A couple of months after my father died, my then 5-year-old daughter Justine said, “I now know what happens after someone dies. Their heart breaks into a million pieces and goes into the hearts of all those who loved them so that their hearts can grow bigger.” I often think of her words when I am grieving and experience the loss of loved ones. 

In the last couple of months, we have lost two beloved Belonging Matters team members and collaborators—Musqueam Knowledge Keeper, Terry Point, and Belonging Matters public speaker and advocate, Vince Bulteel.

If you have attended a Belonging Matters training or event over the last year, you have very likely met them in person and have been touched by their stories, their presence and their ability to inspire others to be the best they can be.

As I grieve my losses, I’d like to share with you how these two beautiful and brilliant men have helped grow my heart:

Remembering Musqueam Knowledge Keeper, Terry Point...

Terry Point showed me through his actions and his words that it is never too late to build a respectful and reciprocal relationship.

I grew up on the traditional territories of Musqueam First Nations (literally 15 blocks from “the rez”). He believed in the Belonging Matters program and, despite the history of our peoples, he trusted me and this work. He taught me, along with all those attending our trainings and events, the Musqueam teachings connected to many parts of the Belonging Matters program.

In everything he did, he brought his tremendous insight, talents and humour. In our last conversation, I asked him whether he still wanted a blanket as part of the gifts and stipends I was offering him. He laughed and said, “Giving an Indian a blanket during a pandemic is not a good idea.” Instead, we decided on locally made honey from Hives For Humanity as one of the ways to honour his contributions and live in alignment with the deeper teachings around caring for each other and the land.

For those who knew Terry, here is a link to his obituary and a place to leave a message for his family in a virtual guest book.

Belonging Matters Foundations: Roadmap For Community-Led Change Attendees - 2020-02-21

In respecting Terry's teachings about refraining to share photos immediately following a death, here is a photo of some of the people he touched at a Belonging Matters training.

Remembering Belonging Matters public speaker and advocate, Vince Bulteel...

Vince Bulteel taught me the tenacity it takes to persevere when so many systems, attitudes and behaviours can work against you, enduring stigmatization and so much more.

I have learned about the humility and courage it takes to reach out for help, regardless of where our journey takes us, particularly when we have made mistakes and have been beaten down by the systems that are supposed to support us. In having him as a guest speaker on several occasions, I have learned the power of true authenticity and that compassion creates an optimal learning environment for everyone.

Grieving Vince Bulteel - Belonging Matters public speaker and advocate

Vince Bulteel speaking at the City of Richmond's Diversity Symposium about Belonging Matters.

Finally, I am learning that the best way to deal with grief is to find a place to put it. For me, this means being true to Vince’s voice, vision and leadership and continuing his legacy by sharing his stories and ramping up our efforts to build dignity from the inside out (with both people and the systems that serve them in mind).

For those who knew Vince, here is a link to his obituary and a place to leave a message for his family in a virtual guest book.

Grieving our losses is essential.

Whether in our own home, our local community, or in the world, we are in times of great change, and for many it comes with some losses.

One thing that I have learned from working on social change in diverse contexts around the world is that grieving our losses is essential for a new era to be born.

Whether you have lost a loved one or have lost your ability to connect with your loved ones like you did before… or whether you have lost a job or have to learn new ways to do your job… or whether you are experiencing a myriad of other changes… I encourage you to consider the following questions (and actions):

  • What have you lost?
  • How will you grieve it?
  • What within that which you’ve lost represents a core value that is important to you?
  • How can you grow that value in 3 concrete ways starting today?

Please answer with a comment below.

Sending much love as we keep on trucking through these times of change, challenge and always (if we look for it) opportunities to grow our hearts.

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About the Author

Jessie Sutherland

An international speaker, trainer, and consultant, Jessie Sutherland works with organizations and communities to engage diversity, build belonging and ignite intercultural collaboration. Her approach creates sustainable community change that effectively addresses a wide range of complex social problems.

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