In 1977, John McKibbon, part of the chaplaincy department of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, whose own daughter had died of leukemia, initiated a parental bereavement support program endorsed by the hospital’s chaplain, Hugh Gemmell. Margaret Darte, Marilyn Lee, Diane Oakes Foster and Irene Clarfield, participants in this program then became involved in the development of a bereavement support program now known as Bereaved Families of Ontario (BFO). For this act and their ongoing efforts in building our organization, in 1998 our four founders received the Ontario Medal of Good Citizenship from The Honourable Hilary Weston, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.
The purpose of BFO was to create a caring, non-judgmental environment where bereaved parents could connect with other bereaved parents and develop a better understanding of the powerful emotions of grief.
We grew to meet the needs of the community…
Support programs were provided both in Toronto and in the Oakville area. While the original mission of the organization was to provide support to mothers, fathers and siblings who had experienced the death of a child in the family, the mandate was soon expanded to include supporting children, youth and young adults who had lost a parent. In addition, a program was initiated which recognized the special circumstances around supporting parents who had experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn/infant loss.
In 1988, the Metropolitan Toronto chapter of Bereaved Families was formed. Over time, other affiliates have also formed throughout Ontario, to meet the needs of bereaved individuals in their communities.
The Partnership between Self-Help and Professionals…
A unique aspect of BFO’s program among self-help and mutual support organizations, is our close working relationship with the professional community. Since its inception, we have always worked with professionals in an advisory capacity through having a clinical consultant and a Professional Advisory Committee.
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