Trauma practitioner Michele Smith and Langford resident Sharon Martin are launching Aaron’s Society, a non-profit that aims to provide peer support for people dealing with trauma. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

Trauma sufferers support group takes shape on West Shore

Aaron’s Society open to more peer support groups with certified trauma practitioners

Rick Stiebel

News Staff

Sharon Martin is living proof that although the devastating effects of trauma can remain long after the event that triggered them, there is help available.

When her husband took his own life in 2002, Martin didn’t know where to turn for help.

“The first two weeks when David was missing were the worst two weeks of my life,” said Martin, a Langford resident and long-time City employee. “It broke me to the point where I was on the brink of taking my own life. I had a friend who wouldn’t leave so I didn’t go through with it, but I was never able to deal with the trauma and move on. I thought I was dealing with depression, but I was 14, 15 years into this, and I’m thinking I’m still angry, difficult to live with and difficult to work with.”

That finally changed dramatically four years ago after Martin responded to an ad in the Goldstream Gazette about a support group for suicide survivors organized by Michele Smith, a certified trauma practitioner. After calling up and explaining her circumstances, Martin attended a meeting.

READ ALSO: Doctors aims to scale up youth suicide prevention program across Canada

“I had my doubts at first, but by the second meeting it was like an epiphany. I didn’t realize how much of what I was dealing with was anger. I felt like the weight of the world had been taken off my shoulders, like I got a new lease on life. The world was okay again. Michele glued me back together.”

Although Smith has been helping people deal with grief for 25 years, it wasn’t until she suffered an acute unexpected traumatic experience that she realized how little support was available.

“My son Aaron died tragically 10 years ago,” Smith said. “Even with my background in grief recovery, I realized there’s a segment of the population dealing with issues such as childhood sexual abuse or any type of abuse, for that matter, suicide, homicide, natural disasters, betrayal of trust, community violence. There’s a whole range of people dealing with issues who weren’t getting the specialized help they need. There’s very limited knowledge of trauma treatment, and those with the training typically charge $130 to $150 an hour.”

That inspired Smith to acquire her level 1 and level 2 certification as a trauma practitioner, and she is close to completing her clinical traumatologist certification. She began working on launching Aaron’s Society, a registered non-profit in the process of obtaining charitable status. Aaron’s Society will provide peer group support for people throughout the Capital Region. Smith has been working on this for the past four years, and expects to begin sessions in January.

READ ALSO: Victoria woman wins court battle to keep job title of ‘death midwife’

“There could be as many as five groups, depending on the response, Smith explained. “We’ll run specific groups to deal with specific causal factors.”

Each peer support group will work with a level 1 certified trauma practitioner. “We already have three people who volunteered and are taking the course,” she noted. “The charge will be by donation.”

Martin, who is vice-president of the board for Aaron’s Society, is one of the three volunteers completing the course.

“When I approached Sharon about helping out, she said ‘yes’ before the words were out of my mouth,” Smith said with a laugh.

“It’s always been my goal to help other people to deal with what I went through, but I couldn’t do that because of what I was going through myself.” Martin said. “I can now, thanks to Michele.”

While a couple of churches have made meeting space available, Smith would like to eventually find a central, permanent location. Funding for materials needed for the peer groups is a challenge at this point as well.

For more information on the support groups or to offer meeting space or make a donation, visit traumapractitioner.com and click on the link to Aaron’s Society.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com

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