Experiencing the loss of a loved one is an inevitable fact of life. But, increasingly, people are seeking more help to deal with the complex feelings and emotions which arise following a death.
The charity Cruse Bereavement Care has been running in Sheffield for 40 years, providing support - including one-to-one sessions - to anyone of any age dealing with the death of someone important to them.
But the organisation, which relies totally on donations, is finding itself under increasing demand, seeing a 20 per cent leap in referrals to its services during 2013, when its volunteers took more than 1,200 phone calls and saw 350 people.
And the charity is about more than simply offering tea and sympathy. Julia Twigg, chair of Cruse’s Sheffield area, said the ordeals volunteers are required to listen to are ‘much more hard-hitting’ than the notion of bereavement support might suggest.
There has been a marked increase in the number of people referring themselves after traumatic experiences such as suicide, while the waiting list to see children under 16 is currently full.
“What we can offer people is someone to talk to who isn’t emotionally involved,” said Julia.
“It’s a space to talk things through with someone who is going to listen. People access us at different times in their bereavement.
“Most people contact us a few months afterwards. That’s when the initial shock and anger has worn off, when people are expecting to return to work and there is less attention.
“That’s often when people feel really low and that they’d like to talk to someone, but not family and friends, as usually they feel they’re still burdening them.”
The majority of clients are seen one-to-one at Cruse’s base on Carver Street in the city centre, although a home visiting service is available for people unable to travel.
There are 60 volunteers, whose ages range from 26 up to 80. Clients can call and email to arrange support, and many referrals come from GPs and social services, but no statutory funding is provided by either Sheffield Council or the city’s Clinical Commissioning Group.
Although Cruse is a national organisation, every area is responsible for raising its own money.
Julia said ‘two or three’ referrals a week are for children.
“The youngest has been aged five, but they’re usually seven upwards,” she said.
“We’ve had to close our list because we can’t see them all. They might be not sleeping, or misbehaving at school.
“With teenagers we see a lot of self-harming and bullying is not uncommon. There’s something about being different and vulnerable.”
Each client receives six to eight sessions, which can be extended depending on their particular circumstances.
A social group called Stepping Stones meets once a fortnight, and therapeutic group sessions are also offered.
“There are usually about eight people in a group,” said Julia. “It helps them feel like they’re not alone and that others are having similar experiences.”
She added: “Individuals react differently to loss. A common emotion is guilt, it’s almost like you can’t talk people out of it. The aim is to change it to regret.
“People sometimes find they’re not coping at work, or that they’re becoming more irritable and angry.”
Julia continued: “People sometimes feel a presence of the person who’s died - a lot of people give an account of that. You hear it so often that I can’t deny it. If it is a positive experience, at least they have the chance to say it to someone who will not dismiss it.
“I think these days people are more prepared to access support, and more aware of counselling and the benefits of it.” Visit www.cruse.org.uk for more details.
Prize draw for big anniversary
The Cruse Bereavement Care charity is holding a special prize draw to mark its four decades in Sheffield.
The ‘ruby anniversary’ draw takes place at Cruse’s annual general meeting, which is happening at the Polish Club on Ecclesall Road on November 12.
There are 40 different prizes on offer in total, including bed and breakfast stays at the Jurys Inn and Rutland hotels, football tickets for Sheffield Wednesday and United home games, and an iPad Air.
One lucky winner will also get the chance to take part in a private baking session with Sheffield’s former Great British Bake Off contestant Howard Middleton.
Howard judged a ‘mini bake-off’ for the charity on Fargate last month, where entrants were asked to make miniature cakes with a maximum size of 4cm square.
Tickets for the prize draw cost £1. Call 0114 2493328 to buy.