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Why Peer Mentoring?

Ladybird Care Foundation Peer Mentor Program:  Integrating the lived experience and research evidence base

 

Bereavement after the death of a child is a devastating life experience. Learning how to live life without the physical presence of a beloved child can take a lifetime, as can adjusting to the many other losses that arise from this single life event.  We acknowledge the endless love parents hold for their child and the never ending role of parenting no matter a child’s age.  We extend the offer of mentoring care to all bereaved parents across the lifespan.

 

Ladybird Care Foundation is in the unique position of drawing on the lived experience of bereaved parents, whilst integrating a strong research evidence base to inform the development of a peer mentor program for bereaved parents.

 

Peer Support models have been adopted in many areas of health and social care including mental health, acute and chronic health management and bereavement. Peer to peer relationships enable a sense of meaning and connection for both peer mentor (a trained companion with a lived experience) and peer mentee (someone seeking comfort in relationship with a peer with a lived experience).

 

Evaluation of peer support programs demonstrates helpful outcomes for the bereaved by reducing grief symptoms, validation and normalization of grief from a peer with a lived experience, reduced social isolation and expansion of a social network, mutual support, and increased overall well-being.

 

‘When I look at you, I know you get me and are totally invested in what I'm telling you. Feeling understood is a profound human experience.’ – Bereaved father and Peer Mentee

 

For mentors, extending companionship can mean discovery of a sense of meaning and purpose in bereavement, a sense of helping others, and increased personal growth. This shared experience is what makes peer to peer programs so powerful, the mutual experience of comfort and connection for both mentor and mentee.

 

‘My involvement in the peer mentoring program has given me a sense of purpose.  It has put me in a position of privilege, helping others navigate through this grief journey nobody wants to be on. What I didn't expect was the blessing in return it has actually been.’ – Bereaved mother and Peer Mentor

 

Peer support models have been signposted as a targeted response to bereavement care in the Public Health Model for Bereavement Support. This contemporary approach acknowledges that while some form of bereavement support is required by everyone who experiences the death of someone close to them, professionalised support is not necessary, needed or helpful for all. The three-tiered Public Health Model for Bereavement Support describes the needs of the bereaved at multiple levels.

 

Level 1:  ALL bereaved family members require the comfort, care, compassion and acknowledgement of their loss through the natural support networks of family and friends.

 

Level 2:  SOME bereaved family members will benefit from additional support beyond their natural support network, and this can be sought within their community and through peer to peer relationships.

 

Level 3:  FEWER bereaved family members may require support from a specialist therapeutic service.

 

Ladybird Care Foundation commits to integrating a strong evidence base in our approach to care of the bereaved. Our Peer Mentor Program makes a proactive contribution to the global public health approach to bereavement support recognising the significant impact connections between peers with a lived experience may have for families following the death of a child.

 

References

Aoun, S. M., Breen, L. J., Howting, D. A., Rumbold, B., McNamara, B., & Hegney, D. (2015). Who needs bereavement support? A population based survey of bereavement risk and support need. PloS one, 10(3).

 

Bartone, P. T. (2017). Peer support for bereaved survivors: systematic review of evidence and identification of best practices. Journal of Death and Dying, 0(0) 1-30.

 

Rumbold, B., & Aoun, S. (2015). An assets-based approach to bereavement care. Bereavement Care, 34(3), 99-102. 

 

The Irish Hospice Foundation (2020) Adult Bereavement Care Pyramid. A National Framework. Dublin: The Irish Hospice Foundation 

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Navigating the Christmas Period

Recording of interview with General Manager Wendy Collins and Neil Johnson, Head of News and Current Affairs, Vision Radio.

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