We hope this regular series provides an interesting insight into the compassionate, dedicated people we employ to support our patients and their families.

 

How would you describe your role?

As Bereavement Support Volunteer Coordinator I help to ensure the smooth running of our Bereavement Service. This includes managing the 35+ volunteers that provide bereavement support in a range of roles, coordinating the bereavement cafes and support groups that we offer and ensuring that families that have lost someone under the care of Princess Alice Hospice are able to access the support they need to help them to cope with their grief and loss.

What’s the first thing you do on a standard day?

I usually check my calendar and to do list so I know where to begin and if there is anywhere I need to be (even though I have a habit of leaving it until the last minute to get there!)… but not until I’ve had a cuppa!

How many people would you come into contact with?

That really varies – some days I will speak to various volunteers, colleagues and several bereaved relatives, other days I might only speak to the others in the team.

There are definitely busier times of year – the Summer was fairly quiet but its been much busier since September – with Christmas approaching I think more people are prompted to seek support as it can be such a difficult time of year, so we are getting more calls and referrals at the moment.

Do you have any information or advice that you have found is particularly helpful for people who are grieving over the festive period?

Our Coping at Christmas flyer can be found here. It has lots of suggestions of how to get through the festive season if you’re grieving.

What’s your favourite task?

I really like the development side of the role – coming up with new ideas or ways of doing things. I think there is always scope for things to evolve and improve as we learn, so it’s good for the service to progress.

Day to day I find it really rewarding to be able to match people who need support to one of our fabulous Bereavement Support Volunteers. And I really enjoy seeing and speaking with the Volunteers too – they’re a really lovely bunch, we’re very lucky.

Which task do you dislike the most?

It used to be room bookings but updated software has helped with that! There’s nothing I really dislike – some tasks I prefer to others but none of them are tasks I really avoid doing or don’t want to do.

What’s the most interesting thing about your job?

The variety of people we come into contact with – and the stories we hear or read about. People’s resilience can be astounding – bereavement is something that affects everyone at some stage in life, and people often don’t believe they can live through it – until they do and they learn to laugh and hope again. Seeing people go on that journey with the support of our Volunteers – whether in the cafes, on our walks or through 1 to 1 support – is really humbling.

So many of our Volunteers are here because of their own experience of loss and I think it’s amazing that people are willing to use something that was so painful for them to benefit others.

What do you think other people would be surprised to know about your role?

Probably that I don’t actually have as much direct contact with bereaved individuals as people might think – the majority of the real support work is done in the most part by our very dedicated Volunteers. We just help to ensure it all runs smoothly.

Is this the first time you’ve been in a role of this kind?

I’ve mainly worked with unpaid carers in the past – in other charities and in social care. I have not had a bereavement-specific role before, but bereaved people are carers at a different stage of their journey so there is a lot of crossover with what I have done before and what I am doing now.

And a sense of grief and loss is often present for carers and relatives, even when they are not caring for someone at the end of life – they are often grieving for the loss of their relationship with a person as it was, or the loss of the future they had planned – so some of the emotional challenges are the same.

What skills do you need to do your job?

I think a genuine interest in and passion for working with people is a huge part of it – you have to be authentic, whether you’re communicating with colleagues, volunteers or bereaved clients.

I’m also quite annoyingly organised which lends itself well to a role that has a lot of variety and often competing demands.

Who have you learned the most from at Princess Alice Hospice?

Definitely Steve, our Bereavement and Spiritual Care Lead, and the rest of the team in Bereavement, but also colleagues in the wider Hospice – everyone is incredibly supportive and willing to help and share their knowledge and experience.

I’ve been lucky to be involved in some really interesting projects which I feel like I have learnt (and am still learning!) a lot from.

Is there anything boring about your role?

I don’t get out of the Hospice much as most of the services we offer are based here, but I don’t mind that – I do enough running around outside of work!

That said I think there is so much opportunity for bereavement support to be taken out into the community so as that side of our services grows who knows where it might take us.

What’s the last thing you do before you leave at the end of the day?

On a good day I wash up my mug!

 

More information on our Bereavement services can be found here.