Annual Conference 2022

41st Bereavement Care Conference 


New Ways of Being

Wednesday 26th October 2022 at Emmanuel Church, Northwood

ADDICTION can be a cause and consequence of bereavement the annual Bereavement Care Conference was told by the least likely looking former addict.

Smartly dressed in knee-high boots, behavioural psychologist Dr Samantha Duggan admitted she did not epitomise the view of an addict, as she told the 41st Bereavement Care Conference of her long battle with addictions and dysfunctional behaviour. She said: We aren’t easy to spot. Seventy per cent of alcoholics hold down a full-time job. Lots of addicts look like me and you.

Dr Duggan attended her first 12-step support group in 2007 and since then has been involved in recovery at local and national level. Since February 2020 she has been secretary of the Westminster based All Party Parliamentary group for 12 Step Recovery.

She told delegates from faith and non-faith groups who were attending the Conference at Emmanuel Church, Northwood on October 26: Addiction is associated with grief. We can all develop an addiction to anything that numbs our pain. Addiction means you lose the person you could have been. To most people I looked fine on the outside but inside I was broken. I was an alcoholic. I have been clean and sober for 15 years.

Living through bankruptcy, she said she finally sought help as a 35-year-old mother-of-two.

She spoke about the 12-step programme which includes letting go of “the rucksack” of burdens and emotions, making amends with the people you love and admitting your mistakes.

She said: You have to look at it and let it go. I grew up in a family who didn’t say sorry. I still make mistakes but now I admit them. It’s difficult to feel and accept our emotions if we don’t know what to do with uncomfortable feelings. In recovery we learn to regulate our emotions. You have to give people permission to feel. You have to tell them the difficult truth: they need to change.

Dr Duggan said she heard about death and relapse all the time. She said: One man in addiction on the street said he would have strangled his best friend for dry cardboard.

Three women a fortnight are killed by a current or former partner and one in four can by affected in their lifetime by domestic violence. These were among the alarming statistics presented by Judy Roth, volunteers co-ordinator at Jewish Women’s Aid.

She said women were affected from all communities and spoke about the various definitions, including gaslighting, coercive control and cyber-technology.

Tell-tale signs to look out for including wearing a lot of make-up, covering up more than usual and social isolation.

She said: It’s about power and control. The most common ages are between 16-25 and the average number of years before asking for help is nine and a half years. If you notice signs try and talk to her separately and explore the relationship. Don’t express shock or horror. Talk about the services available and help them feel believed, not blamed.

When she gave a list of reasons why women don’t leave – stigma, shame, nowhere to go — it was suggested the real question should be why don’t men stop? She added the most dangerous time was when a woman has decided to leave. It was vital that they had a plan in place first.

Several workshops were held in the afternoon session. Delegates were able to choose from: Supporting those bereaved by suicide, mindfulness, an introduction to mental health first aid, unconscious bias, supporting clients by telephone and supporting bereaved children and young people.


Judy Silverton, Chair Conference Planning Group, spoke about the trials of the Covid years with one benefit; the men are helping with the chores. She also thanked everyone for attending and paid special tribute to the work of Jack Lynes, former Chairman of Bereavement Care, who died earlier this year.


Councillor Debbie Morris, Chair of Three Rivers District Council, provided a summary to close proceedings.

Report by Jane Harrison

Photographs by Jeanette Leibling