"Support for bereaved people has never been more important than it is now. The Virtual Bereavement Help Points initiative offers individuals choice about where and when to access support."
Sue Read, Beth Johnson Foundation CEO
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the Beth Johnson Foundation (BJF) has developed a new initiative called Bereavement Help Points. The project has been developed with support from St Giles Hospice in Lichfield who developed the Bereavement Help Point model and is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.
The online Bereavement Help Points service offers support via zoom groups to people age 50+ living in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire who have experienced bereavement, either during or prior to the Covid-19 period.
Many people who have been bereaved during the Covid-19 pandemic have particularly suffered due to some of the restrictions in place, such as not being allowed to visit loved ones in hospital, not being with them at their end of life, being limited when arranging funerals and having to grieve in isolation.
Beth Johnson Foundation CEO, Professor Sue Read, outlines why BJF wanted to establish Bereavement Help Points at this time: “Coping with the death of a loved one is rarely easy. Support for bereaved people has never been more important than it is now. During this pandemic, social distancing measures limit funeral rituals and ongoing support. Here at the Beth Johnson Foundation we recognise this, particularly amongst the older population, and are determined to make a difference to those in our local, ageing communities.
“The Virtual Bereavement Help Points initiative offers individuals choice about where and when to access support. Online meetings are convenient, accessible and can provide a listening ear when you most need it.”
Bereavement Help Points Project Lead, Hilary Stefanelli, adds: “Experiencing a bereavement during the pandemic has affected people of all ages but particularly older people who are more likely to have lost someone close within their age group. They may have limited social contacts generally and may themselves have been subject to more restrictive social distancing or shielding due to their age or health needs.
“Our zoom groups give people the opportunity to share emotional support with others who have experienced a bereavement. The groups create a social space for people to support each other from the comfort and safety of their own home.”
Volunteer Co-ordinator, Andrew Colclough, has trained volunteers who will welcome people joining the groups and will support them to use phones, tablets and laptops to join the zoom meetings.
Help Points are community based groups developed on the basis of peer support. Although volunteers are trained in bereavement and loss support, they are not trained counsellors and we will signpost anyone needing counselling to local organisations who can offer qualified support.
Weekly Bereavement Help Points meetings will begin from Wednesday 23 September and further dates and times will be added as demand grows.
Hilary added: “We would urge anybody who would like to attend the support groups to get in touch with me on 07507 408372 or Andrew on 07770 016978 or to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”