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Northern Trust bereavement comfort call service ‘well-received’ during pandemic

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has been providing a bereavement comfort call service during the Covid pandemic.

Antrim Hospital. Pic Google
Antrim Hospital. Pic Google

The service has been operating in association with Cruse Bereavement Care, Helpforce and Marie Curie since September 2020.

It offers support to those who have been bereaved after their loved one died in Antrim or Causeway Hospital by offering a listening ear and a “safe, confidential space to chat” to help people “adapt and cope with their loss”.

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Volunteers can also provide a pack with relevant information and provide direction to useful contacts for further support.

The team of volunteers is trained to provide an opportunity to chat through feelings and emotions associated with grief and loss.

The Northern Trust board was given an update on the work of the volunteer  service at a meeting on Thursday.  A volunteer told members that she has made 160 calls to bereaved families.

“It was very important for me to do that, to try to do something for families suffering a great deal, not just from Covid but through the circumstances of the pandemic,” she explained,

She went on to say that she calls a relative within seven days of a death.

“I  explain who I am, express sincere condolences and sympathy on the loss of their loved one. I have always found the calls to be well-received.

“I give the utmost respect to these families. A big part of my role is listening respectfully at all times. They are very respectful to me as well.”

She is often asked to convey the thanks of the bereaved families to hospital staff who have cared for their relative.

“That does bring comfort to families. They like to be able to say thank-you. The whole experience for me to date has been a very humbling experience.

“Since last year, many of the calls were Covid-related. It is very difficult for families. One thing is that loved ones were not able to sit with loved ones at the time of their passing.”

Another aspect, she said, was the difficulty of the restrictions surrounding a loved one’s death for mourners with coffins having to remain closed and restrictions on household mixing.

“It is not the normal grieving process here in Northern Ireland,” she added.

Relatives and people are going through a hard time through isolation of the pandemic and with grief. I have found it a very positive experience. I feel it has helped the families and helped the hospital as well.”

Trust chairman Bob McCann said: “I know people who have received the calls and are very grateful.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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