Anthony volunteers with Islington Bereavement Service, providing emotional support and compassionate listening to bereaved adults. All volunteers are fully trained to give support in either one-to-one or group settings. In 2021, Anthony was paired with George [name changed to protect anonymity] for a total of 13 bereavement support sessions at George’s home. Their sessions began in November 2021 and eventually completed in March 2022, with a short break over Christmas.
George’s Mum died in February 2021 from lung cancer, a week before her 81st birthday. Due to COVID, they couldn’t spend her final Christmas together, and it had been just a few months since George’s Dad had died from COVID in October 2020. His Dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had been living in a care home that he was able to visit, so he had the chance to say goodbye.
George was very close to his mum and would visit her regularly, but he wasn’t able to say goodbye to her before she died. It took all his strength to be able to attend her funeral.
George had said that he is battling with both depression and grief, but he ‘hopes the grief wins as he has a huge fear of depression recurring’. George is unable to work and is on ESA benefits. He said that he is lonely but doesn’t like the idea of group work at the moment, so he would prefer the one-to-one sessions that Islington Bereavement Service offer. He said that he has no one to share his grief with, and that he isn’t lonely being on his own but the combination of both COVID restrictions and his grief have been so hard together. He mentioned he had a preference for a male volunteer, preferably gay.
George was able to journey through his grief as he was paired with Anthony and worked through their 13 sessions together. “I was able to cry and grieve and talk without being judged or saying don’t cry. Just being listened to saying it’s natural, it’s ok” – George, Session 5 – December 2021.
In their last session together, George told Anthony that he felt he could not have done any of his grieving and come as far as he has without Anthony’s support. He told Anthony that he had been his rock of support, and he couldn’t have done it without him.
When their sessions ended, Anthony said “I felt very sad at our ending but very moved and happy for his journey. It has been a pleasure to be on George’s journey with him”.
Annabel [name changed to protect anonymity] was paired with Corinne, one of our Islington Bereavement Service volunteers. They were paired to have 10 sessions taking place at the hospice, which was then extended to 12 sessions. Annabel wanted face to face sessions but she felt she wouldn’t have sufficient privacy in her home, as she shared it with flatmates.
Annabel moved to London to study her masters at the end of December 2020. In February 2021, Annabel’s Dad died suddenly at the peak of a COVID lockdown, and she had to get special permission to fly home for the funeral. The process was difficult for Annabel, there was so much paperwork involved and she was only able to come out of quarantine on the day of the funeral.
Annabel and her Dad had a very close relationship. He was a larger than life character, always cracking jokes. He was very supportive of her emotionally and financially, and proud of her. He had survived cancer previously and it was devastating for Annabel to lose him in this way.
Annabel thought that she could manage on her own, but felt like she was distracting herself a lot from her grief. Some days she felt like she was doing ok, and others she would burst into tears with no warning. She was afraid of the big moments like her graduation and her Dad not being able to see her do it. She was also worried about her grief sneaking up on her, and felt like she may have been distracting herself too much so decided she would like to have some support. She did a google search for bereavement support in Islington and found IBS, and she was then paired with Corinne.
“Seeing Corinne helped me a lot to talk about my emotions and think about how I actually feel. It helped by reflecting myself and my life in general and I think it was really important for me in the long run because otherwise I probably would have just continued distracting myself which is not healthy.
I am really glad I met Corinne and that I found someone who ‘held my hand during my journey’. I was always happy to see her and felt very comfortable around her. Thank you for supporting me – wish I could have stayed with you longer.”
“I gained confidence in my own practice. At first I was daunted by being matched with someone so different to me – I was worried we would not have anything in common and that I would not be able to empathise. However, I found it very powerful to hear her story, and found that whilst our experiences of life are very different, I was actually able to empathise and feel warm and caring towards my community member.
I am sad to be ending, feeling very much like a parent sending my child into the big wide open world, hopeful that Annabel will see her way through. There is something lost there, but also a new opportunity to have someone else’s perspective on her life, her thoughts and feelings, and that she is on a journey, one which she will carry on.”
Learn more about volunteering with Islington Bereavement Service here