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Srinder Singh, Bereavement Care & Voluntary Services Lead

This diary was written in January 2020

7.45am I arrive at Sobell House a little early today to prepare for a Senior Management Team meeting.

8am With a cup of tea in hand, I head to the meeting. I feel privileged to be part of the Senior Management Team because I know that I am contributing to the running of Sobell House and that it makes a difference to the patients and families we care for. Our group is made up of senior managers from each of the services and the charity. The key discussions centre on strategic development and direction for Sobell House as well as everyday issues. These meetings are also a good opportunity for managers to update each other on what is happening locally and nationally and explore the potential of introducing and driving new initiatives. The meeting is chaired by our Clinical Lead Professor Bee Wee and invariably leads us to have healthy discussions on all sorts of topics.

9am I pop into the admin office to say ‘hello’ and catch up with the other members of my team. They are all beavering away at their respective desks. Head to my office to check and respond to any emails and urgent messages left for me.

9.15am Beth, a Specialist Nurse working in the Churchill Hospital with young people diagnosed with cancer, arrives to talk about her idea of holding a remembrance service for bereaved families. She wanted to meet up to get some advice on how to set the service up and what to include. I tell her about the Sobell House Lights of Love event that we hold every year at Christmas time. We discuss the various options in making sure that the focus is on the act of remembering. For example, inviting those attending to light a candle, hold a stone or release a balloon during the service. We both agreed that holding this kind of service is about enabling those grieving to take time out of their busy lives to remember the loss of their loved ones. Beth leaves armed with lots of ideas and I know she will put together a service that will feel meaningful to those who attend.

10.15am Make a cup of tea and pick up the necessary paperwork in readiness to meet with some of my volunteer bereavement workers for their monthly group supervision. At the moment, we have 20 volunteers in the team who support people who have been bereaved following the death of a loved one under the care of the Sobell House team. This could be in the hospice itself, in the hospital and/or at home. The volunteers have to come in for group supervision because it is a good way for us to monitor the quality of the support they are giving. My main responsibility is to make sure that they are working safely and not putting either themselves or our clients at risk of potential harm. Supervision is also about guiding the volunteer when they have worries or concerns about their clients. Today we discuss how we can encourage and help a client to talk about the death of a loved one. At the end of the discussion we learnt not to underestimate the power of listening and gently asking open questions to help people to make sense of what has happened. We agree that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and recognise that we are all different in the way we cope. As I listen to the volunteers I am humbled by their commitment to help those in need and feel very fortunate to have them in our team because I am not sure what we would do without them.

12.30pm After supervision, I update the necessary paperwork for Maddie, my Administrator, to see who has been referred and place the notes given to me by the volunteers for filing.

12.45pm Grab lunch as I go offsite to visit one of my clients at home. Bob* is someone I have seen a few times since his wife died last summer. He rang the bereavement service after he received a letter from us offering support. Initially, he thought he was doing okay, but he asked for help because he wanted to be able to talk about his loss without feeling that he was burdening his family and friends. When I first started seeing Bob he was feeling overwhelmed; he was struggling with the finances and probate side of things, the deep sense of loss and loneliness, his loss of direction and feelings of emotion that he did not know how to cope with. Owing to all of this Bob was isolating himself by not going out unless it was absolutely necessary. His main worry was that he would break down and cry if he met someone he knew. This was making him feel vulnerable because “what would people think”, so for him it was just easier not to go out. He was turning down invitations to social events with friends. In the first couple of sessions all I did was sit with his distress and attentively listened to what he wanted to say. I wanted him to feel comfortable crying and showing emotion in front of me and for him to know that I was not going to judge him in what he was saying or doing. Bob has since told me that he feels that he can talk to me about anything at all. Today’s session goes well. Bob proudly tells me that he took up the offer from a friend to go to the pub for a drink. Bob is pleased he went because he enjoyed talking about “normal stuff” and being with his friend. Bob said talking to me about his fears of socialising helped him to realise that he cannot hide himself away and that the only way to test out what might happen was to confront it and try it. After an hour, I arrange another date to visit and leave to return to the hospice. I use the travel time to reflect on how the session went and the positive moves that Bob is making to help him cope in his grief.

3pm Return to the office to write up the notes of my visit with Bob and feel honoured that he is allowing me to be alongside him during what can be, for so many, a difficult time.

3.30pm Meet with Clare from the Sobell House Fundraising Team. Clare wants to do a double page spread on the bereavement service for the next newsletter. This is exciting news and a good opportunity for us to showcase to our supporters what we do, particularly as we are fully funded by the charity.

4pm I turn my attention to the other strand of my role, voluntary services. June, our Voluntary Services Coordinator has set up a meeting with Neale, our Day Services Lead to find out the current volunteering opportunities there are in her service for people wishing to volunteer. We also look at the possibility of introducing some new roles as well. The meeting is very useful because it helps June and I with our ideas for developing voluntary services and recruiting new volunteers this year.

5.15pm Back to my office to do a final check of any urgent emails or messages that need attention. Luckily for me there is nothing that cannot wait until tomorrow so I head home after what has turned out to be a very satisfying and productive day!

*Name has been changed for anonymity.