Support for dying, not just bereavement

Final Fling’s B and Jane Duncan Rogers, speakers at the Everyday Compassion Conference where A Road Less Lonely was launched.

I’m wondering today when we might get to a point of providing clearer and louder support for dying, not just bereavement.

This comes up because I’ve been reading A Road Less Lonely, a recently published report describing the improving journey to death in Scotland.

The report from Good Life Good Death Good Grief highlights all the great work going on in Scotland and looks ahead to think about what next.

But I notice a tendency in the health and charities sector to engage with bereavement much easier than dying. So we have Child Bereavement support, we have Bereavement Support Centres in health settings, we have Bereavement charities like Cruse, great organisations like Marie Curie offer Bereavement Counselling, there are Bereavement Drop-Ins at excellent hospices like Glasgow’s Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice.

The narrative around dying feels less developed. And being there for bereavement feels a bit horse-bolted. If we want to promote a Good Death – the theme of last week’s national awareness week, we need clearer and louder Support for Dying first.

There’s a new Bereavement Support Centre being built in Glasgow.  I wonder how many of the people who are trotting back and forth to appointments and visits, will feel it’s appropriate to stop and talk or whether they’ll feel it’s not for them … yet.

Macmillan and Glasgow Life Libraries stats show that half the people who visit their information centres just want someone to talk to.

I hope the designers will bear this in mind in designing the service offer for the Bereavement Support Centre and maybe rethink its offer.

A Road Less Lonely points to some ideas for the future. Here are a few examples:

Support for dying

  • Improve death education and bereavement support in schools by developing a tool for use in schools to assess their approaches and signpost to resources.
  • Support the creation of compassionate communities by resourcing community development workers to build death, dying and bereavement into existing activities.
  • Increase people’s personal skills and knowledge relating to death, dying and bereavement and encourage making practical plans for deteriorating health and death. This would include promoting using Anticipatory Care Plans for health and death wishes and legal documents for end of life like Power of Attorney.

Support for bereavement

  • Encourage more bereavement-friendly workplaces, looking at how employers can support bereaved employees and create compassionate workplaces.
  • Bring Last Aid to Scotland and encourage bereavement-friendly workplaces.

Again – I’d say, for people who are dying and their partners, the compassion at work and in the broader community, and the conversations in the public health system need to begin when dying begins, not after the funeral.

Further information:

 Thanks to two years of funding from the Scottish Government Good Life Good Death Good Grief will continue to expand its activities over the next couple years. Good Life’s model is not to do the work for us but to to oil the wheels and pull folks together – around 1,100 member organisations and individuals – to amplify the conversation, help forge links and promote collaboration. And so in this spirit, their report doesn’t allocate actions to organisations or individuals but highlights what might be done next in the hope that others pick up the baton.