Cruse Bereavement Care marks 25 rewarding years

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Cruse Bereavement Care celebrates its 25th anniversary this week with a special function at The Playhouse tomorrow. Here the ‘Journal’ speaks to Eddie Mailey who has been a CRUSE counsellor for the last 15 years. He explains what the Cruse service offers and, most importantly highlights the rewards he gets from his involvement with the organisation.

Eddie Mailey is well known as a former teacher at St. Columb’s College who in later life became “fascinated by counselling”.

Though his late wife, Sid, was a counsellor, his own path into helping others was, he admits, “fortuitous.”

College principal, Fr. Ignatius McQuillan, approached him and asked the former City of Derry rugby star to take some PE lessons. “I was two periods short of a full timetable but instead of rugby, I felt I wanted to take the pupils into the community. I suppose it added to their pastoral care duties, so I arranged for the pupils to visit Spruce House. There they read to or helped the patients re-learn how to read. It was good care in the community. If I’m being honest, I wanted to care for the boys moreso than run around a rugby field aged 40,” he smiled.

Father of four, Eddie took early retirement in 1998, but he was far from finished working.

“I am not the type to sit about the house doing nothing so I enrolled on a counselling course. My wife had been an addiction counsellor so I wanted to learn more about that and more about the nature of those she worked with.”

Within four years Eddie was a fully qualified counsellor and member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. “I signed up with Cruse in 2003 and found it very helpful. “There was great support from co-ordinator, Carol McKeeman, the entire organisation was just so supportive. The supervision was fantastic and they guided you through everything.”

Upon qualifying as a Cruse counsellor, Eddie said: “The organisation is very selective about which cases it assigns to you. It is careful not to give you a case beyond your capabilities or experience.”

When cases are assigned to Cruse counsellors, they, at first, learn only a first name: “The rest we learn at the rate the client is comfortable with.” Eddie recalls his first Cruse client very well: “After we finished the client said; ‘Eddie when I first came to you I was suicidal but you helped me.’ All I could think was ‘Thank God you didn’t say that at the time, I would have panicked.’”

Fifteen years after beginning his counselling career, Eddie has become a counselling supervisor at Cruse. “I still have a few clients of my own but mostly I assess those seeking counselling. We need to be sure we are in fact the right people to help them.”

It is, said Eddie, “a challenging but very, very rewarding journey.

“I don’t holiday any more as every client I meet takes me on a journey, a mental journey. You never know who is coming through the door or what they’ve gone through. I never know what they are going to say or how they will approach our session. For me, indeed for Cruse, it is important that this is the client’s time. If they need to get angry, sad, cry, whatever they need, we assist them, facilitate them with it.”

That journey claims Eddie, is still as rewarding as when he took his first steps on it: “I still get the same satisfaction now as I did when I first started. I certainly get more out of this than I put in, if I am honest.

“Ten years on though I am not as nervous about seeing clients. It no longer scares me but it certainly did at the start.

“You don’t forget moments such as when a client threw his arms around me, stating: ‘Thanks, you’re just like my da.’ Especially as it was the death of his father which led him to being in my company in the first place, these things stay with you.”

Eddie recalls how one woman measured her progress from the amount of cooking she was able to do. “It is the small things which show progression out of grief,” he reflects. “The lady had stopped cooking after her loved one died. Following our sessions she walked in and donated £200 to the charity. The lady informed me, she had hosted a dinner party for friends and charged them a few pounds which she donated to us. That is the worth of our service to people.”

When someone suffering from grief approaches Cruse, after an initial consultation clients are offered six one hour long sessions. “The average number of sessions is nine, 31 is my longest but everyone’s needs are different. The important factor is that the counselling is person centred, it is the client’s hour.”

The age range served by Cruse varies. They have a number of counsellors who specialise in assisting children emerge from grief. In fact Cruse has a volunteer base of 400 people, from all walks of life, from every profession and none, who have qualified as counsellors with the primary aim of helping others. Since its foundation Cruse has assisted more than 10,000 people and currently runs some 8,000 sessions per year. Tomorrow’s celebration will see a number of certificates presented to the recent course graduates and the launch of Cruse’s new service ‘Beyond Words.”

If you would like to contact Cruse please call its Foyle office on +44 28 7126 2941.