This February marks two years since St Clare’s Bereavement Cafés first launched and they are now celebrating with the launch of a new evening Café to help people connect online
The development of a new model of social support for people experiencing grief and loss came to fruition in February 2019 with the first Bereavement Café launching at the Hospice. Since then the project has continued to grow and adapt to local need and restrictions; it celebrated its anniversary on Thursday 25th February with the launch of a new Bereavement Café, which takes place every Thursday evening, 7-8pm, via Zoom.
There are now five Bereavement Cafés running ‘virtually’, along with six Bereavement Café Facebook groups; around 200 people are currently accessing St Clare Hospice’s Bereavement Support groups each week.
Sushma Dhami, Manager of the Hospice’s Patient and Family Support Services, said:
“Bereavement is never easy but during the pandemic navigating grief and loss has become all the more difficult. We know that COVID has increased suffering and grief within our community; 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. This is why we are striving to provide ever more advice and support around death and dying, and diversifying our services to help people connect with others and share their experiences of grief and loss.”
Sushma adds: “During the last two years we’ve brought together, and offered support to, hundreds of local bereaved people – and we could not have done it without our incredible team of Bereavement Volunteers.”
June Merralls, from Loughton, is one of the Hospice’s first Bereavement Café volunteers. She has volunteered in a number of roles at the Hospice before becoming a Bereavement Volunteer:
“I started volunteering because I lost my sister in the Hospice. I needed to find something to keep me occupied. Everything I’ve done is a two-way thing; it helps me and it helps other people. I’m passionate about the Hospice.”
June helped to set up the Hastingwood Bereavement Café and then a year later the COVID pandemic hit: “We had really great uptake for the Cafés, right from the start, but once Lockdown came into force we had to close them. So we had to think of new ways we could support people. I was paired with another bereavement volunteer, Gill, and we started to run a Bereavement Café via Zoom in order to carry on connecting the people who had come to the physical Cafés but also to reach more people who might have been more recently bereaved.”
“We speak about all sorts of things – often everyday things which demonstrate how their life has changed. Sometimes they just need to talk to someone different – not their family – and I think it helps knowing that other people in the group have lost people dear to them.”
“We always have a laugh, and always try to end on a high. People have told us that they joined feeling down but were leaving on a high. We try to still make it a café experience, even though we’re not together.”
“It’s very rewarding,” comments June, “just knowing that this hour makes a huge difference, especially as everyone is now so isolated.”
There are now five Bereavement Cafés running throughout the week:
· Every Tuesday – 10.30am – 11.30am
· Every Wednesday – 7pm – 8pm
· Every Thursday – 11am – 12 noon
· Every Thursday – 7pm – 8pm
· Last Sunday of the month (Youth Bereavement Café) – 7pm – 8pm
Find out about how to attend a Bereavement Café here: stclarehospice.org.uk/your-community/bereavement-cafe/
Read June’s full story here: stclarehospice.org.uk/news_posts/bereavement-support-during-a-pandemic/
For those looking to volunteer their time and experiences to help St Clare Hospice and people in their local community, visit: stclarehospice.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/
Note: This article was first published on St Clare Hospice website and is reprinted here with permission.