We were a happy group of people. I suppose that the fact that we gelled so well was because we all had the desire to help people who were having trouble getting to grips with a loss. We had all had our own losses of various degrees of awfulness. The really surprising thing was how quickly we came to trust each other. On the first day we had a practical exercise, when we had to tell a story that had happened to us - another was a 'listener' and the third an observer. Even on that occasion, some very deep tales were told. The listening bit is the most important part of being a bereavement visitor. This pattern of excercise was often repeated. The speaker either told something of importance to themselves or played the part of someone who had a problem eg had got stuck and was not progressing through the mourning process. The listener was the one who was learning. It was a bit hair-raising sometimes. It gave you a hint as to what you might meet for real and could you cope? The observer and the speaker gave positive criticism after. I learnt that I could listen fine but there were weaknesses in the process after that. I know that I will be able to do better for real after those excercises.
We spent much time over the training period brainstorming various things such as 'what is a good/bad death', why are some people having trouble grieveing, various complictions in grief, what make good listening, handling silence. A knowledge of grief and the process of mourning and the many things that can get in the way are all helpful when trying to be helpful. The most important thing that we had to learn was that we were not there to advise or make it better. We are there to listen (always needed by someone in mourning) and to enable the mourner to make progress.
I now wait, with some trepidation, for my first call to visit.