Tina has volunteered with Cruse Greenwich since January 2017, and has also trained to support children and young people.
After the breakdown of a relationship in 2015, Tina experienced what she described as ‘living loss’. She was grieving for the relationship she had and had lost. It was this experience that led her to realisation that she had been putting her grief, following the death of her father when she was 10 years old, on hold.
It wasn't until some 15 years later that, whilst having a cup of tea with a friend on a normal weekday morning, Tina found herself bursting into tears after something triggered those feelings of grief she had been putting on hold for so many years.
When reflecting on why she thought her grief had been put on hold, Tina said: “There weren’t really any systems back then… I probably had the closest relationship with my Dad out of all of my other siblings. So when he went it was a massive loss, but it was almost like I had to manage it the same as the others.”
“People were very nice at school that week, but then it was all over, you had to grieve in private… I remember, I shared a room with two other sisters, and when it did used to upset me I would just be under the covers crying and not trying to make any sound.”
This was the trigger to join Cruse, and Tina signed up for the training in September 2016, a year after the end of her relationship: “In some way I supposed I was still going through grief at that point.”
How did you find it when you first starting supporting clients?
It was a little bit nerve-wracking because you’re going into a space where people are talking to you about their personal losses. You are revealing really deep, personal and emotional feelings. I hadn’t done any counselling or anything like that before this, so it felt like a really special thing that people were able to share their feelings and experiences with me.
The sense you get is that for people who are grieving, they welcome someone asking them about the person that has died, and how they are feeling about it. It’s almost like it’s on the tip of their tongue. I think for a lot of people it’s just about being able to tell that story, and having the space to be able to do that, which is what Cruse offers. We are human beings, and at Cruse it’s about just ‘being’ in that room, not doing, and allowing the space for grief.
What do you like about being a Cruse Bereavement Volunteer?
Firstly it’s the people, the admin staff, volunteers, and such a brilliant manager! I’ve love coming into the office, it’s just a really lovely group of people who are so supportive of one another.
Also, it is about giving something back and providing help to those who need it, when the time is right for them. A couple of years ago I felt a little bit helpless and that I needed to do something – which is what spurred me to come along to Cruse and as soon as I started, I knew this fitted me. I intend to volunteer for Cruse for as long as I can.
It’s also the appreciation that is felt, at every turn, from Cruse and although we don’t expect it, the gratitude from our clients, when they express their relief after speaking to you. It’s an amazing feeling to think you have helped in some way. I feel privileged to be part of Cruse
We get some great feedback, especially from the groups. I think the group sessions are particularly helpful for people and have real benefits. People get support from one another as well as from us, and often stay in touch with one another after the sessions are finished, which is such a positive thing.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering for Cruse?
I would say if it’s something that they feel they want to do they should just come to our meetings and see what they think. For those that really want to do it I’m sure they will realise it’s for them. Especially for those who have had bereavement support in the past, and know the difference it can make. For a lot of people it’s about wanting to give something back.
I also wouldn’t be put off if you don’t think you have the right background or qualifications, Cruse provide all the training you need. Anyone with a heart can do it.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about coming to Cruse for help?
Make the call and speak to one of our supporters. It’s a huge step making that decision to contact us – but there will be a trained person on the other end of the phone ready to help, and they have a way of making you feel comfortable. It doesn’t matter when your bereavement was – by the time I came to Cruse for help the death I experienced was 40 years prior.
It might be that people have barriers to receiving support, but you have to make the decision yourself. Often people have personal perceptions about ‘therapy’ and ‘counselling’, but at Cruse it’s just about speaking to someone, a neutral friend who is there to listen.