Elephants & Empathy 

“We don’t do grief well in this country. Being able to process it, deal with it, face it, explore it all with kindness in a safe place and with other people grappling the same feelings is fundamental to our wellbeing and mental health.”

Elephants are widely accepted as being one of the world’s most empathetic animals. They share strong social bonds in large groups and react to danger and stress before it becomes problematic. And they grieve and mourn their dead, covering bodies with leaves and branches, and it’s said that sometimes, when an elephant walks past a place that a loved one died, they will stop and pause for a few minutes.

This powerful animal behaviour coupled that the view that death is often the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to people’s conversations, makes the elephant the perfect name and symbol for Elephants and Empathy, a Liverpool based CIC, that offers an ethical and supportive range of bespoke and flexible programmes / workshops for communities and workplaces, facilitating a safe space to explore issues surrounding loss, grief & bereavement.

They recently received £500 from Magic Little Grants via Localgiving and our Head of Communications Luke Upton, caught up with Michelle da Silva Willis, Founder and Director, Elephants & Empathy CIC (@ElephantsCICto find out more about their important work.

“The number of people bereaved in recent years has been exponential since the pandemic, but we know there are so many people among us in the community who have experienced a profound loss of a loved-one prior to Covid-19 and yet have never had an opportunity to be heard.

We are a small CIC, based in Liverpool (supported by the incredible organisation Transform Lives Company) and we wanted to create a safe space for bereaved people to acknowledge their loss (whether recent or many years ago), to explore their grief and experiences they've had with friends, family, and strangers alike, who are well-meaning, but often get it so wrong. To listen, talk, share, be heard and learn how to help others who are grieving. There are so many secondary losses that follow a death – we aim to give those the time, dignity, and attention they deserve.  

We aim to support learning to help people live around their loss. We provide a unique space to be heard in our own experiences of loss, grief and bereavement as well as learning how to help others who are grieving. Each session is carefully planned so each person can begin gently, easing into the workshops as safely and comfortably as possible.

We explore a range of topics within loss, grief and bereavement and give them the opportunity to share their story, thoughts, or simply just listen to others doing so. We are very relaxed in terms of our expectations, and we encourage the group to decide how much they want to contribute – there’s absolutely no pressure to share unless they wish to do so. We also provide two beautifully designed booklets, which contain signposted support, as well as activities to complete once the workshops are over so nothing has to be rushed" , concluded da Silva Willis.

So far, they’ve run two groups, one in October and one in November, both in Liverpool’s creative district, the Baltic Triangle. Here’s what some attendees said about them:  

“The time I spent with the group was truly beautiful, important and healing experience. Chell created a safe, empathetic space where I felt heard and understood, throughout both sessions I felt taken care of and accepted exactly how I was, with all the feelings that I had. I felt honoured to be able to listen to other people's stories and to share my own, the time we spent together truly made me feel less alone.”

“We don’t do grief well in this country. Being able to process it, deal with it, face it, explore it all with kindness in a safe place and with other people grappling the same feelings is fundamental to our wellbeing and mental health. This workshop addresses all of the above with kindness, support and even love and laughter. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done for myself and I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

100% of our participants would recommend Elephants & Empathy workshops to others – they hope to help as many people as we possibly can and their key message always is ‘You don’t have to move ON from your person or people, you can move forward WITH them. Grief is not about closure or shutting the door on our loved ones who have died, it’s about grief being carried alongside us – because grief is love after all and our lives can grow around it."

To conclude da Silva Willis; "Thank you once again, for the support. We’re absolutely delighted to have received £500 from Localgiving – thank you so much. We will use this towards putting on a grief, loss and bereavement workshop for an extra group which will make a huge difference."

If you’d like to support Elephants & Empathy and their important work, click here