The university staff have been so kind to me that I didn’t feel that I could say no when I was asked to attend the first meeting of the new season of the Bereavement Support Group. Not as a client but as one of the experts!
There were supposed to be 5 first years coming along as part of their induction offer but only 4 of them arrived so I don’t know anything about one lad. Two of the other four had been raised by a single parent who then had died when the student was still at school. The other 2 had lost one parent each but still had one left – the parents had died through illness or accident.
It sounds rather disloyal to say this but I didn’t think that the University Chaplain who hosted this first meeting had given enough (any?) thought as to what the students were thinking or feeling. I don’t imagine that he had the slightest idea if any or all of them were active, or even passive, Christians before launching into an opening prayer. You get one chance to make a first impression and I think he flopped fairly spectacularly.
Most of the meeting was quite informal. My only solo contribution was telling the new under graduates a little bit about my history. So now they all know that I have something in common with them and that I am talking from first-hand experience about losing a parent – or in my case losing both! The two boys found it harder to express their emotions than the girls and I think that stupid belief that “real men don’t cry” does so much damage in cases like this.
One of the girls reminded me of how I must have been three years ago. Rather battered around the edges and still having to struggle to get through the dark days that used to arrive without warning. It was something in her eyes that was the most poignant part of how she looked. I could tell that she was looking for friendship with a “like minded” person but I know, believe me I know, that she needs to find her day-to-day support and companionship with people on her course or people who share her outside interests. A post-graduate PGCE student isn’t really what she needs at the moment.
After the meeting had ended and the students had left the volunteers and the group co-ordinator had a 15 minute de-brief. We all agreed that we would not want the Chaplain, who had already left, to attend future meetings. I’m pleased that I did agree to take part in the group and I think I will continue to attend the regular sessions.