John has been with Cruse since the 1990s and set up the Morgannwg branch in around 2001. He initially said he would give Cruse a year, but since then he has held roles of Chairman, Treasurer, representative on the committee for Wales and on the Cruse Council. In 2006 John began seeing clients on a one-to-one basis and has specialised in those bereaved by suicide.
I think what has kept me volunteer is the belief and passion I have for the work of Cruse. As well as supporting people through what is in many cases the most difficult time of their lives I also have learned so much of human nature, bereavement and myself. It’s a continuous learning curve, and when that ceases to be its time to finish. I feel I gain as much as, if not more, than I give.
I think the most important skill is listening, just being there is often enough, and empathy is essential. Once a relationship is formed all else follows. Cruse can be truly proud of its training, and it certainly prepares volunteers for working with bereaved people.
What is the most important thing I've learned from volunteering with Cruse?
I think it has given me a greater understanding of people and of grief and grieving, I'm still learning, I've learned that everyone is an individual, and should be treated as such, everyone needs to be listened to, and if anything I can say helps them that's a bonus. I've also learned not to have expectations, which is perhaps the most unexpected thing I've learned. An expectation is a preconceived idea, if it's an expectation it's about me and not the client. I believe there should always be a negation of self when with a client, if it works it works naturally, it evolves.
Another thing I must mention, and perhaps the most important thing I've learned is the need for supervision, I couldn't do what I do without it, and I've been so lucky with my supervisor who has helped develop over the years, supportive and stimulating and when necessary challenging and questioning.
What would I say to someone thinking of volunteering for Cruse?
First I would want to know why they want to volunteer for Cruse, then I would tell them that they can only get out what they are able to put in, and that the experience should be enriching, rewarding and very humbling.
Sue Richards in Morganwg said: “When I joined Cruse in 2003 virtually all consumables came out of Johns own pocket. Some weeks he worked all week taking phone calls etc and then at the weekend he would be training. In the evenings he would run friendship groups. About three years ago, he took a step back from the management side and concentrated on seeing clients and being a supervisor. His speciality is helping those bereaved by suicide. He is loved by clients and colleagues alike. Early January this year he was driving to see a client and he was involved in a major traffic accident. This involved eight weeks in hospital and he is still unable to walk without a stick. He bore this time with great fortitude and courage and was always upbeat despite being in so much pain. He truly is my hero.”