Peer bereavement support and Dementia Friends during the pandemic

It’s been a funny old year, hasn’t it? One that none of us could have foreseen in January and one that has challenged each and everyone of us, no matter who we are.

As we come to the end of the year and the challenges remain for the foreseeable (but with hope on the horizon for some return to our former normal), I have been thinking about how I have adapted to still be a Dementia Friends Champion and how to continue to deliver Full Circle Funerals’ peer bereavement support group.

I have to confess that in March and April, I didn’t think either was possible. We have always done these things face to face, been able to shake people’s hands, give them a hug, chat over a cup of tea. It was incomprehensible to me that I would be able to do either of these things again in 2020.

Ruth Owen
Ruth Owen

Whether I was burying my head in the sand or was caught like a rabbit in headlights, I can always be sure that my colleague Sarah will set me the challenge, and so she did. “Online bereavement support group” she said! “How?” “By Zoom” she said, and so the monthly group by Zoom began.

Zoom, an online platform that no-one had heard off before this year!!

And do you know, she was absolutely spot on! Every month the meeting has grown and grown and we now have people joining us from Essex and from Scotland. It doesn’t matter where we live or how we have been bereaved, we are a family of bereaved people that come together and share our grief journey with each other in a safe environment where everyone gives each other the space to talk, to listen and to share thoughts and ideas. I could not be more proud of each and every one of them.

But of course not everyone has access to a computer and the internet and for those members of our group for whom coming out each month to see each other was important, I have phoned them regularly to say hi and pass on the news from the group. We remain connected and look forward to when we can all come back together again.

I have also been a Dementia Friends Champion since 2018, and had made 100 Dementia Friends prior to the pandemic starting. In March, I mentally wrote off the dates that were in the diary for this year. How was it going to be possible to continue to make Dementia Friends?

Alzheimer’s Society adapted their information session resources to an online webinar style, which I have been using for a few months now. It is brilliant and everyone engages with the discussion and the graphics just as much as we did when we were face to face. Over the last few months I have delivered the session to Marie Curie buddy volunteers in Bradford, a U3A group in Shropshire, the Humanist Celebrants conference and the Full Circle Funerals webinar series. I have now made 186 Dementia Friends over 18 sessions. Thank-you to the team at the Alzheimer’s Society for making it possible.

Whatever 2021 throws at us, I think one thing is for sure, we have the resilience and the determination to not be beaten…..and we have Zoom!

If you would like to know any more about the bereavement support group or Dementia Friends please contact me on 01943 262626 or [email protected]

Ruth Owen
Independent Funeral Director, Full Circle Funerals

Full Circle Funerals is an Age and Dementia Friendly business, one of the organisations which is taking action to help make Leeds a place where older people, and people living with dementia, actively participate in the life of the city.
Download a free guide to find out more about becoming an Age and Dementia Friendly business or organisation and sign up to be Age and Dementia Friendly .
You can also request a copy of the guide by emailing
[email protected]

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