Supporting bereaved parishioners in Young
When loved ones die, the world stops. Dealing with loss and grief is overwhelming and it can be hard just to keep going let alone make the necessary decisions and plans.
At St Mary’s Parish in Young, that’s where the Grief and Bereavement Team steps in.
The team started eight years ago and, according to co-ordinator Trish Saines, has become a busy and essential part of the Parish.
“The idea of the team is all thanks to Fr Richard Thompson,” Trish said.
“He started it when he was here. I wasn’t part of the team back then but have been involved for about five years.”
The team is called to action when local funeral directors are advised of a death in the parish.
“They notify us when someone has died,” Trish explained.
“We contact the families and make an appointment with them if they want our help. We talk to them, help arrange the Funeral Mass book for them, find out what they want to do for the service … whether it’s a requiem Mass, a graveside service, or just prayers.
“We can collect photos for them, get the book printed and check they are happy with it, and so on.
“Afterwards, if they want, we can catch up with them at around two and six weeks to see how they are doing.”
The team comprises six members. Alongside Trish is Brian Hislop and wife Barbara, Jayne Bokkerink, Sharon Hamill and Joy Cameron. They work on a roster due to high demand and need more volunteers.
While it can be confronting, particularly at the beginning, Trish said it was a rewarding and necessary service.
“It is a tough time, but helping people through it is very enriching,” she said.
“People are dealing with the loss of someone who played a large part in their lives, and it can be overwhelming.
“We try to help people through their process, listen to them and let them lean on us so we can take some of the load from them.”
Trish stresses that the team does not seek to be a counselling service.
“The priest contacts families as well, and sometimes accompany us when we visit families,” she said.
“It’s nice to have the priest there and I think it helps the family.”
Trish has previously worked in a bank and said while she had many one-on-one appointments with clients, that did not prepare here for supporting people through grief.
“I think you just follow your heart and you develop better skills and experience as you go,” she said.
“I was pretty nervous when I started but you get past that and focus on the people you’re helping. You gain a better idea of what to say, what to do, how to react and provide better advice.”
Trish believes other parishes should consider establishing a Grief and Bereavement Team.
“We’d be more than happy to talk to other parishes and help them get started,” she said. “It’s a great service to people suffering a loss.”