Having defined the task as holding together the two aspects of external activity – the ‘politics’ / practical service delivery, and the internal development – the learning and management of emotions, how did this apply to the Bereavement Project itself. The care of the bereaved would seem to invite us to concentrate on the individual experience of the mourner as if it were of purely personal impact, and to collude with a wish to flee from the world of practicalities. The fantasy is perhaps that the counsellor can create for the bereaved an idealised comforting relationship, based on the clients’ dependence on the warm caring being provided. The disgust of some critics suggests an incestuous quality to the relationship, with the client being used as an object to satisfy the needs of the all powerful parent-figure counsellor. Social work seems to set against this extreme an alternative notion of the worker eschewing intimate personal relationships, but acting as a change agent either in the outside world of the client, concerning benefits, debts, insurance, housing etc or in the attitudinal world of the client.
The reality of the experience with the project is that I had to take responsibility for managing the ‘politics’ of the project, just as the initiation of the work sprang from taking responsibility for the political task of the FWA. We created a structure that reflected the tension between the vivid, emotionally stirring experience of the volunteers and their support group, and the external less emotionally engaging issues owned by the project steering committee. The tendency of each to split off from the other has been a constant feature of the work as I have already implied. The need for management committees to remain in touch with the creative and emotional nature of the task is not just important for the Bereavement Project but is important in all kinds of voluntary endeavour, just as the ‘workforce’ needs to understand the realities of funding, accountability, procedural integrity etc.