Published on: Monday 07 Dec 2020 at 00:15
This Grief Awareness Week (2-8th December), we’re encouraging local people to share your experiences of loss and grief – to help others. And to access support from the Hospice – if you need it.
This week-long annual awareness-raising event is organised by The Good Grief Trust – a national charity which brings together all UK bereavement services. The focus of this year’s campaign is encouraging people to share their experiences of grief and loss, and help support others who might also be experiencing loss or bereavement.
“Bereavement is never easy,” explains Sushma Dhami, Patient and Family Support Service Manager at St Clare Hospice, “but during the pandemic, navigating grief and loss has become all the more difficult. People are finding that they cannot rely on their usual routines, and that the face-to-face comfort and support of family and friends is disrupted due to social distancing.”
Sushma’s understanding of the increased need for bereavement support has recently been evidenced by the interim findings of the UK’s first UK-wide survey exploring bereavement experiences and support during the pandemic. The survey found that many of the 532 respondents described a lack of support following a loved one’s death; more than half (51%) were not provided with any information about bereavement support and 56% of people who tried to access bereavement services also experienced difficulties.
Like many of us in 2020, Sushma’s role as Patient and Family Support Manager at St Clare Hospice changed greatly during the pandemic; she shares her experiences in her blog and explains why she felt the need to increase the Bereavement services available for local people.
Sushma worked alongside colleagues to transform the Hospice’s bereavement support during the pandemic; this has included increasing its capacity to support local people, regardless of where their loved one died, and offer people bereavement support over the telephone and online – via facebook groups and online meetings.
Part of this newly extended support has included a Bereavement Support Helpline, 01279 967670, which launched in June 2020, in response to a community requirement for immediate emotional support, information and guidance. Funding was obtained from the National Lottery’s Community Fund in order to set up the helpline and the Hospice has recently secured £100,000 funding from Barclays to continue running their Bereavement Support Helpline for the next year.
The Bereavement Support Helpline is run by a team of hospice staff and volunteers, trained to deliver immediate emotional support and practical guidance for those who would like extra support after the loss of someone close. The helpline operates 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, and is open to all local people living in West Essex and East Herts who are bereaved, no matter how long ago their loss was.
Another part of the Bereavement Helpline is a ‘listening ear’ service, which offers one-to-one emotional support, via a telephone call, for anyone in the Hospice’s catchment area who is feeling lonely due to bereavement.
Those accessing the listening ear service can speak about their feelings with a trained St Clare staff member or volunteer, who will call regularly to offer emotional support over the telephone. Thereby building a trusted relationship where thoughts and feelings can be shared in confidence, whilst discovering other local support networks in the local community.
Mary Patricia (Pat) has been using St Clare Hospice’s Listening Ear service following the death of her husband, Peter, in July. “Peter and I were 53 years married and we’ll be having a memorial for him in the New Year. I’m well supported with a large family; I’ve four children and eight grandchildren, but it does still get lonely. It’s just when everything dies down. It’s different when people go away and things go back to normality. But that’s a fact of life; it’s difficult for a lot of people now.
“Well I got so lonely at home, and when St Clare Hospice suggested the Listening Ear service I thought I’d give it a try. I find it quite useful – I’m quite realistic about life; I see the bigger picture but it doesn’t mean that you don’t feel the loss. Carol, my listening ear, is brilliant – we just chat away and put the world to rights. We even went over the hour last week! We’ve had about six sessions I think.
“I would recommend the listening ear service because it helps bring the feelings out of yourself. It’s just chatting but you can talk about yourself and how you feel. We just chat about life in general and the sadness of life and I think it is good to talk like this. It’s useful; you can just talk about life.”
- Those looking to share their experiences of death, loss and bereavement can use #ShareYourStory #GAW2020 and tag @hospicestclare on twitter and stclarehospice on facebook and instagram. The Hospice will share people’s stories as part of its efforts to increase awareness around the importance of supporting each other through grief.
- To access support from St Clare Hospice’s Bereavement Support Helpline, the number to call is 01279 967670.