OUR COMMUNITY: Darlene Wahlstrom – How Do You Do Your Job?

Darlene Wahlstrom is the face of Chilliwack Victim Services.

Darlene Wahlstrom of Chilliwack's Victim Services carries up to three phones with her at a time.

“How do you do your job?”

That’s the shock-infused question Darlene Wahlstrom faces almost daily.

What is her job?

Wahlstrom is one of the first faces a person sees following tragedy – sudden death, suicide, homicide, robbery, break-and-enter, domestic abuse, serious motor vehicle accident, house fire.

She is the face of Chilliwack’s Victim Services.

“I meet the nicest people at the worst times of their lives,” said Wahlstrom, a soft-spoken woman with a steely sense of humour and a go-go-go work ethic.

A former real estate agent and school trustee, it wasn’t until she started at Chilliwack Victim Services in 2005 that she truly felt at home. What started as a volunteer position led to a full-time managerial position in Chilliwack and a part-time position in Agassiz.

She’s on call 24/7.

She skirts out of meetings at the first vibration of her phone.

She sleeps with her phones.

For Wahlstrom, that’s her normal.

“I love what I do, I love helping people,” she said.

Still, it’s a job that could make even the steeliest of people recoil.

She’s seen dead bodies. She’s been with the RCMP to notify next of kin of their loved one’s death. She’s been yelled at, has calmed hysterical tears, has been front and centre at the most heart-wrenching moments of a person’s life.

Again, how does she do it?

“If I knew these people, I probably wouldn’t be able to do the job, I’d be a mess,” she said. “But I don’t know them. I’m there to listen, I tell them what they’re going through is normal.

“You can’t connect it to your own life, because if you do, you’re screwed.”

And because she works so much, going from one call to another, and sitting on several committees, in addition to her family life (mother of three and grandmother of seven), she doesn’t have time to dwell.

One of the hardest things of the job is realizing she’ll never meet the deceased she hears so many great things about.

“I realized one day, after hearing so many wonderful things about this dead person that holy crap, I’m never going to meet this person, and I wish I could, but I never will,” said Wahlstrom.

“I wish I had a magic wand, I wish I could fix their pain, I wish I could bring back their child, but I can’t.”

All she can do is listen.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

Just Posted

Chilliwack school board votes 4-3 not to oppose homeless shelter location

‘The Portal is a response to the problems, not the other way around’: Trustee Willow Reichelt

Symphony set to spook spectators in Chilliwack

The Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra presents Halloween Symphony Spooktacular on Oct. 27

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Oct. 14 to 20

Fantasy Farms told to stop holding special events on farmland that go against agricultural rules

The Morans say it might spell the end of their seasonal events like Reapers Haunted Attractions

PEARL event raises funds for sexually abused, exploited women in Chilliwack

‘Together Making a Difference’ is the fourth annual fundraiser for PEARL Life Renewal Society

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

VIDEO: Townhouse fourth Maple Ridge blaze in less than a day

UPDATE: Fire victims have much to be thankful for, despite loss of pets on Thanksgiving Day

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

Most Read