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Grieving: Helping hand & in English

TALKING with a trained listener can help the bereaved come to terms with their loss.

You may want to do so in English – which is where a body like the Bereavement Support Network of the Var (www.bsnvar.org) can help. It offers free telephone support nationwide or home visits if you live in its area.

Treasurer Sandra Carruthers said: “We are there to walk beside the person as they go through their grief. We can also be there for people suffering terminal illness, or those people caring for them.

“It is often a question of reassuring the person that what they are going through is normal; giving them permission to grieve.”

Mrs Carruthers said in some cases, people have lost a loved one in France, in others the death was abroad. “People may grieve because they weren’t able to be there in the UK with someone who was ill and died, whether a parent, uncle, aunt or child.”

BSNV president Mim Kay said: “We are usually able to organise support within 48 hours.”

The group has a “thick training file” it works through with volunteers and talks are arranged from expert speakers on topics like hospice care.

“No one is allowed near a client until they have completed the file, and they are given an experienced mentor as well,” said Mrs Kay. The number of listening sessions varies, according to the person’s needs. “It varies from seeing a person a couple of times to every week for six months or more.”

She added: “The other thing we give, which family may not be able to, is just being there in a non-judgmental way, not trying to advise.

“Some people think it’s better to just keep a stiff upper lip but it’s more and more recognised that it is effective to be able to talk.”

To arrange support call Mrs Carruthers on 04 94 84 64 89 or 06 32 35 31 24.

Other English-speaking help in France includes SOS Helpline (similar to the Samaritans): www.soshelpline.org (01 46 21 46 46) and a network of English-speaking counsellors – www.counsellinginfrance.com

Cancer Support France (CSF) supports Englishspeakers affected by cancer, whether personally or among those close to them - www.cancersupportfrance.org

The Association Funéraire de France (AFIF) has a helpline and website (including English sections) on practical matters concerning death and funerals: www.afif.asso.fr (Connexion also has a €5 helpguide on this topic, available via our website or by calling Nathalie on 06 40 61 71 97).

For those with financial concerns, Elizabeth Finn Care, a charity for Britons and the Irish, whose contact in France is Mary Hughes (Tel: 04 68 23 43 79) may be able to help with hardship grants and advice on benefits. Bodies like the British associations also offer practical help.

For other bodies in France involved in support surrounding death and bereavement see www.tinyurl.com/Grief SupportFrance.

Those with particular expertise include Association Elizabeth-Kübler-Ross France (ekr.france.free.fr), www.astree.asso.fr, www.favec.org (support for widow/ers) and the Croix-Rouge (its “Croix-Rouge Ecoute” service). The website www.sos-amitie.com offers a French telephone listening service like SOS Helpline.

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