Skip to content

Letter: Healing as a community—The role of Sea to Sky Hospice

Exploring the crucial role of community in the healing journey: A personal story of loss, diagnosis, and the embrace of hospice care.
Our local hospice is the Whistler Blackcomb Sea to Sky Community Hospice.

It takes a community to heal, to reconcile loss, and to live well with a life-limiting illness.

In the past 11 months, I have accessed our local hospice services as I grieved the loss of my best friend, and again, only two weeks ago for pain and symptom management following a recent cancer diagnosis and thoracotomy surgery. 

Typically, when anyone mentions “hospice,” we tend to think of end of life, of dying—perhaps with care at home.  

It’s not something any of us have learned about, want to think about, plan for or even talk about.  Nor is it anything we expect to ever need or experience. So yes, I understand how the word “hospice” can be confusing.  

In our community, hospice can refer to:

•A place - “The Whistler Blackcomb Sea to Sky Community Hospice

•A medical specialty or philosophy of care – “Hospice Palliative Care”

•A community organization –“The Sea to Sky Hospice Society”

Our local hospice is the Whistler Blackcomb Sea to Sky Community Hospice, a four-bedroom unit, built in a Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) building, with capital funds raised by the Sea to Sky Hospice Society. Our hospice opened in 2019, and is run by VCH, offering compassionate hospice palliative care to clients and their families, who cannot be cared for at home.

Typically staffed with one or two nurses working 12-hour shifts, and a care aid, this unit offers hospice palliative care that is unique and different than the acute care delivered in hospital. The hospice is available to those in need at end of life, or if space is available, it can also be accessible to those with life-limiting illness who may need extra care for pain and symptom management, or short respite stays.

The term “Hospice Palliative care,” is a way of care, and a medical specialty that sometimes is referred to as “hi touch” versus the “hi tech” of acute care delivered at the hospital and clinics. Each method of care has its place in our medical system, and in healing. 

The “Sea to Sky Hospice Society” is a key piece of our local community “hospice” puzzle. This non-profit society complements the care provided by VCH palliative care team at the Hospice Unit, and in community, as it engages and trains volunteers to provide additional support for clients and families, pertaining to life limiting illness, bereavement and caregiving.

The Sea to Sky Hospice Society is a very small community organization that depends on community membership, donations and grants to operate. The Society has two part time contract staff, and one contracted clinical councillor, in addition to the 80-plus volunteers who support its clients, programs, fundraising, sewing, shopping, chemo tea, gardening and other hospice related events and initiatives.

In our Western society, I notice that “end of life” conversations are difficult and rare, and bereavement literacy / education is minimal to non-existent.  No one needs a life limiting illness to realize we are mortal, and that one day we will all experience grief and loss of a loved one.  Knowing about the local hospice can be so helpful.  Grief and illness are what they are, and even though we all experience it differently, it takes a community to heal.I am so grateful to our compassionate community of Hospice folks, and my loving family, friends and neighbours!

From my personal experience, I believe every family in Squamish ought to support our Hospice Society either through a “membership” or perhaps a personal donation or fundraising initiative.  

May is “Hike for Hospice” month. Go to the Sea to Sky Hospice Society and check out programs and resources available. 

Diana Gunstone



push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks