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Finding Comfort in Community: Yvonne’s Story

After the sudden loss of her father, Yvonne found a safe place at Hospice to share her grief, and made life-long friends on the process.

   Yvonne and Dad
Yvonne and dad Eddy

They called him “RV Eddy”: a nickname earned – and well deserved – for his far-reaching expertise in all things Recreational Vehicle. “He was the best Recreational Vehicle repair person in North America , people said,” shares Yvonne Hollandy, his eldest daughter. “ It was generally accepted that if he couldn’t source the part or fix the problem, then the part simply didn’t exist or the problem was unfixable.” Edward Hollandy’s brilliance was outmatched only by his generosity – “he would do anything to help others.”

When Ed died suddenly in March of 2021, Yvonne was devastated: “It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Everything about it was new.” Ed was not only Yvonne’s father, he was her best friend. Losing a parent for the first time in her early forties, she felt overwhelmed with grief. “All of the sudden, it’s like you’re in this club that you’re not sure you want to be in.”

A year-and-a-half after her father’s death , Yvonne made the courageous decision to join the Grief Recovery Group 1 at Hospice Peterborough.

Recalling walking into the room on her first day in the group, Yvonne shares: “The vulnerability in the room was palpable. As soon as you walked in, there was a rawness. People were crying. Kleenexes were going around. […] You could feel the pain, but it was a resonance. It was almost like looking at how you felt and seeing it in people around you that you had never met before.”
Though the early moments in the group were difficult, once the group began sharing and holding space for each other with care and with patience, that feeling of “resonance” grew. It began to feel “like a really safe, comfortable place,” she remembers.

Yvonne describes Lyle Horn’s facilitation of the group as “incredible,” noting his “gracious, kind, solid back-bone of a way of holding that space for everybody […] guiding people to where they don’t even know they need to be.” He also shared some “hard truths” with the group that were difficult but necessary to hear; like the reality that there would be no new memories with the person you had lost. “Death is as real as it gets,” Yvonne has learned.

And while most members of the group shared their experiences willingly, Yvonne says that sharing was always an invitation, there was no pressure. She also notes that in being open about your grief, you could “disperse and share the pain.”

But something special emerged as the group continued on: a growing rapport and a desire to stay connected beyond hospice walls. “Lyle had encouraged us to stay in contact, to reach out to one another […] if that was something that we wanted to do.” Since groups took place on Tuesday nights from 4:15-6:15 p.m., there was naturally discussion about dinner plans. With many in the group being widowers or newly on their own, eating in the company of others was appealing.

Group member Elaine managed reservations, and off they went. “Every week, it became a thing,” Yvonne says. Almost everyone in the room began joining the dinners, “realizing we had a deeper connection to one another, meeting in this vulnerable space.” Over casual dinners, the group shared further reflections on their grief journeys, practical tips and advice on things like planning a celebration of life and tying up legal matters after a loved one has died, and generally checking in on each other. Over the course of their ten weeks as group members, they shared lively and honest conversations at Swish Chalet, St. Veronus, Castle John’s (a few times!), the Railyard Café, and more.

Even when the group officially ended, this emerging community stayed connected via a group chat, organizing a Christmas party, showing up together to Summer Sips – a Hospice Peterborough fundraising event featuring wine, food, and live music at Rolling Grape Vineyard – and continuing a monthly dinner on Tuesdays. When it came time to register for Grief Recovery Group 2, many of the group members registered and stayed together, growing the dinners with new faces.

Last fall, the group even held a book sale to raise funds for the organization that brought them together. Group member Jackie Woodard had the idea, and hosted the sale, with everyone pitching in in some way, lending tables and collecting books. Yvonne designed a poster and promoted the event on Facebook. Exceeding everyone’s expectations, the book sale raised over $1,400.

Yvonne and her siblings, Shawn and Trisha, also hosted a Celebration of Life for their father (at the Peterborough Airport to pay homage to his love of flying and his history as a pilot) and members of the group attended in a show of support, despite having never met Ed.
“ It’s so precious. […] It’s like a second family,” is how Yvonne summarizes her relationship with the group.

While the pain of Yvonne’s father’s death still feels tender over three years later, being connected to others with shared experiences has brought immense comfort and support. “In this group, everybody knew, there was just this knowing […]. I made a toast once: ‘to our loved ones lost that brought us together.’

“We’d do anything to bring those people back, but it’s something we can say ‘thank you’ to them for, for bringing us together.”

Sharing her plans for the rest of the day following this interview, Yvonne’s eyes brighten. She’s meeting the group for dinner.

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