Grief Support Group for Farm Families

By Garrett Simmons
FCSS Communications

A death in the family can be devastating.

Having someone, or a group of people, who understands what you’re going through and you can talk to can be critically important in helping one cope with tragedy.
The Coping With Death (On and Off the Farm) grief support group for farm families aims to provide such an outlet.
“The reason why this came about was there are many farm accidents that result in death that have happened in this area, as well as across Alberta and Canada,” said Kori Kuryvial, Farm Family Outreach Coordinator for FCSS. “As an organization, we wanted to offer something that could address that reality and provide support for the families who have experienced something like this or have experienced a death of a family member from illness.”
Any death on the farm is difficult, especially considering it is both a place of work and quite often represents your entire life.
“It can be difficult to process your feelings because you are always working,” said Kaitlynn Weaver, Outreach Services Supervisor at FCSS. “This grief support group is for people to connect with each other and process the feelings of grief and then also relate to one another about the challenges and joys of living on a farm.”
“We as an organization are equipped with a grief counsellor and we’re equipped with the Farm Family Outreach Program, so this really makes sense. We felt very compelled to do something.”
Kuryvial mentioned FCSS is decreasing barriers for those seeking to attend, as childcare will be available and the sessions will also take place in the evenings in the central location of Coaldale.
“One of the benefits of having it in Coaldale is, say you have experienced a death in your family and you live in Picture Butte, but you don’t want to see the people that you know in Picture Butte in this grief group,” said Kuryvial. “It provides an opportunity for some anonymity and allows them to create a network outside of their direct community. Plus Coaldale is pretty central in FCSS’s service area.”
FCSS is looking for consistent attendees for the support group, to increase its effectiveness.
“To join this support group, registration is required. This means it’ll be a closed group because it is a really sensitive topic and it can help people feel more comfortable if they are meeting with that same group each week,” said Lorena Ahmadi, Farm Family Outreach Worker for FCSS.
But in the end, the goal of the support group is to help farm families make it through a tough time in their lives.
“We just hope to be supportive to this beautiful, rich community in our region,” said Tanie Reid-Walker, Counsellor for FCSS, who added grief is the feelings, emotions and images that are within us. “Having a grief group is a place when you know you can get some of that out and have people that are understanding. That is extremely powerful and helps with the mourning process.”
Deaths on the farm also bring added complexity, in terms of added workloads and, in some cases, feelings of guilt if an accident was involved.
To start, sessions will be held on Thursdays from 7:00-8:30 p.m. inside the Coaldale FCSS Hub (2107-13 St.) from Oct. 19 to Dec. 14. Weaver added the support group is a long-term initiative.
“We’re going to offer this until someone takes us up on it, because we think it is going to be something that might take a while for people to become comfortable with,” she said. “Sometimes, people aren’t ready to talk about their grief when something happens and they need a couple months. Hopefully for those who are experiencing tragedy today, they will reach out to this group now or a year from now when are ready to process their grief.”
Weaver added FCSS is always there to help, whether people want to join a support group of require one-on-one assistance.
“This is part of reducing the stigma around accessing support. People might not be interested in joining a group but they can always connect with FCSS to get individual counselling. The more that we talk about it and the more that we explain that something like this is available, the more it will become a household conversation.”
To register for the Grief Support Group for Farm Families, call 587-370-0215 or email