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Providing support to bereaved carers

During Grief Awareness Week bereaved carers talk about the invaluable support they receive from Swindon Carers Centre.

 

When Roger’s wife, Jenny, died he was at a loss to know how to cope and to grieve.

Roger had cared for Jenny, his soulmate of 37 years, for eight years until she died in July 2021 aged 78. She had been living with dementia.

As a registered carer with Swindon Carers Centre, he joined a group we run for bereaved carers called the PATH (Planning an Alternative Tomorrow with Hope) Group. On the photo left, Roger is at the front on the left.

 

“Grief is something not to be scared of”

 

Roger said: “When you care for someone with dementia you try to pre-grieve, but Jenny’s death hit me like a sledgehammer. The first time I went to the PATH Group I was feeling really down and sorry for myself. Another carer at the group sat down beside me. She was smiling and I instantly felt at ease. I wasn’t on my own.

“At the group carers talk to each other about their experiences. We exchange how we feel; what makes us feel better and what makes us feel worse. Everyone who attends has their own strategies and we say the terrible loss we feel is normal because the people we have loved and lost are an important part of our lives.

“I learned to cope with my grief and my loss through attending the PATH group. Grief is a normal part of life; it’s something not to be scared of. The group is unique and I’m so pleased that Swindon Carers Centre offers it. It provides kindness and understanding at a very sensitive time.”

Roger now volunteers with Swindon Carers Centre supporting carers at our activities, including the PATH Group.

 

“The PATH group has been a godsend”

 

Jackie, another member of the PATH Group, said Swindon Carers Centre has been her lifeline since her husband, Keith, died in February 2023. Jackie cared for Keith for four years and they had been together for 46 years.

Jackie, who is pictured on the right at the far end of the table, said: “I just didn’t know life without Keith – we had been together the whole of my adult life. I was scared to go the PATH Group because I find meeting new people or going to new places quite challenging. But I’m so glad I did, because it has been a godsend.

“Everyone is so lovely and I have made so many friends, who will be friends for life. I often cry at the group and everyone understands and is supportive. I also go to other groups run by Swindon Carers Centre, including Walk & Talk. I just couldn’t have got through this year without this support. I’m so thankful.”

 

How does the PATH Group work?

 

The PATH Group offers support and friendship and meets every fortnight. It was started when a group of bereaved carers attended bereavement counselling with us and wanted to keep in touch. Other carers also said that after their loss they wished for support more than ever.

When a carer registered with us reports their dependent has died, we send a condolence card and a letter explaining that we are able to support them for 18 months post-bereavement.

Heather Goldsmith, Events Manager for Adult and Older Carers at Swindon Carers Centre, said: “At the PATH Group we have tears and laughter. Some great friendships have been formed and new experiences/hobbies are encouraged. When their 18-month membership is up, ex-carers have formed their own external group and continue to meet up for a coffee, lunch and several have joined a bowling club together.”

More than 150 bereaved carers have been involved in the PATH Group since it was set up in 2018. Due to the success of the group, we were asked by the national charity Carers Trust (of which Swindon Carers Centre is a network partner) to contribute to a toolkit which was rolled out to carer organisations nationwide.

Recently, the PATH Group was combined with our Love & Loss Group, which is for carers whose loved ones are living in a care/nursing home and are feeling a sense of loss.

We are enormously grateful to funders who support the PATH group – initially The Wiltshire Community Fund and currently Zurich Community Trust.

Also, the PATH Group has been selected by the Co-op Local Community Fund to receive funding. Shoppers who are members of the Co-op can choose Swindon Carers Centre as their chosen cause through their membership app or by logging in online. Every time you shop, Co-op will give us funds towards running our PATH groups (with no cost to the Co-op shopper). To choose us as your chosen cause, visit our page on the Co-op’s website here