Anita, aged 63 from West Hertfordshire is a bereavement volunteer at our service in Hertfordshire. This year at our 60th anniversary conference, Anita was presented with the Volunteer of the Year award for her dedication and contribution to the charity.
Anita says: “My tutor mentioned Cruse while I was training with the Adlerian Society in the late 90s. As a newly qualified Adlerian Counsellor, I approached Cruse for a placement. I attended the training and volunteered for a year before accepting a counselling job working with substance abuse. During that time my beloved father, living over 6,000 miles away, died very suddenly. My personal grief journey began here and I’ll never forget it. While working in the field of substance misuse for over 10 years, it was clear that the reasons for addiction are many fold, but I became aware of how much loss individuals experienced and how much unresolved and complicated grief were the underlying causes. When I was looking for a change of direction in my work, returning to volunteer with Cruse was the natural and right choice for me.
“There are many things I enjoy about being a bereavement volunteer. I know other volunteers feel this, but there is something so extraordinary about the trust and openness from clients in sessions, being a witness to their personal growth from insights into the meaning of their loss or losses, supporting them as they find their individual ways of coping, surviving, thriving and taking control of their lives and futures. Almost without exception, I feel it an honor to walk with them along their grief journey.
“As a volunteer supervisor, I’m privileged to work with Cruse volunteers as individuals and in groups, encouraging their initiative and nurturing their development, acknowledging their skills and contribution to Cruse. In supervision sessions, I love the way volunteers find their voice, share and receive, reassure each other, gently challenge and inspire each other in their work.
“I enjoy the dedication and commitment of all the people I encounter at Cruse, love the variety of opportunities, the chance to gain new skills, expand into other areas such as working with children, therapeutic writing groups, emergency response and many others.
“One experience that will always stick in my mind is supporting grieving staff at an educational establishment after a number of deaths in the school over a short period. It was truly amazing to see the positive effect of the support on the functioning of each staff member, their relationships with each other and the whole school. Cruse support impacted their personal and professional lives in a surprising way and I recall feeling so proud to have played a small part in that.
“Volunteering can be extremely rewarding but it’s vital that one considers the time and energy you have for doing it. Know how much time and energy you have to offer. Keep yourself safe and have ways of dealing with the stress. Cruse is wonderful in so far as they work with volunteers to find the most suitable role, support volunteers thoughtfully and provide training opportunities for personal and professional development. It’s a position of trust with clients sharing difficult and private emotions. Using supervision well and taking other support from within Cruse is essential to maximise the volunteering experience.
“To someone needing support following a bereavement, I’d say that our trained volunteers offer a respectful and safe space for them to explore their loss. Cruse can’t fix or bring an end to grief; it’s part of our life experience, but with the right support, they’ll be able to understand their feelings and adjust to their situation.
Read more 60 Voices, here.