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Loneliness and bereavement

Loneliness is something which has been spoken about a lot in the media over recent years and it affects many people in our society. The pandemic was also a factor – as people who already lived alone were forced to stay by themselves. We know that the folk in our Bereavement Group (the BGs) missed seeing each other and particularly felt the pain of not having their loved one with them at that time.

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all; and two-fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company. This issue isn’t set to go away, as the organisation reports that the number of overs-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/26. This compares with around 1.4 million in 2016/17 – a 49% increase.

We know from talking to our families that when a partner dies, on top of grief, loneliness can be a very real issue. We hear many stories of how couples used to do everything together and, with us living longer, some people we support have lost partners they have been with for 70 years. That person who walked alongside them for so long just isn’t there anymore.

Acknowledging this is one of the reasons we launched the BG’s.

“Now we have an amazing group of people and it’s evolved so that existing members are fantastic at welcoming and supporting newer members,” Glenys Jones explains. “Some lovely friendships have developed; they comfort each other and offer support at times when it’s needed. I hear stories about how they’ve been to the cinema together between meetings or accompanied each other on hospital appointments.”

She continues: “What we noticed from the start was that people would really tell us how they were feeling after the death of a loved one, saying they didn’t want to burden their family, particularly if they were feeling low too. BG’s started out small but, from the very beginning, we saw friendships developing and watched people open up about the loved one they had lost, confident they were in a safe space and also comfortable that they were talking to somebody who was in a similar position.”

In addition to regular meetings, the BG’s enjoy trips out, including to the theatre, with plans to go on a Thames dinner cruise in the summer. Recently, Glenys and 32 members enjoyed their first holiday together in the Cotswolds (although, over the years, members have independently been away with each other).

As one member said: “If it wasn’t for BG’s, there are some members who possibly might not go out socially. I think we’ve all become a little stronger, more independent and more confident as a result of BG’s.”

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