How charities help people deal with grief

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 May 2020

kieferpix/Getty Images/iStockphoto

kieferpix/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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In these unprecedented times, more and more people are turning to professionals for advice about coping with death and bereavement. We spoke to two Berkshire charities who can help...

I can’t remember a time, in my lifetime anyway, when illness or death was more talked about in the world. As we went to press, the UK coronavirus death toll had just passed 30,000 and 
I can’t begin to imagine how many more people must be grieving. And worse, those grieving may be doing so in isolation and without being able to say their proper goodbyes.

“One of the most profound issues that this pandemic brings with it is the isolation,” says Caspar Williams, Chair of Cruse Bereavement Care West Berkshire, who offer support and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies. “We would normally advise those who are grieving to spend time with friends and family and not to isolate yourself. Obviously at the moment this is not possible. Current social distancing rules, whilst absolutely the right thing to be doing, mean that many of those left behind are grieving in isolation. They are unable to seek much-needed physical comfort from friends and family, and on top of that, many will be dealing with the incredibly distressing reality of having been unable to say goodbye.

“To that end, one of the first things we would advise is to keep connected to friends and family. We may not be able to be there in body, but we can speak to people over the phone, or engage on social media. We would also encourage those around that person to reach out. If you know of someone who is struggling, whether their bereavement was recent or a few years ago – show them you are there for them. Show that person that they are not alone.”

There are 35 dedicated volunteers in the Cruse West Berkshire branch, just one of many branches nationwide. During the current lockdown period, they are offering telephone, video and email support. And in time, as social distancing restrictions relax, they will continue to offer face-to-face and group support sessions as well.

Whether suffering bereavement for the first time or not; either recently or sometime in the past, they can offer vital support, an empathetic ear and practical tools to deal with grief.

“We create a safe and secure place to help individuals and families to understand, make sense of and work through their grief,” says Caspar. “The people we support will gain invaluable insights to help them best understand their grief journey; whether finding the right words to articulate how they feel, or reassurance that an experience akin to an emotional rollercoaster can actually be a normal grief reaction. Often the hardest step is the first one; acknowledging when you need help and support and then making your first phone call to our friendly and experienced team.”

As the death toll rises, bereavement charities are preparing for a huge uptake in demand for their services in the coming months and years. To that end, Cruse are working on recruiting more volunteers for both their local services and 
their Helpline.

Daisy’s Dream, another bereavement charity based in Berkshire, which supports children and young people who are facing, or have experienced, the death of someone close, are also preparing for the number of referrals to their service to increase as the weeks go by.

“Sadly, people in our community continue to get sick or die, whether that be from coronavirus or by other causes, but the way in which families are able to respond to those deaths is now limited and restricted in so many ways. With a higher than normal death rate, more children and young people will be impacted by bereavement and will need our support. As a result, we may not know the true impact of coronavirus on our service for quite a while,” said a spokesperson for the charity.

“But we believe that no child’s future should be defined by a death or life-limiting illness in the family and our valuable service offers the time and support needed by families to learn to cope with the changing dynamics of their life, and ultimately move forwards in a positive way.”

Daisy’s Dream’s team of part-time, professionally qualified Therapeutic Practitioners offer over the phone support to parents, carers and professionals working with bereaved children. They also provide one-to-one sessions to children and young people who they feel would benefit from additional support, together with group therapeutic events, which help to breakdown the sense of isolation often felt by families affected by bereavement.

They said: “We are focusing on continuing to be there for everyone who needs us, keeping up to date with the rapidly changing rules and restrictions about funerals and post-death arrangements, and adapting our services to ensure that families can maintain a valuable level of support at a time when the whole world is feeling anxious and uncertain.” u

Visit cruse.org.uk/coronavirus or call 01635 523 573 directly.

For help and advice from Daisy’s Dream, visit daisysdream.org.uk

To make a donation to these charities, please visit cruse.org.uk/get-involved/donate and daisysdream.org.uk/donate

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