IT was her own experiences that prompted Glenda Kirby to create an organisation in Sheffield to try to help people facing death and bereavement.
Before starting a degree at Sheffield Hallam University in 2000, she had struggled to come to terms with her mum being diagnosed with breast cancer, a subsequent mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Then, her dad suddenly became very ill. In denial, she couldn’t face talking to him about his end-of-life wishes. She became ill with stress and was admitted to hospital with a severe skin condition.
“I never expected my body would react like it did; I ended up in hospital on a drip! My family broke the news to me whilst in my hospital bed that my lovely dad had died. I was really angry with myself, all the while thinking that I’d not been there for my dad or my family when they needed me the most.
“It took me a long, long time to come to terms with losing dad. I found some people to be very unsupportive and reluctant to talk to me about his death and how I was feeling.”
Glenda began to realise that other people’s reluctance to talk to her about her father’s death was because they were finding it difficult to deal with their own emotions as well as her grief.
Had there been somewhere to read about other people’s experiences, get practical help and advice or give a gift that expressed what she couldn’t say, she believes this may have helped, even in a small way, to relieve some of the pain.
A non-profit-making social enterprise, Your Good Mourning, was born.
Glenda, who works part-time as a trading development manager at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, joins other volunteers in running a charity fundraising shop and community resource centre in South Street, Walkley. Among them is her mum, Jill Wright, who has recovered from breast cancer.
Once overheads are paid, money goes to a network of organisations that offer practical help and support, including six bereavement-related charities.
It is hoped to set up therapy groups such as for music and art, and even laughter and knitting.
“You can’t stop people dying, but you can look out for each other,” says Glenda, 49 next week, who lives in Loxley.
Your Good Mourning tries to help change attitudes, down to the basic level of sharing a cup of tea and a chat, encouraging people to discuss death in a direct and honest way.
“It’s such a difficult time and you don’t need to be on your own. Sometimes you feel you can’t burden your friends. You are having to bottle things up which isn’t good for you.”
The shop is described as “quirky”, selling recycled clothes and bags (Glenda, who did an art degree in packaging and design at Hallam, won a Sheffield Telegraph Environment Award four years ago as the founder of eco-friendly Charibags), secondhand books and jewellery, new gifts, toys and cards and products produced by St Wilfrid’s Centre for the homeless in Queens Road.
One person who came into the South Road premises turned out to be a woman who was struggling to come to terms with the murder of her sister 14 years ago.
Death and bereavement evoke some difficult and complex emotions. Glenda recalls how her attitudes started to change after the death of her father, Gordon Wright.
“When we pulled up outside mum and dad’s house after dad’s funeral it felt so final. I looked at my family – we were all so upset, I suddenly had an urge to make them laugh.
“I said, ‘He’ll be up there now with his graph paper in his hand with a pen behind his ear saying, ‘These gates could do with being a bit wider, let me draw you a design. Have you got a Wickes book?’ We all fell about laughing but was it right to laugh just after his funeral? Of course it was… my dad loved to have a laugh!”
lYour Good Mourning, at 358 South Road, is looking for volunteers. Tel 2333448.