During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Age UK Salford Dementia Support Service team identified a need for bereavement support for some of their carers within the service.  We realised that people who had been bereaved during this time weren’t able to access ‘traditional’ support from family, friends, and services. People found themselves isolated and grieving in a very different and complex way. The Empowered Carers team met some of this need by supporting carers through dying, death and bereavement.

Amanda says, “After adjusting our services during 2020 it soon became clear to us that we wanted to continue to help carers. Our other courses supported carers to become less stressed and more resilient, but there was no real aftercare once their loved one went into a care home or when they died.

“We had experience of supporting carers who had had to transition from looking after their loved ones to seeing them transfer to a care home and it was clear that some of the feelings that this change evoked were the same as those experienced by the bereaved carers. As a result, we had many of the models needed to support people going through the loss of a loved one.

Amanda went on to say, “We received lottery funding to run a pilot bereavement programme, this is now an important part of what Empowered Carers offers family carers.  The initial pilot session ran earlier in 2021 via zoom with 5 attendees all sharing their experiences of grief and loss.

“There were the usual ground rules but on the whole, everyone was free to speak and listen as they pleased. Attendees had the chance to air their feelings, share their stories and remember their loved ones.  People soon begin to feel comfortable with each other – especially after the first couple of sessions. Feedback during the course and after it had finished has been amazing”, Amanda said.

Amanda added, “Many of the attendees said that it felt like a safe space to be in, and somewhere where they didn’t fear judgement from others. Essentially, it’s the kind of group where if you just want to listen you can, but you can also contribute when you feel like it. That’s exactly how it should be, and it is always important to feel comfortable.  One attendee told me how useful they found the booklet we created together, and they particularly liked the activity where they could write down what made the person they had lost so special.

For the facilitators it has been a humbling experience.

Amanda says ‘It’s such a privilege to be involved with these sessions. On a personal level, myself and my co-facilitator, Jo Rigby have found delivering this course to be so rewarding as we know how much it has helped the attendees.  We are proud that Dementia Support Service now supports people through each transition of their caring role – from assessment and diagnosis right through to death and beyond.

If you are interested in attending one of the bereavement group series please get in touch on amandabarrell@ageuksalford.org.uk or 07762873779. The next session is running 15th November between 1.30pm-2.30pm and is via zoom.