How are you?” “Fine thanks.” Let’s not say we’re fine if we are not,
or hope others do the same. Let’s allow our humanness and be real.
We all have very busy lives. It’s easy for the weeks to slip by and you feel
terribly that you didn’t connect with someone who has had a tremendous loss.
So…put reminders in your phone (or calendar). Call once a week and encourage others to do the same on different days. Of course grieving people need
space to grieve. But we need to keep checking in… for the first year. Then
re-evaluate after that! There’s not timeline!
So, Just Show Up for Yourself First,
and Just Show Up for the grieving.
Together we can help heal people’s broken hearts.
I am in the Hunter’s Bay Radio studio with Eva Zachary and Jody North.
Two wonderful ladies from Muskoka Victim Services. I asked Eva what the
greatest message we could share with our community would be. She replied,
Just Be There. Be Human.
If someone is in crisis, struggling in any traumatic situation, you don’t have
to fix it. And you can’t fix it. You can’t change what happened! But, you can…
Just Show Up. Just Be There. Be Yourself.
You don’t have to walk in like you have a PhD (even if you do!) and have all the answers. It’s much better to say, I don’t know what to do or say, but I’m here! Both ladies agree and Eva adds, That’s the best thing. Jody says,
that’s how real connections are made.
Just Showing Up, and being human.
That’s how real connections are made.
We can also have these conversations BEFORE a crisis.
What should I do or say? Seek out information!
Victim Services volunteers Just Show Up in the deepest and greatest crisis of someone’s life. Eva says it is usually one of the worst days of someone’s life.
I can’t express how grateful I am for Victim Services staff and volunteers.
I have met people who have been supported by them, and it made all the difference. We want our volunteers there, but we also need our community to
have the courage to Just Show Up.
(and keep in mind, volunteers need their village too!)
Being the Program Coordinator, Jody adds that they are always accepting new volunteers on their team. (Even if you’re not in Muskoka, I have no doubt your local Victim Services needs volunteers too!)
Showing up on someone’s worst day, a very difficult thing to do.
But so rewarding, know you made the difference on someone’s’ worst day!
Thank you ladies. You are Queens of Just Showing Up.
And thank you to every Victim Services organization.
You make the difference!
My friend Minnie was admitted to hospital, and when Geordie saw her,
she was sitting in the chair eating a meatball sub. I decided I would visit her the
next day. But that night, shortly after her sons visited,
Minnie died peacefully.
Minnie lived and died the way she wanted. She spent her last years at
Castle Peaks Retirement Home in Bracebridge; a place she loved. Thankfully,
she was not in hospital for long. She was my beautiful friend.
I am sad that I didn’t know our last visit was going to be our last visit,
and that I wasn’t able to attend her funeral. That was hard. I lit our special
candle with her picture and wrote this:
My Friend Minnie
I had the easy part. I didn’t have to make medical decisions,
drive Minnie anywhere or attend doctor’s appointments. I just got to be Minnie’s friend. When I was writing my book, Love Your Life to Death, I was writing
Take Aways on Living Well, Grieving Well and Dying Well. But something was missing. My mother-in-law, Nancy Heath, suggested I visited Minnie.
She was 101 at the time. The rest is history.
Minnie and I shared many wonderful moments and deep conversations over
the last four years. I learned about her entire life and was in awe of her quiet wisdom—although she didn’t think she was wise. She knew she was opinionated though, and we laughed about that. When I would visit I would often have to
wait until she was done carpet bowling or playing bridge. But, it was always
worth it! Geordie and the twins, Jadyn and Tanner, visited sometimes too.
Minnie watched my new career evolve and was delighted when my book was complete. Her response; “It’s really is more about living well, isn’t it!” She
really got it. I am honoured to share of glimpse of Minnie in my book and she
is part of my every presentation. I share my 7 Take Aways everywhere I go.
She gave me Take Away #6:
We all need a post; something to hang onto in times of despair,
something that will be there for us, no matter what.
So, Find Your Post, and Hold Onto It.
Thank you, Minnie, for being my friend.
I already miss you!
Love Yvonne xo
We always want to be sorry that someone died, but don’t be.
Of course I’d love a hug and the people who miss Minnie need to be supported
in their grief, but Minnie lived her life well and had a good death.
So let’s celebrate my friend Minnie who lived 105 years!
(But feel free to send me a hug!)
p.s. When I told my daughter Jadyn about Minnie she hugged me,
then brought me my self-care toolbox!
I’ve been sharing my Take Aways for the last several months.
Today is the last one; Take Away #7—What Will Your Legacy Be?
So often people nearing the end of life are trying to figure out what their legacy will be? The truth? I believe we create our legacy each and every day of our lives. Are we kind? Helpful? Miserable? What will people remember about us?
Create your legacy everyday with every interaction.
I aspire to have a legacy of laughter, love and being the change I want to
see in the world. So when people think back (there are a lot of things I hope
they don’t remember; I’m not perfect), I sure hope they remember when I was
a nurse and tried to make them laugh or smile and I was really silly. And of
course the wonderful family that Geordie and I created—my greatest accomplishment. I am also so proud of my Love Your Life to Death book and
the I Just Showed Up movement.
We all have different journeys, different purpose. So I ask you;
What will your legacy be?
What will people remember most about you?
If you don’t like the answer, what can you do to change that, today?
It’s been wonderful sharing my 7 Take Aways with you. I hope that just maybe,
you had an Aha Moment and feel empowered to change some things so
you can Love Your Life to Death.
Join our community, as we continue to
support and learn from each other along the way.
Together we can create a culture of change!
Imagine facing the greatest loss of your life, and not being able to talk about it.
This is what Karen Litchfield—and her siblings—went through.
I shared a glimpse of Karen’s story in my book, Love Your Life to Death (pg. 113) and
interviewed her on my Hunters Bay Radio Show. (tune in May 5th at 8am or on HBR’s Podcast). https://www.huntersbayradio.com
Karen: We talked about my mom’s tragic death in a car accident, when she was 31 years old.
Her name, Joan Marie Sanders (nee Heard).
My dad was left with five children; 7 year old twins, and a 6, 5 and 4 year old.
He has never been able to talk about it. After she died we weren’t allowed to ask questions
about her, see photos or talk about her at all. He has never talked about her and even later in
life when we have our own children we’d say, “What can you tell us about mom?”
His response “There’s nothing to say.”
I shared: It is so hard when we don’t talk about grief or allow children to grieve.
Your dad didn’t know how to grieve. Sharing this story in my book was life-changing for me; realizing the impact of unresolved grief. I cried for a really really long time.
This is a beautiful but hard part of Karen’s story. Big grief but being a voice for change-
Encourage people to have “The Talk” and allow grief!
A wonderful part of Karen’s story is what she is doing at our local high school;
something every high school should do:
Karen: We’ve started “The Clothes Closet” where students can “shop” for all kinds of clothing.
And if we don’t have an item they need, we buy it for them!
I love it! I am SO excited! Karen, you accept gently-used clothing, new clothing
and of course... cash donations!
If you are in the Huntsville area and have a donation for this amazing cause,
call Karen at 705-788-9698 or email at email@example.com.
Or on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/theclothesclosetHHS/
Wouldn’t this be great to start at your local high school?
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your story and for all that you do
to make the world a better place!
We came back from San Diego where we saw sea lions, lemon and lime trees
and thousands of blooms everywhere. We had the most incredible time. We
came back to Ontario in a fantasy; it was going to be Spring and the snow would
be gone. We set ourselves up for failure, because that was not the case. We have
even had two snow days in April! Then, Jadyn our daughter had a fever and was miserable and I broke my toe (2nd broken toe in 5 months!).
It seemed like nothing was going our way and I will confess; I had a pity party.
It took a few days to get out of that until I finally decided… ENOUGH! It was
time to accept—acknowledge and allow my feelings—but then get out there
and enjoy what is!
I put on my big winter boots, the only ones I could wear with my broken toe.
I had a beautiful walk with squirrels scurrying around and birds everywhere.
I could hear the water in the creek running and the sounds of Spring coming.
It reminded me: Sometimes we do have to acknowledge and allow our feelings
and have a little pity party. But then we have a choice to move forward. There
are not going to be lemon and lime trees in Muskoka, but the change of the
seasons is certainly a magical time!
I’m going to enjoy every moment I can; broken toes, snow days… all of it.
I am just going to keep loving my life—no matter what—or at least keep trying! May you have the courage to do the same!
I met Stacey Canfield while I was in San Diego, and quickly realized we were kindred spirits. She has embarked on a beautiful journey. Stacey shares:
Back in 2010, I started a movement called, Being a Soul Sitter.
It is a comforting community for people facing the loss of a loved one. It really gives that extra support—in the dying process—for the loved ones who are in the awkward position of having to say goodbye.
The book helps guide you through with a lot of practical tools.
By reading her book, “The Soul Sitter’s Handbook; What to do when a loved
one is dying”, and the wealth of information from her website (excerpt):
You can feel confident as a Soul Sitter.
You can learn to build a bridge that will help you cross each
challenging experience effectively.
You can learn to receive help and support using Soul Sitter tools.
There is a path to peace with each challenging or sorrowful experience In our lives we will have the opportunity to be Soul Sitters.
This will help us to understand the privilege and give you the tools
to be present, to Just Show Up.
The Soul Sitters Handbook
Once a month I share one of my 7 Take Aways, the culmination of my
learning of how to live life to the fullest, learning to grieve and support others
and having “The Talk” about end of life, long before it arrives and diffusing the fear. Today I am sharing Take Away #6; Find Your Post.
As I was going through and figuring out how I wanted to empower myself
and others—I’m learning as I go along just like everyone else—I was developing
the Take Aways; having “The Talk”, being that village for everyone, just showing up for others, showing up for yourself first and structuring your life in such a
way that you were self-reliant. But I felt like something was missing.
So I went to visit 101-year-old Minnie Boyes (Minnie turned 105, March 24th 2018!!). I absolutely love Minnie. She is so wise, although she doesn’t think so.
I asked, “Minnie, what else can I share with people? How can I empower them
in life, grief and death? What is missing?” We talked for a while longer, then
she sat back and casually said, “You know, we all need a post, something we
can hang onto, no matter what, in times of despair!”
I was so excited, because that was my missing piece. We all need a Post. We all have loved ones we can rely on in times of grief (well, hopefully!), but you know, sometimes you can have a Grief Attack in the middle of the night, or five years later or just sometimes when you are alone. You need something internally
or permanent that you can hang onto.
For some people, it is religion, spirituality, yoga, meditation, music or art; something you can rely on, go to, no matter what else is going on, no
matter when, to help you in times of despair. Nature is a wonderful post that
you can visit anytime. It’s what soothes my heart and soul. I go to Nature when
I’m happy, sad or grieving. I feel connected to something wonderful.
I encourage you to sit back and take the time to find your post,
if you haven’t already.
Find Your Post, and Hold Onto It.
I love chatting with Suzanne Witt-Foley. We were talking about mental health first aid…
and ALGEE! I asked Suzanne to explain; (full description of ALGEE below)
Suzanne: In mental health first aid, we learn a set of action steps, a "toolkit" for helping people to feel confident, comfortable and to be successful in supporting someone else.
Yvonne: In supporting you don’t have to fix it, you don’t have to be a professional!
It’s about being that community, that village for people! I think it’s just as important
as learning CPR or first aid.
Suzanne: One in three people will struggle with a mental health issue at some
point in their lives. So if it’s not you, it’s a loved one, a friend, someone close to you or
a colleague. We take CPR and value it because we might save a life. With Mental Health
First Aid you use it all the time and you could also save a life!
Yvonne: Very powerful! I’m honoured to share the following information to
learn more about Suzanne:
Hunters Bay Radio show I Just Showed Up on April 7th (then available on podcast).
Anxiety Warrior Event on April 8th in Bracebridge.
*Elke Scholz wrote Anxiety Warrior and Anxiety Warrior 2.
Suzanne and I each contributed a chapter in the first book.
Suzanne will be sharing information on MHFA at the event.
Suzanne was a guest on my Roger’s TV Show, Real Life Talks
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing
a mental health problem, experiencing the worsening of an existing mental
health problem or in a mental health crisis. Just like physical first aid is
provided until medical treatment can be obtained, MHFA is given until appropriate support is found or until the crisis is resolved.
You can make a difference!
I had the absolute honour of meeting Brandon Steppe while attending the
Global Influence Summit in San Diego, CA. He spoke about the incredible
David’s Harp Foundation, which he created and the founders of the summit
had chosen to support. I asked Brandon to tell me about it:
Brandon: The David’s Harp Foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to inspire,
educate and empower at-risk and homeless youth. We re-define “at-risk” to mean full of potential, but just lacking mentorship. We bring kids into this beautiful studio, and this is their home, where they get to create and learn. But they also meet influential people and mentors who can guide them in other areas of life.
Yvonne: Incredible! So what do they get to create here?
Brandon: They are having so much fun. They do a lot of hip hop, but we also
have multi-media production, photography and they’re learning post-production audio.
It’s really what they want it to be.
Yvonne: You have state-of-the-art, beautiful equipment here—which always needs funding,
of course. Tell me, what changes have you seen in the kids who come here?
Brandon: It’s crazy. You can throw a rock and hit a story around here,
because this is a place where people come to be transformed. But there are a couple
that are close to my heart; one in particular:
My “Little Sister”, I call her Livey, she was on the street 3 years ago,
refused to stay in her group home (foster care youth), continuously ran away
and refused to go to school. Her court-appointed advocate brought her here.
Within 6 months, she had a 3.87 GPA (awesome grades!), and was trading good grades
for extra studio time.
We went through ups and downs, highs and lows and going back to court.
We were there with her.
Yvonne: You just showed up. You stood by her. You don’t give up on these kids.
You give them a safe space and allow their creative genius. I love this, and thank you
so much for what you do!
We are all responsible for everyone. The more we give our at-risk youth a chance, the better off we all are. Brandon would love to see this in every community. What a wonderful movement to support and follow!
Thank you, Brandon, for loving these kids and giving them a chance!
You have Just Showed Up. You are changing lives!
*Create a life you love everyday!
*Follow your passion and purpose-It knows the way!
*Never ever ever give up!
*You never really know what you can create!
I have finished my Rogers show with my good friend Nancy Osborne.
You are an incredible person. It was such a great show. Stars were born! You are someone who does workshops and helps others to unlock their instincts, and I will share your website www.igotthis.space.
We spoke about your important message. What would you like to share?
Nancy: We hear so much about empowering women everywhere; government slogans,
#MeToo #Times. We need to stop and think. Wait a minute…Don’t we already have power?
I think about all the things I have done, I am a powerful woman! That power is already
inside each one of us. When we talk about empowering women, we are saying we don’t
have it, but we do. Why are men born with power and women have to BE empowered?
We need to change the culture around power.
Yvonne: We need to find our own voice, and our own power within us. It is a phenomenal
way to re-frame that thought, tapping into it an owning it, and finding our voice.
Thank you Nancy for all that you do, I have shared your website, please take a look-
You will not be disappointed!
I interviewed my friend, Rob Alldred-Hughes, on my radio show where he shared
his personal journey of growing up in Muskoka, having a wonderful family and friends--
but feeling like he was different. With that often comes fear of rejection and uncertainty.
He endured bullying and kept his true self hidden until he was in his 20s.
That was when he revealed that he was gay, there were mixed reactions; some knew,
others were fearful or did not want to discuss it. I have no doubt this would be a
challenging time for anyone! Rob says he now leads a wonderful life here in Muskoka.
I add, “That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it. Once you become your true authentic self, there’s hope for a good life. Because it’s about #inclusion, #acceptance and #respect.”
Rob: “It’s about living every day for yourself and what matters is how you feel inside.
It’s about taking that time and saying, ‘this is who I am, like it or love it, here I am.’”
I agree and add that it’s about loving who you are and creating a life you love.
Rob: “And have some laughs along the way! Why not!!”
Rob and Jeremy are happily married with the most beautiful daughter Gemma,
whose life is filled with love, happiness, friends, a family who adores her, a beautiful
home and an awesome dog. What more could you ask for??
Be Who You Are and Love Who You Love
I am here to proudly say that on Feb 16th, 2018, I turned 53!
I am 53 years old and I am very grateful to have been here on this earth this long.
I am grateful for the things in my life. As I celebrated it occurred to me, how often people say, “Oh don’t ask their age, that’s impolite" or people are embarrassed to say
how old they are. Why is that???
Why can’t we celebrate how old we are, whether we are 53, 63, 83 or 93?
Should we not be saying, “Wow! That’s incredible! Good for you, you’ve been here this long.” Because we all know someone who has died young and they would be more than happy to
be 53 and have a few more wrinkles and grey hair.
Shouldn’t we be celebrating our age, no matter what it may be?
Shouldn’t we proudly announce, “I’m 53 years old, or whatever age?
So I challenge you to re-frame this thought and feel like it’s something to be proud of,
to be grateful, to celebrate each and every day. And just maybe, when you read this blog
or watch the video…why don’t you share with us, how old you are, how many years you
get to celebrate that you have been here and you are living your life. And hopefully you are living your life to the fullest at any age!
I am 53! And I am going to be piz-zazier and blingy-er (yes, those are words) with every decade, so look out!
I encourage you to share your age and celebrate your age,
whatever it may be!!
Structure Your Life in Such a Way
That You Can Live Without Each Other
Every month I am sharing one of my 7 Take Aways on how to live life to the fullest,
learn to grieving and support others and have “The Talk” about end of life, long before
it arrives and diffuse the fear. Today, we are looking at Take Away #5:
Structure your life in such a way that you can live without each other.
We all know the couple who were married for “100” years. The husband either became
ill or died and the wife had never paid a bill. Maybe she doesn’t even drive. Or,
the same couple, the wife becomes ill or dies and the husband has never even made a sandwich. The truth is, that used to be the way it was, “back in the day.” The man was
the one “bringing home the bacon” and the wife was the housewife. I’m not really sure
what they did when they faced end of life. But here’s the thing; couples are still doing this.
We are often totally dependent on our partners for certain things.
It’s great to have jobs that you do in your house and that your spouse has his/her own
jobs. BUT… even if the person is away, is ill or yes…dies… don’t we think that we should be able to do each other’s jobs? Why would we want to face that in a crisis? (I remember a
woman telling me that when her husband died, she had no idea how to manage her house
or live on her own. She was petrified!).
So I had to make my own decisions. I needed to empower myself. So I looked at Geordie’s
(my husband) tools and toolbox. Now I have my own cute little hammer and my own toolbox.
I don’t even care what anyone thinks of my pink basket of tools. I have my own nails, screwdrivers AND I can also use the electric drill, thank you very much. I learned how
to operate the generator so that when the power goes out I can start it and not be a
“damsel in distress”.
Really something to think about; what is making you dependent in your house and what
could you do to change that? It is a hard way to live when you think, “Oh my goodness,
if my spouse was away, I wouldn’t be able to do a, b or c. Let’s stop doing that to each
other and to ourselves.
Structure your life in such a way that you are resilient and self-reliant.
Last week I was at the West Parry Sound Health Centre, and connected with Jessica Caux,
a lovely young woman who works with the hospice/palliative care team.
She was instrumental in creating a beautiful space called the Reflection Room.
I wanted to learn more about it. So I asked, Jessica, what is a Reflection Room?
Jessica: A team of researchers at Saint Elizabeth Health Care developed this project called
The Reflection Room. It was created to inspire people to share their stories about their
experience with death, dying and the overall experience with grief on their journey.
It is a space created to make it OK to talk about it, OK to reflect and OK to feel those
emotions. Then, they analyze the stories and share them on their website:
www.reflectionroom.ca and it’s great!
Yvonne: I think it’s so extraordinary! People can go to the website anytime and
share their stories! Awesome! (They can also look at creating a Reflection Room in
their community!) In my three years of hearing people’s stories researching for my book,
I realized how much people need to share these stories. But they often don’t. They don’t
know where to go or who to tell. Often loved ones are afraid to listen! I look around
and see they are beautiful stories everywhere that people have shared. Stories of love
and grief! It’s so heartwarming! What made you want to create this room?
Jessica: We live in a death-phobic society and creating this space makes it OK,
then everyone starts to jump on that train!
Yvonne: Jessica, this is music to my ears!! Thank you so much for creating this beautiful
space (with, I’m sure, a great team working together!). This is open 24/7 until
February 27th, 2018. Anyone is welcome to come by, write, reflect anytime.
Have a look at the website, share your story, get information or maybe learn
how to create a Reflection Room in your community!
Creating space to pause, reflect
and share experiences with dying and death
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Kevin Cutler on my Hunter’s Bay Radio Show.
Kevin is a long-time educator, and we talked about Restorative Practice which he now teaches. It’s a wonderful concept I learned about many years ago at my children’s school.
Kevin, tell you about Restorative Practice and what you teach:
Kevin: What we teach is that relationships are the key to learning, productivity and life.
And when harm is done, the purpose of discipline is not to punish, it’s to teach.
We do a lot of work with schools, any organization and families around building
community, having voice, having choice, being fair and engaging people.
We do a lot of teaching around how to facilitate effective circles, effective discussions
and use them for all these things.
Yvonne: And giving everyone a voice and a safe space!
Kevin: Yes. We’ve implemented this in all the schools in the area. And I’ve just
returned from Northern Quebec and the Arctic, where we worked in 14 communities
and their schools—with the Inuit Community. This practice is based on indigenous
customs and traditions. All we’ve done at IIRP (International Institute for Restorative Practices, Canada), is probably add some science and language.
Yvonne: I encourage all of you to learn more at www.canada.iirp.edu
Thank you, Kevin, for all that you do to teach this important concept,
to help build community and create a safe space for everyone!
*From the “Restorative Practices Handbook”, pg. 7
Simply put, restorative means to believe that decisions are best made and conflicts are best resolved by those most directly involved in them. The restorative practices movement seeks to develop good relationships and restore a sense of community in an increasingly disconnected world. These practices have been applied in justice systems, families, workplaces and neighbourhoods, as well as in schools.
Help end the stigma around mental illness.
It’s easier than you think!
It’s a fact: One in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in
their lifetime. One of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma. It is the number one reason why two-thirds of those living
with a mental illness do not seek help.
According to the Mental Health Commission, on any given week, more than 500,000 Canadians are unable to go to work due to mental health problems.
5 ways you can help
The words you use can make all the difference. Words can help, but they can also hurt.
What would you choose? Words to watch out for:
Not Schizo. Person with schizophrenia.
Not Crazy. Person with a mental illness.
Stigma has been around for a long time, and knowing the facts and myths about
mental illness can be a great way to help end the stigma. Read about facts and myths,
and become a stigma buster.
Simple kindness can make a world of difference. Whether it be a smile, being a good
listener or an invitation for coffee and a chat, these simple acts of kindness can help
open up the conversation and let someone know you are there for them.
Expressions like “You’ll get over it” and “Just relax” can minimize how a person is feeling. Instead offer your support and say “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well.”
Ask what you can do to help.
Listen and ask
Mental illness is a very common form of human pain and suffering. Being a good
listener and asking how you can help, sometimes just even being there for people you
care about, can be the first step in recovery.
Here are a few examples of what to ask:
*I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well.
*I’ve noticed you’ve seemed down lately.
*Is everything OK?
*How can I help?
Talk about it
Break the silence. Mental illness touches us all in some way directly or through a friend,
family member or colleague. Stories of people who have experienced mental health issues
and who are doing well can really challenge stereotypes. Most people with mental health
issues can and do recover, just by talking about it.
Mental Health Affects Us All
Thank you, Bell.
Every month I am sharing one of my 7 Take Aways on living life to the fullest,
learning to grieve and support others and having “The Talk” about end of life…
long before it arrives and diffusing the fear.
Today I am sharing Take Away #4; to be empowered, resilient and compassionate…
Show Up For Yourself First!
Last month I shared Just Show Up, when someone is grieving,
in crisis or facing one of life’s challenges. BUT, if we want to be able to show up for others,
we need to show up for ourselves first!
Be the very best version of yourself that you can be. This means being a great self-care giver.
If you are, you will be able to show up for others, you will be able to be that village
(Take Away #2) and if you are not a great self-care giver, you will end up needing to be cared for by others. But, if you’re not, you’re probably a lot crabbier than you think!
In our family, to remind us to be great self-care givers and for times we are grieving--
I don’t know about you, but when I am grieving, I am a hot mess (and I won’t
apologize for that!) and I can’t even think—we’ve created our Self-Care Toolboxes!
My beautiful box is filled with books, trinkets that remind me of wonderful times,
letters from patients and families and many things that make me feel better.
And really soft tissue for a good cry. I dive in when I’m having a bad day, grieving or
when I need a reminder that I have value and I need great self-care.
My children have also created their own Self-Care Toolboxes because it is so individual.
We grieve differently and different things make us feel better. And that’s ok!
And Geordie, my husband, his is a dirty old fishing box with keys to the garage,
duct tape and not much else. But hey, hat’s all he needs. No judgement.
So if you want to be that village, if you want to be able to Just Show Up for others,
Show Up For Yourself First!
You have value, you matter and you are a gift to others when you are a great self-care giver. And a great example too!
Yvonne Heath is a Canadian leader, Transformational Speaker, Blogger, Television Host, Author and Creator of the #IJustShowedUp movement.
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