Giving hope to the bereaved

Robert Beauchamp
Robert Beauchamp and his wife, Nicole Robidoux. Photo: Submitted

Yves Bélanger, Servir

The death of a child or a spouse always creates a shock wave in a family. The HOPE program exists to help those who have lost a loved one who served in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). A resident of Montérégie shares his experience as a volunteer for this program.

Created in 2006 by the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS), the HOPE program offers confidential support to bereaved families through peer volunteers who have experienced the same type of ordeal. It allows bereaved people to better understand the grieving process and helps reduce the sense of isolation that often accompanies it.

Since 2009, Robert Beauchamp and his wife, Nicole Robidoux, have been among these volunteers. Two years earlier, their son Nicolas died while on a mission in Afghanistan.

For Robert Beauchamp, helping parents going through the same ordeal is a way to cope with his grief. “Among other things, it allows me to make sense of what happened to my son.”

Mr. Beauchamp explains that as soon as a CAF member dies, the spouse and parents are informed about the HOPE program. “People then decide whether or not they feel the need to use this free service.”

Those that volunteer go on to ensure that conversations with peers remain strictly confidential. “We have to report to those in charge of the program on how these people are doing and talk about their progress in the stages of mourning. However, the content of the discussions is never disclosed.”

The support continues for as long as the bereaved person wishes and the longest Robert Beauchamp has ever done was about 16 months. It was a father whose child had committed suicide. “This man felt a lot of anger. One day, after several discussions, he told me that he understood that it was better to direct his energy towards the people around him rather than rehash his dark thoughts. I was so happy to see his evolution.”

Difficult mourning

Robert Beauchamp explains that the loss of a child creates a wound that never heals. “It’s not in the nature of things to outlive your children. The pain remains present. However, you learn to soften it up and live with it.”

For him, the best way to get through this ordeal was and still is to recall good memories with his late son. “Instead of emphasizing the loss of this child, I prefer to go about it in a positive way. It helps me move forward.”

Help to find hope

The main role for volunteers with the HOPE program is to support the bereaved. “We are not interveners. We are here to listen to what they have to say and to help them understand the different stages of grief.” It is by sharing stories and perspectives, as well as offering new options that they are able to give hope to their peers. “At the moment, the program is aimed at parents and spouses. I would love that one day services could also be offered to brothers and sisters. My second son was very close to Nicolas and would have greatly benefited from such a program,” concludes Mr. Beauchamp.

If you would like to receive peer support, please contact the HOPE Program Manager at 1-800-883-6094 or HOPE-ESPOIR@forces.gc.ca
For all the details: https://www.cafconnection.ca/National/Programs-Services/For-Families-of-the-Fallen/HOPE-Program.aspx

Become a volunteer for the HOPE program

If you have lost a loved one who served in the Canadian Armed Forces and have gone through the grieving process, you may be able to volunteer. You will need to take training on the HOPE program and be emotionally prepared to listen to peers going through the same situation.

By getting involved, you will join a supportive community and make a positive difference in someone’s life. A great way to give back!

Information: 1-800-883-6094 or HOPE-ESPOIR@forces.gc.ca