Hoping to bridge the gap for parents of grown children with Operational Stress Injuries (OSI), the London MFRC and Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) partnered together to offer its first retreat workshop for parents from Sept. 25 to Sept. 26.
Made possible through a grant provided by the True Patriot Love Foundation, the retreat was identified as a major need in the area because of the growing service gap for parents of grown children with OSIs.
“We know that the demographic of families has changed in the last 20 years. Children are leaving home later, they’re living at home longer, and parents are involved in their lives,” said Tammy Murray, Family Liaison Officer with the London MFRC.
The retreat, which took place over a day and a half, was held at the Elmhurst Inn in Ingersoll, ON, to take participants away from everyday stressors.
The workshops focused on the importance of caring for the caretaker and providing resiliency capacity.
“The overall aim of the weekend was to look at providing psychoeducation in a really safe environment for parents and really to look at how they are coping with a son or daughter struggling with an OSI, how they communicate, what are their support systems and how do they promote their own health because, parents are innately guilty to sacrifice their own needs for their children on an ongoing basis,” said Murray.
Day one of the workshop focused on psychoeducation, which entails educating families and individuals to empower them on dealing with a mental health condition in the best way possible. In the evening, with the help of an art therapist, parents created paintings and participated in Mandala colouring to tap into their calming emotions.
The second day, focused on coping skills and how to move through the mental health continuum.
Accommodations and food was taken care of for each of the 15 participants who travelled from various cities in southwestern Ontario.
One of the major findings from the workshop for organizers, was the importance of parents connecting and empathizing with each other.
“One of the major themes was just meeting other parents in a similar situation. It gave them that foundation that they are not alone and it also gave them hope for the future because a lot of people were at different stages of the journey,” said Polliann Maher, Family Peer Support Coordinator with OSISS for southwest Ontario.
The success of the event was made possible through the strong partnership between the London MFRC and OSISS, who have partnered to hold other retreats in the past, according to both Maher and Murray.
“That connection and working relationship has been a key to identifying the issues…that’s how we are able to meet the needs of these families under a pretty massive umbrella,” said Murray.
Both Murray and Maher hope to hold similar workshops for parents in the future and provide the opportunity to make invaluable connections with more parents.
“I think it builds resiliency capacity, just being able to connect with other parents and understanding they are not alone. From a peer point of view, the power of being in a group where you are not alone, where you don’t have to tell your whole story, and they know it, and they accept you, and there’s no judgment, that’s a huge piece,” said Maher.