“In 2016, eighteen months after my wife Teresa died, I attended a WYS support day in Bristol and found it so helpful. To be able to walk into a room of people, all of whom had experienced a significant loss, was a breath of air to me. Everyone I spoke with just “got it”. It felt a safe place to share my story and learn about loss. It was a life changing moment in my grief journey!
I have come to realise that it is really important for us as individuals to come together, especially when we are bereaved to find support from each other. It can be particularly hard for us men to share our feelings and emotions sometimes, but it is such an important part of the grieving process, we can’t afford not to. If we avoid or deny grief, or choose anaesthesia to kill the pain, we are putting ourselves at risk. It is actually a more courageous thing to engage with our emotions; it helps us move through the process of grief and ultimately come to a better place.
In 2019 I was asked to head up the Bereavement Support for Men Project for the bereavement charity AtaLoss.org. This project aims to provide a safe space for small groups of men to come together with others who have been bereaved. They have validation of their experience, learn a little about what a grief journey can look like, have an opportunity to tell their story, pick up some tools to help them on their journey, have some great food, build new relationships. We also end up having some fun with the activities.
We are able to offer a wide range of experiences such as bush craft skills, canoeing on the Dart, cycling, walking, canal boat trip, survival skills, seven types of fire / fire pit skills, climbing challenges, archery, camping, and charcoal making. These have been based at Heatree Activity Centre on Dartmoor. We also have connection with Surrey Outdoor Learning Centre and are looking at other venues around the country.
I know how important it is when men engage with this stuff so I’m really excited to be part of a proposed new WYS befriender initiative led by Steve Smart to set up informal online gatherings over Zoom for widowers. There are currently 34 widowers on the WYS men’s Facebook group, but not much interaction. We are looking to encourage the participants to make connections and build relationships.
The aim is to provide opportunities for men to come along to some events in the future to experience the outdoors and learn some new skills both in their process of grieving and in the great outdoors. The online group is a great way to connect and find out more about what we’re planning. We will be getting back to meeting face to face one day,
so once connections are made and relationships built up, there will be lots of possibilities in the future for me and Steve to partner together on bringing widowers together on some AtaLoss.org support weekends”.