Content trigger warning: This article mentions suicide and talks about grief from traumatic, sudden loss.
Behind every successful sports team and athlete, there is a committed and talented coach or team of coaches analyzing the strengths of their players, formulating game plans, and finding ways to keep their rosters motivated and healthy in the pursuit of winning the game.
Like their athletic counterparts, executive or corporate coaches support an organization’s people by helping them see and connect to untapped potential, becoming the best version of themselves personally and professionally. Research has shown that effective coaching can increase a person’s confidence and clarity, help people take thoughtful action through learning, improve relationships and communication, and develop leadership skills. (Source: theleadershipcoachinglab.com)
An award-winning registered nurse, Valerie Waymark is a certified executive, diversity, and grief coach with clients located throughout BC. She is also BC CRN’s Provincial Coach Consultant, who supports everyone in the organization to be the best versions of themselves.
家有一老如有一寶: An elderly person at home [is like] a living golden treasure.” –Chinese Proverb
“All of my siblings – I have three brothers and a sister – are a lot older than me. They are 11, 13, 15, and 17 years my senior. My sister is the oldest. My arrival was a surprise to my parents!” she laughs.
Growing up among older siblings and older parents, Valerie felt she had five sets of parents. She saw her siblings start to marry when she was four. By her late teens, her parents were in their sixties. “Older people – my parents and their friends – have always been a part of my life,” she says.
It’s no surprise she became a gerontological nurse after a rocky attempt trying to find a career in the credit union system.
“I worked in credit unions for about five years,” she explains. “I was awful with the math, but good with the relationships, so much so that they gave me a supervisory role in member services. I was 24.”
Valerie started nursing school in Vancouver, ultimately completing her education in Ontario in 1985. After graduation, she became a nurse in acute and long-term care. She then became a nurse supervisor in Calgary’s healthcare system when a work transfer for her husband Ron took them to Alberta. By 1993, she was a director of nursing in Kimberley, BC. What followed was a string of nursing leadership roles that landed her in Northern BC in 2002 where she first became the home and community care manager in Quesnel, then the area director for home and community care for the Northern Interior of Northern Health and finally, the director of care and operations manager for a long-term care facility in Prince George.
While nursing, Valerie was already diving deep into executive coaching, completing a graduate certificate from Royal Roads University in 2010.
Her final nursing position was in Northern Health’s Public Health Protection where she worked as the manager for Community Care Licensing. In 2014, peers put her name forward for the College of Registered Nurses of BC’s top honour – the Award of Excellence in Nursing Administration. Valerie won.
The award was presented to her in September 2014. Seven weeks later, Ron died from suicide. “Suddenly, everything changed,” Valerie says.
“Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.” – Unknown
“After Ron died, I needed to prove to myself I could go back to work,” she shares.
After a year of bereavement leave, Valerie returned to licensing where she stayed one more year before retiring.
“I was already a coach, and I wanted to do more of it. While nursing was a passion, coaching kept calling out to me,” she continues.
Three months before her last day, a close co-worker friend saw an email from the BC CRN. It was a posting for a team leader role. “It ticked all the boxes for me,” she says. “The role took advantage of my coach approach and skills, so I applied for it.”
Valerie was successful in her application and joined the BC CRN in 2017.
Valerie’s goal as a coach is to “coach the whole person”. Her coaching practice is based out of her home in Prince George, BC.
“Coaching is a partnership. It’s about walking alongside someone and supporting them however they define it,” she explains. “It’s their conversation, my job is to provide the support they feel they need to do the best possible work they can.”
“Coaching is not about giving advice, or consulting. It’s not counselling. It’s not mentorship. My job is to ask questions so the person can tap into their own wisdom for the answers,” she says.
In 2017 at around the same time she started with BC CRN, Valerie became a certified creative grief support practitioner.
“When Ron died, I couldn’t find anyone I was comfortable with to talk to,” she explains. “There were minimal local supports for suicide loss survivors. At the time, there were few support workers who had experienced traumatic loss themselves.”
“Grief support coaching is about navigating loss and learning to look outward to see what is in front of us,” she continues. “These conversations are transformative. Everyone feels loss – it could be a job, a loved one, something or someone very important. I want to be someone who can support people experiencing this.”
The certification process was cathartic and insightful for Valerie: “Ron’s death gave me so many gifts – my retirement, coaching, my new love for painting and art, the practice of qigong, gaming, and my cat Gnomie. While there was despair, there was also so much joy. It has taken me down pathways I never thought were possible for me. It is a part of my life that I can’t dismiss.”
“When mind, body, and spirit are in harmony, happiness is the natural result.” – Deepak Chopra
Valerie has several practices in addition to her coaching.
She paints. Her studio is her dining room, which is a colourful collage of acrylics, rollers, brushes, and canvases. Many of her paintings are abstract, often created to release an emotion or tell the story of a thought that came to mind. Some of her paintings are also spiritual. One of her latest pieces is her interpretation of Green Tara.
She loves games, so much that she no longer hesitates to call herself a gamer. “I play a game called Forge of Empires with people from the UK, New Zealand, and Australia. There are a few Canadians in the community too!” she giggles. “I also love word games and classic Nintendo games – Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong.” She often plays two or three games at a time. She also has a Nintendo Switch, which she takes to Mexico, so she never is without it. “Games keep my mind stimulated.”
She’s taken up qigong, an ancient Chinese practice that combines postures, breathing, and meditation. Having endured 25 years of chronic fatigue and pain from fibromyalgia, Valerie credits qigong for helping her get her body moving again. “I’m now doing qigong, sometimes, up to five times a week depending on how I feel,” she says. “It’s been a life changer!”
She’s a backyard gardener. On the back deck and in her garden, Valerie grows flowers and vegetables. She aims for two plantings a year, which means starting her seeds early in the year in February and March. This year, her plot produced marigolds, rhubarb, beans, and squash. “My favorite thing to grow are English peas,” she says. “They love cool crisp weather, which Prince George often has a lot of in the Spring and Fall!”
Help is available if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm:
- The Crisis Centre of BC
- BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services – Provincial Crisis Lines
- The Province of British Columbia – Suicide and Self Harm Resources
- First Nations Health Authority – Mental Health and Wellness Supports
Written by: Debbie Chow, Links Communication Solutions. Follow Debbie on LinkedIn @debbiechowabc.
 In her role as Team Leader, Valerie was responsible for the Northern and Interior regions. BC CRN’s Team Leader role evolved to become the Regional Consultant role, which evolved again to the current Provincial Coach Consultant role that Valerie holds today.
(Photos: V. Waymark)