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Raynes Park Bereavement Service - First Annual Report


The Service, managed by Christ Church, West Wimbledon, was launched in December 2014 and in that time has received 49 referrals. 34 of these referrals were from people given the information by their GP and the remaining 15 from other sources e.g. Age UK Merton, local newspaper, Women’s Refuge. Of the 34 referrals originating from GPs, 28 of these were from the Lambton Road practice and only 6 from other practices. 

All befrienders and our supervisor are volunteers. We have received a grant from the diocese to cover training and admin costs. 


We have recruited and trained a total of 12 ‘befrienders’, currently we have 6 people regularly seeing those bereaved. (Some of the volunteers have dropped out, discovering this was not for them, others for personal reasons.) We have held two full days training sessions, the second of which was joint-training with the RC Bereavement Service based at the Sacred Heart Parish in Edge Hill, SW19. The first day was led by a trained counsellor and the second day by the director of training at St. Christopher’s Hospice. 


Our service is fortunate to have Breeda Fitzpatrick as our counsellor adviser. Breeda worked until recently as a counsellor at Wimbledon Guild. The group of befrienders meets regularly (about every 6 weeks) with Breeda. The sessions provide ongoing training and support. Indeed since we started, all the befrienders have grown in their ability thanks to the shared experiences of the group. Breeda also provides one to one telephone support to befrienders when requested. Two members of the group attended a training session at St Christopher’s Hospice on the particular needs of older people at times of bereavement. 

Sacred Heart RC Parish, Wimbledon 

We have worked closely with the Bereavement Service offered by the local RC church, as already indicated in terms of joint-training. Whilst they operate on a slightly different basis than ourselves, we find that we work together collaboratively. For example, on one occasion we took on someone referred to them whom they thought we could assist more effectively,

because of the person’s close ties to their parish. Their service additionally offers a monthly drop-in group session. We’ve agreed that people referred to our service are also welcome to join this group. Our working relationship with our ‘sister’ group has given us a further dimension to our learning about bereavement. 

Referrals to the Service 

Befrienders meet bereaved people mainly at Lambton Road practice – the practice gives us one of the doctor’s rooms to use on Wednesday afternoons. (A room at Christ Church is also used on occasions.) People are offered a session of up to one hour. For some people one session is enough and for others several sessions have been given. (The decision on the number of sessions is largely the choice of the bereaved person.) Some people have had up to 6 to 10 sessions. 

Whilst we are based at Christ Church and most of the volunteers are members of that church, our service is offered without reference to anyone’s personal belief. 

The initial referral to the service is made either by phone or email. The phone is held by Chris Larkman (Service Co-ordinator) who takes responsibility for answering it or checking for messages. (Lucy Christie deputises for Chris when he is away.)

The spectrum of situations befrienders have been confronted with has been vast:

   - People who have died recently. People who have died some years ago Partners, parents, siblings, sons or daughters, friends

   - Suicides

   - Cot death

   - People of all ages in terms both of those who have died and those bereaved (though we have not and probably would not undertake befriending a child.

   - Parents of a suicide – we met separately.

   - We have also ‘filled a gap’ when someone who contacted us was waiting for another service ‘holding’ them through difficult weeks.


Although we do not request feedback from the people we meet, we have received many complimentary remarks, 

Are we ‘Befrienders’ or ‘Counsellors’? 

The simple answer is that we are not ‘counsellors’ – we could not use that term because we have neither the qualification nor the training to claim such a title. On the other hand we are more than the term ‘befrienders’ implies. Precisely because our training and shared experiences, we’re able to ask some relevant questions and at times to offer reassurances. 

Conclusion and the Future 

The project has proved our original assumption of the need for a bereavement service. We have learned that a majority of our referrals have come via GPs. The usual scenario appears to be: a patient speaks to their GP about a bereavement.

GPs recognize they can only give a short time to the patient. They are then able to reach for one of our cards and offer it to their patient in the knowledge that we will be able a) to give time to listen and b) respond quickly to their request. 

Chris Larkman (Co-ordinator)

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