Community Circles – A Personal Reflection

Cath Barton, AFG Rochdale’s Community Circles Co-ordinator shares a personal reflection on losing her beloved Mum and how her circle of support brought comfort during a time of grief.

 

Cath said “My Mum passed away a couple of weeks ago aged 82; she was beautiful, resilient, independent, a wonderful Mum, precious Granny and much loved friend to many.

Grief is strange…there are tears, the ache of missing someone can feel overwhelming but there are also smiles from sharing memories and photographs, a need to talk about her and reminisce with family.  There’s also a feeling of contentment that Mum’s death was exactly as she planned and she had great support to enable this to happen.

As Community Circles Connector I support people to develop a circle of support around them, to think about what’s working and not working in their lives, bringing people together to share ideas and what the circle can do that makes a difference.  A circle can start with two people or several people coming together.  When we start a circle, we think about the relationships in a person’s life and who we can invite to be part of the circle, we start where the person is, sometimes we need to be intentional about inviting people in, supporting and nurturing relationships.

Mum had a great circle of support; as well as a very close family, Mum had many lifelong friends, was a member of several clubs and a valued member of the church.

Mum was diagnosed with lung cancer in November and apart from a couple of hospital visits had remained well until the week she died.  Mum liked to be busy, often at church, out for lunch, organising fayres, spending time with family and long chats on the phone.  I’m sure the company supported her well-being, she connected with so many people and was valued for all the contributions she made.

Her circle of support not only supported Mum and her well-being but us as a family, knowing that Mum had other people she could rely on, and offering us practical and ongoing emotional support.  In a Community Circle people make a contribution through time to come to the monthly circle meeting, to share ideas and offer what they can that makes a difference.  People have a wealth of skills, knowledge and assets that they use as part of a circle that makes a difference to the person.  Helping others isn’t a one way relationship, people feel valued in the contributions that they make.  One of Mum’s friends, Joyce would help with laundry (as well as a million other things), Anne came to support Mum when the district nurses visited and she had plenty of visits and phone calls from friends.  The question was “Who’s good at what?” and Mum made sure that her grandchildren had their own jobs to help out depending what they were good at and enjoyed doing most.

After being diagnosed, Mum had support from the district nurses as she needed, a weekly phone call initially to check if there was anything she needed.  Mum was happy with this, she didn’t have to wait in for a visit and we knew we could ring anytime if we had questions or the situation changed.  A few weeks ago, Mum did have an overnight stay in hospital but was very clear in her wishes to die at home, so the hospital staff supported her with her wishes, arranging oxygen within a few hours and more support from the district nurses.  Mum’s GP was also very helpful.  Resilient as ever, Mum was able to manage, with a few adjustments at home, support from family and friends and more frequent visits from the district nurses.  Mum was able to maintain her independence and had support in a way that made sense to her.  As a family we spent a lot of time together and Mum was content she had time to have all the conversations she wanted to.

In the last week of her life, it was clear Mum (and us) needed more support.  Support through Continuing Health Care was organised very quickly, equipment was delivered including a new bed and as requested there was continuity of support.  Throughout the last few days Mum’s wishes were listened to and acted on.  Mum died on what would have been my Dad’s birthday, with her family around her, just as she planned.

A few days later, I reflected on a blog Martin Routledge had written about when his Mum had passed away. I got in touch with Martin to share my Mum’s experience, and in sad and difficult circumstances was very thankful for the support we had and the efficiency that this had been arranged.

I’m thankful that Mum had a great circle of support around her and appreciate that not everyone has this, not everyone has local family or friends to support them”