When I founded BGSG in 2007 it was always an aim to have groups all over the UK.
Independent groups run by other grandparents who could support the grandparents who couldn’t get to our meeting here in Bristol.
I find it very distressing when grandparents contact us asking for help and want to join a group new them and there isn’t one. I know how important those meet ups are, and what a difference the make.
We always give support and help if needed when someone asks about starting up a group.
It is great to watch these individual groups popping up all over the country, it can at first seem a little daunting, just as it was for me when I first started.
Everyones approach is different.
I was asked yesterday, ‘what do I need to do to help others?’
Listening, is the most important thing.
You need to have empathy of course, it is very brave when a complete stranger makes that decision to come to your meeting, they have to feel safe and reassured.
It is not a place for you to talk about yourself, although at first others will want to know your situation, but once you have briefly talked about that, you need to focus on the others.
Everyone at the meeting wants to feel valued and that they can talk freely.
Confidentiality is paramount.
Whatever is said at those meetings must stay within those four walls.
A support group must be non-judgemental.
Never, ever give legal advice, you are not lawyers, in fact don’t give advice at all. You can make suggestions but the danger is that you advise a grandparent to do something and it goes horribly wrong, you will be responsible.
An example might be, a grandparent asks you if you think it is OK for them to hang around outside the grandchildren’s school, in hope that they might see them. You say, you think thats a good idea and go for it. The next you hear is that the grandparents has got into very deep water for doing it, including a visit from the Police. Actually to do this is not only foolhardy, but it is absolutely not fair on the children, what on earth are they expected to do or say, it puts them in an impossible and distressing situation.
You may come across grandparents who are suicidal, again you are not an expert, always have The Samaritans contact details ready, never try to deal with it yourself.
Telephone: 116 123
As I say, every group runs in its own way, some may meet up for coffee regularly,or go and have lunch or some will be more formal. However they are run, they need to achieve the purpose, to support others going through this ‘living bereavement.’
I expect we have all been to meetings and sat through someone going on and on about themselves, without stopping for breath, and meetings that have gone on forever getting nowhere.
That is why it is good to have aims and objectives, so that you keep yourself on track.
The truth is that your meetings will speak for themselves, if people want to return then it is successful, ask for feedback after your first meeting, I would also ask members what they want to get out of coming to your meetings. So that they can take ownership of that group and it is member led.
Part of setting up groups is of course how to publicise them.
Writing to local papers, mags, letters pages, interviews on local radio and local TV, poster around the town, libraries, medical centres, community boards ect.
When you do interviews it is worth really thinking about what you want to get across. It is really easy to go off at a tangent and digress to the extent you completely forget what the question was. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know,’ it can also be easy to give the wrong information, such as statistics, I would avoid them if you can. If you do use stats, you need to be able to back them up with our source. Many a mis quote can come back on you.
The media are looking for sensationalism, so don’t fall into those traps, don’t ever say derogatory things about family members, keeps names and places anonymous. Remember this is not about you.
There are strict rules for what you can and can not say in a live interview, so you ay well be asked not to say certain things.
If you are going through a court process then don’t do any form of media, for obvious reasons.
You can’t go far wrong if your heart is in the right place.
Yes, there are pitfalls, but the bigger picture is that a successful group can really make a difference to grandparents who are facing a really dark time in their lives.
If you feel as though you might like to set up a group in your area, please contact us.