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Donna is a member of Stockwood STAR – a bereavement peer support group that was set up by Jan Perry, a community development worker, and a group of volunteers in 2019. STAR stands for ‘Share Talk and Remember’ and provides a space for people who have experienced a loss to come together, share their stories and support one another through bereavement.
Donna found out about Stockwood STAR through the app, Next Door, which Jan was using to spread the word. Donna had attended bereavement support groups in the past, however these groups had been specifically for parents who had lost children which Donna found too intense. Donna said, “I was really struggling with everybody else’s grief. It was very difficult to have your time as well.”
Whenever someone has a bereavement it is a very individual experience, and for Donna, the STAR group was what helped her cope. The group was smaller, more intimate and had an intergenerational age range, additionally members had experienced different types of bereavements with varying lengths of time since they had been bereaved, which helped Donna feel more relaxed in the group. “I believe that grief is a journey, and it was helpful to me to talk to people at different stages of the journey, particularly when I’m having a bad time of it, those people will help me to cope.”
As the Stockwood STAR group is developed around the concept of peer support, members are encouraged to have their say in the running of the group and various activities have been trialled from sharing coping mechanisms to writing poetry together.
For Donna, the group has been an opportunity to “be open” about her bereavements. There has been both laughter and tears. Donna said, “It’s a very individual thing but you can get a lot of support from knowing other people have been through it as well. It’s definitely the people that make the group – peer support means knowing there are people there for you.”
After attending her first session, Donna was able to sleep for the first time in months. “When I come out I feel very light, unburdened. It’s nice to be able to talk to people and come away feeling so different. You wouldn’t think a group meeting would make such a difference.”
As a way of giving back, Donna now volunteers as a part of the Stockwood STAR team to help promote the group further.
With support from Bristol Ageing Better and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, Jan is aiming to create a network of self-sustaining STAR peer support groups across the patch and has launched a new series of free training workshops starting in July for people to learn how to set up bereavement peer support groups in their communities.
The training takes place over the course of 5 weekly sessions and there are a variety of days and times to suit applicants.
To find out more about the training and to register your space, visit Eventbrite:
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