“Donaleen is an excellent speaker. Listening to her is like listening to fine music. She shares her story of grief, courage and hope with true humility, love, and honesty.” – Janie Ochsendorf, Bereavement Counsellor

I offer talks on a number of issues arising from losing a loved one to suicide.

The Courage to Mourn

At the heart of living on and living well after the death of a loved one by suicide, is having the courage to mourn our loss. I will speak about the many forms that mourning can take, about the distinction between mourning and grieving, and about how consciously allowing ourselves to actively mourn our loss makes it possible to embrace a more joyful and expansive relationship with life and with the one who has died.

Making Friends with Grief

In North American culture, being grief-stricken is often seen as a failure to suck it up and get on with “real life.” Such messages are cruel to the grieving, and they reveal an ignorance about what grief is. Grief is a natural response to any important loss, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, of a way of life, of anything to which we are deeply attached. I will talk about how to view grief as an ally, not an affliction; how doing so enables us to suffer less and to move through grief more quickly; and how befriending grief can enrich our lives and relationships.

Bringing Meaning to Your Loss

Of all of the questions that haunted me in the wake of my brother Stephen’s suicide in May 2004, “How do I bring meaning to this loss?” was the most compelling. At first a source of suffering, that question became a spark of light in a dark wood of grief and confusion. It illumined my faith. I will talk about faith and about the many practical ways that we can bring meaning to this devastating loss.

Journaling to Heal

Journal writing is a way of listening to ourselves in the immediate aftermath of a suicide when our feelings may be muted by shock, and in the subsequent months and years when life’s routines can overshadow our deeper emotions. I will describe journal-writing tools that support healing, reconciliation, as well as those that support embracing life more fully. As well as offering suggestions for getting the most out of a journal-writing session, I will discuss journal writing processes to avoid and circumstances in which journal writing may not be advisable.


“Donaleen is an unusually engaging public speaker – great natural warmth and humour plus meaningful content.” – Chris Kelly, Superintendent of Schools (Retired), Vancouver School Board