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.



Just Posted

B.C’s Indigenous tourism sector takes centre stage in Chilliwack

One-day workshop will look at ways to embue the industry with authenticity

IIO seeks witness in Dodge Ram who may have seen fatality after Taser incident in Chilliwack

Second police watchdog release of vehicle images asking for driver/occupant to make contact

Lower Mainland could see spring flurries

Snow expected at higher elevations

Dying days for 25-bed mental health facility on Chilliwack/Abbotsford border

Closure of Mountain View criticized by NDP in opposition but hasn’t reversed Fraser Health decision

Chilliwack RCMP seek ID of man caught by bait car camera

Police say man is wanted for identity theft connected to incident downtown on Feb. 5

Local rock hound carves a 9-tonne granite grizzly bear

Chilliwack’s Paul McCarl’s about to complete a carving project 14 years in the making

BCHL Today: Wenatchee goes Wild against Vernon Vipers

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

B.C. landlords collect too much personal information, watchdog says

Report suggests low vacancy rates lead landlords to believe they can collect whatever info they want

The Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra & Chorus is hosting auditions for its 2018 Piano Extravaganza

Applications will be accepted until Apr. 2, and the winners will perform with the Symphony

Quebec daycare subsidies offer warning for B.C., study says

Over-55 women more likely to join paid workforce than young mothers

5 to start your day

A famous bunny sidelined in Chilliwack, multiple vehicles torched in Aldergrove and more

Travellers urged to be careful after Coquitlam agency’s licence yanked

Regulating body shut down Kimiya Travel Ltd. on Friday

Heavy ice off Canada coast strands pod of dolphins, fixating small town

The small Newfoundland community, Heart’s Delight, is fixated on plight of trapped dolphins

Foreign election interference a reality, says Trudeau after Putin re-election

Trudeau said the heavy use of social media and interference by foreign actors are the new reality in elections.

Most Read