Mary is one of our amazing bereavement volunteers. She joined the National Helpline team in April 2018 and has since helped hundreds of bereaved people in times of need. Since joining Cruse, she has become a Champion for our More Than Words project and also volunteers at our Kensington and Chelsea service. Mary has recently been presented with our New Volunteer award for her dedication to supporting bereaved people.
Mary says: “I became aware of Cruse when I was looking for support for a friend and saw that Cruse had a volunteer program. I decided to apply for it and was successful so joined the team.
“I had therapy after my father’s death but it wasn’t what I needed, I would have really benefitted from Cruse at that time but I was not aware of the services available. I am now a complete advocate of grief counselling as the pain I felt would have been easier to work through if it focused on the impact of his death and my emotions. I have had friends who have experienced bereavement and I never hesitate to suggest that they check out the Cruse website and see if this support would work for them.
“I decided to volunteer because I had personal experiences of volunteering. I had previously worked with addicts who had used substance to numb their emotions after a bereavement and it had spiralled out of control into addiction. I saw their pain and felt that I wanted to know more about the impact of bereavement. Cruse was the perfect choice for me with its professional approach to training, it gave me the insights and tools needed to support bereaved people.
“I really enjoy working with the clients and I always feel I learn something from each conversation or session about how someone is impacted and dealing with bereavement. I love being around my colleagues as they are amazing people with their own stories and they bring so much to the table. I have made some good friends. I am very committed to Cruse and it now feels like part of my life, a very interesting and enjoyable part.
“When I started working on the National Helpline, one of the first challenges was being able to adapt quickly to each person’s grief and their story. Although you do not join them on their journey with Cruse you are the first voice of Cruse they hear. I always want that to be a warm and welcoming experience where they feel truly listened to and that they are not alone in the grief.
“One of my most memorable experiences was when I had an elderly caller who was in his early 90s and had just lost his wife of 60 years. The call was gentle and poignant as he told me about how he and his wife had been inseparable. The touching moment was when he said he did not know how to cry and he did not know how to be comforted as it had always been his role. We talked for around 40 mins and we managed to also laugh at some of the memories he recalled and he left the call feeling less lonely and more prepared to accept the support he needed at this time.
“When I am supporting someone who has been bereaved, I suggest to them that the pain they feel is because they loved that person. I tell them that it is ok to grieve and to cry and it helps to share memories and good times as well as the feelings that they are experiencing. Talking and sharing their emotions will help lift some of the weight of their grief.
“To someone who is considering joining Cruse as a volunteer I would say it is an amazing organisation to be part of. It warm and supportive and there are some amazing people that work for Cruse. I have had a great experience starting as a phone volunteer in HQ, supporting the More Than Words project and since February this year I have been working at the Kensington and Chelsea branch with face to face clients. It has changed the way I understand bereavement as the training was first class and I feel it is so rewarding to be able to give this support at a time when people are feeling the pain and loneliness of bereavement.”
Read more 60 Voices, here.