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Misty Cockerill assisting support group for those impacted by homicide

A survivor of a homicidal attack herself, Misty Cockerill is bringing her understanding of such trauma to a support group for people who have lost family to violence. - JOHN VAN PUTTEN
A survivor of a homicidal attack herself, Misty Cockerill is bringing her understanding of such trauma to a support group for people who have lost family to violence.
— image credit: JOHN VAN PUTTEN

Shelby Bernard became obsessed with the disappearance of her common-law husband Wesley Foulds. Convinced he was murdered, she has spent many days at the Hayward Lake Recreation Area, searching for clues police might have missed. She eventually passed through the worst part of the emotional hell, but two years later the first and last thing she thinks about each day, is her missing man.

“There should be a support group for people like me,” she told a reporter recently.

By next month there will be.

Misty Cockerill will be one of the group’s leaders. She survived a vicious baseball bat assault by Terry Driver, the Abbotsford Killer, when she was 16 years old. He killed her friend Tanya Smith.

Cockerill is now a 32-year-old mother of two children, aged nine and three. She has done public speaking about her experiences, volunteers with Abbotsford Police Victim’s Services, and is pursuing a social services diploma at the University of the Fraser Valley.

“I feel like that’s my path to follow.”

She has been a guest speaker with the group LINC (Long-Term Inmates Now in the Community). The group is interested in starting a “healing centre” in Abbotsford for people who have lost loved ones to homicide. The forerunner of that facility will be a peer support group, and LINC recruited Cockerill to be one of two facilitators, along with Roy Schubert.

They have been given specialized training by Marlyn Ferguson, who is a bereavement counsellor who works out of Valley View Funeral Home in Surrey, which is also a partner in the healing centre project. Ferguson’s son was murdered in Ottawa.

“It’s about getting people to reach out to each other,” Cockerill said.

The group will begin on Feb. 15, and meet for six consecutive Tuesdays.

“We’ll start with just getting to know each other, and telling our stories.”

In the future, she said the group will hear from guest speakers who will talk about how the criminal justice and corrections system works.

Cockerill said losing a loved one to murder is different than having them die in other ways.

“It’s so abrupt and tragic,” she said. “And it’s often followed by a trial and police work, and you’re left wondering why or who?

“There’s a lifetime of work to do.”

Her personal experience was a feeling of being alone.

“You’re left in the dark, and isolated from everyone,” she said.

“My family and friends didn’t really understand what it was like to be in my situation.”

She met someone who had been in a similar circumstance, and said they supported one another “without doing very much.”

A counsellor was also a big help.

“You can talk it out, with no judgment and no advice,” she said. “It’s someone to say, ‘okay, you’re normal.’”

Sherry Edmonds-Flett, a spokesperson for LINC is glad to have Cockerill on board for the project.

“She is a spitfire, that woman, she’s inspirational,” Edmonds-Flett said.

“She talks about the struggles she’s had. She was left for dead, her friend was murdered, and she has a real heart for survivors.”

The support group will meet at the M2W2 office at #208-2825 Clearbrook Rd.

For more information or to register, call 604-596-8866.

Healing centre goal

A healing centre is the long-term goal of LINC, which is starting the support group for families and friends of homicide victims.

LINC, Long-term Inmates Now in the Community, is a unique self-help group run by ex-offenders, parolees, their spouses, family members and friends. Its primary purpose has been to help support offenders in breaking the cycle of incarceration.

The group has contact with survivors and those affected by serious crime.

“We find people isolate survivors, much like they do offenders,” said Sherry Edmonds-Flett, a LINC spokesman.

She estimates the healing centre is at 5-7 years from becoming a reality. She said offenders will be involved in the fundraising, “so they have a way to give back.”

Edmonds-Flett said Abbotsford is central in the Fraser Valley, and has had its own struggles with violent crime, making it a good location for the healing centre. M2W2, a group that works toward offender rehabilitation, is also behind the project. With the help of Marjean Fitchenberg, a member of the National Parole Board’s victim advisory committee, and Marlyn Ferguson who has expertise in grief counseling after homicide, they are hoping to establish the healing centre in a residential setting.

It would offer counseling for everything from trauma to drug and alcohol abuse, and would be a place where the bereaved could “get started on their healing journey,” said Edmonds-Flett.

She and the rest of LINC hope the support group is just the start of something bigger.

“This is a new idea, and this is something we can do right off the hop.”

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