WHAT IS THE BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT NETWORK (BSN)?
For most of us losing someone will be the most devastating and distressing experience we will ever have to face and can be frightening and overwhelming. Equally, you may be caring for someone who has received a terminal diagnosis or have received such a diagnosis yourself.
From our experience, we know that this can be even more difficult when living in a foreign country often separated from family and friends and living in a culture and system which is not fully familiar.
The BSN is a secular organisation which was set up in 2006 as a registered Association, to support English speakers during these very difficult times. This support is available to any English speaker no matter for whom s/he is grieving – a family member, spouse, partner, child, pet or friend.
We are based in the Var and, originally, provided support locally, however, for some years now, we have provided support throughout France by telephone or via one of the many video call platforms as clients prefer, whilst still providing face to face support in the Var. Services are confidential and free.
We are a committed and diverse group with a wealth of relevant skills and experience and, although we are not counsellors, all of our volunteers receive comprehensive initial and ongoing training and operate under a system of supervision. Importantly, we have all experienced the loss of someone close to us and/or supported those facing death or suffering from anticipatory grief as a carer. We know the value of support or we have joined the group simply because we wish to use our skills and experience to help others.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “SUPPORT”?
In general, it means being there for someone. We believe that the single, most important thing that we do is listen. Everyone’s grief is individual to them, there is no right or wrong way to grieve and we recognise the value of allowing people to talk about their grief and how it is affecting their life. Sometimes being reassured that what they feel is perfectly normal can be comforting on its own.
A common area of concern is that people feel that they do not want to burden their friends and family. Often, they are unable to express exactly how they feel to those closest to them for a variety of reasons or may not have any immediate family to turn to. Their situation can also be complex, especially if there are family divisions or disagreements which arise as a result of the loss. They may have their own health issues to contend with.
At a time of loss, everyday life can seem to be strewn with hurdles which appear overwhelming, especially in a foreign country. Perhaps they were tasks that your partner dealt with? Sometimes it’s easier to ignore them. Perhaps deal with them when you’re in a better frame of mind? The trouble is, they don’t go away – they increase in size and number and, before long, the reminders start to arrive, or the debit card is blocked, or the car insurance expires.
We find that a common source of added worry and concern is often practical issues which compound the feelings of grief. Talking about their situation can help to get things into a better perspective and allow them to get to grips with any administrative tasks. We may not have all the answers, but we have developed a lot of information and can signpost to other sources of help and information.
People do find it difficult to ask for help. In some cases, they simply feel that they shouldn’t need it. This often applies to men who adopt the “stiff upper lip” approach but grief is the same for them as it is for women.
GETTING IN TOUCH
It can be very difficult to pick up the phone that first time, but we are here to help. People contact us at various times after their loss and sometimes before. It can be in the following days, weeks or months or much later, sometimes years when perhaps another event has triggered or reignited deep feelings of grief.
So, if, after reading this, you feel that you would benefit from our support, please don’t hesitate to contact Sandra on 04 94 84 64 89 or 06 24 50 22 74 (07:00 to 23:00). She will take preliminary details from you and a volunteer will contact you soon after. Or, if you know someone who would benefit from our support, why not encourage them to make contact with us?
Our website also has some information and guidance which you may find useful and links to other relevant organisations.
Alternatively, if you feel that your personal skills and/or experience enable you to provide support to bereaved individuals or those affected by a terminal illness, why not call to discuss the possibility of joining the BSN volunteers?
•With thanks to Julia Jones, President of the Bereavement Support Network