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St Clare Hospice marks second anniversary of Bereavement Cafe

Charity / Sat 20th Feb 2021 at 10:28am

WEST Essex and East Hertfordshire charity, St Clare Hospice, is celebrating the second anniversary since the launch of its innovative, social support model to help those experiencing bereavement – Bereavement Cafés.

St Clare Hospice’s Bereavement Cafés launched in February 2019 in order to connect people from across its local communities who have experienced grief and loss – bringing them together to support one another. The project originally started in the form of physical cafés, and has continued ‘virtually’ throughout the COVID pandemic.

The project has continue d to grow and adapt to local need and restrictions; it is celebrating its anniversary this week (on Thursday 25th February) with the launch of a new Bereavement Café, which will take place every Thursday evening, 7-8pm, via Zoom.

There are now five Bereavement Cafés running ‘virtually’ each week, along with six Bereavement Café Facebook groups, meaning that 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 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/

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