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Helen’s Story

    Team: Bereavement and Biography

    I have always been a very energetic person and loved working. As my professional life began to wind down I started looking for some meaningful work to fill the gap.

    After some research into volunteering, I came to the realisation that a lot of organisations required set days and times which did not suit my way of working.

    At the same time I became a carer for my elder sister who had a terminal disease. It was while I was with her that I was introduced to the work being done by EPC.

    Even though she was a client for a very short time I was so impressed by what I saw of this organisation, by their dedication and gentleness that I decided to find out more. I completed my training in 2013 and have thoroughly enjoyed, and still enjoy, my involvement in the biography and bereavement programs.

    I find the biography writing tremendously rewarding. Even though you are aware that the client is in the last stage of their life, you cannot help but notice the difference it makes to them as they tell their story and relive some of their life experiences. You hear some fascinating life stories and at times I have to tip toe around a topic and suggest either leaving it out or rewording it to soften it for the readers.

    It is very humbling to be given such trust. I find that I walk away thinking,

     ‘This person is a complete stranger and I am a complete stranger and yet they trust me implicitly to tell me their life story.’

    The only difficulty I face is that once the biography is completed you have to walk away. In a lot of cases you connect really well with the family and it is tough when they want to continue seeing you.  But as part of our role we need to disconnect to be ready to meet and work with the next person.

    Likewise, the bereavement program is a wonderful lesson to me in how other people deal with grief and loss. So many people have such varied attitudes to death and dying and how they deal with it.  I have learnt so much about myself and the cycle of life.

    In society, once someone is buried, the unspoken expectation is that everyone moves on.  But for the bereaved person that is just not the case and they lose the chance to talk about what happened.  This is where my role of a bereavement companion comes in to play.  I am not a family member and not someone they have to worry about offending. So for the bereaved person it is very liberating to have a conversation where they can be free – to speak their mind, to revisit the story of the death and talk about the person they love who is not with them anymore. I have watched this dynamic a number of times and it seems to be very liberating for people – once they have talked it all through they seem to be able to move forward a little further.  Our role is a bridge between what was, what is and what will be to come.  A safe place to work some of that out.

    As far as the organisation goes, it is second to none. Their continued support and training is just amazing. One thing that is very important to me is that although you must meet the commitment you made, it can be in your own timeframe.  My weekly volunteering hours can fit comfortably around all my other work.