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Each Other

in Our Grief


The International Federation of over 120 L’Arche Communities was founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier in France. In order to further Jean Vanier’s vision of creating compassionate communities where people of all backgrounds and abilities can fulfill their full potential and live dignified, meaningful lives, the first community in Canada opened in the Toronto area in 1969.


Today, there are two vibrant L’Arche communities in the Toronto area engaging many people of diverse backgrounds. People with developmental disabilities and “assistants” live and share life together. Partofthat life has been to grieve the loss of friends. The following is some of our experience and wisdom.


“Don’t be afraid to grieve your losses. They are the

signposts of our lives, after which we are never the


Joan Chittister from Gospel Days


What might be helpful before someone dies?

  • create a supportive group that will be there for
  • the person

Work on Life Story Books or other forms of

  • life review
  • Encourage people to participate in caring for
  • the person who is ill.
  • -Visit in the hospital or hospice

Encourage people to express their concerns,

  • anxieties or ask questions in an appropriate
  • setting.
  • Help the person who is ill to give input as to
  • what they would want at their funeral
  • Help people to find a way to say good bye.

What might be helpful at the time of a death?

  • Appropriate long term people share the news in the
  • homes - tell people simply but honestly what
  • happened.
  • People gather together shortly after to listen to the
  • news of the death again and to pray, sing, tell stories,
  • laugh and cry together.

Being together.

  • Be creative about involving people in the
  • wake and funeral

How can we support each other after

  • someone has died?
  • - Visit the grave/celebrate anniversaries
  • Give permission to talk about the person who
  • has died and to express feelings and allow them
  • to support you

Consider a grief support group if it is

  • a major loss
  • Continue to name gifts and tell stories
  • about the person who died.
  • Support the person in learning coping
  • strategies that work for them and will
  • transfer to other losses.

“Loss can so often be the first step towards

something better – either around us or within


Joan Chittister- Gospel Days