St Michael’s bereavement serivce helping those struggling at Christmas

Saint Michael's Chief Executive Tony Collins (s)
Saint Michael's Chief Executive Tony Collins (s)

“A question we get a lot is ‘Is this normal?’ but every situation is unique. Bereavement brings about a break in the relationship and none are the same. We treat the individual as an individual and there is no one size fits all solution.”

Six years ago, after developing an expertise in dealing with individuals suffering bereavement from St Michael’s Hospice, staff realised there was a need for these services on a district level.

Just ‘B’ was created soon after, operating as a support service to offer anyone a safe and confidential space to understand and express their grief.

The support service now offers practical support to children, young people and adults who have been bereaved as well advice for the professionals working with them.

Every six hours a child, young person or adult in the Harrogate district is affected by bereavement. Just ‘B’ have found that, with an average of six people affected by every death, approximately 9,000 new people each year learning to live with a ‘powerful range of confusing and conflicting emotions’.

Tony Collins, Saint Michael’s Chief Executive, explained how the demand for the service was instantaneous and offered an insight into how bereavement affects different individuals.

He said: “The service aims to provide support for individuals who have complications with the grieving process.


“The majority of people can deal with bereavement as it is a normal and natural response to death with their own network of family and friends.

“However, with some who have experienced complications with their grief it’s nice to have support and guide people’s thinking process.

“People deserve a safe space to talk about their bereavement. People might be avoiding the issue and they are wanting to face up to their own loss but there are so many different issues.”

Mr Collins explained the dangerous effects of bottling up emotions after bereavement and the damaging psychological, emotional and, sometimes, physical consequences.

He said: “A lot of people wonder if they could have prevented it. There’s always a lot of what ifs and everybody who has been bereaved will have faced this question.

“Many people who are dealing with bereavement issues are told that they will get over it and that time heals but the truth is you never really get over the death of a close loved one. The grieving process is about putting it into perspective.”

As every individual deals with the grieving process differently, Just ‘B’ operate a range of different approaches and methods for allowing individuals to open up about their loss. Mr Collins also stressed the importance of developing good mental health to deal with bereavement as he said ‘grieving is a mental process’.

He said: “The methods we use are not just restricted to the children, we use them for adults such as making a memory jar or a stress ball to address whatever problem the individual is experiencing.

“A lot of it is trial and error but we enjoy a significant amount of expertise. I think it goes back to being an individual and giving them options on how they would like to express themselves. Quite often people see bereavement as something separate to emotional wellbeing but it is part of the same process.” Just ‘B’ are now concentrating on their bereavement at Christmas campaign and tackling how people experiencing the grieving process will cope during the holidays.

Mr Collins said: “Every one of our clients will be asked how they are planning on living through Christmas and a lot of people are very concerned about it.

“There are lots of reasons behind this because Christmas is supposed to be a family time but now there will be an empty seat at the table.

“We have to ask them how they are going to deal with that because Christmas is seen as a magical time, unlike any other day.

“Ideally, our clients need to give themselves a chance to express their emotions and if that means crying then do so.

“What’s really important is that we ask our clients to ask those close to them to do things they want.

“If you want to talk about it then ask them, don’t pretend it’s not there.

“They might want you to cry with them and they should be open about it because if emotions don’t come out then they will stay in there and they can’t stay in there without causing some problems.”