Bereaved Families of Ontario in urgent need of peer support facilitators

KITCHENER – One of Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region’s (BFO-MR) core programs is in a precarious position as the grief support organization is experiencing an urgent need for peer volunteer facilitators.

BFO-MR is actively recruiting for volunteers to support its program for parents grieving the death of an infant, a gap that if not filled could mean the group won’t be able to run.

“We recognize this is a very specific need to fill and that we have some challenges to overcome,” says Jaime Bickerton, BFO-MR executive director.

“Parents who experience this type of loss are often young with small children at home and have limited capacity to take on this role.”

The peer-support model BFO-MR offers means groups are facilitated by volunteers who are themselves bereaved.

Many BFO-MR members find facilitating to be a rewarding way to give back, as well as continue on their own grief journey.

One such member is Crystal Thagard who describes her experience participating in and then leading a group as “life-changing.” Her facilitator’s ability to help members feel safe and supported along their grief journeys inspired her.

“By the third week of group I realized I wanted to give back. I knew I wanted to be a facilitator after watching them and feeling their empathy,” she says.

Thagard took the facilitator training with BFO-MR and is now an active facilitator. She knows this is another piece of her grief journey but also an opportunity to help others in her daughter’s honour.

“I really don’t know where I would be right now without BFO-MR. It grounded me and gave me purpose. I learned how to develop coping skills in the group. I found out a lot about myself,” she says.

BFO-MR is currently accepting applications for its spring facilitator training program which will focus solely on training facilitators for its program for parents grieving the death of an infant (during pregnancy 20+ weeks gestation or as an infant).

Virtual training takes place from 6:30 to 8:30pm on May 31, June 7, June 8 and June 14.

Applications are being accepted online until May 7 at

“If you have experienced this type of loss and are ready to support others in their grief journey, we need your help. Fathers, mothers, biological, adoptive – all are welcome,” says Bickerton.

BFO-MR is hosting an information session on April 27 to share more about the facilitator role and what applicants can expect from the training. Along with lived bereavement experience, facilitator training is mandatory to volunteer as a peer facilitator.

Register here:

2021 marks BFO-MR’s 25th anniversary providing peer grief support in Waterloo Region, Guelph  and Wellington County.

BFO-MR currently offers support groups for Parents Grieving the Death of an Infant, Parents Grieving the Death of a Child, and Healing Little Hearts – a professionally-run program for children ages four to 12 and their caregivers. Good Grief, a support group for teens coping with grief, launched this year.

BFO-MR also offers Living with Loss (a mixed-loss support group) and Living with Loss for adults grieving a death by substance use.

Grief literacy is an important part of its work and it provides a variety of education sessions throughout the year.

All programming and education initiatives are being offered virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all services are offered free-of-charge.

For information about programs, grief education and memorial events, visit