Youth Bereavement Café (YBC): an online community to support young bereaved people

Emma Boys, YBC Facilitator
Published on: Thursday 30 Apr 2020 at 09:19

Welcome to the world, YBC!

YBCWith social contact and face-to-face support severely restricted in the UK due to COVID-19,  St Clare Hospice is stepping up to help ‘fill the gap’ by facilitating ‘virtual’ social and emotional support within local communities for those who are experiencing bereavement.

Our most recent endeavour is a new online community for bereaved young people in West Essex and East Hertfordshire: the Youth Bereavement Café (YBC). The ‘YBC’ is currently being run within a Facebook group, to offer a virtual space for young people (aged 18-30) to meet and connect with others who may share similar experiences – but will open as a face-to-face service when it is safe to do so.

Original plans for YBC were to launch at the end of May 2020 at a venue in Harlow, but we have decided to launch it earlier (in a virtual capacity) to ensure young people have access to the support they need during the coronavirus lockdown.

YBC is the brainchild of Emma Boys, who was supported by St Clare’s young person and children’s bereavement service when her own mother died at the Hospice in September 2017. Now one of our volunteers, and a facilitator of the YBC, Emma is passionate about supporting other young people who have experienced loss.

Emma Boys, YBC facilitator, said: “I’ve found grief to be quite isolating at times. When my mum had first died, I struggled to find other people my own age who’d experienced the death of someone close to them. So I’m excited to launch the YBC in the hope of connecting young bereaved people, so they can feel less alone whilst navigating their grief.

“Bereavement is already such a difficult experience to go through,” explains Emma Boys, “but with the added implications of coronavirus impacting both people’s mental wellbeing and ability to connect with their usual support networks, the grieving process becomes all the more difficult to navigate.

“We felt that now, more than ever, it was so important to launch this form of support for local young people who may really wish to reach out to others.”

Gemma Marks, also a St Clare Hospice volunteer and YBC facilitator, described the YBC online Facebook group as a platform “open for you to use in a way that best suits you. Whether it’s meeting and talking to others, recommending supportive resources that you’ve found useful, sharing your own experiences or simply reading about what others have shared.

“Each person grieves in their own way – and there is no right or wrong way to experience bereavement” Gemma continues. “However, at St Clare, we believe that talking to others with similar experiences can really help and make a difference. When I lost my sister at age 26, unfortunately, there wasn’t this type of group for young people to meet others – which is why I am so passionate about YBC. We hope that the group can offer a friendly, online community to help facilitate this for young, local people.”

Join the YBC

YBC is open to young people living in West Essex and East Hertfordshire, aged 18-30, who have experienced bereavement – no matter how long ago. To visit the YBC and to join, please visit

“We are really looking forward to our return to normality – so that we can bring YBC to a local venue in Harlow!” Gemma says. “Our hope is that the connections established on our YBC Facebook group can then grow and materialise into the ‘real world’ at the Café event.”

YBC is part of a network of seven other Bereavement Café events led by St Clare Hospice, which are usually hosted in local venues throughout West Essex and East Hertfordhsire. Though all currently temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, the Hospice’s effort to connect local people and communities virtually through online tools does not end with YBC.

Community Engagement Manager at St Clare Hospice, Sally Muylders, who instigated the launch of the Bereavement Café initiative in early 2019, explains, “Although it has been the coronavirus situation that has prompted us to take the YBC online, we really feel that this is something that could benefit local people throughout this period and also beyond. In the coming weeks, we are planning to launch several other similar online communities. Please do watch this space for further news on this!”

If you’d like to speak to a member of the St Clare Hospice team about their Bereavement Cafés, please contact their Patient & Family Support service on 01279 773762.

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