After the sudden death of her husband in 2001, Ellen Jacobs said she discovered for the first time what it really meant to grieve. Jacobs said she felt alone and raw -- like she was drowning in a pain that she thought might never end.
But three months after her husband's death, Jacobs joined a bereavement support group through Hospice & Palliative Care Manitoba. She said it was the first time since her husband's death that she felt some form of comfort. However small the comfort initially was, Jacobs said it began helping her through her loss.
"I found out that I wasn't the only person lost, in shock, alone and going through the pain and asking, 'Why me?' It was a really good group because your emotions were validated, you could listen to others, you could cry and it was a safe environment," Jacobs said.
"I knew at the end of that group that in several years, because I was far too raw at that point, that I would eventually join Hospice & Palliative Care because I wanted to do that type of work."
Jacobs would go on to do just that. In 2003, she completed the compassionate care course through HPCM, and began volunteering her extra time to helping people who experience similar grief to her own.
Through HPCM, Jacobs facilitates a weekly bereavement support group, gives monthly presentations at grief seminars and also works one-on-one with bereavement clients.
Jacobs, who is a nurse, said while her career complements her volunteer work with HPCM, it is her personal experience with grief that helps her connect with the people she works with.
"I had absolutely no idea prior to his death what grief and mourning was all about. I have said since that his loss and going through this grief journey really took my blinders off. You know, it opened up a whole new world that you don't understand until you actually have to take that journey," Jacob said.
Last year, United Way donated more than $140,000 to Hospice & Palliative Care Manitoba to help it continue its important work. This money funds programs such as bereavement support, the community hospice program and the volunteer training services that Jacobs used to begin her career with HPCM.
United Way lends this support as part of a larger mission to create better lives for Winnipeggers by engaging their communities and inspiring positive change.
Between her busy work as a nurse and her volunteer work with HPCM, Jacobs also finds time to volunteer with United Way's speaker's bureau.
"It's such important work that United Way does. The amount of people and communities and organizations that they touch is just incredible," Jacobs said.