Elly Sutherland came to her first Compassionate Friends Gathering from 10-12 November 2017. Here she shares her impressions and experiences of the weekend.
I spent this past weekend at Sedgebrook Hall in the beautiful Northamptonshire countryside with well over a hundred other grieving parents. It was the National Gathering of The Compassionate Friends. If I tell people I am going to these weekends they look a little shocked. I mean who wants to get with a whole bunch of people that are sad and broken. Why would we want to spend a whole weekend together?!
From Scotland in the north to the Isle of Wight in the south we came, sharing stories of our beautiful children in an atmosphere of acceptance and without judgement. Some are new in their grief and some are veterans. Multiple loss, as in my case, is not so prevalent. People look at my badge in disbelief and ask about Rachel AND James. One or two thought maybe I had lost James and my name was Rachel so hard is it to imagine that both could be my deceased children. I cannot believe it myself!
I am never quite sure if it is the right thing to attend but each time has brought new friends, new perspectives, an opportunity to receive love and more importantly, to give it away. It requires I step out of my comfort zone. Such devastating losses shake your confidence challenging everything you thought you knew about yourself and life. Finding a new normal takes time, patience, and a lot of soul searching. My friend, Liz, talked me into joining the little voluntary choir. I have not sung in a choir since before Rachel died. Initially I was reluctant, but something brought a change of heart and I agreed. As it turns out this was the highlight of my weekend. We practiced a couple of times, with a lot of laughter, and sang our song for the whole group at the closing on Sunday. Singing in this small but enthusiastic group filled me with such peace and unexpected joy. Somewhere over these past years I had forgotten how to sing. I found my voice again.
We understand that grieving for a child can be a lonely path. The whole philosophy behind TCF is putting bereaved parents in touch with each other to facilitate peer-to peer support.
We are now launching a new service to provide more one-to-one support.
So if you would like to be put in touch with another bereaved parent for some one-to-support please let us know.
Your grief companion/befriender will be another volunteer bereaved parent who will offer you informal support and friendship. He or she will probably be a little longer from their bereavement. They are not formally trained but will offer you an opportunity to share your grief and experiences together, to 'walk alongside' one another and to be a listening ear and an understanding 'friend'. The contact you have may be by phone, in person, email and/or Skype/Face Time etc.- whatever suits you both.
If you would like us to try and find you a grief companion/befriender please email the TCF office at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to be a grief companion/befriender please also get in touch. You would be providing informal support and friendship to another more recently bereaved parent. It offers you and another parent an opportunity to share your grief and experiences together, to 'walk alongside' one another and in this way be a listening ear and an understanding 'friend'. The contact may be by phone, in person, email and/or Skype/Face Time, whatever suits you both.
If you feel you would like to do this please contact us at email@example.com
Bereavement Support Day at The Wisdom Centre, Romsey, Hampshire on 2 September 2017
It would sound odd to anyone who has not lost a child that a gathering of grieving parents could be a “good” or even a positive and uplifting day. But the support day run by Joy Sebborn and Sue Brooks in Romsey at the start of September truly was a beautiful and special day.
Twenty one of us gathered at The Wisdom Centre in Romsey, a tranquil setting surrounded by wonderful gardens in the warm September sunshine. Some were newly bereaved by a few months while others were further along what can be a very lonely and isolating path.
Any nervousness we may have had was quickly banished by a cup of tea and plentiful biscuits. As I have always found with Compassionate Friends there is an immediate warmth, respect and empathy amongst us. We were able to talk freely about our children and our experiences of loss in a way we cannot usually do. This in itself is a huge relief as we so often have to hide our sadness to make others around us feel comfortable or simply because we just have to get on with our lives as we ourselves, or others expect us to.
Our Board of Trustees would like to invite you to apply to help run our charitable organisation which offers support, friendship, understanding and hope to bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents. We are in an exciting next phase of our development, having just moved to new national office premises in North London and expanded our staff and volunteer base. We are looking for Trustees that can help to continue our development as the national charityoffering peer support to bereaved parents and their families.
The Board of Trustees is responsible for the governance and strategic direction of the charity and as such works in a similar way to a company board of directors, in as much as each trustee often takes on an area of responsibility for the benefit of the charity.
The Board would be particularly assisted by individuals with skills and experience in areas such as but not limited to Information Technology, Fundraising, Charity/Company Law, Managing Charity Finances, Training and Events Management, Volunteer Management, Public Relations and Communications, Human Resources, or with other skills and experience which could be of benefit to the work of TCF. This is not an exhaustive list and you may have other skills that would benefit the charity. Being a charity Trustee is a challenging, but rewarding, role and we always look forward to welcoming new people to the Board. Typically, the amount of time that a board member might be prepared to devote to TCF would be approximately 5 hours per week. The Board meets together 6 times a year, usually in London at the weekend.
We have received some lovely feedback and comments from the recent TCF supportive weekend for Childless Parents (parents who have lost their only child or children) which was held in a wonderful manor house – Charney Manor - in the depths of the Oxfordshire countryside from 21-23 July. It was so humbling to be able to offer understanding, compassion, support and, above all, hope to these lovely parents for our two days together.
“(We) have just returned from Charney Manor. The TCF organisers were amazing and the parents we met with were all amazing too. A very unique and perfect location for a gathering such as this. I hope we will both take some comfort and hope from such a special weekend too and we both thank you so much for making it happen for us”.
“Thank you for the wonderful work who made the weekend successful… I
felt anxious about going to the retreat but it helped me to travel with
other parents. I was surprised to see so many childless parents who
were also attending the