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“I could be in a ceramic jar”: The stories behind calls for bereavement funding

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When Angie Wraight’s, 58, husband died last year from esophageal cancer – she lost her other half.

“We met when I was 18 and were engaged within a week. We were always Brian and Angie and it’s been extremely difficult since he’s gone, because now I’m just Angie,” Wright says.

Because of the yo-yo lockdowns in Victoria, Angie was unable to connect with support channels and grieve with loved ones after the 17-month ordeal.

“You do feel so alone, your friends don’t understand what you’re going through,” she says.

But Angie found refuge in bereavement services provided to those whose loved ones die while in Palliative Care.

“If it wasn’t for that grief counselling group, I could be in a ceramic jar too,” she says.

Angie says she was sceptical of the program at the start but decided she would take any help offered to her to help navigate the grieving process.

But Angie is not alone. Throughout the pandemic, the need for bereavement services spiked by over 70 per cent – which providers say shows how dire the state of the community’s mental health was during lockdown.

“It’s a safe space where people can share their experiences, grieve together and teach each other coping mechanisms,” Palliative Care South East CEO Kelly Rogerson says.

But Rogerson says the need for the programs will continue for more than a year.

“People haven’t had their normal supports in place and just because we have opened back up, it doesn’t mean that the underlying mental health issues, related to complicated grief, just disappear,” Rogerson says.

And although pressure on the service has increased in a major way, there hasn’t been any additional government funding to community palliative care.

“It is putting pressure on our staff because we want to get it right for every single family that needs help. Our staff are going above and beyond to make saying goodbye a little less difficult.”

The not-for-profit is currently building a new facility in Melbourne’s south-east to cope with the demand but say without capital support and more funding, it will not come to fruition.

“And when the programs have such a lasting impact on those who’ve lost loved ones, we need the funding now, to complete the project,” Rogerson says.

Angie has attributed her life to her participation in the bereavement programs and says that sometimes you make friends in the most unexpected places.

“We still text each other and check in.”

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