Kent Charity Profile: The Bereavement Café
Bereavement is something that will affect us all at some point and we will all react to it in different ways. Something that is common to all, however is the need to deal with the grief we are feeling so that it doesn’t overwhelm us. For some, this means talking through the pain with someone who understands exactly what we are going through. At The Bereavement Café, based in Orpington, this is exactly what happens.
What exactly is The Bereavement Café?
The Bereavement Café is a once a month pop-up café that offers support to those who are suffering from grief. During the two hours we are open each month, we provide qualified counsellors and good listeners to those wanting to come and talk about their loved ones. It may be that just talking to someone helps them come to terms with their loss, or perhaps they are needing some professional support in how they can work through their grief.
We also try to find help in other ways. Just recently, a lady came to us as she was struggling with the death of her daughter. As a result, she had taken on her grandchild and was unaware of all the legalities that went with becoming a main carer. One of our volunteers was a social worker and was able to help her with many questions, advice and support, at what was such a difficult time for her. Sometimes, it is just advice that is needed and wherever we can help we will.
Why is the work that The Bereavement Café does so important?
It is important to offer this as funding in our area (Orpington) was stopped a few years ago. There are waiting lists, but grief needs to be dealt with as soon as it occurs. Some feel that talking things through really helps them and, rather than burden family members or friends, they can talk openly to one of our counsellors and know that that is what they are there for.
What happens during a meeting at The Bereavement Café?
We set up the café so that there is an area for some who like to chat amongst themselves and perhaps meet others who are in the same position as them, but there is also privacy for those who require it. Our tables are set far enough apart that conversations can’t be overheard and we always provide tea, coffee and biscuits, as well as plenty of tissues and support.
What is the charity’s history?
Working as a funeral celebrant, Michelle Harvey felt that the families she worked with were in need of additional support once the funeral service was over. Michelle found it hard to walk away, so kept in touch with many of her families afterwards. This was with either a phone call or an email, just to check they were okay and not struggling. After the funeral is a crucial time as families have previously had the focus of the funeral, but afterwards have to try and adjust to life without their loved ones.
With the help and support of Valentine and Turner Funeral Directors, they provided a monthly place for people to go and talk, specifically about their loss, and how they were feeling. November 2017 saw the first Bereavement Café open and with a handful of volunteers, plus qualified counsellors it was a success from the minute they opened their doors.
Gradually people heard about the café and came along. Some don’t know what to expect, but all are greeted with a friendly smile, a cup of tea or coffee and somewhere to sit quietly and talk (plus the offer of biscuits too!). Sometimes they just want to listen and that is fine, but it helps to get out, come along and meet with others who are in the same position. We have had a small group of attendees who have since met up outside of the café and all been out for dinner together as a group. To us, that is fantastic as they are all helping each other; it is nice to know that friendships are being made out of sad situations.
How can our readers become volunteers?
If anyone wants to volunteer, they can get in touch with either myself, Michelle Harvey, on firstname.lastname@example.org or through Valentine and Turner Funeral Directors at email@example.com.
Do you have any fundraising events coming up?
We often sell cakes to raise funds, so that we can continue the good work of the café. We don’t charge anyone for attending and currently it is myself and Valentine and Turner who fund the running of the café. We are very fortunate that we have some fantastic counsellors who provide their support for free and we also have some local businesses, that sponsor us and cover costs for refreshments as well as the hire of the hall for the event.
What does the future hold?
Ideally, we would like to continue The Bereavement Café as a once-a-month event, but also hopefully find some more counsellors who want to get involved.