WINDSOR, ONT. -- A new bereavement centre is opening its doors virtually Wednesday to help support Windsor-Essex families.

Julien’s House is a registered charitable organization that offers support services where people can come together for compassion and support in their personal journey through the death of a loved one.

"We offer a welcome place to support, educate and empower people through their bereavement experience by respecting and responding to each bereaved person’s unique needs,” said chair Bill Marra. “We know that a focus on mental health and wellbeing is key to strengthening our community.”

Julien’s House is offering virtual drop-in sessions for bereaved members of the community.

“When you experience the death of a loved one, you need someone to turn to that really understands. We believe in peer to peer support programs called “companioning.” We are currently offering drop in services and matching with others who have experienced similar circumstances of loss,” says Melissa Lauzon, Julien’s House project manager and Safety Village executive director.

A Zoom event Wednesday night highlighted services like gardening, breakfast clubs, and other restorative activities will also be provided.

“We know this is exactly what our community needs. We are happy to see it get off the ground. It’s going to help many who are struggling with loss,” says bereavement specialist and founding member Colleen Campo.

The house is named after Julien Gaudet, who died at 18 years old as a result of a traumatic brain injury suffered in car-related accident in May, 2011.

Julien’s House will be located on the property of Julien’s first home as child on Baseline Road.

“To use Julien’s house, the property as a hub to further enhance the companioning, the friendship, the putting people in touch with one another, the like-hearted, the like-minded individuals where they can share their life experience since the loss of a loved one,” said Germain Gaudet, Julien’s father.

By offering this home as a place for services and support to other families in Windsor-Essex, Julien’s parents, Christine and Germain Gaudet hope to fill a need in the community and honour their son’s memory.

“It’s been a lot of work, but we can see the fruits of our labour finally coming to fruition and it finally feels good. Feels good knowing that we’re going to be able to help members of our community,” says Germain Gaudet.

He says it will be a safe place for those to come during their grief journey and will look to create for all types of loss.

“Sibling loss, spousal loss, child loss, parental loss, all those losses will be welcomed and well supported at Julien’s House,” adds Germain Gaudet.