National Lottery helps fund new bereavement helpline for Essex

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

St Clare Hospice in Essex has launched a new Bereavement Support Helpline with funding from the National Lottery’s Community Fund. The helpline has been established in response to the community’s need for immediate emotional support, information and guidance, as the number of local people experiencing bereavement has sadly increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The Bereavement Support Helpline is being run by a team of hospice staff and volunteers, trained to deliver emotional support and practical guidance for those who would like extra support after the loss of someone close.  

“Bereavement is never easy,” explains Sushma Dhami, Patient and Family Support Service Manager at St Clare, “but during the UK’s lockdown period, 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.

According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, ‘People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected.’  

Sushma adds: “Our Helpline is here to offer support to people who are struggling with their grief whether their loss was recent, as a result of coronavirus or not; or a long time ago, and they’re finding that new thoughts and emotions have arisen due to the unsettling ‘lockdown’ period.

“We also know that recently bereaved people are finding it difficult to navigate changes in the current government guidance and regulations as a result of the pandemic – things like registering a death and arranging a funeral are not following the usual steps, which can be confusing and distressing, for people who are grieving. Our Helpline will guide people through this process, in a coherent and sensitive way, offering light-touch, emotional support in the process. We’ll help people find other support services in the local community that could be useful, as well as offering practical guidance on things like funerals, welfare and finance.”

The hospice has also created a new Guidance and Support booklet to help people facing death and loss during the pandemic. The booklet and helpline have been developed as a rapid response to the current situation. “Launching a service like this, to reach all local, bereaved people who need support, was always within our team’s strategy for the near future,” says Sushma, “however, the pandemic has rightly reframed the development of this service into a more urgent timeframe.

“As the local hospice for West Essex and East Herts, our duty is always to respond to local need as quickly and effectively as we can – and this time, bereavement has taken one of the ‘front seats’ in our most immediate developments to our care and support services during this time. We believe that no one should have to face their grief alone.”

The new service will also focus on connecting individuals and communities together online, so that local people can support each other. “One of our main ambitions is to connect local people with others who may have similar experiences to their own,” says Sushma. “Our new online Bereavement Café communities, which run via Facebook groups, have proven hugely successful in the few weeks they’ve been up and running. These supportive, online communities offer a space for people to meet, chat, and support one and other, through sharing experiences, resources and services with each other.”

 The helpline operates Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, and is open to all local people living who feel they would benefit from extra support in relation to a bereavement, no matter how long ago their loss was.  

For more information visit St Clare Hospice