AS anyone who has lost a loved one will know, grief doesn’t simply come to an end once the funeral is over.

It can affect people in different ways, and at different times. There are various rituals of bereavement that we go through - but grief itself can be unpredictable.

It’s something Alison Barrington, who owns a Shipley-based funeral service, knows about all too well.

“Grief is a very personal thing; we all react differently,” says Alison. “My mum died two years ago and it didn't catch up with me until six months later, when I was arranging a funeral. That's when it hit me like a brick.”

Alison and her husband Daniel own Guardian Funerals, which has launched a monthly ‘bereavement cafe’ helping people to cope with losing a loved one. The sessions are for anyone struggling with bereavement, or in need of a listening ear.

“We are a nation that doesn’t generally talk about death,” says Alison. “In America they’re much more open about it, people are encouraged to talk about grief. But over here there’s this British stiff upper lip and we don’t tend to talk about it.

“Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things that we will face in our lives, and it’s important that we address our feelings and, if we feel the need, talk about them.

“We launched the bereavement service four months ago and we’ve had such positive feedback. People don’t need to have had a funeral with us - it’s open to anyone. People tell us the sessions have really helped them to cope and to move on, and some say they wish they’d come to us for the funeral too. We’re an independent family-run service, and we try to keep the process as simple as possible for people who are going through one of the hardest times of their life.

“That personal touch extends to bereavement counselling too. Our sessions are friendly and informal; it’s a chance for people to come and chat about how they feel, and to meet others going through something similar. People in the same situation can often help each other.”

The sessions are run by Louise Pearson, a qualified counsellor. Some are group meetings, and there are one-to-one sessions too that can be booked in advance.

“Sometimes the group is enough for people, while others may need more one-to-one support,” says Alison. “Louise has had excellent feedback, some families end up becoming our friends. Louise was recommended to me and we understand each other.

“The service is open to people of all ages, because bereavement can happen to anyone. We see children who have lost parents, and people who have lost children and babies. We have a baby room where people can sit with their baby. Some people don’t want that, but to others it means everything. Everyone is different, and that’s what we recognise with the counselling.

“Sometimes, after the loss of an infant, other family members will come to us too. The grandfather of a baby who died came for three sessions with Louise. It was what he needed to get through his sense of loss and get back on track.

“Men often clam up after a death and feel they have to hold it all together for the sake of everyone else. They feel they can’t cry, because men are not generally encouraged to, and they try to keep busy instead.”

Adds Alison: “Bereavement can be a lonely time, it leaves a lot of people feeling very isolated. We had a lady in her 70s who had been a carer for her mother who was in her 90s when she died. Suddenly, she wasn’t a carer anymore and she was struggling to cope with that huge change in her life. People who have been carers for their parents can feel very lost when they’ve gone.”

For Alison, helping people to cope with life after a death is in the blood. “My grandparents were funeral directors. My grandfather knew everyone in the village, through his profession he dealt with people in a very personal way. I guess I have carried through that ethos,” she says.

“Christmas can be a particularly hard time for anyone who has lost a loved one. We will be holding a memorial event this Christmas, which will be for anyone to attend.”

* Bereavement sessions at Guardian Funerals runs on the first Saturday of each month, from 1pm-3pm.

For more information call (01274) 315527 or visit