Nanaimo Hospice sees ‘huge demand’ for grief counselling as toxic drug crisis grows


Hundreds braved the rain in Nanaimo on Sunday to ‘Hike for Hospice’ and help the growing flood of people who are seeking counselling and support after losing loved ones on the mid-Island.

According to the Nanaimo Community Hospice Society, the demand for their free grief counselling has doubled in the last year, largely due to unprecedented overdose deaths from the toxic drug crisis.

“We’re seeing a huge demand. Our counselling wait list right now is about four months, and that’s a really long wait compared to what it’s been in the past,” said Sharon Welch, executive director of the Nanaimo Community Hospice Society.

“We’re seeing more and more complex trauma coming in, folks who have lost people to suicide or to overdose.”

Hike for Hospice took place at Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake to raise awareness and funds for programs and counselling offered free of charge to people who are grieving.

Nanaimo resident Sydney Hunt told CHEK News Sunday that when her 21-year-old brother William was killed in a car crash in 2023, hospice support was a lifesaver for her.

“Hospice was there for me in my absolute darkest time. I lost my brother 10 months ago, I was brand new to Nanaimo. I didn’t know a soul in this city, and I found myself at hospice. In group counselling, in one-on-one counselling,” said Hunt.

In 2023, the Nanaimo Community Hospice Society provided grief counselling to more than 700 people, over 100 of whom were children.

READ ALSO: ‘Making a difference’: Saanich ‘wind phone’ helps people grieve

Skye Ryan

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