Why Farnham Bereavement Café?
Combating loneliness and social isolation of bereaved people
Older people can be especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and well-being, but they are not alone in this as bereavement can affect young and old alike.
NHS statistics state that in England, 51% of all people over 75 live alone and 5 million older people say the television is their main form of company. People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons and the loss of spouses and friends feature highly in the causes of social isolation and may leave surviving partners feeling vulnerable.
In 2001, a study found that as many as 92% of young people in the UK will experience bereavement of what they defined as a ‘close’ or ‘significant’ relationship* and that around 7% will lose a parent before the age of 16**.
The impact of bereavement from a young age into middle age, with the loss of a parent, sibling or child can lead to challenges to hold life together, to form other friendship and to live a full life.
Even for those of us who have strong and supportive family and friends there comes a point when we don’t want to bother people with how we are feeling because so often there is an expectation that we should be ‘over it by now’. Bereaved people need somewhere to go when the day seems impossible to deal with. Very few need counselling or any other kind of clinical intervention; they do need somebody to listen to them: they do need care and compassion to help them through the dark days. They need friends...
Friends Together is a small local group of people in Farnham, with a heart to provide comfort and relief from loneliness for those in our community who have experienced a close bereavement.
Friends Together is run by volunteers, who are not trained counsellors or medical practitioners, but people with a listening ear and time for others. Supported by the Christian community, for those of any or no faith, it is our chance as Farnham churches to serve those in our local community who just need a friendly face and kindly support.
* Including pets
** L Harrison and R Harrington, ‘Adolescents’ bereavement experiences. Prevalence, association with depressive symptoms, and use of services.’ Journal of Adolescence 24(2): 159-169
I imagine if I were to take a straw pole, the majority of people reading this would say that at some point they had faced the death of someone they loved very much and that the resulting grief is always with them to some degree. Even for those of us who have strong and supportive family and friends there comes a point when we don’t want to bother people with how we are feeling because so often there is an expectation that we should be ‘over it by now’.
From our experience people are never ‘over it’. They learn to live with it and get on with life but that does not mean they have in any way come to terms with the death of someone close to them. Sometimes the grief can still be affecting them years later, leaving them feeling isolated and lonely.
That is why Farnham Bereavement Café (formerly Friends Together) came into being. An opportunity for anyone struggling with grief to meet and chat with others who understand. A chance for new friendships to develop and even new love to blossom, as we have seen happen.
We facilitate the meetings but we do not offer any specific counselling as this is not our purpose. We want to empower those who come, to face the world as they now know it with all the changes and challenges around them, as well as give them space to talk about how they are feeling. Although Bereavement Café is run by the Christian community it is for those of any or no faith, it is our chance as Farnham churches to serve those in our local community who just need a friendly face and kindly support.