Hope Bereavement Care provides vital support for Geelong adults grieving a loved one

Since 2011, Hope Bereavement Care has provided loss and grief counselling for adults in the Geelong region.

Supported by the Geelong Community Foundation, the Hope Adult Counselling Service offers information, support and counselling for people 18 years and older, who have experienced the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one. Hope also provides support and referral to people who feel alone in their grief.

Services provided include one-on-one counselling, a four-week ‘Learning to Live with Loss’ grief education program for women and group programs.

Established in 1985, Hope is a community-driven organisation which offers free information, support and counselling when grieving the death of a child, the sudden and unexpected death of an adult and those experiencing the loss after suicide.

Hope Bereavement Counsellor Christine Rawson who runs the Hope Adult Counselling Service said the program played a critical role in the Geelong community and its purpose came back to Hope’s mission statement.

“No one should be alone in their grief,” she said.

“For some people they really do feel so isolated in their grief,” Mrs Rawson explained.

“They truly feel they are the only ones going through it and they feel like their whole world has unravelled and they can’t contain it. They are often desperate to have some kind of reassurance they are going to be ok.”

‘We live in a world now where families are spread far and wide. For some people they might not have families close by or some people may have family here but they don’t want to burden their family members with their sadness. These people need another outlet, they need an independent outlet.”

“We contribute to minimising that isolation and lack of connection and belonging and fear that is there,” she said.

“We play a role in easing that and reassuring people it is going to be ok, you will get through this. You aren’t going to get over it because you don’t get over grief but it changes and we can reassure them that they will get through it.”

Mrs Rawson said the majority of her clients were women, aged 25 to 64, bereaving the death of a parent or a spouse. Clients are often referred by Tuckers Funeral & Bereavement Service, or find out about the services through GPs, agencies, friends and families or online.

Ms Rawson usually sees clients (men and women) for one-on-one counselling. Hope then offers “Learning to Live with Loss” programs twice a year for women. Clients can then choose to join an ongoing monthly support group which is peer leader.

In the past six months, Hope has provided support through the Adult Counselling Service for 55 clients. The majority came from Geelong, with a small number from other areas including the Surf Coast, Colac Otway, Golden Plains and Queenscliff.

“Learning to Live with Loss” is a free, four-week grief education program for women who have experienced the recent death of a spouse or partner. The programs are held in partnership with Tuckers and cater for up to 14 people each time.

Held twice a year, Mrs Rawson said demand for the programs was high and increasing with a waiting list for the March program.

“What a lot of people say is often they don’t want to burden their own family anymore. They often say their families or friends don’t understand because they weren’t in the relationship with their husband/spouse,” Mrs Rawson explained.

“With the women in the group, even though everyone’s journey is different and unique, there is a common thread. There are a lot of similarities in regard to how they feel and think and integrate into the community, how they feel physically and how they cope. There are so many aspects of their grief which they recognise are so similar. But they also realise that people will be at different stages in their grief.”

Shirley McDonald attended Hope’s ‘Learning to Live with Loss’ program in early 2018, after her husband Allan passed away in 2017.

“It was a lifesaver for me,” she said.

“I don’t know what I would have done without it.”

“It was a place of confidence where you felt could speak of the death of your loved one without feeling guilty, because there is a lot of guilt sometimes. Amongst all of the tears you are able to discuss these issues and hear someone else say ‘that’s exactly how I felt’ or ‘that’s what I did’. And you felt that you weren’t alone.”

Mrs McDonald said the coping strategies she learned through Christine were also extremely important.

“I don’t know what I would have done without it (the program) because I have been the type of person who has put on a happy face. From when Allan had his first stroke it was 11 years until he died. We did everything together and all of a sudden he wasn’t there. I put on a happy face but I realised I had done the wrong thing because everyone assumes that you are ok. It wasn’t until I went to this course that I realised how much help I needed.”

“If I didn’t have someone like that I don’t know where I would be.”

‘Learning to Live with Loss’ was created about four years ago as a result of a need for support for people over the age of 18, in the early days after a loss.

“The model came about because there used to be monthly meetings in Geelong with women meeting at the Wesley Centre,” she said.

“There was a real sense they needed quite a lot of grief education and psychological first aid.”

“You had women coming to the group who understood the grief education and were quite a bit further along in their grief journey. Then you would have someone join the group who was newly bereaved. Often, they didn’t feel quite connected to those who had been coming for some time so it was decided we would run this four week program to provide an intensive grief education for those women. It has been really successful, we have really found that this model works.”

After attending the four-week program women have the opportunity to attend a monthly peer-led support group.

“They aren’t left high and dry after the four week program, they are connected in the community. What we have seen is there are these beautiful friendships which emerge from that support group.”


 If you or someone you know is grieving the death of a loved one and needs support, please contact Hope on (03) 4215 3358 or go to www.bereavement.org.au