We Listen, We Care, We Support

Clea De Vries – volunteer grief counsellor

Tuesday 10 July 2017

Clea De Vries – volunteer grief counsellor

Clea De Vries is a GriefLine volunteer. She reflects on her experiences six months on:

“I originally came to GriefLine because I was looking for a volunteer helpline work to support my transition into a career in counselling. I am particularly drawn to trauma because I feel that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an expression of unprocessed trauma and loss.”

“Working with these experiences is the beginning of healing, and of all the disorders, PTSD seems to be one that is filled with hope. Grief and trauma often overlap, so I was excited to join GriefLine and for the opportunity to start working with people who were experiencing these things.”

“When I started, I was not sure what to expect. I knew that my role was to help others, mostly just by sitting with them, listening. I was aware that many of the callers may not fit what is classically understood to be grief. Some may be mental health callers. Some may be people who were in some way ‘abusing the service’ – sex callers, people who might simply be bored or lonely, people with an ongoing addiction for sympathy from helping services. I was also afraid of the grief and horror I might hear in someone’s voice when they told me of a loss too awful for anyone to bear alone.”

“What I did not expect was how much I would get from the stories that people shared. How varied and interesting the calls would be. How often I would be humbled by the wisdom I was offered. How my understanding of life would be changed because of my callers.”

“I often feel guilty about how much I am gaining from the work I am doing. Every call brings something unique. Even repeat callers who may be frustrating because they are stuck in some way. If nothing else, these calls teach me other skills. They teach me patience. They teach me how to speak respectfully when I am not being respected. They teach me how to end calls when the caller wants to keep talking. They teach me to find a moment with each call where something of value has been said, or hinted at, and to expand it.”

“I try to let each call flow like water, to reach a natural conclusion where the caller is happy to leave it because they have something else that they need to be doing now. Of course, that is not always possible, but I have been lucky so far in that most of my calls have finished on a positive note.”

“My understanding is that each one holds part of a valuable life story. These stories are all, in some way, a revelation of self. And no matter how raw they might be, how wounded, how sad, how horrific, there is still nothing more tragic than a story that could not be told.”

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