Day In The Life of... a Bereavement Café Volunteer


Day In The Life of... a Bereavement Café Volunteer

Who we are:

My name is Andrew and I volunteer at the two St Rocco’s Hospice Bereavement Cafés in Warrington.  Like a lot of the volunteers here, I first came to the café for support after my wife suddenly passed away.  The team here offered me so much support that I knew I wanted to give something back to other people who need someone to talk to.

Our role:

We support the running of the cafés, whether that’s making drinks for people or allowing someone to open up about how they are feeling.  We are here to help the Hospice Counselling Team who manage the Bereavement Cafés.

A typical day:

I would say there are 3 typical days as a Bereavement Café Volunteer:

  • Offering one-to-one help and comfort to someone. This is often someone who comes to the group for the first time.  It involves really listening and knowing the right questions to ask.  But also knowing when to be quiet to give that person the chance to express the difficult emotions they are feeling.  Volunteers usually take it in turns to be a one-to-one supporter because it helps to maintain positive relationships rather than dependency.
  • I think of this as a background shift – being there to set up the room, make drinks and almost float around the room to check everyone has cake! We get to check in with lots of people including the other volunteers.
  • The third type of day is being part of the ‘group therapy’ table. I see this as a lighter touch, facilitating peer support; it’s great for people to hear different ways that others have found to cope with grief and to be part of someone’s journey.

At the end of each session, we always have a debrief with the trained counsellor to make sure we are ok and it’s also a chance to learn from each other.

One moment I will always remember:

The first time I attended the Bereavement Café with my child who was also struggling with their mental health.   It was a chance to let my child talk without any restrictions.  Sometimes, people in our society have a limited capacity for listening. But here, I didn’t need to be worried about talking.  As a volunteer, I remember meeting a man who had a similar story to me, and I felt like I helped him with his feelings of guilt for moving on after losing a loved one.  I left the group that day really feeling like I had made a difference.

What I love about what I do:

Being a volunteer allows me to give something back to my community.  The Bereavement Café is a safe space and really puts into perspective what people are going through.  From the very first day, I thought “I like this!” and I love that I can give people my time and empathy when they really need it.