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Volunteering as a bereavement counsellor

Belinda, a volunteer counsellor, has been at St Barnabas for six years after initially joining us on a placement

I was training to be a counsellor and looking for a placement when the possibility of St Barnabas came up. Initially, I thought I didn’t want to do bereavement counselling, but I needed a placement, so I applied anyway and got in. I have loved it ever since.

I’ve been at St. Barnabas six years now and I mostly work with pre-bereaved and bereaved family members.

Bereavement counsellor volunteer

A listening ear

My ‘day job’ is in a school, working with children with behavioural issues. And before doing my counselling training, I worked as a pastoral manager in a school, so there are some transferrable skills.

During Covid-19, all my counselling sessions were over the telephone. I think for the clients, that was sometimes an advantage because they could sit in the comfort of their own homes and allow their emotions free rein without anyone being there to see. I felt the connection with them was just as strong.

But for me personally, working from home felt a little isolating. Now that I’m able to do face-to- face appointments again in St. Barnabas, it is lovely. I walk in and I go, ‘Oh, I’m back.’ I feel really held, because of the place.

Living to live

Early in my time with St Barnabas, I was newly qualified and working with a patient. My supervisor gave me one little phrase that really helped me to support her. This lady knew she was dying, and I said, “Are you living to die? Or are you living to live?” Afterwards, she said it made her last weeks and months much better because it changed her attitude to life. It’s quite powerful to know you’ve been able to make a difference like that to someone.

A special place

When I talk to bereaved people at the hospice, they are often returning to the place where their loved one died and that is a special place for them. For some people it’s quite sad, but they feel closer to that person in this place. They feel happy in a sense because this is a lovely place where people are kind.

Since completing my counselling training and volunteering at St. Barnabas, I am so much more comfortable with myself. Things don’t stress me out as much and it’s made me a more peaceful person.

Could you join the team?

We're always on the lookout for new volunteers! There's a range of opportunities available, you could be supporting patients, cheering on marathon runners, helping with admin or even dressing up as our mascot - Barnabee! If you're interested in volunteering at St Barnabas House, we’d love to hear from you.

Apply or find out more