Nicole, aged 53 from London was supported by Cruse Bereavement Care after her older sister died suddenly at the age of 52 from a brain aneurysm. After receiving support she then decided to train to become a Cruse Bereavement Supporter and now supports others who have been bereaved at her local Cruse service in Greenwich.
Nicole (right in photo) says, “I first heard of Cruse whilst at the funeral parlour with my family after the sudden death of my sister, Jacqui. I spoke to the lady at the funeral parlour about how difficult our children were finding the loss of their Aunt and she gave me a leaflet for Cruse Bereavement Care. She told me she had used Cruse herself when her son died and had found them very helpful. The fact that she was able to give me a personal recommendation took the fear out of me approaching Cruse for help.
“I initially had counselling from my workplace for eight weeks, but really struggled once this ended. I then decided to join a local Bereavement Support Group which I initially found comforting, but this group only met once a month and in-between that time I really struggled with my emotions.
“Nine months after Jacqui died, I finally called Cruse’s National Helpline. The person who answered was so incredibly kind, welcoming and warm that it gave me hope that I would continue to be supported in that way. At the start of my first session I recall being greeted as soon as I went through the doors with kindness and compassion. It meant the world to me and I knew I had made the right decision.
“I was supported by my bereavement supporter for a few months. I was anxious that the sessions would soon come to an end, as they had done with my workplace counselling and I shared my fears with my supporter and she reassured me that she was there for the duration and would not abruptly end the sessions. That is something that I have taken forth with the people I have supported since becoming a volunteer with Cruse.
“The support I received helped me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. I didn’t realise just how broken I was until I started to wade through the quicksand that was my grief. I thought that I had no more tears left to cry and yet still more fell. In some sessions I had no words, in others I raged at the world and at the injustice of my loss, and that was ok. My supporter sat with me during those times and gently encouraged me to explore my feelings and also my fears. She normalised my grief.
“I wanted to become a Bereavement Supporter because I wanted to give back. As I came to the end of my support, I realised how crucial this work was and how important it was to be able to reach others like myself who felt so alone and unheard. I began to understand the importance of Bereavement work, how critical it was and how the best people placed to do this kind of work are the very same people who have been through the pain of loss.
“It is a sheer honour to be able to support people and work alongside other volunteers. Building relationships and normalising grief is at the heart of what we do and it helps the people we support to feel safe and not judged. Every person’s story is different and no two people I support are the same, so I am always learning and expanding my knowledge of human frailty.
“One of the moments that I will always remember is when one of the people I was supporting laughed after several weeks of despair. It sounds so simplistic, but it was such a wonderful moment to see the person’s face light up. Saying goodbye to people you have supported for the final time are moments that I always hold dear as by then you have experienced so much with them, so it’s always a little bittersweet. I am always surprised when they bring gifts of thanks, donate or give a massive hug for helping them. It is so touching.
“If someone is considering becoming a volunteer for Cruse, I would encourage them to go for it as being a Bereavement Volunteer is the most rewarding work. It is challenging, emotional and can at times be exhausting . However, the feeling that you get when the person you are supporting begins to understand their pain and subsequently becomes empowered within it, well that is nothing short of amazing.”
This year, Nicole shared her story in a short film to mark our 60th anniversary.
Read more 60 Voices, here.