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BAB is a partnership of individuals and organisations working together to reduce isolation and loneliness among older people in Bristol.
Jessica is a volunteer at the newly established BS3 STAR group– a bereavement peer support group that took inspiration from the original Stockwood STARs. 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. It was first set up by Jan Perry, a local community development officer, who is now working on a series of training workshops to help set up new STAR groups across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
Jessica experienced the loss of her dad at a young age and wanted to volunteer because she knows the value and importance of having a space where people can talk about their loss. “People can get a bit funny about death, it’s hard to know what to say,” said Jessica. “That’s why I thought having a space like this where bereaved people can talk would be so beneficial.”
Jessica finished her training back in Spring 2021 and has helped with a range of tasks involved in setting the new group up including everything from admin tasks to making lots of cups of tea. A few weeks ago, she helped facilitate the first session in BS3. “I came away from the session thinking that everyone who had attended got so much out of it,” said Jessica. “It was a small group, and it was really nice to see the journey people went on. You could tell at first that they had been anxious about coming into that space, but once they were able to talk openly you could see them lifted up and the session ended quite joyfully.”
For Jessica, the training and the group has also led to a change in her outlook on loss. “Grief was a big part of my identity growing up but so many people go through it and meeting people who are older with different types of bereavement has been beneficial. I’ve sort of said goodbye to grief being such a big part of my personality.”
The volunteers bring different strengths and skills to the group but one thing that Jessica identified as being particularly important is having the ability to empathise and to listen to members of the group. “It can feel like you’re not doing a lot because for the majority of the time you’re sat quietly listening, but that’s a wonderful thing to give someone the space to talk about their feelings without them having to worry about upsetting anyone.”
If volunteering with a peer bereavement support group sounds interesting to you, please contact Jan to find out more, email@example.com
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