Acts of Service: Support at Crucial Times

Acts of Service

Support at crucial times

 

Claire Beadon writes on how her role as a Bereavement Councillor is more than an Act of Service for the people she supports.

 

I have been working as a bereavement counsellor (often referred to as a grief counsellor) for a charity in London for over 20 years. Luckily, a great number of people are able to manage their grief by talking to their own family and close friends who can support them at such a difficult and distressing time. However there are others who want counselling as they are finding the death of someone important to them too upsetting to be able to cope with on their own. Often this is when a death has been sudden or unexpected, such as a heart attack or stroke, or from a longer term illness such as cancer.

A lot of people say that they want to talk to someone who is a stranger and who they have no other connection with as family members and close friends may not be impartial or may talk about their own feelings instead of just listening. Almost all the clients I have worked with over the years have come for counselling as they were struggling to cope with their loss and often describe feeling as if they are ‘going mad’ or ‘losing the plot’ and were worried they may never get back to being the person they were previously. They are feeling traumatised by the loss of that significant person they were very close to, even when the death itself was peaceful, with the result that their grief is both complex and complicated.

Whilst I have always worked with people on a short-term basis over 12 weekly sessions, I have been constantly humbled by what people who are struggling with overwhelming grief are able to work through and process in that short space of time whether it is the death of their partner, a parent or grandparent, a child or a close friend. I have felt very honoured by what clients have shared with me over time, quite often saying things they have never told anyone before. I am frequently so amazed by human resilience and strength in the face of often devastating and difficult circumstances and the ability that people have to re-find hopefulness and purpose in their own lives and future again.

Looking after and taking care of ourselves and our mental health at times of stress and difficulty is so vitally important. The pandemic has been very difficult for lots and lots of people as we have been so restricted by lockdowns on what we were able to do and, more importantly, who we have been able to see for any amount of time. Never before have we been forced to remain isolated from our friends and family for such long periods and have been unable to see the people we may usually rely on for support in both practical and emotional ways, which has affected so many people’s mental health and well-being. Frequently this has led to an increase in feelings of anxiety and depression as our usual ways of coping have been removed from us.

Then if someone significant in your life dies, the loss of that person can add to these already difficult circumstances and it can be a perfect storm in terms of our feelings. Not being able to pay your respects to someone who was important to you has so often been incredibly distressing and, as such, the process of grieving has been even harder to cope with than it may have been in more normal times.
As bereavement counsellors, we had to adjust our way of working in order to be able to continue to support people at a time of such great need. As we could not meet in person during the pandemic, sessions were offered remotely via online platforms such as Zoom or WhatsApp or by telephone. This may not have been ideal but it was certainly an important and much needed way of offering support to people who wanted counselling at a time of such enormous distress and anxiety.

Grieving is about being able to continue to remember what the person who died meant to you when they were alive and what they still continue to mean to you. So when someone can start to remember the person they loved and can begin to recall the good, fun times as well as the silly things they did and can laugh again, as well as remembering some less good times, I know they are beginning to process their grief. The clients I have seen are often very tearful but they can also laugh a lot about the past. Hopefully the sessions I have offered my clients have made a difference to their lives – I have certainly learnt a lot from each and every one of them.

Written by admin

June 1, 2022

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