Bereavement can be devastating. Your world can be turned upside down and suddenly you are on your own, especially if you don't have many friends or family around you. It may appear that their lives continue as normal, whereas yours seems to have slowed down or even stopped.
Volunteering gives you routine and something to do with your time. It gives you something to look forward to each week, a new interest, or perhaps the chance to rekindle an old one. Over time, volunteering builds your confidence and helps you to feel part of something worthwhile. Featured over the next three pages are stories from 4 different volunteers who gradually felt it was something they really wanted to do and some have used their own experience to help others in similar situations.
Deborah Bennett is a Skilled Listener for SE Region. “I’m not sure that I could tell anybody where my interest in becoming a volunteer listener with CBCS began. It just gradually became something that I really wanted to do. Whatever my motivation, when I turned up at Edinburgh Cruse for an interview I had no idea what an important part of my life this work was to become.
"People have always talked to me; complete strangers in a checkout queue will tell me the most intimate details about their lives. I guess I’m just a good listener (or I have ‘that sort of face’) but training and working with Cruse has taught me how to use this ability to help others through some of the most difficult times of their lives – and I love it.
"Thinking back to my first client, I remember the enormity of being in a room alone with a ‘real’ person and their pain and sadness: could I really do this? Gradually I learned that I could hold their grief and give them a safe place to explore
their feelings. I began to see the difference that having somebody who will listen, impartially but sympathetically, can make on the hard journey through bereavement.
"I never know what a client will bring into the counselling room. Every single one is different and I learn something new from each of them. I love the challenge they bring, and consider it a real privilege to be allowed to share their journey until they feel strong enough to carry on by themselves. It isn’t over when they leave me; I can’t ‘fix it’ but I can help them find the tools and the strengths they need to find a comfortable place in their new lives for the person they have lost. When that happens, that is when I know what we do at CBCS is worthwhile.”
Pat volunteered for CBCS in Fife: "Was it always going to be coffee mornings, ladies luncheons, with not much depth to my life? After the initial turmoil of the move back to Scotland, leaving behind my only surviving daughter and my lovely grandson, life was a bit empty. What could I do? What would I be good at? An advertisement in the local paper caught my eye that Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland had obtained some funding to recruit and train new volunteers for counselling work...... Yes!
"The initial training wasn't easy as it was necessary and important for us to delve into our own background; this was an essential part of the learning process. This gave me the opportunity to look at my own sad loss and confront any issues whilst in a safe environment, rather than have them surface in a counselling situation.
"Five years on, I have seen many clients and I am always aware of the courage it takes for people to ask for help with their bereavement. I feel extremely privileged when they share with me their emotional, sometimes raw and almost always very sad stories. My hope is that they too can find something in their lives to bring back some joy again.
"I wish I had embarked on volunteer work sooner, but it might not have been right then, I believe it was through my own major loss of my daughter Shirley, which brought to my notice the need out there, for bereavement counselling. I feel my life has grown since her sudden death over a decade ago. I always remember what a trainer once told me, by using a tree that has lost a branch as an analogy of how new growth is possible after bereavement (akin to losing a limb). I have had new growth; I feel it has made me a much better person; I wouldn't be who I am, or what I am doing today without my past events having taken place.
"PS. As it is voluntary - I still have time for coffees and lunches with my friends .,. and the many trips down south to see my lovely grandsons (there are 2 of them now)."
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