Once a week at Pepper Green Farm, a group of people meet to walk and talk and support each other through their grief of losing a loved one. The service is available for families of patients who have used Bendigo Health’s palliative care service.
The Bendigo Health social work team support and guide the walkers during their time together, but the peer group model is fundamental to the mental health benefits of meeting people in a similar situation.
“It’s really beautiful to watch people come together and support each other, to share their grief with others, but also we have a lot of laughter and fun. Because sometimes I think we like to come to the group and have a break from grief for a period of time,” said Megan Rohde, Social Worker from Bendigo Health Palliative Care Service.
The walking group’s long history of nearly 20 years, was developed originally by a hospice social walker. Family members can join the walking group for a total of 12 months and can join whenever they feel comfortable.
“Naturally the benefits of being outside, walking and connections with others is really good for our mental health,” Megan said.
The group often develops strong friendships and members have become firm friends and continue their friendship for years after.
“Sometimes couples will meet up, and it’s great because look at what we’ve formed within a couple of weeks, so it’s really lovely,” said Jo, a current walker.
“You just feel really alone at times,” said Roz.
“I was back at work and functioning and people think you’re functioning, but there was just still a big gaping hole. Just to walk with the others, it’s incredible the support you feel from the group.
“It’s just been wonderful it’s just given me a day in a week when I can turn up and it’s been the highlight of my week,”
James enjoys that it’s okay to ask questions, which others might otherwise feel uneasy about. “For example, ‘how did your husband die?’ If you weren’t in the same situation it might be a bit awkward to ask those sorts of questions but because you are I the same situation, I feel that you can ask and answer those questions with a degree of comfort,” he said.
“I found with Christmas Day, it was my first Christmas without my wife since 1971 and that was a long time ago.
“I also find living by yourself is difficult if you’re not used to it, I was married for 50 years, so the walkers group gives you the opportunity to get out of the house and mix with other people.”