Peace Arch Hospice Society’s Celebrate a Life fundraiser has returned to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre. People who donate $20 or more are to receive a hand-painted dove. (Contributed photo)

Peace Arch Hospice Society’s Celebrate a Life fundraiser has returned to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre. People who donate $20 or more are to receive a hand-painted dove. (Contributed photo)

Peace Arch Hospice fundraiser Celebrate a Life returns to South Surrey

Hospice fundraiser runs until Dec. 23 at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre

Dealing with the loss of loved one is a painful experience.

Emotions swell, and often, the first step is to be surrounded by friends and family as a way to share the burden of grief. Finding closure is necessary.

This year, the challenge of finding that closure has been especially difficult.

Not only are B.C. residents ordered by the provincial health officer to not gather in groups of more than 10 people for funerals or celebrations of life, but people often aren’t allowed to meet, for that one final time, with their loved one who is in the process of dying.

However, through this global pandemic, the Peace Arch Hospice has continued to find a way to provide grief support programs, free of charge.

And newly announced executive director Amanda McNally says the hospice’s role today is more important than ever.

“There’s so much to unpack when people are grieving in quote-unquote normal times. I think that this is just an exceptional circumstance that we find ourselves in,” she said.

While hospice has found creative ways to host support programs, either virtually or in-person employing personal protective equipment and Plexiglass dividers, some programs were not able to return.

“I think what we’re going to see is a lot of complicated grief for people because there’s so many elements to the losses right now that haven’t been there in the past,” she said.

But much like the challenges hospice is facing in terms of the supports it can offer, they have also been affected financially.

The programs the hospice society offers are free, due to the thousands of dollars the society receives through community donations and money raised at its annual events.

However, like many non-profits in Surrey and White Rock, the Peace Arch Hospice Society had to cancel two of its key fundraising events this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The cancellations have left the hospice with one key event for the year, the Celebrate a Life fundraiser.

SEE ALSO: Celebrate a Life initiative marks 30th year

From now until Dec. 23, people are invited to visit the Semiahmoo Shopping Centre, where they can write their loved one’s name on a paper dove and hang it from a tree. With a donation of $20 or more to the society, they will also receive a ceramic or wooden dove, hand-painted by a local artist, to bring home.

A hospice volunteer will be with the tree as long as the mall is open.

Deirdre Lane, who organizes the volunteers, said she was a bit worried that volunteer turnout would be low this year.

“But I was just amazed. The first two or three weeks, people were very forthcoming in wanting to help out. I was really pleased,” Lane said.

Lane, who has volunteered for the Celebrate a Life program for the past five years, said for some, Christmas can be a difficult, lonely time.

A highlight of the volunteer job, she noted, is the opportunity to listen to people who offer stories of their loved one.

“It is lovely to hear them.”

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