Gaywood Library Thursday Café for the Bereaved

Helen Janku, Library Manager, Library and Information Service for Gaywood Library, explains the concept of the Thursday Café for the Bereaved. This is a group she set up to support the local community.

'I started the Thursday Cafe for the Bereaved as I know several people who have experienced bereavement, including myself, through lockdowns and restrictions. I felt it would be good to be able to meet others who know what you are going through. In fact it was my dad who said it would be good to meet others who have experienced a close loss,having lost my mum last year.

I called the hospice, hospital, and other organisations to find out where people meet and was surprised to find this wasn’t offered, or that groups could only meet online. I knew libraries would be a good location to hold a group like this. Local organisations, surgeries and social prescribers were in favour and following completing risk assessments the first date was set in in October 2021.

We asked everyone who attended what they would like from the group, what would they like to call the group and how often they would like to meet up. Although we had produced a poster, a few weeks in we asked how they would feel about having a photo taken and added to the poster and they were happy for us to do this.

We meet weekly and have a cup of tea or coffee and chat with each other. Some people like to meet and talk about what they are going through and others do not want to, so we leave this open. Over the weeks, all sorts of topics have been discussed which has even prompted an I.T. help session with their own devices. This then prompted sharing photos and with that, the discussing of all-important memories too.  

I have arranged for organisations to come along and talk with the group such as Ask Lily, Thornalley Funeral Directors, and Careline. We have had a local social prescriber pop along the other week to chat with everyone too. Coming up we have organised for U3A and Norfolk Befriending Service.

The sessions are very much led by who comes along. I also contacted Rose, a local Development Worker who I have worked with in the past on different local projects who has supported us from the start, to support the group and me.

We found that you need more than one person if you find someone is upset or wants to talk on a one to one basis, rather than to the whole group. We have had this on three separate occasions, where one of us can sit with the person around the table while the others talk in the group.

Around seven of us meet each week. Some come every week, some come but don’t stay for the full duration and some just pop in every now and again. It is a very relaxed group and we have men and women of all ages.

We have now been asked if we can start this up in other libraries, and we are working on setting up the group in Downham Market next after being given stats that this type of group is needed there. We are starting our group in Hunstanton in February and another in March in Cromer.

I have recently spoken with the registration team and they have said once we have several up and running in the county, they would like to add it to the email information that they send out countywide so it reaches everyone coping with bereavement. They will also add it to their email signatures too, which is wonderful news.'

Helen’s work demonstrates the lifeline these activities can be for so many. The project shows how libraries can work with other organisations to bring added value to the support they offer.