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‘People cross the street when they see me – I think they are embarrassed or don’t know what to say’

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Peer Bereavement Support Groups

Peer Bereavement Support Groups's story

‘I want to talk about my Mum dying but people have stopped asking me about it and so I don’t know whether I can bring it up’

‘People assume that everything is okay because I am just getting on’

‘It’s been a year since my brother died and there seems to be a feeling that I should have moved on – but I don’t feel like that’

‘People cross the street when they see me – I think they are embarrassed or don’t know what to say’

‘I think my friends are afraid I might cry on them’

The time between someone dying and the funeral is often a very busy time – making contact with people, making arrangements with the funeral director, the officiant, family and friends, doing all the official, legal things that are required and just generally engaged in many conversations about what has happened and how we are feeling. After the funeral there seems to follow a quieter time when it comes to tasks and there comes a time and a need to return to ‘normality’. What is normal when we are talking about bereavement and grief? Everyone’s grief is individual to them and yes there are some ‘norms’ in terms of our physical and emotional reactions to grief but really, we are all individual and we will have had our own relationship with the person who has died and we will respond to that in our own way.

What does become apparent though is that over the months that follow, our opportunities to talk to people about our experience and our emotions become less. Perhaps because we don’t feel like we can or should bother people; perhaps because we think that we might look okay to people on the outside that we don’t feel we can tell them how we are on the inside; perhaps people are afraid to ask us because they don’t know what kind of emotional response they will have to deal with. Whatever the reason, the fact is we don’t talk. Counselling offers that opportunity to share our inner most thoughts with someone who is non-judgemental and impartial. However, it can sometimes be difficult to access free counselling or a long wait and not everyone can afford to pay for it.

The idea of a bereavement support group is that you can offer people a safe space to share experiences and emotion with people who have a shared knowledge and understanding of where you might be at. The power of hearing that someone else has thought what you have been thinking, has wondered whether their feelings are ‘normal’, shared the feeling of fog and forgetfulness, should not be underestimated.

We started our bereavement support group in October 2018. We meet in an evening once a month and we have an open door – to anyone (not just to families that we have supported) who would like to come and stay for as little or as long as you would like. The kettle is warm and the biscuits are plentiful. You may not want to say very much in front of a group of people who you have never met before – that’s okay. You may find yourself sharing more because they are strangers – that’s okay too. Either way, what we hope is that people feel comfortable and leave with a sense of their time having been spent in a worthwhile way. We aren’t counsellors but we are a team of people who work every day with the bereaved and we listen to their experiences and we share their lessons with those who we hope it can help.

‘I went home and I slept through the night for the first time since my husband died’

‘Someone in the group talked about a time of day that they found to be very difficult and how they decided to start a new routine at that time and it has helped them. I am going to try that too.’

‘It isn’t just me’

‘They all understood what I was trying to say even though I couldn’t find the words’

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