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I Believe

I Believe




Terry Garchinski of Life Works has been asked to present at the National Indigenous Sexual Abuse Conference in Edmonton, February 21-24, 2005.  The name of Terry’s presentation is called, I Believe.

This presentation is about creative ways to walk the healing path.  It is based on a little book, I Believe which is “…a compassionate story about a raindrop’s life, losses and loves.”  News North, Yellowknife, NT.

I Believe is a parable about human life. It helps people of all ages find a way to acknowledge and accept life’s hurt and pain, in order to heal and live a truer life without carrying so much baggage.

The author and presenter, Terry Garchinski, offers Healing from Loss and Grief Workshops. In this presentation, Terry presents some of the creative strategies from these workshops that have invited many people to heal from hurt and pain of abuse and loss. The workshops and this presentation are based on the belief that each of us already know everything we need to know to heal. What this presentation and the healing strategies will do is invite knowledge to awaken in each of us with ease and gentleness, so that we can action it in good ways. In doing so, we become in control of our own healing, in our way, in our own time. We are our own healing expert. Healing does not have to hurt! Healing is about completing the circle, coming to a place of balance and wholeness.

I Believe can be purchased at:


The CASW National Social Work Week Distinguished Service Award is given yearly by the CASW on the occasion of the National Social Work Week, to an individual or group of individuals selected from their membership by each CASW member organization. Some provinces choose to submit nominations less frequently. The criteria for nominations is established by the provincial/territorial organizations.

The recipients of the National Social Work Week Distinguished Service Awards for 2005 are:

Alberta – ACSW Area Coordinators

Saskatchewan – Tracey Muggli

Manitoba – Margaret Tobin

Ontario – Drummond White

New Brunswick – Claude Savoie

Nova Scotia – Joan Gilroy

Newfoundland and Labrador – Jocelyn Greene

Northern Canada – Terry Garchinski


By Terry Garchinski

In 1989, Terry Garchinski was living on the streets of New York. Now, in 2005, he has won a distinguished service award, offered by the Association of Social Workers in Northern Canada, which recognizes his holistic approach to therapy.

He said the award means a lot to him, but the honour is not his alone. “In some way, this really recognizes all my colleagues,” said Garchinski.

Garchinski grew up in Naicam, Saskatchewan. He spent two years, from 1988-1990, choosing to be homeless in cities around Canada and United States, before hitch-hiking home to Naicam, and beginning the Social Work Program at the University of Regina.

He came to Yellowknife in 1993/94 to finish his practicum with the university, by working as a general therapist. Since then, he has been all over the NWT working with the Dene, Metis and Inuit people.

News/North NWT, Monday, May 30, 2005


On-the-land Training Camp, Clyde River, NU

On-the-land Training Camp, Clyde River, NU

A Clyde River-based course attracted people from around North Baffin to its counselling program, including one young man.

Saila Qayaq, 25, was the lone male, of a class of almost 20 people in Our Life’s Journey, an ambitious two-year alcohol and drug counsellor training program.  Qayaq first got interested in the field when a friend approached him for help.

“Men tend to think that if they take these workshops they’ll become vulnerable. In fact, they would just become a stronger person,” he said.

The course content was continually adapted under the guidance and direction of the local elders’ committee.

The second phase of the course was in February and the final two phases were held on the land in the spring and summer.

Nunatsiaq News,Iqaluit, NU



One part of the Men's Fish, Hunt and Heal Workshop, Cambridge Bay, NU

One part of the Men's Fish, Hunt and Heal Workshop, Cambridge Bay, NU

NEWS: Nunavut November 06, 2010 – 6:23 am

“It was easy to look at caribou hunting as a metaphor for healing.”


Nunavut healing you can taste— that’s how participants in a men’s healing program offered by Cambridge Bay’s wellness centre might describe their recent two-week workshop.

During the men’s “Fish, Hunt and Heal” workshop, which wrapped up Nov. 5, a group of men spent four days of each week participating in healing circles and doing various therapeutic exercises.

Then, on the fifth day, they headed out on the land to hunt and fish.

During their healing circles, the men talked about a variety of topics such as trauma, being responsible for one’s choices, exploring ways of showing one’s love to family and friends, appropriate use of power, incarceration, money management, addictions, loss, healthy emotional expression, abuse, violence and father and son relationships.

At the end of the first week, the men spent the day on the land hunting caribou.

That’s when 16-year-old Ambrose Hikoalok shot his first caribou with his father Martin Anablak and his uncle Darcy Kanayok at his side.

Anablak then directed his son on how to skin and butcher the animal.

Hikoalok’s parents separated when he was two years old and he did not spend as much time with his father as he would have liked.

“It was good to be in a healing workshop with my dad,” he said.

At the end of the second week, the men planned a day of jigging for char, but Hikoalok was able to shoot his first musk ox as well as do a little ice fishing.

Terry Garchinski of Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc., who led the workshop, says “healing workshops have to be a fit for the participants” and with “this group of men, it was easy to look at caribou hunting as a metaphor for healing.”

“The men were very comfortable on the land and have many skills that they can apply to their healing journeys. As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a caribou! Healing is the same. Each person has his own way and by sharing what we know with each other, we all benefit from the collective experience. “

A follow up to the workshop has already been scheduled for later this month when the men will spend an evening making sausage out of their caribou and muskox meat and talking about how the workshop changed their lives.

“The real value is when the men can consistently apply what they talked about in the workshop and use it in their daily lives,” Garchinski said.


Terry with Sr. Loretta at Hogar Belen Orphanage, in April 2009

Terry with Sr. Loretta at Hogar Belen Orphanage, in April 2009

Published: Friday, July 31, 1987, 12:43 pm |   Author: By Terry Garchinski

Living in Peru, in the city of Moquegua, is a most remarkable woman.  Although her name is Sister Loretta Bonokoski, her 57 children call her “Ya Ya.”

St. Loretta was born June 15th, 1931, on a farm near Torquay, Saskatchewan, to immigrant parents of German descent.  She was the twelfth of fifteen brothers and sisters.  As a child, she would tell her mother that she was either going to be a cowgirl or a nun.  On August 8th, 1948, at the age of 18, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions.  As a religious in Canada, she taught in elementary schools, cooked in convent boarding houses, and cared for the ill and elderly nuns.  An excellent background for the mission that lay before her.

In 1968, she was selected to serve as a missionary in Peru.  She started her work organizing catechetic’s in the Moquegua Parish.  However, the scope of her missionary work expanded one evening when the parish priest, Fr. Francis Fahlman, a Canadian Franciscan Friar originally from Saskatchewan and herself, saw a little 9-year-old girl huddled up alone on a corner of the plaza.  It was ten o’clock on a cold night and the little girl didn’t have a jacket or anything to keep herself warm.  She wouldn’t talk, only look up with her dirty scaly face and smile.  She was brought to Sr. Loretta’s house, given something hot to eat and drink, then put to sleep.  This little girl, Rosa Flores, was the first of many children to come to “Hogar Belen” (Bethlehem Home), which is the official name of St. Loretta’s home.  Rosa is now 23 years old and is studying to be a nurse in Arequipa.

Since that time, Sr. Loretta’s home has grown substantially and has become a large family setting for people with “special needs.”  To really appreciate Sr. Loretta and her home, one should live with her – at least for a day.

Today is an ordinary school day in Sr. Loretta’s home.  Before the sixth hour, Sr. Loretta has walked through the three cramped bedrooms, has turned on the lights and has awakened her children.  Miraculously, without major hassles, the 57 children take turns using either the one full or the two half bathrooms.

Walking quietly but quickly to the kitchen – which also serves as the dining room – Sr. Loretta moves about her chores with the experience of a thousand mornings.  By 6:01 a.m., the water is boiling on the propane stove, the two washing machines are cleaning the baby diapers – every day is wash day; and breakfast is being prepared.  Today’s menu is toast and corn meal.

Justo, at the age of 13 was left to fend for himself being affected by a cancerous type of illness causing lumps to form on the lymph nodes.  After two years of abandonment and of beating the odds, he faced still another problem – alcoholism.  He asked the local parish priest for help.  It has been nine years of deceiving death and beating the odds.  Justo, though himself not well, studied nursing and is one of the Sister’s trusted helpers – always there when a hand is needed.

At 6:40 a.m., some of the smallest people in the house, Emanual, Richard, Erik and Marco, find themselves being fed.  The oldest of four, Emanual is soon to celebrate his first birthday.

After everybody else has been served, Sr. Loretta herself breaks for breakfast with Teodora Estella, an 85-year-old woman who used to be a dancer, and Justo.

At this point the house is quite: the primary school children have left for their morning classes; most of the older ones go to school in the afternoon or evening.  Sr. Loretta sends Fernando to check on Mario, one of the many children who doesn’t live in the house but who regularly eats at Hogar Belen.  He hasn’t been coming lately.   She herself checks on a crying baby.

At 8:00 a.m., all those in the house gather for family prayer.  After prayers, the breakfast dishes are gathered and washed.  The third load of clothes are put into the washing machine.

The morning passes but not without a visit from a retired school teacher who has dropped in to play with the young tots and who regularly gives gifts of clothing, furniture, and money.  Also visiting is an impoverished mother who asks if her two boys may eat with the Hogar Belen family.  They are welcomed.

The house itself is old and is made of mud bricks.  Many of the walls are falling down piece by piece. St. Loretta worries every time there is tremor.  She worries even more about the big black bug called the “chirmacha,” which thrives in walls like Hogar Belen’s.  At night, the bug painlessly draws blood from its sleeping victims’ inner organs.  Fortunately, none of the children seem to have been bitten by a diseased bug yet.

Sr. Loretta dreams of living in a new Hogar Belen, where there wouldn’t be a rat problem, water shortages, falling walls, poor plumbing, a space problem or “chirmachas.”  But dreams are for leisure time.  Right now dinner must be prepared.  At 1:00 p.m., dinner is served to the little children and to the elderly – many of whom don’t live in Hogar Belen but come to eat there.  Then diner is served to everybody else.  Sr. Loretta serves herself last as is her custom.

During the meal Sr. Loretta talks about her kids.  She points to Juanito and explains that when he came to her home it took quite some patience and love to break him of his street taught habits.  She concludes with a smile and a nod of approval, “look at him now such a nice boy!”

She also talks of Claudio and Rodrigo, two young men from her home who are in the United States receiving medical attention.  She hopes and prays for the best and speaks highly of Stephanie Williams, a lay missionary from the United States who made the medical and other arrangements that made their trip and treatment possible.

By the middle of the afternoon, while the students of the house are doing their homework, another visitor calls.  This time it’s the manager of a local trucking company  He wants to know more about the home and how his company and family can help.  Sr. Loretta answers his questions, shows him around the house and introduces him to some of the family members.  He is impressed.

Five o’clock finds Dr. Loretta patching up a youngster’s cut knee.  Just before six, she leaves to attend Mass.  Returning at 7:00, se serves potato salad, cheese, Chinese rice and sliced fresh tomatoes.  No dessert this meal.

The early evening is spent cleaning the supper dishes, watching TV and talking together.  Fr. Francis has come on his nightly visit.

In a very real way, Sr. Loretta is the mother of the Hogar Belen children, and Fr. Francis is their father.  They have made time to help the children; they have made time to be with the children; they have made a family home where there is hope for the future.  An accomplishment.

In the later part of the eleventh hour, Sr. Loretta does the things everybody else overlooked: she puts the juice into the fridge, finds the proper place for a dirty pair of socks which had been abandoned on the floor, and shuts off the lights.  Then she, like the rest of her family before her, crawls off to sleep and awaits another ordinary day.


The following article is about Edward Ruben, the oldest resident in Paulatuk, NT. The interview took place on 18 December 2009. Edward and his wife Mabel celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on 9 May 2009. This article was written by Terry Garchinski. Terry is a freelance writer who also works for Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc. facilitating workshops throughout the NWT, Nunavut, Yukon and southern Canada.

Edward Ruben was born at Atkinson Point on May 1st 1917. Now at 92, he is the oldest resident in Paulatuk, NWT. In typical good humour, Edward says with a chuckle, “I was pretty young at the time, so I don’t remember if I was born in a tent or in a building.” Edward does remember seeing a lot of tents when he was three years old. They were a few hundred yards from where his family’s tent stood. He remembers saying to his mother, “I’m going visiting.” And away he went. Edward remembers looking in the first tent and seeing everyone sleeping. Then he went to the second tent and they were all sleeping too. At the third tent, an old woman invited him in and asked him to get her some water. “I took her a cup of water and she gave thanks to me. From there I walked slowly home, thinking. I asked my mother, ‘How come people are sleeping so late?’ And she told me that they had the flu.” Edward says, “When you are 2½ or 3 years old, you have a mind of your own. When you see something you start to recognize what you see. You are part of the world and you are making sense of it.”

“As a young man, I did everything for my parents. I felt part of the family and I contributed in ways that I could. I listened to my parents and to the old people. I hauled ice for drinking water, I cut wood and I fed the sled dogs. If I didn’t we were thirsty and cold. I was glad to have what I had. “Now, there are so many things done by machine. There is a water truck; there is a fuel truck; there are snowmobiles. The youngsters are bored. They have nothing to do. They sometimes go in the wrong direction.”

Edward believes that it is important for youngsters to have the opportunity to take responsibility and contribute to the well being of their families and community. If they don’t, they may not feel like they belong or have a purpose in life or be thankful for what they have. This can lead to many problems.

Edward is the father of 15 children. Five with his first wife, who died when she was delivering her fifth child and 10 with his wife Mabel with whom he celebrated 50 years together on the 9th of May of 2009. As a father, Edward says, “Don’t make kids scared. Talk to them softly. Even a dog that is whipped does not know what to do. When you scold them, they don’t know what direction to take. Tell them softly, help them to understand. Train them but not out of fear. Kids are not animals. Make sure they understand. Talk to them with good words and kindness.”

One problem that many people have is being addicted to alcohol or drugs. Edward says, “I don’t talk to people when they are drunk. I let it go. When they sober up, then I talk to them and put it on the line and I listen to people when they are talking.” “I did not go to residential school so I don’t have anything to say about that. I did not go to residential school because mom said that I shouldn’t and I listened to my mother. I learned to speak English on my own without going to school. If you lose your own language, you lose your power. I am happy I still got my own language. I am happy I still got a lot of power. I really respect the people in the Eastern Arctic. Even the young people still use their own language.” When things change so much it is like being caught in a storm. “You can’t stand up on your own. You need something to hang on to. The wind is a strong teacher. It makes sure you have everything. I remember being caught in a storm so strong that I couldn’t even make a snow shelter. I just had to hang on to the sled. That was hard. I’m not saying I am a good man or a good hunter. I am just as bad as the others. I had to try my best. “Each of us has to know how to take alcohol. Nobody will tell you what to do. Inuit, White, Indian, we all got a mind. We just have to go in the right direction to go ahead. To go in the right direction we have to pay attention and be aware of the signs. A family and a community need to work together as one. They need to put their good minds together and not ever think that you are better than somebody. I myself listen to old people. I know that alcohol will not lead you in a good direction. Alcohol, drugs and smoking makes us scatter in many directions. My grandfathers would say, “Grandson, it does not matter what you do or who you are, don’t think you are better than others.” “I always try my best to take the right direction.”


On Saturday morning (25 July 2009) Clyde River’s Interagency Critical Incident and Trauma Response Team formally met for the first time at the Ilisaqsivik Family Resource Centre.  Members of this team respond to critical incidents such as people lost on the land, suicide attempts or completions, fires, vehicle accidents, murders, drowning, and other sudden deaths.

This meeting was arranged following a workshop sponsored by Ilisaqsivik Family Resource Center.  The Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and Trauma Response workshop supported Clyde River counsellors, elders and community members to further develop their skills in facilitating Critical Incident Stress Debriefings and explored a variety of strategies of effectively responding to traumatic events. Terry Garchinski of Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc. facilitated the workshop along with local elders, who helped to incorporate Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.  12 people participated in the workshop including elders, youth, and Ilisaqsivik counsellors.

During the workshop, participants identified the need to develop a contact list of organizations, names of contact people and telephone numbers so everybody would know who to call in an event of an emergency.  The following organizations were identified as important: The Health Centre, RCMP, Fire Fighters, Rangers, Search & Rescue, School, Hamlet Office, Anglican Church, Illisaqsivik Family Resource Center, Elder’s Committee, Community Counsellors and the Coroner’s Office.

Workshop participants also identified a need for representatives from each organization to meet regularly, network, and talk about who they are, what they do and how they could better work together.  This was the reason for calling the first team meeting.

Joanna Qillaq was appointed as the team’s Co-ordinator.  Joanna is a Counsellor at Ilisaqsivik and serves on Search and Rescue. Joanna is also fluent in both Inuktitut and English.

The team also took the opportunity to welcome the new RCMP officer, Craig Kielbiski to the community.  Craig arrived in Clyde River just 4 days before the meeting.

The next meeting is scheduled for September.


Life Lessons Come Full Circle By Kathy Ponath, Naicam News

Volume 18 No.10 Friday, March 10, 2006

Terry Garchinski has made helping people come to terms with grief and loss his life work. Just as he and his own family were coming to terms with a very profound loss, he returned to his alma mater, Naicam School, to share with its students about his work and the lessons he has learned.

On March 1st, Terry spent a morning giving two presentations to Grades 7 to 9 and Grades 10 to 12, based on his book, I Believe. He shared with the students that he was home in Naicam because his mother was in the process of dying. After a very long and courageous battle with cancer, Stella Garchinski passed away within days of Terry’s presentation at the school.

Terry spoke warmly and informally to the groups of students, disarming them with his direct approach to a subject that most find difficult to talk about.  But he said, all of us, if we are human beings who have made attachments, have had to deal with loss at one time or another in our lives, and will deal with loss and pain again. It is what we choose to do with those experiences that will make the difference in our lives and in the lives of others.

His own, very present, situation was used as an example.  His mother had been dealing with a devastating illness for 19 years and her choices in the face of the losses the illness brought was to live her life fully. It was an experience that taught him and other members of his family to value every moment.

Terry and his wife Elaine Woodward co-own Life Works Counselling Services, with offices in Yellowknife, N.W.T. and Millarville, Alta.  Terry is a Therapeutic Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator who has been called to give workshops all over Canada, especially in the north. He and members of the Life Works team have been brought in to help communities deal with tragedies such as death due to accidents, violence and suicide.  He has also worked with people struggling to recover from family violence or alcohol and drug abuse.  However he stresses that what he does is help people to find healing from within.

He told the students, “You are the only person who can deal with your own hurt and pain.”

Terry has traveled an interesting road to his current expression of his life work. He values the roots his family, his faith and the community of his youth have given him.  He says it gave him a sense of belonging and appreciation for the safety of community.

One of his foundational experiences happened when he was a little boy playing at the town’s ball diamonds. Curiosity led to a dangerous and violent encounter with the pitching machine, which resulted in a brain injury and partial paralysis. Terry recovered but still walks with a limp as a result of the accident.  He told the students, “One thing I was told over and over again after the accident was, “You are lucky to be alive.” “And. . . I believed it.” He went on, “But you know if I’m lucky to be alive… so are you.”

That appreciation for life and all its attending joys and sorrows was expanded throughout several other life experiences.  After attaining a degree in Philosophy, Terry was drawn to teach English at an orphanage in South America. This would be an adventure by most standards without considering that he decided to hitchhike to get there. His parents later told him that when he left Naicam, they were afraid that it would be the last time they would see him.

Their fears were not groundless it was a dangerous time to travel through Central and South America, a time of revolution and lawlessness.  At one point Terry was robbed and left with $5.00 to his name.  He says that this experience, essentially an experience of being powerless, opened his eyes to the fact that for most people in the world, life was not what he had experienced in Naicam.

After teaching English in Peru for a couple of years, he decided to see for himself why so many people were homeless in the big cities of North America and what it was like to live on the street.

He told this part of his story to the students with the help of a quena, a Peruvian recorder-like instrument. This simple musical instrument became the source of his livelihood and a source of envy of other street people. He was able to buy food each day with the money he made busking, a luxury not every street person could afford. He played a couple of simple tunes for the students and explained that his experiences on the street in cities like Washington, New York and Miami gave him a greater understanding of what the world was like outside of his experience as a white, middle class male from a relatively privileged background.

After 18 months living on the street, he returned to Saskatchewan and became a live-in helper for a man suffering from cerebral palsy, while taking a degree in social work. His work in therapeutic counselling led him to Northern Canada and to his present day work.

He wrote I Believe as a tool to use in his work. It looks and reads like a children’s book but is actually a parable for adults. He invited a person from each audience to come forward and read the book aloud to their peers and he further invited students to respond to the symbolism in the book and what it meant to them.

The symbolism of the book and a message that resonates throughout the therapeutic; work Terry does is that we are all connected through human experience and that pain and loss are essential parts of that experience. Those difficult experiences can present blockages in our pathway or journey through life that keep us from experiencing a full life.

However if we choose to persist, to have faith and look to our life map or set of beliefs for direction, we will come into that fullness. He said  that he was able to take risks because of his faith and his belief that he had a “map” inside that would guide him if he took time to find out where it directed him. He encouraged the students to look for that inner direction, unique to each person.

Terry also took extra pleasure in pointing out that the models for some of the characters in the book were members of his own family – his son Thomas, his dad Frank and his grandfather. The heritage reflected in the artwork is also reflected in the message that the human connections we have in life can cause us grief and pain when they are lost, but they are also a source of healing and re-connection that can bring us full circle to a place of wholeness. This is a lesson Terry continues to learn, even as he teaches it to others.


Hands in Prayer: Help Us To Heal, Sahtu Region, 2006

Hands in Prayer: Help Us To Heal, Sahtu Region, 2006

By:  The Participants of the Youth Healing From Loss and Grief Workshop

Fort Good Hope (7-10 November 2006)

Compiled by Terry Garchinski of Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc.

This past summer in Fort Good Hope, nine people died in two separate accidents.  Three people died in a boating accident (22 July 2006) while six people died in a plane accident (16 August 2006).

In response to these tragedies, Melinda Laboucan, the Youth Worker for the K’asho Got’ine Dene Band invited Terry Garchinski and Jacqui Bent of Life Works Counselling Services to facilitate a four-day Loss and Grief Workshop for the youth (ages 12-25) of Fort Good Hope.  The workshop was held from 7-10 November 2006.  Eighteen youth participated in the workshop.  Melinda Laboucan, Sr. Pauline Girodat, Sr. Joan Liss and Dana Eisinger also participated and acted as adult supports for the youth.

Given such sudden and tragic deaths, it was remarkable to see how well the youth are grieving and coping with the loss of their family members and friends.   As part of their healing, these young people wanted to share what has and is helping them deal with their losses.  This is a collective summary of what they said as individuals.  Even though the following was spoken by many voices, it is written in the first person.  These are their words summarized and spoken as one person who is consciously choosing to grieve and to heal:

“What has helped me is to receive the support of my parents, grandparents, big brother, older sister and friends:  to know that I am not alone, even when I am feeling sad and lonely.   It also helped when neighbours and community members came to my house to visit and showed me their love and support by offering food, sympathy cards and money for food, medicine and travel.”

“I didn’t die when the boat and the plane went down.  The people I loved died.  I am still alive and I am glad to be alive even as I sort through this pain.  It is helpful to carry on with regular life.  Doing homework helps me.  It also helps to pat my dog, hang out with friends, watch TV, clean up around the house, eat, sleep, sit on the pot, listen to music, hug mom and play catch with dad.”

“Getting out on the land has also helped.  I like to go hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, driving my quad and boating.  When I am picking berries, cleaning a fish or skinning a caribou, I am keeping busy in a good way but I also have time to think about stuff.  I think it is OK to go back to the moment when I first heard about the accident.  It gives me a chance to think about what happened, and sort through my thoughts and feelings.  Even though this is hard to do, I feel better afterwards.  It sure is a lot better than ignoring it.  When I ignore it I get angry.  I would rather be happy than sad and angry all the time.”

“Sometimes it helps when I scream really loudly.”

“It is helpful to get myself hyper and physically active.  Playing sports helps me to move the energy that seems to be stuck in my body.  I play hockey, snowboard, slide down the hill, snowball fight, play games outside and figure skate.

“Some other people may disagree with me but sometimes it helps me to drink alcohol and smoke up.  I know that this is only a short-term help and I know it can lead to a lot more problems.  I have seen how it has hurt other members of my community.  But this is what I have done when I have been partying with my friends.  I know other people have chosen not to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana or cigarettes at all.  Everyone is responsible for the choices they make.   I am responsible for mine.

“I like playing hand games, drum dancing, singing, baking, sewing, beading, writing poetry and shopping.  I also like to play the guitar, watch movies, draw and paint.  I stopped doing these things for a while but stopping was not helpful.  I don’t have to punish myself because of the accidents.  It was not my fault.  There was nothing I could have done to prevent them from dying.

“It has been helpful to remember the good times and the bad times.  I go through the photo album.  I have written letters to those who have died and fed the letters to the fire.

“Crying helps.  So does laughing.  I would rather laugh but sometimes I need to cry.  It does not help to keep it in.  I need to listen to my body and to my heart.  If I don’t let it out, I get angry and depressed.

“It helps to take care of my body:  to have a cup of water, to take a shower, to wash my face, brush my teeth, cut my hair and nails.  I like to feel pretty.   It helps me to recognize that I am beautiful, valuable and worthy of being alive.

“The funerals helped.  I knew I was not alone in my grief.  Everybody was hurting and we shared that hurt together.  People came from every community in the Sahtu.  There were a lot of elders who came just to be with us.

“It helps to pray.  I go to the graveyard and I say the things I need to say.  I also meditate.

“It helps to talk about the accidents and the deaths.   I use the phone or go on the internet.  It helps to see a counsellor and to go to a healing workshop.  This workshop made me think of the other losses I experienced from suicides, murder, diseases, and the snowmobile accident.  If I don’t talk about them, they all pile up and get mixed up and overwhelming.  It makes me want to run away.  I am choosing to live even after the ones I love died, so I talk, even though it is hard.  I choose to put time aside to do this.

“It is about balance.  Almost anything I do can help me.  But if I am doing it to avoid dealing with the pain inside, then it is really hurting me.  It is good to keep busy but I also have to take time to heal.  Reading books helps.  Working on the computer helps.  I got a job.   Sometimes it is good just to get away, travel to another place like Yellowknife or Edmonton or go to a concert.  Or just drive around.

“It is helpful to connect with people:  to see an old friend, to meet new people, to participate in a sharing circle or just hang around my girlfriend.  But sometimes, I just want to be alone.

“Patience, trust, and being truthful also help.

“I know that everybody has their own time and way to heal from such losses. I know that nobody can heal me.  I have to choose to heal, accept people’s support and take responsibility for my own healing.  In the end, what I am really doing is just letting out all my pain.  And I can do this in so many ways.  It even helps me when I sit by the river, get a breath of fresh air and watch the sunset.

“At other times, I really don’t know what to do or say or feel or how I can heal.  I just wish they didn’t die.”