‘Chai’s bereavement group has been a lifeline’


Expressing feelings after a loss is hard, but being with others who are going through a similar experience can be an essential step towards healing. Often described as a “lifeline” by our clients when they are at their most vulnerable, Chai provides both individual support and groups. To mark World Cancer Day 2024, we focus on one of our 68 specialised services – Chai’s Bereavement Group.

Chai client Ruth Sprei (71) shares her experience with loss and the pivotal role the group played in her life, enabling her to move forward.

“Ten years ago my husband Malcolm was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was my best friend, my soul mate, a wonderful husband, dad, grandfather, son and son in-law – he was lovely”, recollects Ruth.

“Following his diagnosis, I told Malcolm that we needed expert advice and so we called Chai. I always knew that Chai existed, but until I needed to contact them myself, I had no idea how incredible the organisation really is. We both benefited enormously from their support and care. Then two years ago, on Father’s Day, we all went out for a fabulous lunch, but soon after there was a great dip in his health and he passed away just three weeks later.

It felt surreal and I just thought, what do I do now? I was introduced to a lady, who has now become a very close friend, who said to me, ‘I’m going to a bereavement group at Chai and it’s making such a difference to my life - why don’t you see if you can come?’

For the first time, I was with like-minded people who understood me and I understood them. My family and friends are amazing, but until you’ve walked in those shoes, you’ve actually got no idea how overwhelming this loss feels.

To say that Chai has been a lifeline to me would be an understatement. There are eight of us and we formed an extremely tight unit and could open up totally to each other. After each session we would always say how fortunate we are to have Chai. They make you feel special when you are probably at your lowest point ever. Losing my husband has been hideous but the group has helped us all, it’s our wonderful haven and sanctuary.”

Zippora Galpert, Chai’s senior counselling manager said: “I feel extremely privileged to lead this Bereavement Group. It’s so moving to witness a group of people who are total strangers coming together and relying on each other for support. They don’t have to pretend or explain - there is a real connection and a shared understanding during a very difficult and dark period in their lives.

They have all experienced the loss of a partner which is major and it hurts. In a safe environment they can acknowledge and articulate this, which is not an easy thing to do. Something that they will all say is, ‘When I close the door at night, I am on my own’ and ‘I miss someone to do nothing with’. In the group they don’t have to pretend or explain and there is no judgement. There is an unspoken language. Often they have an amazing support system in their friends and family, but the shared camaraderie of the group is different. There are tears, laughter, humour and a yearning to connect with like-minded people.”

Chai runs two bereavement groups, for 40-65 year olds and 65+ years. They meet fortnightly for a year. For more information on Chai’s specialised support services, call Charlotte Hildebrand on 020 8457 3238 or see

Registered charity 1078956

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