Are you interested in making a difference for bereaved families?

Are you ready to use your own experience of pregnancy or baby loss to support other people going through a difficult time in their lives?

Do you have the time to commit to hosting support meetings, organising events or raising awareness of Sands in your local area?

If the answer is yes, then we want to hear from you!

 

What is a Befriender? 

Sands Befrienders provide vital support for bereaved families across the United Kingdom. As someone who has experienced pregnancy or baby loss, you will know first-hand how isolating this can be, but you have the ability to comfort and reassure those who find themselves in a similar situation. We know from talking to bereaved families that the support received from Befrienders is invaluable and can be life-changing.

Befrienders work in local groups to host support meetings, run events and raise awareness. It is up to the local group to decide what activities best meet the needs of their local community, so there is plenty of opportunity to be creative. We have groups which organise walk and talks, stalls at fayres and even run a choir. And we're here to support you every step of the way.

Are you ready to befriend?

Befriending can be an emotionally demanding role, and both you and we need to be sure you are ready to befriend safely for yourself and other bereaved families. If befriending isn't right for you at this time, that's ok. There are many different ways you can get involved and support the work of Sands. 

Contact volunteering@sands.org.uk for more information.

 

The skills of a good Befriender include:

  • Good communication and listening skills
  • Awareness of the importance of confidentiality
  • Able to manage your own experience and memories of bereavement
  • Awareness of your own support needs
  • Non-judgemental attitude towards others 

If this sounds like you, read on to find out more about the application process. 

 

The application process

The impact your own loss will have as a Befriender cannot be underestimated, it's something very special. That's why the joining process has many aspects to it, to allow for you to ensure it's the right role for you and at the right time. 

If you are unsure about any aspect of the process, please get in touch, we welcome the chance to speak with you and explore together if this is the right role for you before applying.

  • At least 18 months should have elapsed since your own bereavement. Many of our volunteers tell us that they had no idea how first anniversaries would affect them until they happened.
  • To ensure you understand the role of a Befriender, you should have attended at least two recent support meetings. This could be in your local area or online. Find your local group or find out about our online support meetings.
  • If you meet both of these criteria and if you have decided that befriending is for you, please read our Introduction to Befriending, which will provide further information.
  • Complete our Application Form to the best of your ability and a member of the Volunteering team will be in touch. 
  • Gain two references, these will need to be satisfactory before you are booked onto the training. The referee can be someone who has known you in a personal or professional capacity for at least two years who is not a family member or close friend. One of them will need to be known to you outside of Sands. They will be asked to comment on your suitability to be a Befriender.
  • If your application is successful, you will be invited to attend an interview, conducted by a Sands member of staff. This is to ensure you understand the role, are ready to become a Befriender and to give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. 
  • On successful completion of an interview, you will be invited to attend training. This is a mandatory part of befriending. You can see upcoming training dates below.
  • The training is conducted via Zoom. You will need to attend six separate sessions lasting approximately two hours each. These may be run over six weekday evenings or over two days at a weekend.

 

Support after training

If you complete the training successfully and are assessed as ready to befriend, you will provide ongoing support from Sands including:

  • Join the Befriender Facebook Community
  • Receive a monthly Befriender Bulletin with specific Befriender news and sharing best practice through Befriender Brilliance
  • Quarterly Befriender catch-ups to hear about major events coming up in Sands and a chance to speak with other Befrienders and ask any questions
  • A milestone meeting after six months to see how you are getting on, celebrate all you have achieved so far and discuss how we can continue to support you
  • A dedicated member of staff, working on the Befriender experience to offer support as well as the Community and Volunteering team

 

Training course dates

Our online training sessions will be run as cohorts, and you must be able to attend all sessions within a cohort to complete the training. 

2024 Befriending training

Cohort 1: Saturday 10th & 17th February 9.30am-4.30pm

Cohort 2: Wednesday 21st & 28th February, 6th, 13th, 20th & 27th March 7pm-9pm

 

Apply now

We look forward to receiving your application, if you still have questions about anything you have ready, please contact volunteering@sands.org.uk

 

Here is what our current Befrienders say about the role:

Befriending for Sands has given me a sense of belonging, I feel connected to a community who really understands my grief, whether it's helping support other bereaved parents or communicating with the wonderful Sands team.

When our baby son (George) died, I vowed he would not die in vain, I felt a strong desire to give something back.

The time I dedicate to Sands in my befriending role is in George's memory. Being a Sands Befriender provides true empathy to others, as well as giving me a sense of purpose which aids my own healing and supports my general wellbeing.

If you feel you are ready to take on this role, you may find it to be the most fulfilling way to commemorate your baby.

Hayley, Sands Befriender

After the loss of Gemma and Sarah, I wanted to support other bereaved parents, to say to them your life, your hopes and dreams may feel like they have fallen apart, but things will get better, but you will never forget your precious baby. I wanted to give back to bereaved parents in our area after being supported myself by Sands and make them feel they are not alone. 

I like meeting parents who reach out for support and then help them to grow to live their lives again with their loss. My advice to anyone thinking about befriending is that they should attend quite a few meetings, to get an idea of different experiences of loss and how the meetings support them. It will give them the confidence to listen and support parents in the future. Always keep an open mind, be non-judgemental, as often you are told of parents' experiences that might shock you or be really difficult. Always speak to another Sands person about your experience, not the detail, just how you feel if it was a tough befriending session and if you feel you need to at any time, step back and look after yourself.

Fiona, Sands Befriender

Being a befriender for Sands is incredibly rewarding; knowing that you're helping others cope and find their way after the loss of a baby is truly fulfilling.  

When my daughter, Lily, passed away, I grappled with the realisation that I would never be able to teach her to ride a bike or walk her down the aisle. However, through my volunteering with Sands and my role as the Southern Ambassador to Daddies With Angels, I've found a way to ensure that my daughter is making a difference in this world. It's my way of being a good father to Lily.

For those considering becoming a Befriender, it's important to know that there's a wealth of support from Sands and their network of volunteers. I've never felt alone or without guidance, and being part of this supportive community is a beautiful way to honour all our lost little ones. 

James, Sands Befriender

I got involved with befriending after attending some of our local support meetings, and feeling like this was something I could get behind. It felt like I was not only giving back to a group that really supported me when I needed it, but also that I could make a difference to someone else who was in need of a listening ear. Having that local support made all the difference after losing my son, and I wanted to make sure that other people were able to access the same support as well.

When befriending, you need to remember that everybody's stories are unique, and they all deserve the same amount of support and comfort as each other. Some parents' stories may make you feel uncomfortable, but it is perfectly ok to lean back onto your group's other befrienders, as well as the national Sands team, to take some of the pressure off when needed.

Steph, Sands Befriender

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