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44  Walk and talk bereavement support: piloting an innovative service at Marie Curie Northern Ireland
  1. Beth Mulhern1,
  2. Kasia Patynowska1 and
  3. Tracey McConnell1,2
  1. 1Marie Curie UK
  2. 2Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK


Introduction At the advent of COVID-19 the bereavement support service in Belfast Hospice had to quickly adapt to new ways of working to ensure continued service provision, with counsellors transitioning to video-link platforms and telephone to facilitate client sessions.

However, counsellors reported challenges building a rapport with clients online, and had concerns that the client’s grief was compounded by loneliness and social isolation.

In response, the Marie Curie walk and walk bereavement support project, in partnership with the National Trust, was proposed as an innovative solution. Taking traditional counselling sessions outdoors meant the counsellors could maintain adherence to COVID-19 guidance, while supporting the mental health and wellbeing of bereaved clients.

Furthermore, nature therapy has been shown to enhance both physical and mental health, reducing symptoms of depression. Whilst there are studies that demonstrate the benefit of nature therapy for mental health outcomes, research is limited in bereavement care.

Aims Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of bereaved clients.

Methods A pilot Walk and Talk bereavement therapy brings together the skilful, compassionate counselling work of Marie Curie staff and volunteers in beautiful, restorative National Trust spaces. We plan to conduct semi-structured interviews with service users to explore their experience of walk and talk therapy.

Results To date, the feedback received has been overwhelmingly positive, this is based on informal verbal feedback gathered by counsellors at the end of each session.

Conclusions Despite the physical distancing barriers faced during COVID-19, staff and volunteers were able to overcome these challenges through innovation, creativity, and flexibility, to provide person-centred, compassionate bereavement care and support

Impact Work is ongoing, but we hope to continue to develop the walk and talk bereavement service with the National Trust, to support the mental and physical health and wellbeing of people affected by dying, death and bereavement.

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