Asume, Attract

Challenges: Bereavement

Client bereavement (or moving to a care home or hospital) had clear impacts on the volunteer. Bereavement featured as a strong concern for those volunteering but also for organisations that were supporting volunteers. Volunteering in this area was acknowledged as a challenge in that those who they were interacting with were on a certain journey with an ending.

Positively, volunteering could be seen as a distraction or support function for those experiencing bereavement in their own family. Carers, for example, often kept volunteering or attending the same groups after a loss as they had come to see them as ‘family’ or a link to the person they had lost. However, it was noted by several people that this had to be handled very sensitively and there were a few examples where it was actually inappropriate.

The findings indicate also that the initial loss, when a volunteer first loses someone they are spending time with, is one of the more traumatic moments of the volunteering cycle. Here we see that people build up their resilience, but still are emotionally affected by the loss. The findings also indicate that volunteers cut across settings and the movement of those in each setting affects the volunteer not only in their activities, but also emotionally. Volunteers would try to accompany people on their journeys and would sometimes find that negotiation a challenge on their time and resilience.

I don’t say you get hardened to it, but when I first started working at […..], I used to get attached to people. I know when they die. And then I thought, well, this is silly, you know. And, course my boss were a very matter of fact. Pull yourself together [name], you know. So I pulled myself together…..But yeah, yeah, you know, you, sort of, get hardened to it. But yeah, you still, you know, feel it (Female volunteer, Cumbria).

It used to trouble me when people were…we lost five residents just one after the other. They’re in their nineties. You know, it wasn’t a thing…each one was expected in a different way, but I found that hard when they had five empty seats {Female volunteer, Stirlingshire).

I found that quite stressful because she ended up in hospital and I felt really bad because she couldn’t come back to [care home]. She had to go to another nursing home. They don’t do nursing care here so that was a wrench but I kept going to visit her in her nursing home. So I found that quite hard, you know, still maintaining that and trying to keep up with everything that was going on at [care home] as well (Female volunteer, Stirlingshire).