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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Neighbour’s quick actions save dogs and home in Chilliwack townhouse fire

Neighbour heard fire alarm and called 911 and rescued dogs from unit on fire

60 middle school students in one Abbotsford classroom? It’s true, stunned parent is told

Parent says she was in disbelief when her son told her he was in a class with 60 other kids

No confirmed candidates in either Chilliwack riding for snap election

Both ridings went to BC Liberals in 2017 but no candidates announced on day election is called

COVID-19 testing lineup wraps around block in Chilliwack

Testing lineup includes seniors, children and their parents as demand seems to surge

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Former worker at Surrey brewery claims he was bullied on the job

Human rights complaint to be heard against Surrey’s Central City Brewers and Distillers Ltd.

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Mission poker player missing in Nevada is found alive and safe

Brad Booth went missing in July 13, found in mid September

Most Read