Eleanor Ellerslie is our Peer and Group Support Manager and is based in our Northern Ireland Regional Office, Belfast. She is also a qualified counsellor and a Cruse bereavement volunteer. She loves working with groups and seeing how peer support supports people in what is one of the darkest times of their lives.
Eleanor says: “I trained as a Bereavement Volunteer in 2013 and started volunteering within the Belfast Area. A couple of years later, in August 2015, I became the Project Manager for our Beyond Words programme in Northern Ireland (a project supporting people over 60 who had been bereaved).
“I am now the Peer and Group Support Manager and my role is very varied. As well as supporting Friendship Groups throughout Northern Ireland, I have been working alongside one of our Health Trusts highlighting pre-bereavement issues and promoting Cruse Services to community groups. I also manage the More Than Words project, which is a partnership between Cruse, the British Red Cross and Co-op, providing social activity groups to help reduce the social isolation and loneliness bereavement can bring.
“I was first attracted to Cruse in 2005 when my third child Adam died in 2005 at only four weeks old. At that time, there really wasn’t very much support for bereaved parents in my area and in the years following his death I found myself supporting other bereaved parents. I decided to return to College and become a qualified Counsellor. As I wanted to specialise in bereavement, my tutor recommended I contact Cruse. He was a bereavement volunteer with Cruse and he said 'Once you get into Cruse it gets into your blood!' He was so right!
“I love working with groups and seeing how peer support helps people in what is one of the darkest times of their lives. When living with grief, someone can feel that they are going mad and are totally on their own. Talking with others who understand helps them see they are not on their own and this is reflected in the C S Lewis quote 'Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another “What you too? I thought I was the only one.” ', which is one of my favourite quotes!
“I have been very privileged and humbled by the stories people have shared with me and being a part of their journey as they have adjusted to their new normal and embraced the opportunities meeting new friends has given them. I feel that the continued development of group and peer support nationally is a legacy of the Cruse that Margaret Torrie envisaged when she said she wanted 'to build beyond words and even beyond grief'.
“There have been many memorable moments but the one that really stands out is the Celebration of the Beyond Words Project in May 2018. Members from five of the Friendship Groups came together as a choir and sang 'You Raise Me Up' and 'Lean on Me'. They had practiced the songs in their groups, but that day was the first time they had sang together as a choir. They looked and sounded amazing. They were standing in front of a large picture window with the iconic Belfast cranes Samson and Goliath in the background. It was a very special moment and for me it shows how support from Cruse through groups can help immensely.
“During my time at Cruse, I have witnessed the value of partnership working. Within the Beyond Words Project we worked alongside Housing Associations and visited their Sheltered Housing Schemes to talk to residents and staff about Cruse Services and bereavement. Within those Schemes, residents and staff then had training to become Bereavement Champions who could provide a listening ear to anyone within the scheme who had been bereaved and also signpost them to Cruse if needed. We have continued to work with Housing Associations as their Schemes host some of our Friendship Groups.
“We also worked with the Stroke Association NI to develop an Accessible Bereavement Pack which is a resource for those supporting people who have communication difficulties (such as aphasia) who are bereaved. These have been distributed widely to health professionals, health trusts and training was provided for BVs to help them support a client with communication difficulties.
“Both of these achievements show how Cruse is leading the way in bereavement support, continuously using creative and innovative ways to accomplish this."
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