One of the most rewarding elements about my job is when I can make a small difference to people’s lives. Last evening was one such example.
Harmony hosted its first bereavement support event in Basingstoke, at The Treatment Hub in London Street. I had been involved in bereavement support at St Michael’s Hospice but had never considered an event where I reached out to the community at large. I did so because I sensed a lack of professional bereavement support available to people in the town.
Thank you to everybody who took the trouble to attend. It was a wet and windy evening and I’m sure some people on the day were looking for a reason to change their mind and not come. Facing up to the reality of losing someone is hard enough, let alone to come out to an unknown venue to be with people you don’t know when you’re in a vulnerable state of mind.
I began the evening by sharing knowledge about the grieving process by leading psychologist on the subject, Colin Murray Parkes. He identifies four stages of grief. Unfortunately, grief follows no set pattern or timeline. It is a totally individual process and that is why professional support can be helpful.
The most powerful part of my talk was a video, make by a teenager, of his experiences of grief. It included his memories of family who had passed on and insights from others in the same situation. It was not professionally produced and was all the more powerful for it. Take a look here if you’d like to.
Next, after I had finished talking, people broke out into small groups to listen to one another’s reasons for attending the event and, if they wanted to, to open up a little bit about their story. Talking about bereavement really is one of the best therapies available. It was so heartening to see people sharing their experiences and being able to offer empathetic support as a person shared their feelings. For nearly an hour I let this stage of the meeting run. At the beginning there was a bit of tension as no one wanted to go first. At the end there was so much shared support and love we had to asked politely if we could move on to the last part of the meeting – the ritual.
We lit candles and placed flowerheads in reflective bowls of water while my friends and colleagues Nick and Janet read some poems about remembrance. As I closed the meeting, I sensed a positive mood as people who were strangers two hours ago shared an embrace and exchanged details so they could stay in touch.
As I walked back to my car, I couldn’t have been more content. I had helped people, just a little bit. People who share my community, who I had invited along to provide some understanding of the grieving process and to offer support to. Thank you again to everyone who took the trouble to attend.
The next meeting will be in Basingstoke on May 12th.