The meeting started with a very comprehensive presentation by Revd Santou Beurklian-Carter Hospital Chaplain and Psychotherapist (https://griefsupport.co/) on “Expressions of Grief and How Faith Communities Can Support”.
It was so helpful to learn about the impact of grief on the bereaved and that these symptoms are normal and not as some bereaved people fear signs of madness. This led on to practical suggestions on how faith communities can support – what to do and what not to do, what to say and what not to say etc. and guidance on when it is appropriate to refer to a mental health therapeutic specialist.
This was followed by information on local bereavement support services by the following speakers.
Karen Freeman of Orangeline which is a free confidential telephone support service for people who are bereaved, feeling isolated or lonely. Karen has a team of 30 volunteers who make weekly calls and can help normalise the emotions and symptoms of grief. Orangeline also run support groups in Barkingside and Romford for people to attend in person when they are ready to meet with others for mutual support. Orangeline is considering developing new projects to help bereaved men who often do not want to attend the more traditional support groups to chat but would prefer a focussed activity such as gardening or upcycling. ORANGELINE – 01708 758649
Phyllis of Alabaster Bereavement Group told us about this group which operates from City Gates Church in Ilford meeting quarterly and presently is focussed on supporting widows, but they are considering widening their remit to include men. The name Alabaster refers to the alabaster jar a woman broke in the presence of Jesus in the Bible to anoint him with the precious perfume within – alluding to the fact that bereavement can cause brokenness but also can reveal the treasure within.
Sharon Rosenbloom then spoke about the Ahada Bereavement Counselling Service which seeks to support Jewish bereaved people – pre-Covid visits would be made to the bereaved person’s home but now support is virtual either online of via the telephone. Sharon explained she was widowed herself 19 years ago when a mother of two young children . She has trained as a counsellor and also written a book called “Widowed with Kids” and also offers support through her business www.widowedwithkids.co.uk. Sharon also emphasised how important it is to show emotion in front of children so they too learn how to grieve and that crying is a natural part of the process and should not be suppressed.
Dr Sabhina Patel explained about her dual role as a GP and as Chief Executive of Muslim Bereavement Support Service (www.mbss.org.uk) which was originally set up to support mothers who had been bereaved of children and is now a free and confidential service for women who have lost loved ones. MBSS can be contacted via 020 3468 7333 or the website.
Dr Pratibha Datta of the VHP Hindu Temple in Ilford) then spoke about the community support offered to bereaved families within the Hindu faith. Although there is no formal Hindu organisation offering counselling the long established cultural traditions ensure bereaved families are well cared for with meals provided and people coming alongside. The priest will offer spiritual guidance and comfort.
There was then some time for general discussion/questions from the floor.
Signposting information for these and other bereavement support information was subsequently emailed to all participants and is available on request from the office email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Redbridge Faith Forum would like to thank all the speakers for giving their time to share their knowledge and experience with us.