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St. Albert groups host grief walk series this summer

Power of nature helps heal, say guides
GUIDED TOURS — BLESS member Tony Druett (right) points out features of Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park to St. Albert Bereavement Fellowship chairperson Laura Mariner (centre) and St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association manager Heidi Evans (left). The trio are organizing an eight-week series of grief walks this summer at places such as Lois Hole Park that launches July 3. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Three St. Albert non-profits hope to help grief-stricken souls heal this summer with the wonders of nature.

The St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association, St. Albert Bereavement Fellowship, and Big Lake Environment Support Society have teamed up to run an eight-week series of grief walks this summer throughout St. Albert.

St. Albert Hospice Association manager Heidi Evans said the idea for the walks came from an association member who ran similar walks in Fish Creek Provincial Park. The association decided to team up with BLESS and the bereavement fellowship to help run the program.

“Grief is around in a lot of parts in our lives,” Evans said, whether it be from the loss of a job, death of a loved one, or a medical diagnosis.

Evans said these guided nature walks aim to help people connect with life cycles, seasons, and impermanence as they work through grief.

Evans said the groups plan to hold eight walks over eight weeks, with about 15 guests per walk. The walks are all less than 2.5 km long and will feature guides able to point out interesting plants and animals at each location. The guides are not trained counsellors, but can direct guests to counselling services.

The walks will be in and around Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, the Grey Nuns White Spruce Forest, the downtown Sturgeon River valley, and the St. Albert Botanic Park, with each spot hosting two walks, Evans said. The first four walks will start at 10 a.m. on July 3, 10, 17, and 24. The last four will be at 6:30 p.m. on July 31 and Aug. 7, 14, and 21.

Healing walks

There’s plenty of research out there that shows that exercise and movement are some of the best tools available to improve your mental health, said Laura Mariner, chair of the St. Albert Bereavement Fellowship. Do so outdoors, and you might also get a sense of gratitude from spotting some natural wonder.

“Like most people my age, I’ve had many losses, and I can always say that getting out to the park or nature or a garden like the [St. Albert Botanic Park] … you just feel better,” Mariner said.

Mariner said these walks will be a place where you can hang out with others who are also going through times of grief. The walking part is optional, she noted — if you just want to sit and chat with a volunteer about a cool bird or hockey, that works too.

BLESS member Tony Druett said these walks fit with the society’s mission to promote Big Lake and teach people about the wonders of nature, adding that BLESS members often went for a stroll outdoors to relieve stress.

“This is just the sort of thing we want to be going on in Lois Hole Park.”

Evans encouraged guests to bring water, footwear, and umbrellas to the walks, which shall proceed in all but the worst weather.

Registration for the walk series is $10. Guests can attend as many of the walks as they wish. Visit or call 587-921-1345 to register.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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