Date published: Monday 1st June 2020 | 11:10 GMT
We have launched a series of online communities to help connect local, bereaved people together to support each other
St Clare Hospice is launching online bereavement support for people across West Essex and East Hertfordshire in an effort to diversify our service amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and support those experiencing grief during ‘lockdown’.
The new service consists of a series of seven local Bereavement Café online community Facebook Groups, which cover Harlow, Hastingwood, Abridge, Ongar, Theydon Bois, Dunmow, and a Group for young people (aged 18-30) called Youth Bereavement Café.
Community Engagement Manager at St Clare Hospice, Sally Muylders, is leading the project and said: “Coping with bereavement and loss is always difficult, but in the current climate, people may be finding it harder than ever. Many people are grieving in isolation – they may have lost a loved one recently, and now find themselves cut off from their usual support networks due to the lockdown measures. Or, their loved one may have died longer ago, but the grief they feel is heightened by the physical social isolation they are now faced with. More than ever, St Clare can see that our role as a local hospice charity is to offer immediate, local, bereavement support to those who are experiencing death, dying and loss in our communities.
“We have been working hard over the past weeks to devise a way to connect local people experiencing loss and bereavement with others who understand – in a ‘virtual’ way. I am delighted that we are now able to launch our series of Bereavement Café online communities for the people of West Essex and East Hertfordshire – no matter where their loved one died, or how long ago. These online communities are an extension of the Bereavement Café project we launched in March 2019, and they offer a supportive space for people who have experienced loss to gather with other people, local to them, who may have had a similar experience.”
We launched our Bereavement Café project in March 2019 and since then we have developed a series of seven events which occur monthly, in venues across West Essex and East Hertfordshire. The events normally take place as a café-style drop-in event, and over 450 people have attended in the past year at venues across the catchment area of the Hospice.
Bereavement Cafés offer a place to meet and connect with other local people who may have had a similar experience, and to chat, share and support each other around coping with grief and loss. The café events are open to anyone who has experienced bereavement, no matter how long ago, and are free to attend.
Since the national COVID-19 lockdown began on 23rd March 2020, the Bereavement Cafés have had to be postponed and cannot take place for the foreseeable future. The Community Engagement team have been working hard to take the project online so that bereaved local people can be supported ‘virtually’ during the lockdown period.
Community Engagement Manager at St Clare Hospice, Sally Muylders, explained: “We have taken our Bereavement Cafés online and have set up individual Facebook groups for each of the areas where we normally host a ‘physical’ café event. Having these groups affiliated to locations across our catchment area means that people experiencing bereavement can stay connected with local people in their own area. Once the Facebook groups are up and running, we will also organise virtual meet-ups with the web-conferencing platform, Zoom, so that we can facilitate virtually the kind of social drop-in groups that we normally run in the physical cafés.
“We are fortunate to be supported by a wonderful team of trained volunteer Bereavement Café facilitators who have been eager to continue to support their community throughout the lockdown period. They know the impact that social isolation can have on people who are going through the loss of a loved one, and were happy to develop their skills to take the support groups online – even if they don’t normally consider themselves tech-savvy! Each Facebook group is being carefully managed by our volunteer facilitators to ensure that they remain a safe place to connect and engage with other local people who are also experiencing grief and loss. We hope that our community find the Bereavement Café online communities as supportive and meaningful as the ‘physical’ ones – and we are confident that this new way of connecting digitally around bereavement and loss will be a positive legacy that we will continue to run after lockdown, and beyond!”
Join your local Bereavement Café online community
Find your local Bereavement Café online community on Facebook, by visiting the main St Clare Hospice page at facebook.com/stclarehospice and clicking on the Groups tab.