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Couple finds their calling helping people cope with grief

Ted and Peggy Bendell are both active in the community and helped bring the GriefShare program to town

It was their grief over the loss of their two sons, parents, and a sibling that prepared a local couple to start a group that helps people manage grief.

Losing two children was something Ted and Peggy Bendell had never imagined as parents. From that experience, however, they started a grief support group.

“The Lord has been preparing us… it’s from the Lord. The Lord has really directed us to that,” Peggy said in an interview, adding that the loss of their two sons qualified them to facilitate the group under the international banner GriefShare.

It was in April 2001 when their youngest son, Eric, died by suicide. Ted and Peggy were not home at the time and it left a sharp blow in their lives. For Peggy’s part, she questioned herself and her parenting.

"We knew that he was bullied, of course, you find out more things afterwards than what we knew before, and we knew that he was having struggles — we did all we can,” Peggy said.

She questions herself less nowadays, and when Peggy has thoughts such as “I should have done this”, she reminds herself, “Well, I didn’t."

"I can’t do anything about it now, so Lord, forgive me for not doing that, and help me to just get on because I could not waste energy on ‘I wish I could have, should have,' because you can’t undo it, it’s still there, and beating yourself up is not going to bring him back, it will just make you less alive," she said.

In August 2005, another son, Graham, died a year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Working through grief and all its various emotions, Peggy said the sharp pain will go, but the sadness will forever remain.

Ted agreed and added that there is always sadness because the chair, and in their case, two chairs are empty.

When they lost Eric and Graham, they were fortunate to have lots of support and prayers from friends in the church, the neighbourhood and Ted’s boss and colleagues.

A friend sent two weeks of meals, which was a huge help when they were grieving.

“I also read a lot of books (about) some people’s stories on the loss of loved ones, what they did, and just a matter of working through it,” said Peggy.

Ted said during those times there were not enough tools for managing grief apart from a friend who would give them a hug.

A friend sent them 12 tips for managing grief.

Some of the actions included, if you feel like crying, cry; if you feel like sleeping, go to bed; get lots of nutrition, and don’t make any big decisions for at least one to two years.

"Listen to your body, because grief can take a huge toll on your physical system, as well as your emotional system," said Ted.

During those times when there were no accessible tools for the bereaved family, Peggy and Ted said having each other helped them both to manage the sadness of the loss of Eric, Graham, Peggy’s father and mother, and Ted’s sister.

In 2019, Peggy read about GriefShare and mentioned it to Ted. A couple of months later, Ted was listening to a podcast and heard a passing reference about the program.

In January 2020, a friend of the couple, Fern Power, passed on some information about GriefShare.

The couple felt the calling from God, so Ted brought the concept to the elders at Bible Fellowship Assembly in Porcupine. 

“There was almost no discussion, yes this is something we need to do. Yes, it is expensive, but we will do it,” Ted said, relaying what transpired when he brought up the concept to the church.

The Bendells brought GriefShare to Timmins and are the area co-ordinators, along with Power.

They host seminars and sessions for people experiencing grief to help them manage the overwhelming emotions that come with the death of a loved one.

It started with the 13-session Your Journey from Mourning to Joy in 2020 with a virtual program.

The same seminar is being held again starting on Feb. 4. It will be held in person at Bible Fellowship Assembly and virtually.

Earlier this month, they also hosted the Loss of a Spouse seminar for the first time. It was two-hour session for widows, which included a book to help participants continue their journey to healing.

Peggy is from Nova Scotia, while Ted is from Calgary. Ted was becoming a pastor when he got posted in Nova Scotia and met Peggy.

By the time he was ordained, the couple was engaged. After getting married, they moved to Saskatchewan where their first two boys were born. They moved to Porcupine in 1981 and had another two boys.

Peggy joked that “if we move to another province, we might have two more kids."

Aside from GriefShare, Peggy fundraiser for Scout Canada and spearheads the Operation Christmas Child boxes locally for Samaritan's Purse Canada.

She's sung with the Timmins Symphony Chorus since the '80s.

Ted, on the other hand, is currently with the board for Youth Unlimited Timmins Region.

Both Ted and Peggy are active in their Church ministry. They also enjoy volunteering because aside from the sense of fulfillment, they can help people, especially those individuals who are grieving. 

To join their seminars or to know more about their programs, contact Ted at 705-360-0697 or email [email protected]