A LOCAL charity, that saw a gap for bereavement support in Winchester, has celebrated its 40th anniversary as it continues to support people deal with grief following the death of a loved one.

Winchester Bereavement Support (WBS) celebrated 40 years of the volunteer led service with a picnic in a member's back garden.

The charity was founded in 1982 by a group of people concerned that bereavement support was missing in the local area. The support group was established by a social worker, a psychiatrist, a clergyman and a worker from Age Concern.

Forty years on, WBS continues to support 80-90 clients a year with face-to-face visits, emails and phone calls to the client’s needs.

Its mission statement remains the same: “To meet a client’s need in terms of the acceptance of grief; to recall the dead with sadness rather than pain and to regain an interest in life.”

Leonie Mountney was appointed as chair of WBS in May. She said: “We’ve probably done a lot of good work in 40 years.

“The national bereavement charity, Cruse, doesn’t see Winchester as a big enough area to have a local branch so that was the reason it was set up 40 years ago.

“We have between 35 and 40 bereavement visitors and they are pretty much always involved with at least one client and quite a few involved with more. In terms of the demand that would indicate that it is important to have bereavement support.

“To have someone to turn to you lose someone you love, and life isn’t looking good at all is really important.”

Leonie got involved with the charity after a friend and bereavement visitor suggested she had the right skills to volunteer.

The chair added: “One thing I really noticed when I got involved with the charity was how professional everyone is.

“Every bereavement visitor has access to a supervisor who are professionals within the field of counselling and therapy and on an entirely confidential basis they meet to discuss cases and get advice and support.

“The people who are providing support to others get the support they need in a very professional way.”

The free service is available via a 24-hour answerphone number and email, with volunteers responding the same day.

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Bereavement visitors organise regular meetings with their clients until they feel they’re in a position to carry on without them. This could be a couple visits or regular meetings for as long as a year and a half.

Andrea Jacobs, WBS secretary said: “Today at WBS, we continue to recognise that bereavement is a very personal experience, and we react to it in many different ways. We may feel shocked, frightened, helpless, guilty, angry, depressed, lonely, lacking in confidence. We may also feel tired, nauseous, restless and have difficulty sleeping. These feelings may have been particularly difficult when a bereavement occurred during the pandemic crisis. Whether the bereavement was recent or long ago, talking to someone who understands may help.”

All volunteers undergo extensive training, have a qualified supervisor and are DBS checked in line with legislation. The charity is currently looking for more people to become bereavement visitors with the next set of training taking place from October to January.

The service can be self-referred or prescribed by GPs, hospitals and other health agencies.

For more winchesterbereavementsupport.org.uk/.

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