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Volunteer spotlight

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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.

Here we profile different volunteers who share their thoughts and insights about being a Griefline volunteer and what the experience means to them.

Bernard (Bernie) Liversidge. Vic.
Bernard Liversidge

Bernie has been a volunteer with Griefline since 2020, offering great passion in his role. Bernie is interested in ongoing learning and providing help-seekers with deep empathy, passion and understanding. 

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

I first came to Griefline as a volunteer while I was studying to be a counsellor.  I wanted get experience with working on the phone and with people on a one-on-one level. I also needed to reinforce my studies with extra information on grief itself and how it cross-referenced with mental health and effected the human condition.

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

The extra experience I obtained in talking to clients on the phone has been unbelievable and has a helped me develop confidence in my skills so I can now handle most situations while teaching me how to understand my limitations. These skills also help me maintain my self-esteem and self-worth.

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

Volunteering in a subject or a field of interest helps you network and bond with people with similar interests and beliefs. It helps you to remain relevant in the work you do, while at the same time helping people who need support.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

When joining Griefline you not only give yourself the opportunity to help people in times of personal crisis you are also opening up opportunities to work in different areas of counselling and human understanding.

All the different projects Griefline run give you time to have light and shade in your work.

Griefline, for me, has been a place of great learning. Each phone client has given me the opportunity to learn and understand grief and how it is the foundation of a lot of mental illness, stress and anxiety.

Griefline is also a place where you can practice empathy and discover a greater understanding of people. You will have the opportunity to enhance your counselling qualifications and establish a greater foundation in your learning. Just do it; you will find it a pleasant experience.

Gloria Best. Vic.

Gloria has dedicated an incredible three decades to Griefline. From its origins in a Melbourne hospital to its evolution into a nationwide telephone service, she has remained steadfast, providing solace and support to those facing grief, loss, and trauma. With expertise in psychology, counselling, and holistic therapies, Gloria’s journey reflects both service and personal growth. In her retirement as volunteer with Griefline, we thank Gloria for the countless lives she has touched and the enduring impact of her compassion and kindness.

Read Gloria's account of her volunteering experience with Griefline here

I have been a volunteer with Griefline, supporting those suffering from grief, loss and trauma, for 28 years.  I started with the original Griefline Services and did my training in 1995, and we belonged to a hospital in Melbourne.  

I have seen big differences when the original Griefline was taken over after many years, and the opening of a completely new Griefline.  We became a separate Griefline from the hospital and went out by ourselves.  We felt it was a service desperately needed in the community, and we all tried hard to keep Griefline operating.  We were successful with the hard work of Catherine, Kathy, and all the volunteers, and many others.  
 
However, Griefline changed again many years later with the employment of a new CEO. The organisation has now completely changed.  We have volunteers all around Australia, and I have seen Griefline structured differently.  
 
I have studied Psychology, Counselling and Mental Health and I felt that this knowledge could be put to good use by offering my services to Griefline.  I have qualifications in Classical Music, Health and Nutrition, Reflexology, Flower Essence Therapy, and have studied natural medicine and therapies, yoga, meditation, and so many other modalities. 
 
I started my career as a Personal Secretary to Managing Directors, and Senior Executives here and overseas.  I have been an intellectual and have done many things in my life. 
 
Griefline has given back to me three times personal happiness in return by 
being there for these help seekers to make their life better for them and saving lives.  The personal satisfaction is so rewarding. 
 
The Griefline ongoing personal development, top guest speakers, seminars, review nights, have all helped me on my own journey through life.  Not to mention the special volunteers whose company that I have been able to enjoy.  
 
It has been an immeasurable experience. 

Cecil Camilleri. S.A.
Photo of Cecil Camilleri

A volunteer since 2021, Cecil brings significant lived and practical experience to Griefline and has a  great passion for mental health, disability and elder care sectors.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

Before I joined Griefline I had about 8 years of service with LifelineI decided to leave Lifeline and join Griefline when COVID struckThe move provided me with a better opportunity to practice self-care. Griefline augmented/complemented the other community-based roles that I held and still hold

My portfolio of activities provides me with a good ‘feel’ for what is happening in the mental health, disability and elder care sectors. 

How has volunteering contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

It is fair to say that as a CALD individual, born and bred on the island of St Paul, namely, Malta, I carried a considerable amount of baggage – misconceptions, prejudices, etc.  Saviorism was a significant component of that baggageBecause of my Bipolar Affective Disorder, Complex-PTSD and Mild Cognitive Impairment I have learnt to live mindfully, with an open mind, open heart and open soul. My living experience now includes Griefline, and continues to highlight mutuality, solidarity, and, in particular, intellectual and cultural humility as being central to a life of [selfless] service.

 

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

It is fair to say that as a CALD individual, born and bred on the island of St Paul, namely, Malta, I carried a considerable amount of baggage – misconceptions, prejudices, etc.  Saviorism was a significant component of that baggageBecause of my Bipolar Affective Disorder, Complex-PTSD and Mild Cognitive Impairment I have learnt to live mindfully, with an open mind, open heart and open soul. My living experience now includes Griefline, and continues to highlight mutuality, solidarity, and, in particular, intellectual and cultural humility as being central to a life of [selfless] service.

 

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

I guess it all depends on what one wants to achievePurpose and meaning can, of course, be achieved without volunteeringIt all depends on one’s calling, one’s mission, or one’s vocation

Employment can be meaningful and purposeful if one undertakes the duties according to our values, beliefs and attitudesBut then, a whole-of-life experience may include volunteering, activities that complement and supplement our employment and family duties.  

How has your volunteer work at Griefline had an impact on your life?

 As I have already mentioned above, Griefline has provided me with the opportunity to ‘see’ those aspects of the human experience that were not visible through the rest of my portfolio of activities. Through Griefline, my living experience as a parent and as an independent mental health, disability and elder care advocate is more complete.

Significantly, the individuals who talk to me via Griefline allow me to better understand Sophia.*

*Sophia being the female representation/metaphor for God as Wisdom

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

Advice is something that I never provideIf only I had such wisdom

However, I would make the observation that unless one is prepared to be vulnerable (in order to be compassionate and empathic), listen attentively (with an open mind, open heart and open soul), never give advice and stop being the expert, practice silence, let go of the monkey on their back (including one’s lived experience), forget about saving anyone (let alone the world), and practice [unconditional] positive regard (even when the caller goes out of their way to verbally offend you and abuse you), then one should have another think about what they wish to achieve from joining Griefline

If you do wish to proceed, anyone contemplating joining Griefline (or similar) should consider their mental fitness and have a self-care plan in place.  

Rosa Mantecon. W.A.
Photo of Rosa Mantecon

A volunteer since 2020, Rosa’s extensive work supporting individuals and families coping with grief has been invaluable to our helpline.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

I joined Griefline in October 2020 after I retired from full time paid employment working for Human Services, where I assisted individuals and families experiencing difficulties such as grief, unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence, separation, health issues and mental health.

I missed very much the job I loved and the colleges I had. Therefore, I decided to start a new chapter in my life and give back to the community to express my gratitude for all the assistance I received in challenging times.

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

Due to my interest in families, I went back to study and I completed the Graduate Diploma in Family & Relationship Therapy followed by Mediation Training and Family Dispute Resolution. Volunteering at Griefline contributed to my personal and professional growth and development in the family field. I find that is a privilege to be able to hold a safe and supportive space for the callers. 

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

By helping others you are helping yourself. Helping others can give your life a new meaning and keep you mentally stimulated.

Volunteering can help you feel connected . As a volunteer you will interact with people from diverse backgrounds, which allows you to learn other perspectives.

How has your volunteer work at Griefline had an impact on your life?

Griefline has provided me with the opportunity to continue assisting people needing help and developing skills at the same time. 

I have learnt the importance of listening and looking for the caller’s strengths in order to empower them to find their own solutions.  I find it very inspirational and rewarding when I am able to demonstrate the caller that a problem is an opportunity for transformation rather than focus only on the difficulties. 

  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

Be present no perfect. Reflect after every telephone roster. Be kind to yourself. Be prepared for the unexpected. Use the excellent resources on line, and do not hesitate to ask for help as Griefline provides the best assistance and support to their volunteers. 

Richard Jessep. Vic.

Richard volunteered on the helpline for 10 months and is now a member of the Griefline staff as a Shift Supervisor.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

I was very interested in working to support people who were experiencing grief and loss, and related issues such as loneliness and social isolation. I was also interested in developing some counselling skills through experience, and completing the Griefline Helpline training. And then being able to apply the learnings to real life callers was something I was very interested in doing.

How have volunteering, and now employment, opportunities at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?
I joined Griefline in October 2020 after I retired from full time paid employment working for Human Services, where I assisted Individuals and families experiencing difficulties such as grief, unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence, separation, health issues and mental health. I missed very much the job I loved and the colleges I had. Therefore, I decided to start a new chapter in my life and give back to the community to express my gratitude for all the assistance I received in challenging times.
How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

I think that volunteering can help different people in different ways to build a sense of purpose and meaning in life. For myself, when I’m volunteering I feel a strong sense of purpose about providing the best support I can and really being present for the help seeker. I feel really good about it and I hope that I’ve helped. I feel like this both when I’m volunteering and during my free time.

In terms of meaning in life Volunteering helps me to feel that part of the meaning of my life and my purpose in life is to do my best to help people, or at least assist them to better care for themselves.

How has the transition from starting out as a volunteer and moving into a paid role at Griefline impacted your life?

When I began work within the Service Support/Admin team after volunteering for about six months this impacted my life because I felt very committed to Griefline’s mission and purpose. For me, this transition was really comfortable because I really enjoy working towards Griefline’s goals and being part of the team as an employee.

Since beginning as a Helpline Shift Supervisor its been an exciting new challenge and I’m looking forward to having more contact with volunteers and people from different areas of Griefline’s operations.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

I would suggest that if you are interested in the area of Grief and Loss then you will be likely to enjoy the training and go on to provide high quality support to help seekers. I would also note that it’s important to remain conscious of applying the training that we receive during calls. This applies to both in-call skills, and technical skills such as successfully using our computer software. Volunteers who are across technology seem to have a very good experience volunteering.

How would you describe any highlights that you’ve experienced as a volunteer?

I would say that for me, when I’m able to commence a Grief and Loss Helpline call with someone who is initially very upset, agitated, and perhaps crying, this presents a challenge but also an opportunity to be present for the caller. There have been many times when I’ve began calls that were like this, and by the end of the call the help seeker seems to have settled to some extent, and they sound more reflective about things. Often, they say that they do feel better. So I would say being able to walk beside very upset callers and try to support them is a huge highlight for me.

Katia Manariti. Vic.

Katia has been a helpline volunteer for 8 months and is pursuing a clinical master’s program in psychology.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

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.

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

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.

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

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.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

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. Qld.

Andrea joined Griefline as a volunteer when she retired as a professional counsellor in 2021.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

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. 

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

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.

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

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.

How has your volunteer work at Griefline had an impact on your life?

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.       

 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

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. Vic.

Marilyn joined Griefline in July 2022 as a grief support helpline volunteer and is currently a peer debriefer.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

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. 

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

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. 

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

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. 

How has your volunteer work at Griefline had an impact on your life?

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. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

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. Qld.

Since joining Griefline as a volunteer in November 2021, Sona has found the courage to pursue a Masters in Counselling.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

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.  

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

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.   

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

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. 

How has your volunteer work at Griefline had an impact on your life?

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 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

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. NSW

A volunteer since February 2022, Gary supports people on the grief support helpline and is also a practising counsellor.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

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 didnt 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.

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

For me it has helped me to firstly understand that counselling is what I really want to do, eventually – the conversations Ive had with help seekers has been so rewarding for me and its helped me to understand both my own grief, and that of others. Personally its been hugely rewarding, and professionally it has helped me to gain a far better understanding of people and their journeys through grief. 

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

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 dont 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, its 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.

How has your volunteer work at Griefline had an impact on your life?

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.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

Just do it. If youre already thinking of it then you already know youd like to help. You dont have to be perfect, you dont have to have all the answers; you need to be present, share those moments with them and care. Be brave, itll add so much to your life. 

Neri. NSW.

A volunteer since February 2022, Neri contributes their time on the grief support helpline and was recently recognised as Griefline’s 2022 Volunteer of the Year.

What motivated you to start volunteering at Griefline?

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.

How has volunteering at Griefline contributed to your personal and professional growth and development?

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.

How do you think volunteering can help build a sense of purpose and meaning in life?

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!

How has your volunteer work at Griefline had an impact on your life?

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.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a Griefline volunteer?

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.

Join us in shaping the future of grief support!

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Interested in becoming a Griefline volunteer?

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