VOLUNteer TO BE a GRIEF facilitator

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Ever wanted to give back to your community in a meaningful and enriching way? Now is your chance. Volunteers are a vital part of Distress Centres. Every year, volunteers contribute more than 100,000 hours to our 24-hour distress and crisis lines, providing immediate access to help and support.

Under the supervision of professional staff, all volunteers are carefully screened and fully trained prior to taking calls or working with callers, program participants or survivors of loss. Volunteers also receive ongoing professional support and in-service education sessions. Experienced volunteers learn many life and communication skills which enable them to function more effectively in other aspects of their lives.

Our volunteer grief facilitators consist of survivors of loss and non-survivors of loss who receive extensive screening and training. Those with the experience of suicide and/or homicide loss are now at a point where they can give support back to other survivors. Those without the experience of suicide and/or homicide loss bring a rich and diverse background in a variety of social support environments.

We offer an adult-oriented support service for those who have experienced a death by suicide and/or homicide. Our volunteers create a semi-structured, safe place in which survivors can identify, explore and clarify their thoughts and feelings. By helping individuals define their situations and acknowledge their emotions, the support process leads survivors to a consideration of what normal grieving is under these circumstances, the meaning of the death, and a sense of how they can manage.

Potential volunteers will be subject to an intensive screening and training process prior to being accepted into the program.

Please note that Survivor of Loss Support Program volunteer training happens twice a year, in the spring and the fall.

What we're about

The Survivor of Loss Support Program provides grief support to survivors: individuals, families and friends impacted by a suicide and/or homicide. 

  • We provide both an individualized, face-to-face format and a group format.
  • Support is offered day or evening at one of our three offices: downtown, North York and Scarborough.
  • Philosophy: Each person's grief is unique. We support the survivor from the place that he/she is at. We help to identify and enhance the survivor's own abilities and strengths.
  • We embrace diversity.

 

What would you be doing?

  • As volunteers, you will play a key role in providing individualized, face-to-face grief support to survivors of loss.     
  • Volunteers work in teams of two. The teams are comprised of a survivor peer--someone who has been impacted by suicide or homicide--and a non-survivor (someone who has not experienced this kind of loss).
  • The volunteer team will meet with the same individual or family for eight sessions, each of which lasts between one and two hours.
  • Volunteers will provide regular updates about session scheduling and content to program supervisors.

 

What experiences & qualities are we looking for?

Meaningful life experience:

  • We welcome applications from survivors--those of you who have first-hand experience with suicide or homicide.  

Direct support experience:

  • Those without first-hand experience with suicide or homicide would have a background—at least one year of experience-- directly supporting others who are coping with significant life and emotional situations.

Personal qualities:

  • A good face-to-face presence—a warm and engaging personality, superior listening skills and an ability to convey empathy.
  • Emotional resilience, stability and maturity.
  • An ability to accommodate a regular and consistent meeting schedule.
  • Openness to feedback.
  • Good teamwork skills.
  • Willingness and ability to work with individuals of diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

 

Our responsibility to you

To provide training, protocols, policies, support and supervision to help volunteers be effective.

 

What we ask in return

A minimum commitment of one year from the end of training.

  • Four matches with participants throughout that year.
  • While you are matched, to be available on a consistent schedule for meetings with the survivor.
  • Adherence to the philosophy, procedures and policies of the Survivor of Loss Support Program.

 

What will be expected of you

  • Fill out an application below
  • Provide two references, including one that is professional or volunteer-related.
  • Police check, including vulnerable sector screening.
  • $40 fee is required to offset the administrative costs of materials provided and reference checks. 
  • Successful completion of the training program.
  • Working within the Survivor of Loss Support Program policies and procedures guidelines.
  • Maintaining confidentiality about your work in the Survivor Support Program.
  • Participation in ongoing training.
  • Note: Vulnerable sector involvement or a criminal record will not necessarily preclude a volunteer from their role in the Survivor Support of Loss Program. Decisions will be made on an individual basis. All information collected will remain confidential.

Survivor of Loss Support Program volunteer training happens twice a year, in the Sprint and the Fall.

 

Application Process

  • After filling out and submitting the application, we will contact you within two weeks of receiving it to clarify aspects of the application.
  • If it is determined that there is a good initial fit between your experience and the volunteer opportunity, we will invite you to an in-person interview.
  • We accept applications year-round, but interviews will be scheduled closer to the training period. 
  • The interview will be an opportunity to determine the fit between your in-person presentation and the type of work you will be asked to do.

Two volunteer training sessions are usually scheduled annually, most often in the spring and fall.

 

F.A.Q. on Survivor of Suicide Loss and/or Survivor of Homicide Loss Volunteering

Q: How many people participate in the Survivor Support Program?

A: Through a number of support channels, more than 600 individuals are helped annually.

 

Q: What is the training like for the Survivor Support Program?

A: We offer an engaging 30-plus hour training format that follows an attitude, knowledge and skills model.Some of the topics covered include:

  • Understanding grief and unique aspects of grieving a sudden, violent death
  • Challenging emotional reactions - anger and guilt
  • How to support survivors in face-to-face encounters; practicing skills in interactive situations
  • Suicide risk assessment

The training is very interactive. There are opportunities to practice skills and use knowledge gained in small- and large-group role plays.

Training happens twice a year, in the spring and the fall.

 

Q: What do you discuss in the support sessions?

A: Sessions follow weekly topics (guidelines are provided to volunteers) to create momentum, but the specific needs and concerns of a particular survivor will help set the direction of his/her support. You will have a chance to explore, with the survivor, how the loss has impacted them, and how the loss has affected their family and other members of their support network. You will also have an opportunity to discuss with the survivor their strengths and the challenges they face. It will also be important to explore how they are managing their reactions to the loss.

 

Q: Where are sessions held?

A: Normally, sessions will be in one of the three offices of Distress Centres: downtown, North York and Scarborough.

 

Q: How are sessions scheduled?

A: Meetings usually take place during the day and evening, Monday through Friday. Consistent support is appreciated by program participants and an important part of what we offer. Sessions are scheduled after a consultation between members of the volunteer team and the program participant.

 

Q: How much time is involved in volunteering in the Survivor Support Program?

A: Each week that you are actively volunteering involves between 3 and 4 hours of your time. This includes the sessions, scheduling, reporting and other activities.

 

Q: What are some of the volunteer and professional experiences that might be a good fit for the work you do?

A: Telephone crisis line volunteer; hospice or palliative care; nursing; counselling

 

Q: I am a volunteer on a distress line. Will I be accepted into training for the Survivor Support Program?

A: It depends. The makeup of our volunteer corps depends on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the number of survivors available for training. Additional considerations would include the length of service on the distress line (at least one year) and feedback from references. We do not permit volunteers to train for both the distress line and the Survivor Support Program at the same time.

 

Q: I am a survivor. How much time should I wait before applying to volunteer?

A: An important consideration for you is timing. Generally, a minimum of two years after a significant loss is preferred. It is sometimes the case that those two years might not be long enough. You must be emotionally available to engage with program participants about complex feelings and be available to share, if asked, elements of your own loss without actively grieving at the same time.

 

Q: What happens after graduating from Survivor Support Program training?

A: We hope that you will be ready to start as soon as possible after training. We also encourage volunteers to participate in ongoing education after training. New volunteers will work initially with more seasoned volunteers, who will mentor them in their new role.

 

Q: How are volunteers supervised in the Survivor Support Program?

A: Volunteers report to the Program Manager. We encourage volunteers to debrief with us as often as required. We require volunteers to provide updates about session content on a weekly basis.

 

Q: Do you provide a letter of reference?

A: After one year and you have fulfilled the required commitment.

 

As part of our commitment to volunteers, reference letters and confirmations of volunteerism are provided upon request to those who have fulfilled the specified requirements.  When providing reference letters, Distress Centres is only able to attest to a volunteer's skills, experience and personal qualities.  For clarity, reference letters and confirmations of volunteerism will note that Distress Centres volunteers engage in supportive counselling, but do not engage in psychotherapy, in the course of their volunteer work.

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Interested in volunteering?
Please take our quiz to test your listening skills.

Rating (1- Never, 2- Rarely, 3- Sometimes, 4- Most of the time, 5- Always)

1. I am the type of person who encourages others to talk

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
5- Always

2. I enjoy listening to others

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
5- Always

3. I have the same approach when listening to men and women, young and old

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

4. I am interested in listening to people even if they are someone whom I do not know

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

5. I am able to listen from an unbiased perspective, regardless of whether or not I like the person or their ideas

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

6. I tend to seek clarification when I am unsure of the meaning

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
5- Always

7. I tend to ask open ended questions to get the other person to fully explain their ideas

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

8. I listen even though I think I know what will be said-

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

9. I am able to provide full attention when listening to someone

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

10. I listen even though the person’s manner of speaking or choice of words is not the best

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

11. I tend to reserve judgement on someone’s ideas until they are finished

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
5- Always

12. I am able to reflect back what the person has said in order to ensure I have heard correctly

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

13. I consider and evaluate what the speaker is saying

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

14. I encourage the speaker to continue if they hesitate

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

15. I allow the speaker to complete what they are trying to say

1- Never
2- Rarely
3- Sometimes
4- Most of the time
- Always

    Add up how you score as a good listener!

    60 or better: You’re all ears! The message came through loud and clear! 
    50-59: Average. You might be missing some information, but keep at it! 
    49 and lower: There’s interference on the line. This may not be the most appropriate volunteer match.

     
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    APPLICATION: GRIEF FACILITator for the SURVIVOR OF suicide LOSS PROGRAM 

    Name *
    Name
    Telephone Number *
    Telephone Number
    How did you find out about Distress Centres? *
    Are you able to travel between our locations? (Two are on the subway line - downtown core and North York - and one is in Scarborough *
    Reference Name *
    Reference Name
    Reference Phone Number *
    Reference Phone Number