Home > For Patients & Professionals > about saint francis hospice > Blog > Bereavment service - "People have had to hold their grief"

Bereavment service - "People have had to hold their grief"

During this pandemic, bereavement support has become more than ever a vital service.

Shahina Haque, Family Support Services Manager (cropped)

We have people who we were supporting pre covide-19, pre lockdown and continue to rely on the support mechanisms in place.

And sadly people are still dying of non-covid related deaths, and they leave behind loved ones who are having to survive this.

As the situation with the virus grew more serious by the day, I was increasing aware of the demands that would be placed on my team and on the services with family support and pastoral care.

Since March the 23rd 2020 all 1-2-1 counselling, groups and face to face assessments have been cancelled, in line with government advice.

Our volunteer bereavement counsellors are an essential part of the team and have quietly transitioned and have been getting on with working from their homes, ensuring that confidentially is adhered to at all times.

They too have their own worries and like us all juggling personal lives, but when it comes to their clients, their passion to support those in need is paramount.

It is not easy on the senses or the soul to hear, see and hold someone’s grief.

To hear this over the telephone and not be able show compassion visibly has been a challenge that the counsellors are overcoming and working differently to ensure that their clients are heard, understood, acknowledged and seen, not through our eyes but though our being.

Their grief is real and we acknowledge and respect their loss, and the death of their loved one.

I have been amazed and proud of all of them, their acceptance and ‘call to arms’.

Now, 12 weeks since lockdown, the counsellors are thriving in confidence and ability and we are continuing to receive bereavement referrals and conducting assessments and allocating clients to our counsellors.


Their clients are grateful for the support and the work is not necessarily about covid-19, it’s about their grief, their loss and their bereavement.

Here clients are using the session to let their emotions out - People have had to hold their grief, still waiting for the funeral and some not able to go and see their loved ones.

We can only imagine the trauma that this is causing them.

Many of our young people whose parent has died are traumatised by not being able to see their mother or father and not have the funeral they deserve, not to be able to celebrate their life as they see fitting.

We are supporting parents whose adult child has died and regardless of the age of the person, no parent should bury their child.

Not to be able to have the last moments to make memories and hold them, has been heart-breaking to hear.


Here's what our volunteer counsellors had to say: 


My client liked coming to the hospice as it was a 'safe space' away from home life. Having had a number of telephone sessions now, there is no denying that counselling via the telephone is not the same as face to face. However, I have found it different in a good way and I think my client has too. As a counsellor our job is to listen, yet without seeing your clients reactions, your listening skills have to become heightened. At a time when most of us are isolating, self-care is essential and counselling is just as important, regardless of whether it is face to face or via the telephone.”
Cheryl- qualified counsellor

“I wondered what it would be like using the telephone. Any concerns I had were soon dispelled as we settled into this new way of working together. I am always pleased to hear their voices when we begin a call. I can hear the subtle changes in their tone, rhythm, volume, expression and their breathing. I notice their breathing pattern change. I certainly feel my clients and I are connecting really well on a deeply emotional level even though we can't see each other! The isolation of covid-19 has come at a particularly difficult time for my clients. Experiencing the loss of their husbands in 2019 has made a huge emotional and physical hole in their lives. Their homes and hearts feel empty. I think this is being felt more keenly because they are also missing contact with other family members and friends.”
Rebecca - qualified counsellor

"My experience of telephone counselling has pleasantly surprised myself and my client. As a counsellor, I have found that my own senses of listening and feeling are heightened, which allows me to connect with my client on a deeper level and give them even more emotional support. My client has told me that speaking to me during this difficult and challenge time has been a life line for them and they are so grateful that we have been able to continue our sessions outside of the hospice. It's very clear that the relationship with my client has strengthened, partly due to the fact that my client feels that I am going the extra mile to still be in contact with them during lockdown. They have been surprised at how effective the sessions have been and how much they have helped."
Sarah-qualified counsellor


“As a newly qualified counsellor, it’s hard to describe how privileged I feel to be able to stay in contact with my clients through telephone counselling support. This has only been possible for me with the knowledge that I have a whole network of professional help available to me, that of the Family support team at Saint Francis Hospice. From my supervisor, who has been there for me throughout any of my doubts and concerns, to the admin staff who are so incredibly efficient and to my colleagues and new recruits who have become friends, confidants and soulmates. It has been a seamless process to transfer from face to face to telephone counselling, allowing me to continue with my work and support my clients through this difficult period. From my client feedback, I know that the service has been invaluable and that they have been eternally grateful for the continuity in service that we have been able to offer."
Sally - newly qualified counsellor


“As a volunteer with SFH I am truly blessed being there for individuals who need that contact in times of loss and despair and loneliness. I am there to listen and support with no judging, no advice, just helping them to get through it together. To say it is rewarding would be an understatement.”

Peter- newly qualified counsellor


Thank you to all our volunteers. My thanks to my team, family support and pastoral services for their hard work in ensuring that the pre and post bereavement services continue and for supporting our volunteers in carrying out a vital part of the service.


Our thoughts and prayers and love go to all families, individuals who have lost a loved one in these challenging times.

Find out more about our family support and pastoral care services on our website or email Shahinahaque@sfh.org.uk