If you thought bereavement groups were all about people sat around crying then think again! Don’t get me wrong, people who attend bereavement groups do cry, often in fact, but that’s okay and that’s exactly the point; it’s okay to be okay and it’s okay not to be okay.
There is no hand book for the recently bereaved. Usually people who have lost a loved one feel they are drifting, suffer with depression and fill up doctors waiting rooms. Is this normal? Is it just a fact of life? Maybe, but is it enough? The feeling was very aptly described by my mum as ‘clinging to anything whilst trying to stay afloat as the ship behind sinks’
I don’t imagine for a second that we are the only ones to have ever felt the intolerable cruelty that is the pain of loss, however, when it happened to ‘us’ following the death of my beloved Dad, I know personally I struggled with a lot of things and this did surprise me as I always believed myself to be a reasonably strong person – oh how wrong was I!
The last few days of my Dad’s life were spent in Manorlands Hospice which is in a small village named Oxenhope. If you are familiar with Bronte County (Howarth) then you will understand how beautiful this area is. Manorlands itself is no different, a very beautiful building in breath taking settings. This fact did come as a surprise as I had rather a gloomy perception of how Hospice’s looked and felt. My perception when thinking of a hospice was always a sad place full of doom and gloom and sick people waiting to die. When I think about that now, it’s incredible how wrong I was, then again, having never had the need to have access to a hospice before I couldn’t have known any better?
I cannot in any way fault the care my Dad received. He died with dignity. They made sure to keep his pain under control and kept us informed on what was likely to happen towards the end. I have no regrets about his final days.
When I think of the days and nights we all spent at Manorlands with my Dad, I now realise that not only were they caring for him, but also for us. You don’t always see what’s right in front of you when you are in fog, a fact any driver can confidently confirm! Following on from his death, we were invited to a bereavement drop-in session which was set up by likeminded people who have been through the same. I certainly didn’t realise this was new, I assumed that this provision was common place – turns out it isn’t though, hence the opening paragraph about filling up doctors waiting rooms.
So, we became a part of this group formed to help people deal with loss. The weeks turned into months and with time the group began to grow. With growth came acknowledgement that this provision was very much needed, and so we were invited to be part of a focus group helping put guidelines in place to help carers and those who are bereaved. This has been so successful that ‘Sue Ryder’ is looking to replicate this nationally and we are also helping advice local NHS on the support needed for carers and the bereaved in the surrounding communities.
Wider yet, in my work I have a lot of links with Trade Unions, work places (public and private sector) and other authorities. As I have been publishing what we are doing at Manorlands, I have been received a startling number of private messages via Facebook, all of which have the same theme – ‘there is no help like this in our area’ so I have written to various Trade Union branches and influential people with the aim being to set up as many of these support groups as possible.
Ultimately, nobody wanted to be in a position where they had to set up and/or attend a bereavement group, given the chance we would all prefer not to be there, but we are and rather than do nothing, we have remarkable people standing together to form something very real to help others. We have people who are taking on educational projects, we have people who are meeting and getting a social life, and more importantly we have people who admit that had this group had not been there then they would have taken their own life.