Travelling to York on Saturday I was still feeling apprehensive about whether it was the right thing to do and about I would meet. I haven't 'met' others who have suffered a loss the same as me face to face and although I've shared our story on the FSID website and in their 40 years book I was anxious about sharing it with a complete stranger.
I hate entering a room of strangers on my own, it's a huge insecurity of mine and whilst I appear confident and outgoing I am quite shy and uncertain in situations like this however, I had no need to worry. I suppose as a befriender you can't be too shy or reserved and so as we all arrived we got chatting about the journey, parking etc you know the mundane chatty things strangers talk about.
It turns out there was a mix of us in the group with a few being experienced befrienders there for catch up training and the rest of us there to work on the skills required to be a befriender. It was also nice to meet members of the FSID team as well, Hafsa and Jean who were guiding us on the day and Gill Ryder who is the Regional Development Officer for FSID in the Yorkshire (and more) region.
I don't want to go into the ins and outs of the day but we started the day in pairs each telling the other our story with the aim being that we would then introduce our partner to the group. I was honoured to hear Mary's story about her grandson Edward and I think all of us were surprised at how emotional we all got, we shared parts of our story that we wouldn't normally share with a stranger and we came to the conclusion that as they'd been through a similar tragedy, subconsciously, we weren't afraid of upsetting or shocking that person as they could empathise with our situation.
The whole aim of befriending is to get the caller to open up and talk about the things they feel they can't with anyone else, knowing that the befriender can hear the bad parts of the story without glossing over it or telling you to pull yourself together. No one else knows the pain of losing a child suddenly and unexpectedly like another. They ring the helpline because they want to talk and I have to give them the space to do that, letting them know I am willing to listen to everything they have to say without offering the usual platitudes. You know the usual 'It'll get easier over time' or 'It's normal to feel this way but time is great healer' the things you say when you don't want to hear the bad bits and unconsciously cut the other person off.
I came away on Saturday with a confidence that I could do this and whilst it's not easy to hear someone's very sad story they need to tell it to someone so why shouldn't it be me! I was privileged to meet all those brilliant and brave Mums, Grandma's, Aunties and Granddad's who have all felt as I did and understood this ache that I have on a daily basis. They shared their story with me and I with them and they got it every single one them and I thank them for that.
Befriending isn't a massive commitment so I may receive contact only a handful of times in a year but once that contact is made it could be a longer term commitment involving a phonecall every couple of weeks or so or maybe even an email. Also once a year attending one of the family fun days run by FSID (which are free anyway) and taking an hour or two out of my day to be available to chat if I'm needed. Considering Alexander's Ball are funding the Yorkshire regions fun day for 2013 we shall definitely be there!
Thank You to Jean and Hafsa who made the day as comfortable as possible, who answered questions and sat patiently whilst we shared our stories and often went off the track sometimes!