How Rowcroft Hospice is supporting bereaved people through the Covid-19 crisis

Jenny Hall, Rowcroft’s bereavement service coordinator

Jenny Hall, Rowcroft’s bereavement service coordinator - Credit: Archant

Losing someone you love is devastating enough even in ‘normal’ times. The past nine months have been anything but normal and the isolation that has resulted from lockdown measures, shielding, and social distancing has made it one of the toughest times in recent history in which to be bereaved.

Support networks and social activities have become less accessible exactly at a time when they are most needed.

The support that Rowcroft provides to bereaved relatives is more important than ever as bereaved people experience additional pandemic-related loneliness and isolation.

“Being bereaved can be one of the most difficult and lonely experiences of our lives, but for many people, the pandemic is making things even harder,” says Jenny Hall, Rowcroft’s bereavement service coordinator.

“There is no doubt that social distancing and restrictions on gatherings have had a huge impact on the grieving process.

“For those unable to be with their loved ones in their final hours, attend their funeral, or celebrate a life well-lived with family and friends at a wake, there can be a sense of a ‘lack of closure’.

“For others, however, the restrictions have allowed people to grieve quietly, alone, in exactly the way they wish, and that has been an unexpected benefit of lockdown.”

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Rowcroft Hospice’s bereavement team provides free support for family members and carers of anyone who was cared for by Rowcroft before their death.

The majority of the team is comprised of volunteers who offer one-to-one support, currently by telephone or video-conferencing, enabling the bereaved to talk through their feelings with someone who understands the many ways that loss can affect us.

This support can make such a difference in helping grieving relatives to cope better.

For example, one man who recently lost his wife of 40 years was left in shock, bereft, confused and completely alone. He had absolutely no-one to talk to, until Rowcroft’s bereavement team stepped in to give him the support he so desperately needed.

All of Rowcroft’s bereavement volunteers have been specifically trained, and many have chosen to volunteer after losing a loved one themselves – so they bring their own personal experiences of bereavement and grief, as well as an empathy for others.

At the start of the pandemic, Rowcroft’s bereavement team had to change their ways of working, practically overnight. Previously they had offered face-to-face support sessions, but as this was no longer possible, all the bereavement volunteers switched to offering support by telephone.

“I would never have thought telephone support would be so effective and that, for some of our clients, it would prove to be a more comfortable mode of supporting them than in-person support,” explains Jenny.

“There is something about telephone support – speaking with a faceless voice at the other end of the line – which has enabled clients to open up more readily than I suspect they otherwise would have.

“For this reason, we will be keeping telephone support as one of our suite of offerings going forward.

“We are now also offering secure video-conferencing as an alternative to telephone support to those who wish to have face-to-face sessions, albeit it remotely rather than in-person.

“The benefit is that the client and volunteer can see each other which is, for some people, a key aspect of communication and rapport building.

“I daily thank my lucky stars for having such an amazingly dedicated team of volunteers. Despite the lockdown, they continue to demonstrate incredible generosity of spirit, flexibility, and commitment to providing high-quality emotional support to the bereaved and pre-bereaved in our community.

“I’m so proud of my team and that we are continuing to provide support during lockdown to meet this demand. I am confident we will continue to prevail - whatever the future brings!”

For those wishing to remember and honour a loved one this Christmas, Rowcroft invites you to take part in its ‘Light up a Life’ celebration. To find out more about Light up a Life, see: www.rowcrofthospice.org.uk/light or call 01803 217450.