Over the last decade Joannie Ransberry has had seven people close to her die. At left her parents at right her son. She says grief groups in the York Region where she used to live and in Haliburton have helped her with the process. SIRCH's Journey Through Grief bereavement groups have been a help she says. JENN WATT Staff

Butterfly release to fund grief resources

By Jenn Watt

Published April 18 2017

A few months after Joannie Ransberry moved to the Haliburton Highlands her father died. Harold (Mac) Ransberry was 92 and had lived a long fulfilling life but his death was still devastating. The grief was intensified by several other deaths Ransberry had experienced over the last decade: her son brother in law best friend mother and fiance among them.
“It brings up the other ones. You re-live [the grief]. That is what goes along with multiple grief” Ransberry says.

A retired journalist from York region Ransberry was well aware of grief resources; she had written about them in her career and had used them when those close to her died.

When he was 41 Ransberry’s son Gord Simpson died suddenly of a heart attack. The death of a child is traumatizing she says and counselling helps you find ways to cope.

Though she wasn’t yet integrated in the Haliburton community to the same extent she remembered reading about SIRCH Community Service’s bereavement program in the newspaper.

It was exactly what she needed.

“It’s excellent. It reminds you that you’re really not alone in grief” she says. “It’s a sharing of feelings … you learn to live with it.”

The facilitators and fellow group participants help each other process the experience of losing someone in regular sessions.

There are three levels to the groups designed to address different facets of grief. Ransberry has done two of the three levels and intends to attend the third.

“I really noticed the change in loneliness” she says. The empathy and understanding group members brought made going through grief a little easier.

“I’d encourage anyone of any age of any loss [to attend]” she says.

The bereavement groups called Journey Through Grief do not receive any government funding but are free to community members. In order to keep them running SIRCH relies on donations.

One of its key fundraisers is Release of the Butterflies now in its third year at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre. They have a goal of $25000 and money from the event goes to bereavement programming as well as the Community Kitchen School’s Cool and other food initiatives.

“As well as being a fundraiser it is an opportunity to provide adults and children with information on butterfly gardens and the importance of butterflies as pollinators in a very hands-on way” says Marla Force chair of the event’s committee.

The fundraiser asks participants to pre-order a painted lady butterfly which is then brought to the Minden event and released. The butterflies are natural to the local environment and reared at a farm in Lakefield. The event also features music food and activities for children.

Last year Ransberry attended the release and says it was a moving experience. She visualized her son as the butterfly as she opened the paper envelope containing the orange and black creature. Instead of flying off the butterfly flitted to a nearby branch where it sat for a few minutes before flying off into the nearby marsh.

Donations for butterflies must be made by Friday May 26. The release event is Sunday June 18 Father’s Day. Registration is at noon the butterfly release is at 1:30 p.m. at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.

A donation of $30 secures one butterfly $100 for four. To order your butterflies call SIRCH at 705-457-1742 or email info@sirch.on.ca.