Mel Mobley is Katharine House Hospice’s bereavement and counselling lead. She has worked at the hospice for the last 12 years, first as a staff nurse in the inpatients unit and then as deputy ward manager. She has also worked in the community nurse specialist team, so brings a wide experience of care at the hospice to her role.

‘When the position of bereavement and counselling lead came up at Katharine House I was at a point in my career that I wanted to do something a little different. The role suits me well as I’m also currently  doing a counselling degree to become a counsellor. I’m very interested in people’s personal psychological journey and that sits really well with the lead role.

My days are so variable that it’s hard to think of a ‘normal’ one and, of course, things are different since COVID-19. On a Monday morning I try to connect with Pam, the Living Well administrator. She is key to what I do as she collates all the information and hands over everything that I need to know. 

My role is meant to be 9am-5pm on the three days a week that I work, but it isn’t especially like that at the moment. I’m very busy with volunteers to manage and I support up to four people who are bereaved. They are family and friends of people who have died in the hospice, or in the Horton hospital - or anywhere in our area. I remember one client recently, who realised that they weren’t coping as well as they thought they would, becoming less tolerant and more snappy with those around them. Initially they had declined bereavement support but months later rang and said, “OK, I really don’t want to carry this alone any longer. What can you do to help?”

People who need bereavement support in the hospice’s area can be referred to us by their GP, other health care professional, or self-referrals. First we do an assessment and then we match up that person with a trained volunteer support worker who is able to sit with that person through their grief and support them during a period of time that’s potentially very difficult. 

Some people don’t need any support as they have a network in place around them already. They have family and friends who are available in their time of need. But other people need to speak to someone outside of their family and friends and express what their feelings and thoughts are surrounding a loved one’s death. Sometimes we see people for two sessions and that’s all they need, but other people are with us for much longer than that. It’s often over the first anniversaries of a death when people particularly struggle, but we support them right through from the early stages if they need it.

We also support children, especially in the south Northamptonshire area where there isn’t another charity that supports children who are bereaved. We have volunteers who have been trained in supporting those children and that’s something we would really love to grow in the future, but it’s about having the volunteers and money to be able to do this. We would like to develop a creative framework to help children access their grief in a different way and hopefully in time that will come to be. It’s in our planning, but because of COVID-19 things have changed a little.

It’s very grounding for me to be involved with the people we support as it reminds me why I’m doing this job. 

To see people being able to live again and to have a small amount of hope in their life once more is an amazing thing to be able to walk through with someone. 

In the morning, I read my emails and liaise with my colleagues as needed. I love a large mug of tea before I start to catch up with the assessments of clients and then allocation of clients to support volunteers. organising and writing training sessions takes a big proportion of my time too.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I would have spent time at our bereavement café, which we ran monthly at the hospice for people who were either waiting for bereavement support or didn’t want one to one support but would prefer it from a group. The bereavement café was proving to be really helpful and it was growing in its success. It was a really positive environment to come to as people were able to share their bereavement experiences and stories. It was also a network that provided people with opportunities to link up outside of the group, which was absolutely what we had hoped would happen. 

Because it’s been a challenge to support those who were attending the bereavement café we’re looking to start another soon via Zoom. 

At lunchtime, I like to actually have my lunch! If I have had a difficult call with a client I might feel the need to be on my own (I don’t always like a lot of chat around) so that I can reflect on what’s been going on. Sometimes I need space and other times I need a laugh around the table with others.

Throughout the day I also spend time managing our team of 11 trained volunteers, who are an essential part of the bereavement service that we offer at the hospice. I’m helped by a trained counsellor and another volunteer.

We also have a further 11 volunteers who I also support. They were half way through training when Covid-19 hit, so it’s had to be paused - they have become volunteers in waiting. Training sessions are often in the evening or the weekend and it’s an intensive course as the volunteers must undertake 50 hours of training before supporting a bereaved client. At the moment we support our trainee volunteers with fortnightly Zoom sessions until their formal training can re-start

The best part of working with our bereavement volunteers is seeing them grow and increase in confidence sitting with clients, enjoying what they're doing and having a sense of purpose. They are amazing people and I love supporting them. Our longest serving volunteer has been with us for 14 years.

Out of work, I really love walking my dog through the forest or local fields. That’s the best relaxation for me after my busy and stimulating days.’

Katharine House Hospice