What is it like to volunteer at Griefline?
Volunteer spotlight shines a light on the volunteer experience at Griefline by showcasing the dedicated and compassionate individuals who contribute their time to supporting community members through their grief.
Each month we profile a different volunteer who shares their thoughts and insights about being a Griefline volunteer and what the experience means to them.
Katia Manariti. Donvale, Vic.
Katia has been a helpline volunteer for 8 months and is pursuing a clinical master’s program in psychology.
Grief can be an incredibly isolating experience, and conversations around loss are often challenging and uncomfortable. I found it amazing how Griefline as an organisation offered a space for Australians experiencing grief and loss to feel seen, heard and understood. In addition to enhancing some of my own therapeutics’ skills, I was motivated to give back to my community in a meaningful way.
Volunteering with Griefline has empowered me to reach my personal and professional goals. The training, supervision, and helpline participation have given me the confidence to pursue clinical master’s programs in psychology by allowing me to separate theory and practice and develop my micro-counselling skills. It has also inspired me to support my local community by joining other volunteering organizations that offer support and companionship for carers and individuals in palliative care.
I have found volunteering to be an incredibly humbling experience that has solidified a sense of meaning and purpose in my life. It is truly inspiring to connect with remarkable individuals who have demonstrated such courage to pick up the phone and chat so openly to a stranger. So often, help seekers call as they do not want to burden family or friends with their troubles and are grateful to have a space to explore their challenges non-judgmentally, and it is a true privilege to be the person to offer self-reflection, validation, and normalisations of a person’s journey with grief.
Just do it! Griefline offers a wonderful community of support, and there is always help available through on-shift messaging, debriefing, supervision, and handy recourses. The online learning and training programs are second to none and prepare you to have courageous conversations with remarkable Australians. Although sometimes you may not have the answers, or be able to ease the pain of loss, just being present and witnessing a person’s grief can have profound impacts.
Andrea Lynch. Brisbane, Qld.
Andrea joined Griefline as a volunteer when she retired as a professional counsellor in 2021.
I have worked as a professionally qualified counsellor since 1999.
In 2021 I retired from my paid employment as a team leader/counsellor and wanted to find a way to continue to use my counselling skills and to grow professionally and personally. I already had an interest and training in grief and loss counselling. When I heard about Griefline it seemed to provide the opportunity I had been looking for. Volunteering gave me the flexibility to enjoy my other pursuits of being a grandmother and travelling in our recently acquired campervan.
In my paid employment I had worked for the last 10 years with people affected by past forced adoption practices. Grief and loss were core issues for these clients and their grief was unacknowledged and unsupported by society (disenfranchised grief). Griefline has provided me with the opportunity to apply and extend my knowledge and skills in supporting people affected by other losses such as bereavement. At a personal level the work is a good preparation as I enter the “third phase” of life when more people in my life (including myself) are experiencing the losses of aging and facing death.
One of my core values is caring for others and Griefline is one way that I get to live this value giving me a sense of purpose and meaning. Working at Griefline also provides the opportunity to continue to learn and grow through the newsletters, training and supervision. I have also taken up the option of working across a number of programs such as the Care to Call program, the Booked Call Support Service, The Helpline and most recently through being a co-facilitator of the Pilot Drop-in Support group.
Before starting my volunteer work at Griefline I felt there was something missing in my post- retirement life and I was experiencing a sense of loss of my professional identity. I was busy relaxing, reading, travelling, seeing friends and family, exercising, meditating and being a grandmother but I found myself looking at job opportunities. I wanted more flexibility than paid employment could offer and so volunteering at Griefline seemed a good option. It has provided me with a way to continue my work as a caring professional and enriches my life as I get to walk beside people during a dark time. This is a great privilege.
If you are considering being a Griefline volunteer I would recommend giving it a go. The Griefline staff are committed professionals who are always seeking ways to improve the service and support their volunteers. The other volunteers I have met online are people with a passion for supporting others who are experiencing loss and grief. Working remotely has its challenges but by getting involved in the training and supervision Griefline offers you can feel a sense of connection with the organization and the important service it offers the Australian community.
Marilyn Tan. Melbourne, Vic.
Marilyn joined Griefline in July 2022 as a helpline volunteer and is currently a peer debriefer.
I’ve always been passionate about mental health and wanted to give back to the community. I’ve seen first-hand how losing someone or something can be so devastating, and believe it is so important to support others through their grief.
Professionally, volunteering with Griefline gave me the courage to pursue the Master of Professional Psychology. It’s also helped me understand that grief is different for everyone, and what matters most is meeting a person where they’re at.
Personally, it made me realize that I want to work in mental health. I’ve also had many fulfilling conversations over the helpline, and it’s made me a better, kinder person.
Giving back to the community and helping others feel less alone can be so satisfying. Seeing the courage of help-seekers, and their willingness to talk to a nameless, faceless volunteer really helps you understand the power of human interactions and that is so meaningful.
Apart from giving me the courage to pursue my Masters, I think it has taught me to appreciate and enjoy the little things in life. I’ve also had the courage to talk to others about grief and loss.
Take that leap of faith and do it! Sometimes, the most important thing you can do is to sit with someone in their grief and show them that someone out there cares for them. You don’t have to have all the answers – it is about being, not doing.
Sona. Gold Coast, Qld.
Since joining Griefline as a volunteer in November 2021, Sona has found the courage to pursue a Masters in Counselling.
I have lived experience of grief and loss, and some of the losses I experienced weren’t always related to a bereavement yet the impact they had on me was profound. It wasn’t until I changed careers and qualified as a Counsellor specialising in grief and loss that I truly understood how life-changing a loss can be, and with the right support, such as Griefline, grief doesn’t have to be as isolating as it was for me.
Professionally, volunteering at Griefline enhances my counselling skills which I can use with my clients in private practice. Griefline has also given me the courage to pursue a Masters in Counselling and contemplate a Doctorate. There is still so much to learn in this space because no two people will ever grieve the same loss in the same way.
Personally, Griefline has helped me work through my own grief and has confirmed that counselling is where my heart lies. Knowing that a caller has found support through Griefline, which they haven’t necessarily found in the ‘big wide world’, warms my heart. That’s one less person feeling lonely because of an experience they had little to no control over.
Simply doing something that you feel is valuable and worthwhile for the community without any expectation of a financial reward gives life a new meaning. And you may find your purpose in life through volunteering.
My background is in law and in that field you’re a ‘fixer’ – you ‘fix’ people’s problems and give them the solutions. As a counsellor, and more-so as a Grielfine volunteer, you provide callers with a safe space to be heard; you provide them with the space to heal; you highlight their strengths and enable them to draw on those strengths to find their own solutions. I no longer have to be the ‘fixer’ – instead I’m more of a facilitator and that has changed the way I look at life.
Stop thinking about it and do it! The world needs more people who are compassionate and caring so if you have those qualities, volunteering at Griefline will be very rewarding.
Gary Bunker. Kanahooka, NSW
A volunteer since February 2022, Gary supports people on the Griefline helpline and is also a practising counsellor.
I went through a period of time where I lost several family members and nearly lost a child, several years ago. At the time I didn’t know how to cope well, and found myself in a really dark place until I found the help I needed. After this time, I felt that I needed to change my life in ways that would let me pay back some of the support I received and to help others. That led me to change my career path to move into counselling, but also led me to Griefline. For me, Griefline fills that exact space; people helping other people deal with some of the worst days of their lives.
For me it has helped me to firstly understand that counselling is what I really want to do, eventually – the conversations I’ve had with help seekers has been so rewarding for me and it’s helped me to understand both my own grief, and that of others. Personally it’s been hugely rewarding, and professionally it has helped me to gain a far better understanding of people and their journeys through grief.
Volunteering with an organisation like Griefline helps to build a sense of giving back and connecting to the people in our community. Even though you don’t get to know their names or detailed stories you connect on a deep emotional level with help seekers, in a short call you can help turn their day or week around and that is hugely meaningful, it’s not something we can generally do with the people around us. Volunteering in this way can create a deep satisfaction with the way we support others.
Without Griefline I may not have had the courage to train as a counsellor and begin offering counselling. It helped me to see that I really can help people without taking on their stories. It has given me the strength to change my career and life path, and also to be braver in reaching out to others around me where I might not have been brave enough before.
Just do it. If you’re already thinking of it then you already know you’d like to help. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to have all the answers; you need to be present, share those moments with them and care. Be brave, it’ll add so much to your life.
Neri. Sydney, NSW
A volunteer since February 2022, Neri contributes their time on the helpline and was recently recognised as Griefline’s 2022 Volunteer of the Year.
Grief can be isolating, particularly if it is a loss that makes others uncomfortable, like a young person, an unexpected loss, or a non-peaceful death. I really resonated with the idea of a service that gives people a space to talk freely about their loss without having to worry about the other person’s reaction.
Exposure to grief and loss has been grounding and has sharpened my priorities (and helped me let go of non-priorities, like cleaning my car and ironing!). Professionally, I’m studying for a Master of Clinical Neuropsychology, and volunteering at Griefline has given me insight into how loss and grief might be experienced by patients. The supervision we have access to at Griefline has been a wonderful source of wisdom and guidance.
It’s hard to put into words exactly, but the phone calls at Griefline can seem like a sacred space. The callers are often vulnerable and very open, which feels like a privilege to share in, and callers often tell me that they feel better after talking. It feels so worthwhile to have eased someone’s burden and provided a moment of human connection. I also feel very appreciated by the Griefline team, who are lovely to work with!
Exposure to grief has really made me appreciate life with all of its beauty and friendship and joy. Also, in his book Staring at the Sun, Irvin Yalom talks about us potentially having an impact through the generations like ripples from a stone dropped in water. I find the idea of a lasting positive influence very inspiring.
If you love listening to people, volunteering at Griefline is a beautiful way to support people who need someone to talk to about their losses.