Loneliness Awareness Week 2024

To mark Loneliness Awareness Week, one local resident has shared their experience of attending a Compassionate Café

Loneliness Awareness Week 2024

Tackling loneliness, together.

This week (10 – 16 June 2024) is Loneliness Awareness Week – an awareness-raising campaign that encourages people to make connections.  

Across Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, we are working to tackle the loneliness and isolation caused by bereavement and loss through our network of Compassionate Cafés. To mark Loneliness Awareness Week, one local resident has shared their experience of attending a Compassionate Café. They said:  

“We don’t really talk about death and dying, do we? And when we do it might be a short ‘I’m sorry to hear about your mum’ type of exchange with a friend or colleague at the water cooler. 

“When I parked in the car park of St Saviour’s Church in St Albans to attend the Rennie Grove Peace Compassionate Café, I had no idea what to expect. I felt a bit nervous as I was on my own and unsure of what feelings it might awaken in me.  

“Inside there were about eight volunteers, all wearing badges, welcoming people as they arrived which instantly made me feel at ease. One volunteer offered me tea or coffee and another smiling volunteer sat down next to me and held out a plate loaded with cake and biscuits.

“I had some shortbread – just to be polite really. And another piece… just to be polite again. 

“I felt like I should talk about death or dead people or something, as surely that was the point of being there? So, I started reminiscing about my dad and how he died when I was only 24 years old and, on reflection, why I felt that that was too young to lose a parent. 

“I wondered if I was doing this right and asked a question like “Is this okay? I don’t want to make you sad” but the lady reassured me there is no right way to do this and all of the volunteers are trained. 

“I look around and realise the room is buzzing with chatter – some faces are smiling and others are slightly more serious. Everybody seemed comfortable and a few people said they come here every time it’s on. I consider how loss and death do not always have to be sad topics of conversation. 

“There were approximately 18 people scattered around the tables and in among them the warm-hearted volunteers. I could tell how passionate the volunteers are about spending this time with people who may want to open up about personal grief.  

“We talk more about my sister and my mum and I share some more things about my dad. That I look out for him on television documentaries about Fleet Street in the ’80s and ’90s because that’s where he worked as a journalist.  

“I even share what it was that led him to his death aged only 50 and feel that there is no judgement, only empathy and kindness.  

“I realise that I don’t talk about this often anymore as it is a long time ago but I also see how it leads me on to share about my beloved grandad who died only two years ago with dementia and about my fear around getting older and being alone.  

“These are all quite significant thoughts that must have been sitting in my subconscious and were keen to clamber out of my brain; the power of shortbread, coffee and a kind smiling woman, perhaps. 

“Some people are chatting, some are listening…the conversation is varied from pets and hobbies to hospice care and funerals.  

“I talk to somebody else about the thought of being alone after being married to the same person for years and years and how difficult that must be. I imagine that somewhere like the Rennie Grove Peace Compassionate Café would offer a huge sense of relief and source of companionship to a bereft spouse.  

“What did I think overall? This was an opportunity to open up on mortality, wishes, feelings, memories…anything I wanted really. I felt welcome and accepted in a friendly and non-judgemental, safe space. I might go back as I think maybe we could all do with talking more about those we have lost and being there for others.  

“There are Compassionate Cafés spread around Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire and they are open to anybody affected by loss, such as a bereavement, who wants to meet others and feel less lonely.”