Police, First-Responder, Military Loss

If you’ve ever thought “I wish we could have just one more day together”

“Losing my husband was heartbreaking. The impact of his death rippled throughout the policing community as well.

As a police officer’s wife, I could not dwell  on the risks involved with my husband’s job. Nor, could he. We both supported his commitment to serve with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and to uphold the peace for all citizens. He was trained well. He loved to serve the communities we lived in. He believed he would retire and we would see our children grow into adults and then spend our sunset years together doing all the things we loved.

But the sad truth is…

That didn’t happen.

My husband had 14 years service in the RCMP. The majority of his career was spent working Highway Patrol or General Traffic. He knew how to drive inside and out. He longed to be a motorcycle officer and loved every second on his bike.

In 1990, while operating the police motorcycle with red light and siren, he was struck by a car driven by an elderly woman. He was on his way to respond to a potentially violent situation and she failed to do a proper shoulder check when changing lanes and hit him. He sustained a severe brain injury and went into cardiac arrest. Although the was resuscitated at the scene, he died 5 months later of a sudden and unexpected heart attack while at home. He was 37 years old with 14 years service.

I was 34 years old. We began dating when I was 17 and married just before my twentieth birthday. Not only had my adult life been spent with this man… half of my ENTIRE life had been with him. His death had a tremendous impact on me. To complicate my grief, I had lost my eldest brother only the year before. Our daughters were young: 10 and 12 years old when he died.

His death, as is the death of anyone’s loved one, is always devastating. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things we’ll ever go through. And every single one of us – you, me, and everyone we know – will experience it at some point in life. For some of us … many times.

It can leave us questioning how we could ever go on without them … feeling our life is now meaningless … angry at God, the world, and even the person who died and left us here alone.

When a loved one dies – whether their death is sudden as in an accident, or expected as in a terminal illness – your whole world comes under attack. Everything you believed to be, no longer is. The very foundation you have built for your life crumbles. You may very well not know where to turn, what to do, or how you will go on.

That’s why it’s so important to grieve properly – in a way that allows you to honour and remember your loved one … use all the love and memories you have in your heart and mind to fuel your future…

…and most importantly, allow yourself to reconnect and feel joy once again, so you can truly LIVE, and enjoy all the days ahead of you!

At a time like this, you need someone in your corner who isn’t trying to rush you, or guilt you, or cram you into some preconceived notion of when you “should be over it”. Someone who knows exactly what it takes to heal, reconnect, and then – when the time is right for you – move on.

The men and women my husband worked with were tremendously impacted by his death. Yet, there was little time for them to grieve before having to “go on”.


“I’ve known Janelle for 15 years
as both a colleague and friend. Shes dedicated to helping others work through, and heal from, profound loss. She is one of the most compassionate and non-judgemental people I have ever met. Janelle is able to normalize the most gutwrenching experiences of loss a person can feel, and walk with them through their journey of grief to a safe and healed place of acceptance.”

– Maryse Neilson, MSW, BSW, BA

The journey of grief is not predictable or orderly… for any of us.

There would be days that I felt I could cope. Then something small would happen and send me reeling back to the dark hole I thought was closed forever. This didn’t happen because I was his wife. It happened to his colleagues too. It happened because that is what the grief journey does. It does not pay heed to who is the wife, child, parent, friend, or colleague… it grips a hold on everyone.

I learned not only from my grief, but from the journey of others as well…

“Janelle has that rare combination of skills and sensitivity that allows a person to immediately feel they are not alone, that it is okay to grieve in whatever way feels comfortable, and that ultimately there is hope and a chance for renewal even when you feel you can’t go on.”

-Tracy L.

The grieving process is complicated for police, first-responders and those in the military.

To adequately grieve a loss and to integrate the loss into one’s life takes a great deal of time and effort. It’s not easy. The bereaved require short-term and long-term supports to move through the continuum of healing. The funeral or memorial is one of the first events following a death that moves us along this continuum.

Grief wants us to pause in life. It demands that we slow down and feel what we need to feel… for however long we need to feel it. The men and women who worked with my husband  didn’t get this luxury. Nor, will the officers who worked alongside Cst. Wynn (St. Albert’s Detachment) or the three  officers killed in the 2014 Moncton shootings.

My husband’s funeral, as  does every fallen officer’s funeral, provides a moment in time for family, friends, and colleagues to pause for reflection and to honour the deceased. But it truly is only a “moment” given the time grief will span.  Many of the officers, first-responders or military personnel attending a funeral will return to work the next day.  Moreover, they will be expected to make decisions and respond to situations as they have been trained. There will be no room for grief while on duty.

Grief has it’s own agenda… it pays no heed to clocks  or calendars. Grief does not care what duties are expected of a person It will simply bring them to their knees on its terms.

Far too many people have been left wounded for years because of the assumption that a loss is something you “get over”, dismiss, or simply set aside. Something like: “Well, six months has passed, so you and your life should be back to normal now.”

But it just doesn’t work that way.

In fact, over the weeks or months or even years that you travel the journey of grief, the full magnitude and impact of your loss is revealed little by little, in layers – much like peeling an onion. And the deeper the cut, the more tears you shed.

As these layers of loss are revealed, it’s not unusual to find yourself resisting or suppressing how you feel. And that’s okay for a while – taking a bit of a break from the sorrow can be healthy.

But when the pushing aside becomes an outright dismissal of the pain … then all sorts of other problems can set in. You cannot simply sidestep grief.

If you ignore it, it will eventually fall silent. But it doesn’t go away.

Instead, it “goes underground”. And just when you least expect it, grief will reach out and pull you down again.

…it’s like a  crop of dandelions

It may not always make a big noise, like having you burst into tears every day. But when grief is not properly dealt with, it will fester and eat away at you, often resulting in…

  • Substance abuse
  • Destruction of relationships
  • Physical, emotional, and spiritual stress
  • Depression
  • Disease

That’s why it’s so important to grieve properly – effectively.

I often tell people it’s like a crop of dandelions.

You can have the best lawn mower, and mow down every dandelion in your lawn. And by the time you put the mower away and walk to your front step … you’ll see a new head push right back up. Why?

Because you didn’t get to the root of the problem!

 People need “H.O.P.E”

I consider myself to be a “hope generator.”

When you’re in grief, you need a sense of hope – perhaps more than anything else. With hope, you’re empowered to do the work of mourning, thus leading to healing the four areas of need (physical, emotional, social, and spiritual).

So when I offer you H.O.P.E., I like to break it down like this:

“H” is for Healing – you get all the tools you need to heal

“O” is for Optimism – with absolute sensitivity, I help you see that your life will return to a sense of good with the best outcome possible

“P” is for Power – the power to pace yourself, so you’ll have all the energy, strength, and courage it takes to do the work of mourning

“E” is for Endurance – by balancing your nutrition, rest, exercise, and time for peaceful reflection so you can withstand the stress of the journey

Both Short-Term and Long-Term Supports are Needed

The goal of grieving is not to “get over” your loss. It’s a myth that time heals all. This implies that if we just “go through the motions” of living, and let time pass, then your broken heart should mend and you’ll be okay again.

But it doesn’t work like that.

Time alone does not heal all – it’s what you do with the time that heals and mends a broken heart. In other words, we must do the work of grieving and mourning.

So let me help.

Let me take you by the hand, and guide you to a place of healing, a place of wholeness, a place of Hope.

Together we can root out any negative emotions that may be eating away at you inside (or which might in the future), peel away the layers of your heartache, and deal with all the many issues faced by all those who grieve the loss of a loved one…

…while remaining sensitive and true to your own unique qualities and experience.

I can help you heal your broken heart.

I sincerely look forward to doing all I can to help.

Hugs and Blessings –

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Janelle


“Janelle is an outstanding advocate for the people she supports. We have been colleagues for over 20 years, and I can honestly say: You always want Janelle on your side. Her passion, commitment, and devotion are second to none.– Geoff Sing“With her personal experience and professional expertise, Janelle has a special ability to intellectually and emotionally connect to readers and audiences at all levels, guiding and supporting you through the grieving and healing process.”– Marilyn Lash, MSW“Janelle has personally experienced devastating tragedy in her life. While acknowledging her grief and honouring the memory of those she has lost, she has accepted this as her destiny: To help others by offering hope, solace, and sense in senseless situations.”– J.M.“Janelle has a firm grip on the handle that turns the wheel of grief…”– Andrea Gambill, Editor-in-Chief Grief Digest Magazine“When someone is experiencing the darkness of grief they need someone who understands their pain, and can provide the light that leads to healing.  My dear friend Janelle Breese Biagioni is that person.”– Tony Russell, licensed counselor & radio personality“Janelle is a tireless advocate for others, helping them deal with their own form of grief.  Nobody I know is more learned, passionate and caring about healing for both the heart and the soul of others.”

-Lorraine Pattison, Author of The Garnet Fire