37th Annual Conference “ALL OF A SUDDEN”
The aftermath of unexpected death
It’s the little things that matter when someone you love dies suddenly.
This was one of the most poignant moments of this year’s Bereavement Annual Conference on: ‘ All of a Sudden, the aftermath of unexpected death,’ held at Mosaic Reform Synagogue, Harrow on October 31st.
Many of the delegates, from multi-ethnic and non-religious groups and organisations, were in tears as Revd Craig Fullard spoke of Jill’s son, an organ donor and how he was treated by caring staff after his death.
Revd Fullard, from St Joseph’s Church, Wolverhampton and formerly chaplaincy team leader for the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said: “Never under-estimate it’s the little things that matter, like the nurse who told Jill she had brushed her son’s teeth.”
He spoke movingly of his own heartbreak when he and his wife suffered two miscarriages and what happened afterwards. He said: “We never forgot or forgave how we were told to queue, with everyone else, for the next appointment with tears streaming down our faces, but equally we also never forgot the wonderful doctor who let us talk and cry for as long as we needed. Being there is the ultimate thing.”
He told delegates about the swan box, used by the Trust, which guided staff on how to treat the bereaved and what can be comforting, such as photos, hand prints or locks of hair. He said: “It’s not about what I want, it’s about what they want. It’s our duty and privilege to be prepared.”
He said it was also about ‘thinking outside the box,’ like allowing a dying patient to be wheeled outside the hospital to say goodbye to his beloved horse.
Dr Anthony Kaiser, consultant neonatologist at St Thomas’ hospital, said unexpected death among children was still very low in this country and talking about death was still a taboo subject. He said: “Our aim is to provide the most healthy outcome for the survivors: giving them some anticipation is helpful, keeping them well-informed, use honest and plain language, involve them as much as possible.”
Unlike with an adult, he stressed the importance of building up memories. He said: A baby has never known anyone except their parents and hospital staff, so we become their family, which is why it’s very important to provide memories; permanent proof the child existed.”
He spoke about the importance of the five Bs: be straightforward, be honest, be human, be flexible and be there. He said:”If you can really be there for the family and really listen, it is something they will remember for ever.”
Ann Culley, chair of the Trustees for Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, became involved in the charity after her brother, Gordon, killed himself. She said she was still amazed at the methods some youngsters chose to end their lives.
Like the 18-year-old who ordered a gas cylinder or the 14-year-old who killed herself with the drug used to kill criminals in America. She said: “There are so many reasons people have: financial, mental health issues, illness, but when it happens, the main question is why. Why didn’t they talk to me, why didn’t I realise something was wrong.
“People have said to me they would rather the loved one had been murdered, because they have chosen to kill themselves. They are left with feelings of guilt, abandonment and rejection.”
Patrick Green, chief executive officer for the Ben Kinsella Trust, set up in 2008 after the murder of Ben in Islington, gave a video showing the events leading up to his stabbing and the anti-knife campaign run by his family and in particular his sister, Brooke, who was awarded an MBE for her work.
He said: “Ben was a normal teen, not in a gang, doing well in school, who was murdered by three older boys who he had never met. What is happening to our society for a young boy to be murdered in this way?”
He talked about the ordeal faced by the whole family during the criminal investigation, press intrusion and abuse from the defendants’ families.
He spoke about a new inter-active project in Islington which was having a positive impact on youngsters and how lessons needed to be learned before they got into trouble.
DC Teresa Jimenez, a family liaison advisor with the Met, who has been involved in major incidents such as the London bombings and Grenfell Tower, said the most important thing was communication.
She said: “With Grenfell there were too many people involved. The families didn’t know who to speak to, about what. The process is very slow so sometimes the families got very frustrated.”
She talked about the support they gave during major incidents, as well as signposting people to further help, as well as the importance of self care.She said: “When you deal with one family after another it takes its toll. We have a passion for what we do, which keeps us going.”
After the speakers the delegates took part in discussion forums to explore the theme of the day and how to offer the relevant support.
Judy Silverton, chair of the conference planning group, thanked everyone involved, including the sandwich and cake makers.
Text by Jane Harrison Pictures by David Pollak
36th Annual Conference – Wednesday 1st November 2017
“Everyone wants a miracle.” Those were the words of our guest speaker at the 36th Annual Bereavement Care Conference held at Mosaic Reform Synagogue on November 1st.
Jim Kuykendall, a Gestalt therapist, clinical supervisor and lecturer, said: “If you think you have to provide a miracle, that’s a heavy burden. They want us to bring the person back, or make the pain go away, but we are not miracle workers.”
Speaking to a variety of religious and specialist groups and individuals, Jim said it was our role to support clients going through the pain of bereavement and guide them through the process.
He said: ”Our role is to accept where they really are, rather than where they, or society would like them to be. Unlike Brexit, bereavement means bereavement. It is a long-term process like a roller-coaster. Be present with them; just be.”
He said compassion was the key, towards ourselves, as well as our clients, and patience, “many people feel guilty for not feeling resilient enough.”
He spoke of the importance of normalising bereavement: “you can be angry twice. We must not try to compress a client’s grief to fulfil an organisation’s remit. If bereavement is not processed it never goes away. It is repressed.”
He added unprocessed bereavement could lead to aggression and mental health issues.
In response to feedback from last year’s conference, this year’s theme was Re-Visiting, a fresh look at bereavement support.
A series of workshops, led by experts, were held throughout the day, including boundaries, is listening enough, opening doors to children and young people, beginnings and endings.
Judy Silverton, chair of the conference planning committee, welcomed everyone and thanked them and various sponsors for their support. A superb lunch was made and served by a group of volunteers.
35th Annual Conference – Wednesday 2nd November 2016
To see a report of the 35th Annual Conference please click here
34th Annual Conference : Wednesday 14th October 2015 at Mosaic Reform Synagogue (Middlesex New Synagogue) Harrow
The 34th Annual Conference was, once again, a great success with a focus on grief and how it affects a bereaved person whatever their age and the age of those who are lost or are missing. Our five speakers: Dr Ruth Caleb (Head of Counselling, Brunel University); Carol Courtney (Dementia Specialist Matron for London North West Healthcare Trust); Dr Anthony Kaiser MD (Consultant Neonatologist, St Thomas’ Hospital); Sophie Lapham (Director of Services, Missing People) and Lesley Lopez (Children and Young People’s Lead, Cruse Bereavement Care Hertfordshire) each gave an insight into their particular area of work and the impact that one loss can have on a whole community of people “like ripples that are created when just one stone is dropped in a pond”.
The morning session ended with a Question & Answer session for the panel of experts and was followed by lunch and the opportunity to network and catch up with old friends.
In the afternoon, each of the presenters led a workshop on their given subject and gave delegates the opportunity to explore the subject in greater depth.
Huge thanks to our speakers and to our sponsors: Sobell Rhodes LLP, James Funeral Service, OGR Stock Denton, QFatima and the Leila Charitable Trust.
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Our 33rd Annual Conference, “Lost and Found” with John McCarthy
Finding your way through bereavement, took place on Wednesday 22nd October 2014.
We were pleased to welcome journalist, writer and broadcaster John McCarthy C.B.E. as our keynote speaker. His address not only covered his terrifying kidnap by terrorists and subsequent captivity in the Lebanon for 1,943 days; but he also spoke with great emotion about the personal bereavement he had experienced through the loss of his close family. A DVD of John McCarthy’s address is available from the Bereavement Care office (£5 + p & p).
Some comments from participants:
- “My first conference. Will definitely book again.”
- “Excellent and very interesting speaker. The fact that his personal losses were so like anyone else’s was the best part for actually helping us as bereavement visitors.”
- “Inspiring day and well organised. Very thought provoking.”
Rabbi Kathleen de Magtige-Middleton talks to John McCarthy between his keynote address and the Question & Answer Session.
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The keynote speaker at our 32nd Annual Conference was Trevor Hicks. Trevor Hicks was a founder member and first Chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) where he remains as President. You may like to download here Trevor Hicks’ talk.