What’s it like to support somebody through loss? How do you help them grieve and then move forward? Why is volunteering in this role so worthwhile?

These were questions put to Trinity Bereavement Volunteer Jo. Jo has taken part in Trinity’s Foundations to Bereavement Support Training Programme and now helps bereaved people process and move forward with feelings of grief for almost four years.  

Here she shares four key lessons she has learnt along the way.

Always keep the person at the centre, remember they are unique and let their individual thoughts and needs guide your approach to helping.

I think one of the things I’ve always remembered is that you’re thinking about: who is it that’s come in, how did they get to be here, who’s died and what support have they had? Does this person have any expectations and any worries? I just invite them to talk from whichever point seems right for them.

Really it’s not just about being there but that they have someone who really listens and reflects back and maybe picks up on things that they hadn’t realised themselves were there.

The training gives you the tools that you need to be with the person in the room. You think: yeah, ok, I can support this person.

The training is genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was really interesting, well structured, it was really well planned, and the pacing of it felt just about right.

It starts with the basics, understanding yourself and your relationship with loss. There’s a quite a practical process of mapping all the losses in your life – getting that understanding. Most people’s first experiences of loss are around pets or grandparents and so on and then the losses become deeper over your life.

So then the training moves towards a more theoretical basis; we started to introduce practical exercises and working with a partner – learning that bereavement support process.

Know that you can’t make everything better, but you can help along the way.

When people are coming to this new the main thing to emphasise is that it’s not your role to make things better for the person. We cannot do that – but we can listen, we can support, we can question. We help people along the way and it’s such a rewarding thing to do.

Some people will say I want this to be over, and it’s about taking people back and understanding that when they leave they won’t be cured of grief but there will have been a shift forward - more of an accommodation with where they are now.

The best thing about my role is the point in time that any client comes to when suddenly there is a shift. It may be a really tiny shift and sometimes it’s a huge leap forward.

If you’re at all interested in volunteering as a Bereavement Support Volunteer do it! Apply and be curious.

One of the things that really worried me before was what happens if I become so distressed during this training process that I run out the door! Actually it’s very different. The experience had been really enriching and I learn something from every client. It’s deepened personal relationships, it enriches my work and gives me perspective.

People have such resilience and such strength that they maybe don’t realise that they have. When you see someone recognise that they have the resources to move forward it’s a really amazing thing to see.

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