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Only the lonely

Loneliness is something which is being spoken about a lot in the media at the moment and it affects many people in our society. According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) five per cent of adults in England reported feeling lonely ‘often or always’ – that’s one in 20 people. Furthermore, 16 per cent of adults reported feeling lonely ‘sometimes’ and 24 per cent ‘occasionally’.

Not surprisingly, those who have been widowed report experiencing loneliness more often. They were significantly more likely to report feeling lonely ‘some of the time’ and least likely to report ‘never’ experiencing loneliness compared with other marital groups.

Dig further into the results of this study and it reports that there are three sets of characteristics associated with the greater risk of feeling lonely more often. One of these is widowed older homeowners living alone with long-term health conditions. Of all individuals in this group, 69 per cent reported that they felt lonely ‘occasionally’ or more frequently.

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; with us living longer, some people we support have lost partners they have been with for more than 60 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 Tester & Jones Bereavement Support Group.

As Glenys said recently: “From the beginning, we told families that our door is always open for them and made them feel they could pop in and see us after the funeral; so we’d regularly get visitors for coffee and a chat. But, I began to feel that we could be doing more to support them.”

So, plans came together for the Bereavement Support Group, which was initially held it at our premises.

Glenys continues: “It took off and we started getting up to 12 people. However, I felt that for some people it was a struggle to come here – as it brought back memories of seeing their loved one’s for the last time – so we moved it to Barnsgate and that’s where we’ve been ever since.”

The group has now grown to more than 90 people with regular meet-ups and trips out to the theatre, for example, while there’s also a smaller group, which meets at the new St John’s church hall once a month. This month, people who attended the smaller group had the opportunity to go for a walk over the Ashdown Forest or could stay to enjoy coffee and a chat.

“We have an amazing group of people and it’s evolved so that existing members are fantastic at welcoming and supporting newer members,” Glenys 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.”

Brenda has been a member of our Bereavement Support Group since her husband, Roy, passed away. She explains: “If it wasn’t for Bereavement Group, there are some members who possibly might not go out socially, so it’s fantastic that Tester & Jones organise this group. I think we’ve all become a little stronger, more independent and more confident as a result of the Bereavement Group (who prefer to be called the BGs!).”

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