Connecting to VON Canada’s Hospice Services in Durham Region

“Palliative care is a special kind of health care for individuals and families who are living with a life-limiting illness that is usually at an advanced stage. The goal of palliative care is to provide comfort and dignity for the person living with the illness as well as the best quality of life for both this person and his or her family. A “family” is whoever the person says his or her family is. It may include relatives, partners and friends.” Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association

Most Canadians with life-threatening illnesses would prefer to die at home surrounded by family and friends, yet about 75% of deaths in Canada still occur in hospital or long-term facilities. That’s why organization’s like VON Canada which provides Hospice Services in the Durham Region are so important.

Its mission is to provide support, comfort and hope to individuals, their families, friends, and caregivers, who are experiencing illness, death or grief, by offering volunteer-based hospice palliative care; bereavement services; and educational opportunities.

Serving all of Durham Region VON’s hospice programs are delivered by a team of 10 staff and over 200 highly skilled and trained volunteers. Each year more than 800 individuals receive physical, emotional, social and practical support at no charge through this special organization.

Hospice Palliative Care aims to relieve suffering and improve the quality of living and dying according to The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association. It is a specialized type of care that strives to:

  • Address the physical, psychological, social, spiritual and practical issues, and their associated expectations, needs, hopes and fears
  • Prepare for and manage self-determined life closure and the dying process
  • Cope with loss and grief during the illness and bereavement process.
Contemplating an important goal.

Contemplating an important goal.

One of the important services provided by hospices is grief and bereavement support for those experiencing end-of-life or for their family and friends. Recently, VON’s Manager of Hospice Services Dawnette Hoo-Hing and its Fundraising and Events Coordinator Vikki Gilmour visited The Mane Intent to explore what’s possible when you connect the healing power of horses with people experiencing grief and bereavement.

We all experience grief at some point in our lives. Grief is the way we experience the psychological, behavioural, social and physical reactions to loss. The grief journey is unique for everyone. It can be experienced and manifested in many different ways: physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively, behaviourally and spiritually.

In the peaceful presence of horses, people are provided with a safe and neutral place to process grief. Whether through a reflective grooming activity, reflections in the round pen with a horse partner, or in a field with the herd at liberty, the horses hold a safe space for us to move through the various stages of grief while concurrently giving us an opportunity to experience a healing connection between horse and human. They don’t have an agenda and they don’t judge us for the emotions we’re experiencing. They live in the moment and they encourage us to be in the moment.

Here are a few tips from the herd that can help us when we experience the loss of a loved one:

  • Take as much time as you need to grieve. This is not a three day event – it could be a three year process or more. For Vikki Maggie Dawnetteeveryone – the journey is different. Horses live in the moment and aren’t on a schedule. They give us the time we need to grieve and silently hold the space for us to do so.
  • They have big shoulders to cry on and encourage us to express our emotions. It’s healthy to have a good cry, giving yourself permission to express emotion. When we repress our emotions – they only intensify and build up within us.
  • When you are feeling sad, find a friend or someone you can talk to and share your feelings with. We encourage our clients to share their stories with the herd. They are great listeners.

For more information on VON’s Hospice Services supporting Durham Region call 1-877-668-9414 or email:

Find out more about The Mane Intent’s Equine Relief for Grief offering.





The Mane Intent

August 26, 2016

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