I learnt something new.

Speaking at Calvary's 'Living with Grief' seminar, September 10, 2022
Speaking at Calvary’s ‘Living with Grief’ seminar, September 10, 2022

I’ve written about grief and bereavement for years, yet I learnt something new at the seminar by Calvary Bereavement Service yesterday. It was a simple distinction, revealed at the Living With Grief seminar I facilitated.

In our interview counsellor Adele Elliott explained the variety of approaches counsellors can take, with different styles of people. For example, some people like symbolism about how rebuilding your life is like building a house.

Different people need different approaches, Adele explained.

She helps them with the idea of laying down foundations. Then scaffolding goes up, then bricks are laid. Others need other tools and approaches.

I invited the four panellists to explain what they do. And so I learnt something new. At one end sat Megan Thorpe, Senior Counsellor and Manager of the Calvary Bereavement Counselling Service, then Dr Amy Waters Palliative Care Consultant, then Brooke Charles social worker, then Mary Ashton, Manager of Pastoral Care Services.

Mary explained that her service is not religious in its direction, unless that’s what the family want. I was puzzled.

“What is the difference then between your services, Megan and Mary? ” I asked.

What is the difference between services?

“Well, the difference is my team deals with the family once someone has died and Mary’s deals with the family while they are still living.” A light bulb moment.

The four panellists explained how all their different services come together to help people in palliative care – and their families.

And Megan made an additional point – since her service deals with people after the death, when she meets a family she is a new face to them. This creates a powerful opportunity for a review of their experience, through new eyes.

When Megan meets the families, hers is a new face, she explained.

Very different questions are asked at this point, as people process so many aspects of the death they have just journeyed with.

There were so many other ideas and practical explanations the speakers shared with our 40 guests yesterday, some of whom were elderly.

Which brings me to one of the points I stressed to the audience: “Even if you are defined as ‘elderly’, ask for professional help when you need it, to manage your experience of grief.”

“Whatever age you are, you still have the right to feel supported as you grow. And we grow until the day we die. Do not see the resources spent on helping this growth as wasted.”

Thank you to those who came along yesterday. There was so much learning, yet it was a relaxed and friendly afternoon.

Find out more about the Calvary Bereavement Counselling Service here.

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