Elaine, 73 from York first contacted Cruse Bereavement Care after her partner died from cancer in 2005. Now 13 years on, Elaine is a bereavement volunteer and safeguarding officer for Cruse York and North Yorkshire and is a highly valued member of the team.
Elaine said: “I first heard about Cruse Bereavement Care when my partner died in 2005. He had cancer for three months before he died, he was my rock and when he passed away I was in a state. I saw my doctor and he suggested I get in contact with Cruse.
“I was lucky to see someone very quickly, a lovely Cruse volunteer visited me around two to three weeks after Dave died. I did quite a lot of crying and saw her a few times. I didn’t know anyone who has lost their partner and had no one to talk to.
“After receiving one-to-one support, my volunteer suggested I joined COGS, an aftercare group which is organised by Cruse. In the first meet up I struggled to share my story, but after going several times I started to feel more comfortable. I met lots of people and we met up regularly and went to the theatre, went out to dinner and we even went on holiday together.
“Even after 14 years, four of us are still in contact and still meet regularly. I am really good friends with one of the group members and we are going away for New Year. The group has been really important to me and has opened up a whole new world.
“Education was my outlet after my partner died. York University offers lots of free courses and at the time my friend was about to start an A-Level in psychology so I decided to do it as well. There was also a counselling course which I enrolled on in 2008. I wanted to give something back as Cruse was so helpful to me, so I trained to become a Cruse bereavement volunteer in 2009 and finished the training in September 2009.
“I have now been a bereavement volunteer for a number of years and see people in their own homes, I am also the Safeguarding Officer for the area. Being a volunteer has given me a lot, I do have an empathy and understanding of what it is like to be bereaved. I really enjoy it and I find it a very worthwhile thing to do.
“One of the things I enjoy the most is working with clients. It is so lovely to see a difference in someone and knowing that being there and listening, and talking through the grief has given them coping mechanisms and helped them to continue to live their life. I like to show them how to be creative so they can visualise and use practical ideas to help them. I usually have about 5 or 6 clients at any one time.
“I also enjoy being part of Cruse and I have made a lot of new friends within the organisation. Although this is not the life I expected or would have chosen had my partner still been alive, it has opened up so much for me.
“If someone is considering becoming a bereavement volunteer, I would say to definitely go for it. Do the training even if you decide that volunteering is not for you, as it is so worthwhile and it teaches you a lot about yourself and grief in general. You have got to be able to listen, but you get a lot from being a volunteer with Cruse.”
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