A Swinton group providing monthly support for those impacted by bereavement and terminal illness has reopened its doors after closing due to Covid.

The Hope Cafe takes place every last Thursday of the month from 11.30am to 1pm, based in the Agnes Hopkins Community Centre in Swinton, people can attend to discuss their problems with people who are struggling under similar circumstances.

Previously cancelled due to Covid, Mandi Weston who runs the café alongside Moe Willott Hunstone, made the difficult decision to postpone the service fully during lockdown as she felt conducting the meetings over Zoom was not personal enough.

Mandi said: “I kept in touch with members of the group but we didn’t do meet ups in an official capacity because I think that’s a little bit structured on Zoom, I don’t like the impersonal touch.”

“It just doesn’t cut it, you can get access to Councillors and things like that, this is more personal’’

Inspired to open the cafe by her own experiences with bereavement, Mandi criticises the ‘stiff upper lip’ culture in the UK surrounding loss and illness, and hopes her cafe will kickstart a change and get people to talk.

“We’ve got to be one of the worst countries to talk about people dying’’ continued Mandi.

“Death happens to us all, it’s the only thing in life that’s guaranteed.

“Even when someone’s gone on to palliative care, the family will still say, don’t talk about that, we’ve got loads of time.

‘’No we’ve not, so it’s important we’re speaking about it ‘cause, if they start talking about it before the event happens, it can alleviate some of the problems that come along with grief.

“Bereavement does manifest, it sits their stagnant until something else is the straw that breaks the camels back, it’s like anything with mental health, it’s not the actual end issue that’s caused the problem, it’s what has manifested it initially.”

The group also offers practical advice to the bereaved, helping to plan funerals as well as providing additional financial support to cover funeral costs, they are also able to contact bereavement services on their behalf.

“We helped with arranging someone’s funeral because he was short on funds…I’d already contacted a lot of people research-wise to find out the cost behind everything.

“We managed to cut the funeral costs right down while still being able to give his mother what she wanted.

Mandi believes the lack of mental health services available is a contributing factor to why people struggle so much with grieving.

“Mental health…We are not given the funds for it, it’s a known fact, your councillors, your psychotherapists, take so long to train and the cost that’s behind that as well is massive.

“I’d like to see more support groups but I’d also like to see, not necessarily voluntary, but a little bit more backing in the early stages because something at this stage can prevent a manifestation.

“I’d love to be able to go round different establishments to be able to raise awareness of what we’re talking about’’

To find out more about The Hope Cafe, or get in touch with them, you can visit their Facebook page.

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