Meet our Online Bereavement Counsellors, Ksenia and Kim
Sue Ryder Online Bereavement Counsellors Ksenia and Kim support people coping with grief through our Online Counselling Service. In this blog, they share how they support clients navigating through life and relationships after a bereavement, and explain why it's so crucial that Sue Ryder have put grief at the forefront of their work.
Ksenia, a Sue Ryder Online Bereavement Counsellor
Ksenia started in 2020, with 14 years experience in the sector
Ksenia wanted to work from home in order to spend more time with her family and help with childcare. She works 24 hours a week with Sue Ryder, and the rest of the week as a piano teacher.
She sees parallels between her two jobs as well. “It’s about listening. You have to be in tune with the music, or with the person!”
“You find a way to connect, allowing them space to tell their story, and share the pain, then move forward”
She embraces the unique challenges of working with loss and trauma, and says it is “a difficult moment in a client’s story. You have to slow down and depict little things.” She continues, “You work with every client in a unique way. You can’t predict what will happen next. You’re always on your toes, which is what I love!”
“Counselling is about gut feeling; you have to listen to yourself and the connection between mind and body.” Though it can be challenging, Ksenia says: “When you see how clients are at assessment, or in their first session, and then you find a way to work and connect with them, allowing them space to tell their story, and share the pain, and then move forward, there’s a real feeling of achievement.”
Putting grief at the forefront
She has been really pleased to see Sue Ryder putting grief at the forefront of their campaigns, with the launch of Grief Kind earlier this year. “I love the way Sue Ryder is taking grief and running with it. Grief Kind is amazing. I’m introducing it to all my clients.”
Ksenia says that opening up can be extremely difficult for many people. “How do we talk about death? How do we connect with other people? We need to make grief a normal conversation.”
Kim, a Sue Ryder Online Bereavement Counsellor
Kim started in 2021 after 20 years as a trained therapist
The free online counselling service has proved very popular since Kim joined last year. “I’ve got three new clients starting tomorrow!” she exclaims. “Their journey with me begins at the first session. We look at goals and what they want the focus of the sessions to be.”
Sue Ryder provides six sessions to each client. “You have to make sure that these are used for what’s important to them,” says Kim.
“The most important thing is building a relationship, to enable them to feel safe, and be on that journey together”
There are always common themes, she explains, “but you might find with the loss of a parent, they might want to look at guilt, for example. Or with the loss of a partner, just focus on coping day to day. There’s lots of different pieces, like a puzzle you need to put back together.”
“The most important thing is building a relationship, to enable them to feel safe, and for you to be on that journey together.”
“It’s really wonderful to see the process work. To see someone start raw, overwhelmed, not managing and when you end they’re coping differently and more resilient, it’s very rewarding.”
And while some people, such as those who have experienced a difficult bereavement, may think that they might need more than six sessions, Kim explains that it’s surprising how much can be achieved in a relatively short space of time. “One client asked ‘What can you do in that time?’ But she was amazed at the difference it made, and how much better she was coping.”
Ultimately, Kim says, it’s “not fixing it, but supporting them on that grief journey. We are a very small part of it.”
Support when people need it
The fact that the service is provided free of charge is also a crucial factor in making it accessible to a diverse range of people.
One client told Kim, “I want to thank Sue Ryder because my doctor said it would be a nine month wait for counselling, and I couldn’t afford to go private. Sue Ryder were there at the point when I needed it.”
Opening up about death and grief
Like Ksenia, Kim believes very strongly in opening up the conversation around death and grief in the UK. “We don’t talk enough about death,” she says. Her counselling sessions are important for “normalising thoughts and feelings. For example guilt, anxiety, what if and if only questions - they’re all okay.”
“We need to raise awareness that it’s okay to talk about death,” she continues. “People will sometimes cross the street to avoid talking to people who are grieving, but it’s okay if you don’t know what to say.”
Often, open communication can really help. “Talk to your loved ones about their wishes. I’ve got bereavement leaflets in the car, in case I meet someone that needs information. My children find it embarrassing, but I talk about it with my mum in a light-hearted way. I wouldn’t have felt able to do that 20 years ago.”
Online Bereavement Counselling
You are not alone. If you're struggling with grief, our Online Bereavement Counselling service offers free and professional video support.
A year in the life of a complementary therapist
Helen is Complementary Therapist Lead at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice. She gives an insight into what complementary therapies are, how they help people receiving care from our hospices and the challenges the team has faced over the last year.
A range of complimentary therapies
Helen, who has been a complementary therapist for 20 years, works alongside a team of volunteers to offer a range of complementary therapies to inpatients, outpatients, virtual day hospice members and carers.
“The treatments we give are a lot different in palliative care to any other form of treatments. Our treatments are a lot gentler – so we don’t give a firm massage and the reflexology points we use are different. The treatments we offer are also sometimes shorter for our patients.
“All together our treatments differ physically and mentally. Sometimes during a treatment we might listen to life stories from our patients, or chat to relatives in the room too.
“I really love it. It is very rewarding.”
Continuing to be there when it matters
However, following the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, Helen’s role significantly changed to help make sure the hospice could continue caring for local residents.
“The outbreak of the pandemic has been really challenging, especially without our volunteers being able to be with us on the inpatient unit with ongoing visitor restrictions.
“During the first lockdown, I took on a new role as PPE distributor for our Sue Ryder hospices and then during the second lockdown I became a lateral flow tester, testing visitors using our closed Sue Ryder shop on the hospice site. Everyone at the hospice was doing whatever needed to be done so we can continue to be there when it matters for the people of Peterborough.”
A virtual complimentary therapy session taking place on a computer screen
A virtual complimentary therapy session, part of the virtual day services now on offer
“Our members shared that they get a real benefit out of the virtual sessions”
Helen had to find new ways of providing treatments too.
“A year ago our day services became virtual, so we could continue to support people with neurological conditions via a weekly programme of virtual services and sessions.
“As part of this, three times a week I now offer virtual complementary therapy sessions to our members. I work with a member of the day services team to talk through and demonstrate a treatment on the screen – this could be reflexology or a head massage – and our day services members follow it through at home with a family member or carer.
“At first I didn’t think this would work virtually, but our members have become real experts at it – almost to the point that they don’t need me anymore!
“Our members have shared that they get a real benefit out of the virtual sessions, which is just lovely. Members’ carers and family members have really stepped up too. One members’ partner goes on to give the treatment three times a week as their partner enjoys it so much!”
Expanding the service to help more people
“In fact, our virtual complementary therapy sessions are working so well I am looking to expand it so we can give treatments to more people at home this coming year.”
Alongside this, Helen has other exciting plans to develop her service even further in 2022.
“I want to support people receiving bereavement care from our Family Support Team, offering them complementary therapy treatments at home. I would also really like to work more closely with our Hospice at Home team, offering treatments to patients receiving palliative care at home in Peterborough too.”
Back to being ‘hands on’ again
As some restrictions have eased, Helen is back giving ‘hands on’ complementary therapy treatments in the hospice, and has been able to welcome some of her volunteers back too.
“I now have a new complementary treatment room in the hospice. It is such a lovely, calming space with lots of ambient light and nice blinds and windows. It has a lovely, relaxing feel to it.
“To help raise funds for the hospice I have been offering treatments to our staff and volunteers, which is a great stress reliever to our care teams after they have worked a 12-hour shift. All I ask in return for a treatment is a donation to the hospice.”
“Patients tell me they feel so relaxed and the treatment is a welcome distraction for them”
Helen says she knows she has helped make a difference with feedback shared by patients or their family members.
“It is great when we receive lovely feedback from our patients or they ask for more visits. Patients tell me they feel so relaxed and that the treatment is a welcome distraction for them. When I am treating a patient on our inpatient unit we play spa music in their room so we can give them a really relaxing experience.”
Helen shares that there are a number of treatments which prove really popular: “Foot reflexology is very popular as it is the least invasive. The top to toe treatment is really popular too which includes a treatment for your back, head, neck, shoulders and feet.
“I really enjoy giving reflexology treatments and Indian head massage as it is the most intuitive for me as different pressure points relate to different parts of the body, and it is so relaxing. When I help relieve a headache or a back ache through treating the feet it is just so rewarding.”
A welcome to our new Sue Ryder Ambassadors
Sue Ryder welcomes Lisa and Richard on board after they both lent their time and support to our Grief Kind campaign – a national movement of kindness that aims to help more people provide ongoing support for friends and family.
Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder, said:
“We are thrilled to welcome Lisa and Richard to Sue Ryder. We very much hope that by them talking honestly about their experiences of grief, others will be encouraged to open up. They have both also provided some really useful guidance for people who want to know how best to support those close to them who are grieving.”
In their roles as Ambassadors, Lisa and Richard will help to raise the profile of Sue Ryder and its services, lend their support to boost the charity's various awareness campaigns and share their experiences of bereavement to enable people to have more open conversations about grief.
“I hope that in my new role I can help people speak freely about grief”
Lisa hopes to inspire more people to speak honestly about grief and would like to raise awareness of the free bereavement services provided by Sue Ryder. Lisa has opened up about her first-hand experiences with grief following the loss of her mum, Cath, and understands how difficult it can be – not only for those grieving, but for the people supporting loved ones through a bereavement.
Lisa Riley, BAFTA-winning actress, says: “I am so grateful to have the opportunity to support Sue Ryder as an Ambassador. I was recently a guest on the Sue Ryder Grief Kind podcast and I felt it was important to share my story as grief is something that still deeply affects me to this day, which I am sure many people can relate to.
“I lost my mum nine years ago, and I still sometimes question whether I am supposed to be ‘over it’. The truth is that it doesn’t go away, but is something you learn to live with, and the support of people around you can be vital in helping you cope.
“So many people experience bereavement, yet it’s something many don’t feel able to talk openly about.
“It can also be difficult to know how to support friends and family through bereavement, so I hope that in my new role I can help people feel able to speak freely about grief. I look forward to supporting Sue Ryder in the years to come.”
“Sharing experiences can really help someone trying to cope with grief”
Richard will continue supporting Sue Ryder, with the aim of opening up the conversation about grief and pointing those in need in the direction of Sue Ryder’s services for support. He was one of the well-known faces behind the charity’s Grief Kind photoshoot and video campaign, which helps people better understand how valuable their support could be for loved ones experiencing bereavement.
Richard Arnold, TV presenter and journalist, says: “I am honoured to be an Ambassador for this wonderful charity. It’s a cause very close to my heart, as everyone will be affected by grief at some point in their lifetime.
“After the death of someone close to you, it can seem like people feel awkward or uncomfortable when it comes to speaking about that person in your presence. This is perhaps because friends or family worry that it might upset you or serve as a painful reminder of their death, but in my experience, it is so important for those around you to continue to say their name.
“I hope that the conversation around death and bereavement becomes less of a taboo subject, as sharing experiences and feelings can really help someone trying to cope with grief.”
Our online bereavement support
Sue Ryder provides a range of online bereavement support, including free online video counselling delivered through trained bereavement counsellors, an online bereavement community forum offering 24/7 peer-to-peer support and a wide range of advice and resources for people who are grieving or supporting someone through bereavement.