A Personal Message From Bereavement UK Founder Alex James
Many years ago, when people first started to have home computers, I had my first computer. It was a huge bulky contraption and to be honest it was a bit scary. Not one for attending lessons, I spent time finding my way around it and learning how to access different areas alone. I got a Hotmail account and along with this came a thing called MSN. MSN had a chat room and it was from this and from work that I was doing at the time, that I began to explore the idea that bereavement support could be offered on line in live chat. I started to look further afield and found a few MSN groups, one, in the States , run by a bereaved mother, seemed very interesting. It had around fifty members and they shared their stories and supported each other, they also chatted in a chat room. So I offered my services as a volunteer support and I was very quickly receiving e mails from all over the world. At one time I was receiving dozens of emails every day 24/7 /365 .With Christmas time and New Year being the busiest. I soon realised I’d taken on something huge when as when other agencies closed or were on a break, my little MSN was overloaded. After all grief isn’t a 9-5 thing is it?
All of this made me curious, my interest in bereavement services grew. I travelled around, talked to people all over the UK. I visited hospital bereavement services, funeral directors, clergy, police liaison, organisations and helping agencies. These meetings coupled with my experiences of the bereaved gave me a very clear picture- Although there were some excellent agencies offering support, bereavement really wasn’t at the top of any ones agenda for discussion or input. In fact in those days bereavement services were quite shoddy and there was this sense of taboo, and a real mountain of unaddressed issues, in particular, for the bereaved themselves.
I started to collate information and to research what people wanted and felt they needed. Then I started to work on an MSN group here in the UK and from that bereavement.co.uk emerged. Bereavement UK on MSN was around for a long time before I wrote ‘Living With Bereavement’ and when I wrote the book I formalised the website.
I know there are other groups out there I believe one or two have the group name bereavement UK. Although these are nothing to do with us, I am pleased that there are still groups like the old MSN offering support and sharing, – there’s room for everyone on board isn’t there, providing they are for the good, that’s why we need to be more open and less afraid of sharing.
So , where were we, oh yes, the book , it was a voice for the bereaved, written from the many experiences people had shared with me over the years.I wanted to lift the lid on things that people weren’t really talking about.The book was published and although it wasn’t a best seller, it funded a couple of O-zone machines for hospitals.( these take smells out of the air , particularly in bereavement areas ). Since then I’ve worked on the website every day answering emails and offering support. Now I want to take it further
I’ve been called a visionary, an innovator, a loose cannon by some, and told that I should follow my bliss by those who see my vision .
Today I’m working on new ideas for the site that will bring together those that seek help with those that offer it.We will cover everything eventually.We all have so much to learn from each other, non of us are experts in the lives of others and it is only by sharing what we know and listening that we learn. I want to offer you a place to do just this with some interesting fresh ideas.
For a long time I tried to gain the interest of publishers because I wanted to develop a magazine for bereavement. I was looking at a magazine display in a shop and saw there were magazines about everything ….from how to crochet , sail, to how be a parent , but nothing on dying or grief and I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to sail or crochet, some of us might, some may or may not be parents, but we are all going to experience a death of a close loved one and we are all going to die at some time. I tried so hard to get the magazine going and in the end I managed to fund eight issues on line, but to be honest they cost me a fortune to do and I just couldn’t keep funding them. Since then, several hard copy magazines have emerged and I’m pleased to say I write for most of them as a contributor and Agony Aunt.( the original bereavementuk magazines have been archived).
I’m on a mission I guess, to activate and encourage conversations, I say” lets be brave and not hide behind euphemisms like lost and gone to sleep, lets look at life and death and share our stories and help each-other to understand a little more.”
The website today is geared towards everyone and I want it to be a place where everyone can access what they need. I know it’s a strange concept having a kitchen on the site but I’ve thought about this for a very, very long time, I even approached a couple of organisations, in the end I decided to forge ahead on this website.You know, we used to say the kitchen is the heart of the home, I’d like you to think of this website as a bit like that, a home- a safe place to share, a mix of an interactive magazine and a day time TV show geared to the bereaved and those who wish to support them. It’s Bereavement UK at home!
Bereavement UK won’t be the only website offering new ideas,but it is probably the only website that’s not a charity, is not externally funded and is completely free.This means that it is not constrained and is a platform for free speech, views and innovative ideas. We put people before statistics and we won’t bind ourselves with so much red tape that we can’t breathe – and I guess since you are reading this from your own space we won’t have to safety check you either ! ( I joke ), but seriously , all these restraints are a huge problem out there , if nothing else they stifle individuality and creativity ,which are unique gifts of being human !
I’m certain others will follow.We will be offering so much more in the future and I hope whoever you are that you will gain something positive from your visit with us and if our work here can help just one person, its worth it.
I look forward to hearing your views as always
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org